Using college sets for high school

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ashwin99
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Using college sets for high school

Post by ashwin99 » Mon Aug 17, 2015 6:08 am

Studying college-level sets to study for high school nationals is good because the difficulty level is much higher. However, many clues, such as third parts of bonuses and first lines, may not be worth studying because they will never come up even at high school nationals. Even among college sets, different levels of depth are required when using, say, MUT, versus ACF Nationals to study.

What are some good rules of thumb to tell if a difficult or obscure clue is "askable" at the high school nationals level?
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Re: Using college sets for high school

Post by Santa Claus » Mon Aug 17, 2015 7:37 am

I don't think such a rule of thumb exists, especially if you're going to NASAT or PACE. As a fun little example, "rule of thumb" (heuristics) was a particularly difficult answerline that came up as a tossup at the 2014 NASAT and 2015 HSNCT. One can imagine the shenanigans going on in the early clues of those same sets.

Though a normal high school set would avoid pushing too far into the college canon, the nationals sets have a lot more leeway in this sort of thing (NASAT especially, as it's meant to sort of emulate college regular difficulty, with all that entails). If a clue is interesting/important/both, you can bet that writers will clamor for the opportunity to include it as a first line in their PACE/HSNCT/NASAT tossup. One such clue I recall was a tossup on nylon at this year's HSNCT that used a clue on the creation of caprolactam, the monomer in Nylon-6, by the Beckmann rearrangement. That was really, really hard for that difficulty, but it found its way in there anyways (probably because it was cool).

In the end though, there's no clear dividing line for this sort of thing. Easier clues can get sidelined in favor of much harder ones for reasons that may be hard to see from the perspective of a player. But if you're trying to see whether you should learn a clue or not, you might as well since you'll be in college eventually (and you might get a sick buzz before then).
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Re: Using college sets for high school

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Aug 17, 2015 12:12 pm

The first step is that you probably shouldn't be looking at ACF Nationals to improve unless you're a top-level specialist in your categories i.e. the best players on LASA/DCC/Arcadia in their specialist categories, Bruce Lou on history, Eric Xu on music and lit, what-have-you. Even if you're a college player, you're probably miles better off getting comfortable with regular-difficulty stuff first if your main goal is to become more competitive as a quizbowl player. Along with the ICT, ACF Nationals definitely the most interesting college set of the year (unless you're super into Chicago Open, which I'm not - I like the tournament but I prefer the nationals sets) so it's definitely worth reading if you want to learn about some cool new stuff, but I think the returns are going to be very marginal unless you have substantial depth and breadth to start with.

I think pretty much anything you see at collegiate regular difficulty, apart from the first line or two of tossups, is fair game for a clue or bonus part at PACE or HSNCT. Bonus hard parts can show up as early clues, middle parts can often show up as middle parts themselves or as middle clues you "need to buzz on" and collegiate middle tossup clues can show up as hard parts or early clues. As for MUT, it's basically PACE difficulty (perhaps a bit harder these past two years) but with a wider range of material (more stuff in categories like social science and philosophy is askable) so probably almost anything in it is fair game.
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Re: Using college sets for high school

Post by Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage » Mon Aug 17, 2015 12:16 pm

Also, knowing harder things can often help you answer easier things. For starters, I don't think it's that unreasonable that a hard part at ACF Nats, or at least the answer itself, might come up in some capacity in a question at the first line of something like NASAT. I guess the way I'd think about it simply would be this.

There are a lot teams who play and do really well at ACF Nats.
College's comparative tournament to NASAT is ACF Regionals.
Colleges who play and do well at ACF Nats (read: they study at the college national level) are not powering every question and 30'ing every bonus at ACF Regionals.

EDIT: Part of the reason they're not powering any questions is because ACF Regs doesn't have powers :(

What I'm getting at is that there's pretty much never a "too hard to study". Even people who are studying the hardest tournaments out there are still likely to be stumped by something new that's coming up, or some deeper analysis of a simple concept, or something like that. Remember that harder difficulties =/= obscure concepts most of the time. It's very possible that there could be a bonus entirely on canonical Poe works at ACF Nationals - except, your hard part would probably be something like "Sir Launcelot Canning" - something that's pretty hard to name unless you know poe really well, but something that could absolutely come up in the first line of a tossup on Poe at any of the high school nationals.

I also think it's important to draw the distinction between reading a packet and actually studying the things in it. If you're going through ACF Nats packets and just trying to memorize the hard parts or directly c/p them into your flashcards, you're doing it wrong. Packets should be the springboard to you looking up the concepts / people / stories mentioned, reading them or understanding them, and then translating that into your flashcards or whatever other study technique you use. While binary associating "Sir Launcelot Canning" with "Poe" in flashcard is all fine and good, you'll be kind of screwed if it comes up in tossups on "Fall of the House of Usher" or maybe "story-within-a-story" or "dragons" or whatever - it's always better to learn the stuff you're studying, not to just be able to regurgitate snippets at the right time.

The reason top high school teams study ACF Nationals is because they can. I think that's an important caution to make. You should always be studying something that's really challenging you, but not in the extreme sense - please don't teach your novices entirely with ACF Nationals. You should really be going through difficulty pretty methodically until you start to feel you have a handle on whatever difficulty you're at, then increase it. It's really important to have a basis for knowledge before you tack on more detailed and in-depth knowledge just because "it's more likely to come up early!".

So yeah, reading ACF Nationals in high school is worth it if

1. you're actually able to stay afloat in that difficulty
2. you're studying the concepts, not memorizing the clues
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Re: Using college sets for high school

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Aug 17, 2015 12:21 pm

Lo, a momentary rabbit-stage wrote:So yeah, reading ACF Nationals in high school is worth it if

1. you're actually able to stay afloat in that difficulty
2. you're studying the concepts, not memorizing the clues
Charlie's making a very good point here. Binary clue association becomes dramatically less effective as difficulty increases and having an understanding of what's going on becomes more and more important. This is especially pronounced in science, philosophy, social science, and the arts - plot, name, and fact knowledge are the foundations of literature and history at every level, but you really need to developing an understanding of ideas in other subjects before you can start to scale up.
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Re: Using college sets for high school

Post by acrosby1861 » Mon Aug 17, 2015 9:38 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:The first step is that you probably shouldn't be looking at ACF Nationals to improve unless you're a top-level specialist in your categories i.e. the best players on LASA/DCC/Arcadia in their specialist categories, Bruce Lou on history, Eric Xu on music and lit, what-have-you.
Personally, I've never had much experience with using college sets for practice. The last time I tried doing so, I got very frustrated because most of the things I knew weren't asked until really late in the question, if not at all. If you're like me, I would suggest having high school nationals or easy college packets as your highest level of difficulty (I don't really know the names for the levels of college difficulty, so I apologize). Then gradually step it up. But if you don't like this approach, feel free to adapt it or not use it at all.
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Re: Using college sets for high school

Post by Beevor Feevor » Mon Aug 17, 2015 9:58 pm

acrosby1861 wrote:
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:The first step is that you probably shouldn't be looking at ACF Nationals to improve unless you're a top-level specialist in your categories i.e. the best players on LASA/DCC/Arcadia in their specialist categories, Bruce Lou on history, Eric Xu on music and lit, what-have-you.
Personally, I've never had much experience with using college sets for practice. The last time I tried doing so, I got very frustrated because most of the things I knew weren't asked until really late in the question, if not at all. If you're like me, I would suggest having high school nationals or easy college packets as your highest level of difficulty (I don't really know the names for the levels of college difficulty, so I apologize). Then gradually step it up. But if you don't like this approach, feel free to adapt it or not use it at all.
It has always been my opinion that players/teams should aim towards being level and even in their studying. What I mean by this is that generally, unless you have a good amount of knowledge in a specific field regardless of your Quizbowl studying, it is much easier to pull 10s up to 20s by learning more of the high school canon than trying to get 30s from 20s. Up until senior year, I would burn through high school novice tournaments at incredibly rapid speeds just to make sure that I had all of the mid-level clues down. Obviously, that can't be your only way of studying, but making sure that you're not going to let an easy or medium part slip by you at nationals can make more of a difference than trying to get those brilliantly showy 30s on bonuses. The same goes for tossups; learning to buzz in on every single tossup around the middle can be much more effective for a team that's trying to improve than immediately aiming to first-line every tossup.

Granted, this all applies exclusively to studying things purely for Quizbowl (which is not recommended, IMO, but that's a different story). For example, if you're studying literature for the first time in your life for Quizbowl and genuinely enjoying it, start by trying to 10 every lit bonus in a high school set. When that's accomplished, study more medium parts, medium clues in tossups, etc. Eventually, you'll get to a point where you're averaging about 20-25 ppb on a particular category in a high school regular set. When you get to that point, you can start moving on to easier college sets such as ACF Fall or past incarnations of MUT to see if you can get to 20 on those. Packet study WILL reliably get you middle parts up to a pretty high range. The hard parts and first-liners should be difficult and borderline impossible through packet study, and that's where individual research takes over. Use college sets to augment your base of knowledge, and then proceed to expand that base based on your own personal interests. This will make Quizbowl more fulfilling for you both on a personal level, as well as on a team-improvement level. Plus, it's extra fun if 4 people do this process with slight overlap, since you'll then be able to see the entire team improve slowly, but inexorably!
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Re: Using college sets for high school

Post by Banana Stand » Tue Aug 18, 2015 12:20 am

I read a lot of Regs+ difficulty in HS, not because it was necessarily the most efficient use of my time(which would've been better spent filling my team's gaping science hole) but because I found it much more interesting than seeing the same regular HS difficulty answerlines over and over again. The key to reading something like ACF Nats in high school is to simply focus on answerlines and easy/medium parts if you want to be able to power and 30 more bonuses at things like PACE and NASAT. Things like Wallace Stegner or the Battle of Cynoscephalae are never coming up as less than hard parts in any high school set, so if you see a tossup on them in Nats, look them up and gain some knowledge about them, then you'll be able to 30 and power more things. Of course, you shouldn't jump from reading HS sets to Nats just because you want to see harder stuff, but once you have a really good grasp of the lower difficulty canon, Regs+ stuff is a good supplement. Instead of seeing some hard part at PACE as ungettable, it'll just be that tossup answerline from Nats 2012.

To give a concrete example of this, before nats last year I'd read a tossup in CO 2012 on Emmanuel Levinas, after which I wrote a notecard on him. Levinas was then used as the hard part of a PACE bonus and an early clue at NASAT, both of which I was able to get.
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Re: Using college sets for high school

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Sun Aug 23, 2015 12:11 am

ashwin99 wrote:Studying college-level sets to study for high school nationals is good because the difficulty level is much higher. However, many clues, such as third parts of bonuses and first lines, may not be worth studying because they will never come up even at high school nationals. Even among college sets, different levels of depth are required when using, say, MUT, versus ACF Nationals to study.

What are some good rules of thumb to tell if a difficult or obscure clue is "askable" at the high school nationals level?
You're approaching this in a utilitarian way, which is slightly misguided if you want to specialize in a given subject. It doesn't matter for specialization purposes if something never comes up "even at high school nationals"; if you like a subject and want to specialize in it, you should learn everything about it that interests you, regardless of what tier of the quizbowl canon it is likely to help you on. You don't get good at a subject and/or truly take ownership of that part of the canon by limiting yourself by difficulty in this way. Plus, with hard clues trickling down all the time into leadins and third parts, that studying will actually pay huge dividends in the long run (as Jack's Levinas example illustrates so neatly).

If you're talking about acquiring surface generalism, than reading packets from the tier above the one you want to generalize in is the way to go (as in if you want to be a surface generalist at the high school regular level, reading regular high school packets and hard high school packets will give you the information you want).
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