Five Simple Ways to Get Better

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Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Cheynem » Fri Nov 12, 2010 1:46 pm

Here are five simple ways to get better at quizbowl. None of them involve making flashcards or pouring through textbooks. Almost all of them are simple enough to do in your home.

1. Take a packet. Work your way through the bonuses. Unlike tossups, you can simulate a game experience by just reading bonuses pretty easily by scrolling down to see each prompt. Answer the questions and keep track of your score. This is the quizbowl version of solitaire. Try to beat your scores on each packet.

2. Take a packet or listen to a packet at practice. Write down some things you don't know or don't know a lot about. Go to Wikipedia and type those things in. Skim or look over the article. Note how the thing you don't know probably connects to things you do know.

3. Be attentive at practice. It's very easy to flake off and do other things and only perk up for topics you like, but you can get a lot out of watching other people and seeing where they buzz. Since quizbowlers are by nature quite arrogant, they will frequently explain their buzzes. Feel free to ask what they are buzzing on and how.

4. Write some speedchecks. Take a packet of answer lines and write 1-2 line questions about them. (The simplest way to do this is to write down the answers from an actual packet, but then delete the questions) This will basically just be the giveaway, but you will be stunned how many questions you can answer just from giveaway knowledge. This will involve modest research.

5. Take a packet of answer lines. Try to explain each answer line to a friend without looking anything up--this is like the quizbowl version of Pyramid--can you concisely and accurately explain an answer line to have your friend know what it is (this might not work too well if your friend does not know a lot of quizbowl answer lines, but try it anyway). If you can't do it with certain answer lines, look up more information on them.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Charbroil » Fri Nov 12, 2010 2:03 pm

Cheynem wrote:5. Take a packet of answer lines. Try to explain each answer line to a friend without looking anything up--this is like the quizbowl version of Pyramid--can you concisely and accurately explain an answer line to have your friend know what it is (this might not work too well if your friend does not know a lot of quizbowl answer lines, but try it anyway). If you can't do it with certain answer lines, look up more information on them.
This isn't inherently a bad idea (and we do do some of this with topics people don't know at practice), but I was wondering whether you've actually done this before. I think most of my friends (including those who do play) would find it a little strange if I told them I wanted to spout giveaways at them for an hour, though we do frequently talk about subjects in the canon in ordinary conversation when they apply to what we're talking about.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by naturalistic phallacy » Fri Nov 12, 2010 2:27 pm

Charbroil wrote:
Cheynem wrote:5. Take a packet of answer lines. Try to explain each answer line to a friend without looking anything up--this is like the quizbowl version of Pyramid--can you concisely and accurately explain an answer line to have your friend know what it is (this might not work too well if your friend does not know a lot of quizbowl answer lines, but try it anyway). If you can't do it with certain answer lines, look up more information on them.
This isn't inherently a bad idea (and we do do some of this with topics people don't know at practice), but I was wondering whether you've actually done this before. I think most of my friends (including those who do play) would find it a little strange if I told them I wanted to spout giveaways at them for an hour, though we do frequently talk about subjects in the canon in ordinary conversation when they apply to what we're talking about.
Certainly doesn't stop this from being a helpful activity - seems especially good for a group practice.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Fri Nov 12, 2010 2:32 pm

Yeah, I would imagine that suggestion is more for friends who are also quizbowl players.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Auroni » Fri Nov 12, 2010 8:09 pm

I like doing things like setting benchmarks for bonus conversion and forcing myself to make educated guesses on tossups to condition myself into being more aggressive when I am reading packets to myself. Those two practices might not be immediately useful, but it goes to show that studying quizbowl by oneself can be helpful once you're further down the road.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by gauss1181 » Sun Nov 14, 2010 11:35 am

In addition, will reading study lists also help a lot? I often try to review those in order to refresh my memory on various topics. If that's the case, I'd recommend reviewing NAQT's You Gotta Know as a top choice. Also, I kinda found the Free Stuff on acequizbowlcamp.com helpful, as well as ACE Quizbowl Camp's Twitter page: www.twitter.com/acequizbowlcamp
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Mon Nov 15, 2010 11:16 am

I think reviewing study lists is going to be a poor way to prepare. I am not ideologically opposed to coaches or players writing up a bunch of lists of things, or using other peoples' lists, but the deal with them is that they need to be used as starting points to guide players towards topics that come up a lot so the players then have some basis to know what they should be researching independently. If you are given an NAQT frequency list of paintings, for instance, if you are just reading the list you'll get a bunch of superficial knowledge that won't help you in important games, whereas if you take the list and then google all the paintings to look at them and then read articles about their content, you will be able to get a lot more competitive buzzes in games that matter.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by PennySalem » Mon Nov 15, 2010 1:37 pm

I agree that lists aren't the way to improve. I feel like at best a player can become *average* through simply memorizing things on lists. I question their use as a starting point as well- I think reading AP prep books could be better at times. I could definitely be wrong- I've gotten better through looking at the lists on http://ai.stanford.edu/~csewell/culture/, searching through ACF's database and the "quiz bowl packet search" for questions on the listed items, and memorizing the common facts. The effort wasn't worth the reward IMO (I probably wasn't doing it correctly or something). Anyway the NAQT frequency lists aren't that great.
Cheynem wrote:1. Take a packet. Work your way through the bonuses. Unlike tossups, you can simulate a game experience by just reading bonuses pretty easily by scrolling down to see each prompt. Answer the questions and keep track of your score. This is the quizbowl version of solitaire. Try to beat your scores on each packet.
I tried this today and failed epicly. What should I do then? Wikipedia ALL of the answers?
Cheynem wrote:Since quizbowlers are by nature quite arrogant, they will frequently explain their buzzes. Feel free to ask what they are buzzing on and how.
This is, sadly, true.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Important Bird Area » Mon Nov 15, 2010 1:41 pm

PennySalem wrote: searching through ACF's database and the "quiz bowl packet search" for questions on the listed items, and memorizing the common facts. The effort wasn't worth the reward IMO (I probably wasn't doing it correctly or something).
A better explanation might be: the question writers did a good job of selecting middle clues that reward real knowledge over studying old packets.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by PennySalem » Mon Nov 15, 2010 1:54 pm

bt_green_warbler wrote: A better explanation might be: the question writers did a good job of selecting middle clues that reward real knowledge over studying old packets.
What, then, is the general opinion concerning studying old packets? It shoudn't be done? What about studying old packets in comparison to studying lists? (I don't think either method is that great, but I know people who try to improve by doing that.)
And what do we think about reading in general? Many of my teammates don't want to read books....
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Cheynem » Mon Nov 15, 2010 2:27 pm

To quote a friend of mine, DON'T GIVE UP! BE PATIENT! When I first started to read old packets, I would get frustrated at not knowing very many answers (and even today, sometimes I bust out a CO or Nats packet and close the doc in disgust as I zero bonus after bonus). I found as that as I kept looking and hearing more old packets, I kept recognizing more and more answer lines and clues. This is how I view old packets--by sheer osmosis, you're going to pick stuff up even if you don't make flashcards or track answers (and I don't).
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Rufous-capped Thornbill » Mon Nov 15, 2010 5:23 pm

For any young, and/or inexperienced player, the key is simply getting familiar with the canon. You can be extremely well-read and good at a certain subject or sub-subject, but to be a truly great high school quizbowl player, one must first know what comes up. The key, at least for me it was, is to read packets. Even if you don't have the time to set aside to read and get immersed in an entire tournament, read a packet or two before you go to bed, or bring some to school to read between classes. Soon enough you'll realize what comes up, how often, and what the most often clues for those subjects are. Once this happens, everything will "click" and you'll begin to improve at a rapid rate. This didn't happen for me until spring of last year. But once it did, becoming better and better at every tournament I went to was easy.

Once you become familiar with what gets asked in quizbowl, you'll know what to expect and what to study. Of course, studying itself is a whole different ball game. I've used several techniques, and everyone learns differently, so just experiment with what might work best for you.

But reading a book is always a good place to start.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Papa's in the House » Mon Nov 15, 2010 5:46 pm

PennySalem wrote:What, then, is the general opinion concerning studying old packets? It shoudn't be done?
I know that the UIUC ABT plays on old packets as a way of studying during practice. When certain topics come up that one of the veterans knows a lot about, they might spend a minute or two discussing that topic (especially with newer players) to provide more information on the subject. I've seen great improvement in some of our freshmen simply because they play on these packets and remember things that came up.
PennySalem wrote:And what do we think about reading in general? Many of my teammates don't want to read books....
Reading a book is generally the best way to study if you want to buzz in early (especially for lit questions). More likely than not the writer of a question will try to write the question such that only the people that have read the book/spent a lot of time studying the book will get it early (at least, that's the way I try to write questions).
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by gauss1181 » Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:42 am

To add to the concept of writing 1-2 line "speedcheck" questions, how about writing ACTUAL tossup questions? Like the pyramidal style ones with six-ish clues arranged from most obscure to most obvious? For Thanksgiving break, my coach recently assigned us to pick 1 topic that is of particular interest for improvement, and write one tossup and one bonus question related to that topic, where tossups have six clues arranged from hardest to easiest, and bonuses have three parts (easy, medium, and difficult). Although I have not yet tried this myself, I can probably imagine that it would help motivate people to actually grasp facts when they research topics they're in need of writing questions for. It would also be a good source of collaboration to share the questions with each other at team practices.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Windmill Tump » Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:46 am

I'm relatively new to quiz bowl, so whereas my opinions don't have much backing them up, I've done most of these things recently. I don't really know the best ways to improve once you actually get good, but there were a few things that I found helpful when I started.

In my opinion, the best way to start out is with the NAQT lists - for general work/author tossups, I'm pretty sure essentially every author/artist/composer that comes up in an easier packet, say Fall Novice or A sets, is mentioned in one of the free portions of the frequency lists in the You Gotta Know part on the NAQT website. I know that when I decided to join quiz bowl for some reason a few months ago, I just took the free author lists on NAQT, found those authors on the aforementioned http://ai.stanford.edu/~csewell/culture/, and tried to memorize some of the works I thought were most important. Luckily I could ask Neil to tell me the more common authors and their works; in any case, this meant that I could actually get quite a few author tossups by the end, and I didn't 0 lit bonuses as much. As for questions that don't just drop works, I just went through Fall Novice packets, focusing almost exclusively on giveaways, and tried to remember those; I think giveaways are pretty standard for most answers.

As for reading packets, I actually think they're pretty helpful. I know the last couple weeks, after taking a pretty long break from quiz bowl, I was going through packets like crazy. There are several clues that I distinctly remember reading one day, and then finding them again in a different packet sometimes later. If you don't have enough time to actually go through complete packets, I find reading even just bonuses really helpful - you can probably learn one or two new things that will probably pop up again. I found reading bonuses really helpful when I first started, too, since the easiest part of a bonus could be a giveaway in a tossup.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by cherenkov » Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:46 pm

I think that this idea of certain facts nearly always coming up in a tossup can be of great interest to players. These "stock clues" as they are called are more useful to experienced players. If you are a new player, definitely hit up the NAQT lists, and the free ACE stuff. Get a broad, yet not deep, base of knowledge. Then move on to more advanced topics within each topic, and of course be familiar with the "stock clues" to earn some crazy powers.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by ermaxfield » Tue Nov 16, 2010 5:16 pm

PennySalem wrote:I agree that lists aren't the way to improve. I feel like at best a player can become *average* through simply memorizing things on lists. I question their use as a starting point as well- I think reading AP prep books could be better at times.
A common question when people join quiz bowl is, "how/what do you study?" The NAQT lists, at the very least, are excellent in answering this question. It provides you with a foundation on which to build. I agree that the lists are not very good--especially the art list--but the key thing about the lists is that they are only a starting point, and are not reliable for much of anything else.

To reiterate earlier points: Becoming familiar with the canon is vital, especially because many of the clues recylce. Learning what comes up prepares a player; they know what to expect in a game. Reading packets is the way to become familiar with the canon (as pointed out above). Many people may find this boring, tedious, or not useful, but I've found it to be very helpful. I have been able to get quite a few toss-ups (some even powers) and bonuses because I have previously read the same or familiar clues about certain subjects.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Francis the Talking France » Tue Nov 16, 2010 7:23 pm

I think the real key is to also be consistent in your studying. If you take the time to study up on stuff you may not know before a tournament, it will help you immensely. You can tell by anybody's stats, what tourney they studied the most, and best for.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Captain Sinico » Wed Nov 17, 2010 11:37 am

PennySalem wrote:
bt_green_warbler wrote: A better explanation might be: the question writers did a good job of selecting middle clues that reward real knowledge over studying old packets.
What, then, is the general opinion concerning studying old packets? It shoudn't be done?...
No, go ahead and do it. Just don't expect that knowing every old packet will get you every clue. Outside knowledge is more valuable and should be incentivised at a higher rate (and sometimes is!) in part for the very reason that it's harder to acquire in general.

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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region » Wed Nov 17, 2010 1:40 pm

I think Mike Cheyne's ideas are pretty good; new players who are interested in getting better should consider using them. Other things mentioned in this thread are also useful.

I want to expand on one thing Mike said:
Cheynem wrote: 2. Take a packet or listen to a packet at practice. Write down some things you don't know or don't know a lot about. Go to Wikipedia and type those things in. Skim or look over the article. Note how the thing you don't know probably connects to things you do know.
Indeed, there is one simple thing that I’ve noticed has a great correlation with getting good: diligently keeping a notebook. My personal observations on this are at the college level, but this applies to high school as well. At the every level, I’ve always noticed lots of the best players keep a notebook. However, I don’t really know the daily practice habits of people outside of the University of South Carolina team, so I can’t say for sure what percentage of great college players keep or have kept a notebook. I bet the percentage is high, but I’m sure there’s some great players who never kept a notebook.

Anyway, in my personal experience playing with and working with the USC academic team, the correlation between keeping a notebook and being what I consider “very good” is 100%. Every player I have ever noticed diligently keep a notebook became very good. Also, no player who did not keep a notebook ever became very good.

The benefits of keeping a notebook are obvious. There’s absolutely no way anyone can remember everything that comes up at practice. There’s no way you can even remember most of what comes up at practice. Keeping a notebook lets you record a much higher percentage of the information than would otherwise be remembered. Once it’s recorded, you can go back and review your notes and use your notes as a springboard to more in-depth research into the subjects. I personally like keeping a notebook a lot better than looking over old packets because your notebook is something you created and I think that helps you internalize the information better.

There’s a few caveats with keeping a notebook. First, you have to bring it to every single practice. It won’t do to bring it once in a while. You have to be disciplined about it. Secondly, be diligent about taking notes. I wouldn’t recommend writing everything you hear, but you need to write down lots of clues from every packet. Thirdly, be broad about what you keep notes on. Like, if all you do is write myth clues because that's what you like, you’re improving your chance to get those 1 tossups a match, but you’re not doing anything to help get the other 19 questions. Fourthly, write down clues that are useful to you. For example, clues in music questions that say things like, “This piece starts with a piccolo trill” are useless to me, so I don’t write them down. But clues like, “this composer wrote Le tombeau de Couperin” are useful to me, so I write them down. Fifthly, the packets you hear while keeping your notebook need to be good quality. Most things on the archive are fine, but just make sure you’re practicing on good stuff. Sixthly, try to keep the same notebook. Like, don't bring 3 notebooks to 3 different practices. It's no big deal if you lose it, but try to keep the same one if at all possible.

One obvious problem notebook-wise is if your team doesn’t practice much. If that’s the case, I would recommend looking over about 3 packets a day and just taking selected notes from them. Taking notes on every clue from the packets could cause burn-out, but getting a bunch of nuggets from each packet would be helpful. Anyway, from my personal observation, no single thing helps you get very good more than diligently keeping a notebook. Of course, people that keep notebooks are more likely to care and get better, but I know plenty of people who who tried hard to get better but never got "very good," and those people did not keep a notebook.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Nov 17, 2010 1:51 pm

Another resource that you shouldn't be shy about using are players who are better than you. They are often chatty and happy to talk about the subjects they enjoy and know about.

I'm reminded of a game at 2006 ACF Fall where my Chicago undergrad team was playing Illinois A. We got a bonus on Janos Hunyadi, who at that time I knew almost nothing about. After listening to the bonus (I think we got 10 points on it), I remarked "wow, Janos Hunyadi sounds like a great man." To which Sorice replied "oh yeah? If he was so great, why did he lose that one battle...eat my socks...what's it called...flipping Varna!"

That night I went home, looked up the Battle of Varna, wrote a tossup on it, and, well, we all know where that led.

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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by dtaylor4 » Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:05 pm

I am by no means a great player, but I'll chime in and add on to what Mike Sorice and Eric just said.

I was lucky in that my freshman year, I could procure advice from three great players (and in one case, demanded it): Mike Sorice, Sudheer Potru, and Dom Ricci.

I kept a notebook, wrote clues and answers down, and looked stuff up. I eventually lapsed on this, but to this day, I can still remember stuff from that notebook.

I also used to extend this practice to tournaments. I'd keep running totals, and write down at least one or two clues per game, usually on opponents' bonuses.

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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by PennySalem » Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:54 pm

When looking over packets, which packets are "easier?" I never really got a grasp on this, although I suspect prisonbowl and fallnovice to be easier sets.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Francis the Talking France » Wed Nov 17, 2010 5:33 pm

I just presume that the packets that have shorter questions, or information that you know earlier in the question are the easier packets. It's not Harvard Fall, that's for sure. :wink:
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Auroni » Wed Nov 17, 2010 5:46 pm

PennySalem wrote:When looking over packets, which packets are "easier?" I never really got a grasp on this, although I suspect prisonbowl and fallnovice to be easier sets.
Fall Novice and HSAPQ VHSL sets are easier than the rest.
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Re: Five Simple Ways to Get Better

Post by Windmill Tump » Wed Nov 17, 2010 5:58 pm

Fall Novice is clearly one of the easier ones; HAVOC is around that level too. From what I remember and a quick skim through some packets, the other sets from last year that I thought were on the easier side were, in no specific order, Ben Cooper, last year's Maggie Walker, and last year's Prison Bowl (probably not 2009, nor 2008). Plus, I thought they were really well written too, so that makes them even better for practicing on. In addition, there are conveniently a ton of HSAPQ sets that are relatively easy too.
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