Writing Questions for Practice

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Siverus Snape
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Writing Questions for Practice

Post by Siverus Snape » Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:38 am

I figured that this summer would be a great time to start writing questions to improve my own knowledge. Pretty much everyone I've talked to has agreed that that is one of the best ways to become a better player.

Unfortunately, I have no idea where to begin. Can anyone give me some tips or techniques?

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Post by solonqb » Thu Jun 08, 2006 11:26 am

Have team members write questions in subject areas where they are weak in knowledge. If your team has shared areas of weakness, better to write to those so that playing them will help more people.
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Pyramidals and not?

Post by First Chairman » Thu Jun 08, 2006 11:28 am

For what style are you preparing?

The first thing that I would suggest for anyone who wishes to write questions is to study the questions you wish to emulate. Avoiding the discussion of short versus pyramidal tossups, the ultimate goal of writing questions is to attain a sense of where a question should go. Taking the recent popular references to spelling bees, it's being aware of the weird consonant associations or roots associated with specific languages and how they could be altered to English as opposed to complete list memorization of the entire dictionary.

For all tossups, my first suggestion is to look over the questions you missed in practice and start writing questions on those missed questions. For pyramidal tossups, the challenge is to write the entire question but with a completely different set of clues except for maybe the giveaway. This way, you can be exposed to another set of clues that will strengthen your knowledge of the subject you missed the last time.

That's my free advice for the day.
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Re: Pyramidals and not?

Post by Siverus Snape » Thu Jun 08, 2006 2:54 pm

E.T. Chuck wrote:...the ultimate goal of writing questions is to attain a sense of where a question should go.
1. Wouldn't this mainly entail examining questions written by others, preferably the source you will play with most of the time?

2. And thank you, by the way, for the speedy response.

3. Since I play in Illinois, and at Auburn we go to a variety of tournaments, we get all sorts of question types: long and short, pyramidal and buzzer beater. The format of the matches is largely the same (I assume you are familiar with Illinois format, Dr. Chuck).

4. It seems to me like most of our tournaments have shorter questions, but wouldn't I be served better by writing longer questions (more information to look up, etc.)?

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Re: Pyramidals and not?

Post by First Chairman » Thu Jun 08, 2006 3:20 pm

On your questions:
SIVster716 wrote:
E.T. Chuck wrote:...the ultimate goal of writing questions is to attain a sense of where a question should go.
1. Wouldn't this mainly entail examining questions written by others, preferably the source you will play with most of the time?
In short, yes. It makes sense to actually know the writing style that a question source has when it comes to quizzing students.

As one of the state organizers for Academic Decathlon, at our annual coaches' meeting, we sit down and analyze the questions based on whether the content they test is included in the syllabus, involves "higher level thinking" or are complete "detail oriented". It is assumed that the practice tests are exemplary of subsequent tests that we use in our competition. Likewise for standardized testing, Kaplan (my part-time employer until the end of the week) and similar testing companies thrive on more sophisticated analysis of questions that appear on the SAT or similar standardized tests. The ACE camps and the frequency lists that NAQT sells also assist in helping people know how to anticipate certain types of questions (say, for those bleepin' math calculation tossups). And there is a reason why PACE gives all past questions ever written for its NSC's to teams that register to compete.
3. Since I play in Illinois, and at Auburn we go to a variety of tournaments, we get all sorts of question types: long and short, pyramidal and buzzer beater. The format of the matches is largely the same (I assume you are familiar with Illinois format, Dr. Chuck).
I'm somewhat familiar though I haven't ever watch a game in that format. The question lengths are probably not dissimilar to Ohio format.
4. It seems to me like most of our tournaments have shorter questions, but wouldn't I be served better by writing longer questions (more information to look up, etc.)?
Well, that depends on what you want to do. If you want to improve your game, I personally think that one should pay more attention to potential substantive clues and not necessarily writing style and length of the question. The fundamental reflex of buzzing in still must be honed (as a separate skill), so "flash card" practice to me is still good practice.

If you want to build stamina and maintain focus, you should probably write longer questions. If you want to be able to quickly recall questions that are shorter, note that there are a limited number of ways one can ask you a question under most circumstances. Writing different short questions for the same answer is perhaps one way of getting better at that format.

The key is to be exposed to more clues and create more mental maps and links between these clues and answers. Question-writing is certainly a tangible way for actively learning about those clues (just as writing a term paper would be... but we won't be testing you on those skills).
Last edited by First Chairman on Thu Jun 08, 2006 5:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by leapfrog314 » Thu Jun 08, 2006 5:02 pm

I know not everyone on this board would agree with me, but Wikipedia is a great place to browse for information. It's free, it's all in one place, and it's accurate enough for quiz bowl purposes.

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Post by Deviant Insider » Thu Jun 08, 2006 5:12 pm

Here we go again

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Post by Siverus Snape » Thu Jun 08, 2006 5:53 pm

Thank you, Dr. Chuck. Certainly a lot of food for thought.

As far as Wikipedia goes, I think its excellent for gathering topics of interest and getting some relatively deep information on them. The best part of it is the hyperlinking within documents. I can go for hours on Wikipedia just jumping from article to article by those links.

If I were writing questions for an actual tournament, however, I would definitely double-check all of the questions with a....more reputable source.

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Post by leapfrog314 » Thu Jun 08, 2006 7:09 pm

SIVster716 wrote:As far as Wikipedia goes, I think its excellent for gathering topics of interest and getting some relatively deep information on them. The best part of it is the hyperlinking within documents. I can go for hours on Wikipedia just jumping from article to article by those links.

If I were writing questions for an actual tournament, however, I would definitely double-check all of the questions with a....more reputable source.
All I was sayin'. God forbid a wiki-fanboy like myself would lead a poor innocent Siva astray...

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Post by JohnAndSlation » Thu Jun 08, 2006 11:10 pm

One of my favorite sources, even for links, is merriamwebster.com. I do like Wikipedia, but I generally use it when I want a general idea of the topic.

For languages/translations, leo.org is AMAZING. It has links to other dictionaries, a forum for unlisted words/phrases, AND more than one language. I've known native Americans and native Germans to frequent it.

We're writing questions as a team as an (extended) Spring Break assignment. For Illinois, I'd assume a little bit of all the different styles we generally see. That way, you're better prepared for anything they decide to throw at you.

I also have to applaud your initiative. Writing questions does take time and thought. Just out of curiosity, are you planning on writing a certain amount? Or just writing? And any particular subjects of focus?

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Post by Siverus Snape » Fri Jun 09, 2006 12:07 am

You know, I was considering those very questions myself.

Probably, I'll just write them. As far as a focus, I'm thinking a combination between my worst areas, the areas that our team needs as a whole, and some stuff off of whatever list or resource I'm currently flipping through.

Carlo, you may be able to tell me this: Does writing questions for rounds (including distribution and bonuses and all that jazz) as opposed to writing them willy-nilly make a difference as far as the pickup of knowledge?

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