Making A Great Leap Forward

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Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by Kouign Amann »

The Notebook
Hey everyone, I've been lurking around the boards here for a while, but this is my first post, so I thought I'd introduce myself and my school. I'm Aidan Mehigan, and I go to St. Anselm's Abbey School in Washington, D.C.

I've been playing quizbowl since seventh grade (our school is grades 6-12), when I showed up at a practice one day and several members of the then B team took a liking to me. Apparently, I was pretty good for a seventh grader. I started going to tournaments that year as a member of the B team, and continued as its captain the next year. This year, as a freshman, I made the A team.

I consider myself to be an alright player. I'm a cornerstone of our team as a lit/art guy, but, then again, our team isn't that great. There are only 150 students in the whole high school, and thus, not too much of a talent pool. Also, our team doesn't really take quizbowl that seriously. We practice just once a week from 2:50-4:30, which, I have determined, isn't really enough. Practice consists of that week's Patrick's Press as a "warmup" and then playing old packets. We don't really have a coach, just someone who reads to us at practice and takes us to tournaments. She doesn't really know anything about quizbowl, but she tries. Despite all this, however, we do alright at local tournaments (we usually make the playoffs and then lose after a round or two). We crush all the bad teams and beat the average ones. We always end up loosing to the Walter Johnsons and TJs of the world. D.C. isn't the really best area for a mediocre team to compete.

But enough with the introductory stuff. I'm here to ask for some advice about myself. I know I have talent. I think I have potential to be a great player by my senior year. I have three and a half more years to develop. I know that one of my main disadvantages is being a freshman; I simply haven't taken many classes yet. I'm going to get much better once I progress through high school some more. But I want more. In this game, I know classes can only take me so far. I've been trying to learn as much as I can about the game and how to get better at it since I stumbled upon this website a week or two ago. One thing I'm interested in trying is the idea of a notebook that I have heard mentioned and seen at several tournaments.

Which brings me to the actual question I have. What should go in this notebook? To anyone who has one, how do you use your notebook?

Also, if anyone has any other basic pieces of advice, strategies, or recommended resources to get better as a player, I would be very interested in hearing them. Keep in mind that I'm basically going to be on my own. I don't think I can really motivate the rest of my team to put in serious effort towards getting better. They don't really care that much. They are ok with being just ok. School practice isn't enough for me. They will be fine, but I want to good or great.

If the above is very rambling and unclear, I'm sorry. I'm not really the most focused writer.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by dtaylor4 »

When you hear a clue that sticks out in your mind, write down the clue and answer, then go look it up later, and if you're willing, write a question on it that does not involve the clue you wrote down. This is nigh impossible to do for every single question you hear, and your focus should be on the game, but eventually you will hear that clue again, and this time you'll hopefully know the answer.

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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot »

I've got a notebook. It is small and orange. In it, I write down every answer and some clues (especially those that are buzzed on very early). After the tournament, I go through and read up on every answer that I've never heard of or don't know enough about. I've been thinking about writing tossups on those answers, but I have yet to implement that.

EDIT: Also, read old packets. Chris Carter's websites are great resources for that. Set your computer screen up so you can only see one line and play against yourself. While doing that, you can take very detailed notes on what sort of stuff comes up. Read a lot of books and reference works, too. Reading is fun and educational, not to mention quiz bowl useful.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by vcuEvan »

Yeah you have no excuse for not being a great player by your senior year. :) Don't write everything down, that's pretty pointless.You should use your notebook to write down answers and clues that you don't know but sound important.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by Matt Weiner »

Read collegiate questions, write good questions at all levels, participate in the upper-level community by going to collegiate practices and tournaments. That's by no means necessary to just become a good player, but it sounds like you want to move from being a good player to an elite player and do so largely without the support of your existing program, so that's the path to follow.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by at your pleasure »

I'll concur with the rest of the thread. Old college packets are great; the best places to find good ones are the Stanford Archive and the ACF question database. If you want to reasearch older questions on specific subjects or see if somthing you want to write a question on is appropriate, Jerry Vinokurov's database is very good for that. Another good question-related idea would be to go into the college forums and when they post the packets from tournaments, read them.
I don't like to take notes, since I find it a bit of a distraction during a match, but I will concur with the suggestion to look up stuff that you don't get and research it. Other than that, read as much as you can about a variety of things and write good, long questions on things you don't know about already.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by azngod1992 »

For literature, you should go to the Stanford Culture List and start reading either the book or the sparksnotes for the books and plays on their list, since that basically represents most of high school canon (plus some). Start with the more famous ones, and then move on to the more obscure ones.

As for Art History, my best advice is to take a class on it. AP Art History or Intro to Art History at a local community college or 4-year college will help you a long way to becoming a dominant art player. If that isn't an option, try buying a art textbook of some sort and reading through it. After you have done this, start building on this knowledge by reading packets and writing questions.

In general, I would recommend reading lots and lots of packets, starting with relatively easy ones on Chris Carter's website (the earlier incarnations of New Trier Solo comes to mind, although those are not pyramidal) and then moving on to real high school packets (i.e PACE, Maryland Tournaments ect) along with novice College packets.

Taking AP or other challenging classes is a great way to improve your PPG. Most of high school canon outside of literature can be found in the AP curriculum.

Finally, writing questions and doing research on stuff you find interesting or neg on at tournaments is the best way to internalize knowledge.

*edit - disregard my earlier comment
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by at your pleasure »

as for Art History, my best advice is to take a class on it. AP Art History or Intro to Art History at a local community college or 4-year college will help you a long way to becoming a dominant art player. If that isn't an option, try buying a art textbook of some sort and reading through it. After you have done this, start building on this knowledge by reading packets and writing questions.
This is good. If you want to get a book, I like Gombrich's Story of Art and Janson's History of Art. Janson goes into a good deal more detail then Gombrich, but Gombrich is a good deal brisker.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by AlphaQuizBowler »

As someone who was in a similar position last year, the best advice I can give you is this: hang around the boards. Look for good tournaments in the announcements, learn about the qualities of good quizbowl in the discussions, and read some of the old threads on how to improve (check The Best of the Best). This board will guide you on how to become a good quizbowl player.

On specific ways to improve, I would say, first and foremost, read packets, read packets, read packets. There are a lot of points to be had in this game (especially at harder tournaments) by just being the only one in the room who knows that the answer exists. Besides, there's only so many ways one can describe Arnolfini Wedding. I would suggest HFT and NNT as two great sets that really exemplify (and sometimes stetch) the breadth of the high school canon.

More controversially, as you say you're a "lit/arts guy", I would advocate memorizing the NAQT You Gotta Know list for lit and art. Not just the 100 or so on the website. All of it. (I would suggest getting it in the New Teams package, but you can buy it separately). There are many who will probably rail against me for saying that, because they believe list learning is inherently bad. I agree that list learning as its own end is bad. But there's a lot to be said for being able to hear an answer and say, "Oh, I've heard of that, now I can associate clues to it." And people still write bonuses that can be 30'd just from knowing creator/creation pairs. (Believe me, I don't like it (especially in art, because I could actually get harder questions), but you can't deny that it happens.

And writing questions works too. It's really satisfying to get an answer and say, "Hey, I got that 'cause I wrote a question on it." If you want to be practical, start saving the questions for future tournament use (but if so, read Jerry's guide to question writing.)
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by The Atom Strikes! »

I would recommend that you go through old packets, and, when you see something that you want to know more about, or something that looks cool, look it up on the internet. Read linked articles that interest you as well. Continue until you have about ten or twenty tabs open in your browser, then realize that it's 2 in the morning and that you have a major project due for tomorrow.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by Self-incompatibility in plants »

I my self (a junior), am now just starting to do what Henry mentioned doing, and I must say, minus the 2am part with a project due that day, that it really does help. Everyday at practice I would make a point of simply writing down the answers to every question you hear, and then taking those answers to Wikipedia, from where you can learn until your sick of learning (hopefully that won't happen though, and hopefully your projects will get done on time). I would definitely make a point of learning about the stuff you hear in practice, which will accumulate over time into a comprehensive knowledge pool, but then, if you really get ambitious, look at older packets on the various providers of packets, and continue looking up and researching those answers in those packets.

In regards to reading packets, I find that it’s not always that beneficial to read a question in a packet that has an answer that you have no prior knowledge of. Any information you have about the answer is hollow, as you only know what’s in the packet, and don't truly have an understanding of the answer. Hence what typing the answer in Wikipedia and reading the article all about it is a much better way to learn about it.

As for lists, I must say they do help in certain cases. When starting from scratch, as many freshmen do, those NAQT lists really do help build a foundation for quiz bowl, so they are certainly worth knowing. That being said, they should not be relied upon, and you should move past them as soon as you are able to do so. Again, another great thing to do would be to read articles about each thing on the list...

Moral of this post: Use Wikipedia (or actually read books if you have the time)!

P.S. I too have a notebook, but it’s full of NAQT lists and old packets… I only truly use it when I’m bored in school and want to try and study something, or when I am trying to review before a tournament, your primary study resource does not have to be in a central location like a notebook.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by AlphaQuizBowler »

ImaPC wrote: In regards to reading packets, I find that it’s not always that beneficial to read a question in a packet that has an answer that you have no prior knowledge of. Any information you have about the answer is hollow, as you only know what’s in the packet, and don't truly have an understanding of the answer. Hence what typing the answer in Wikipedia and reading the article all about it is a much better way to learn about it.
But you don't adress the part where simply knowing the canon gets you points. I know little about the Night of the Long Knives, but eventually the question says "blah blah blah German purge" and you can get it, simply because you read it before and know that it could come up.
Also, if an answer comes up frequently (and the ones that are most useful to know come up frequently anyways), then through reading multiple questions about it and having multiple contacts with it, one retains important clues.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot »

Fraud is king (especially in NAQT,less so in other stuff). Seriously, don't be afraid to get stuff off of pure creator creation knowledge. List learning, while not fun at all, is quite useful. I get way too many points off of lists from my freshman year. I am a huge proponent of flash cards. You can put as much or as little as you want on them. I like making lit flashcards with the plot or main characters of the work on one side and the title on the other. This knowledge is deeper than creator creation, and thus more useful. Another good thing to do with arts is to pull up pictures of paintings and pick out all the details that you can. For example, in Liberty Leading the People, there is a guy with two pistols. In Guernica, there is a dismembered hand, a rose, and a sword. And, remember, there is no shame, only points.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

And, remember, there is no shame, only points.
WRONG!
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by cdcarter »

la2pgh wrote:And, remember, there is no shame, only points.
There is shame. But there are points.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by Gonzagapuma1 »

I think what a lot of people are missing in this thread is on of the most obvious things to do. Go to tournaments. This is probably the way i've grown the most as a player because not only do you learn things, but you also learn how to play. I would also advise you to go to any and all tournaments. Last year I think I went to 3-4 college tounaments that I had no business being at, but I went because I knew I would learn stuff and play against people who were much better than me.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by The Atom Strikes! »

Gonzagapuma1 wrote:I think what a lot of people are missing in this thread is on of the most obvious things to do. Go to tournaments. This is probably the way i've grown the most as a player because not only do you learn things, but you also learn how to play. I would also advise you to go to any and all tournaments. Last year I think I went to 3-4 college tounaments that I had no business being at, but I went because I knew I would learn stuff and play against people who were much better than me.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot »

What Puma said. You live in DC. There is a good tournament like twice a month. Basically, play whenever and wherever you can. Plus, tournaments are tons of fun and you get to meet cool people.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by Matthew D »

I would suggest, if you don't feel comfortable playing at the college tournaments volunteer to help with the tournament as a score keeper or reading... you can pick up a bunch of information from just reading the packets out loud for a crowd...
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by Self-incompatibility in plants »

But you don't adress the part where simply knowing the canon gets you points. I know little about the Night of the Long Knives, but eventually the question says "blah blah blah German purge" and you can get it, simply because you read it before and know that it could come up.
Also, if an answer comes up frequently (and the ones that are most useful to know come up frequently anyways), then through reading multiple questions about it and having multiple contacts with it, one retains important clues.
That is fine I guess, being able to get a clue at a give away does accumulate points, but shouldn't a player strive to do better than that? When I'm trying to learn about something that i have no previous knowledge of, I don't want to know just the common give away clue that comes up late in the question, but rather I want to know more in depth knowledge and have an understanding of what the answer to the question was, which will allow me to get the question earlier. The key to my argument is that you have to have very little prior knowledge of whatever the answer to the question is. I'm not claiming that reading questions is bad in general, in fact I think it is great and provides the possibility to learn new facts and information about the topic, but only when you have knowledge of the topic of the question. Otherwise, if you don’t know about the topic, any information you learn in that question is, again, extremely hollow, and are simply facts floating around that are not truly understood.

So... reading questions on topics you know about is good, reading questions on topics you have no prior knowledge of is not good.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by at your pleasure »

So... reading questions on topics you know about is good, reading questions on topics you have no prior knowledge of is not good.
I think it's almost the other way around.Reading questions on stuff you have no knowledge of will get you points late in the question. Since early clues do not repeat as often as later clues do, one benefits more from in-depth extra-quizbowl knowledge of the subject. Also, the canon in many subject areas is so large that nobody on a given pair of teams has in-depth knowlege of the entire canon. If you tried to obtain in-depth knowlege about the whole canon, or even a very large part of it, you would probably not get very far. Therefore, it might be a good idea to first learn the basics about a lot of stuff, then pick out specific things that interest you and develp deep knowledge about them.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by cvdwightw »

ImaPC wrote:When I'm trying to learn about something that i have no previous knowledge of, I don't want to know just the common give away clue that comes up late in the question, but rather I want to know more in depth knowledge and have an understanding of what the answer to the question was, which will allow me to get the question earlier. The key to my argument is that you have to have very little prior knowledge of whatever the answer to the question is. I'm not claiming that reading questions is bad in general, in fact I think it is great and provides the possibility to learn new facts and information about the topic, but only when you have knowledge of the topic of the question. Otherwise, if you don’t know about the topic, any information you learn in that question is, again, extremely hollow, and are simply facts floating around that are not truly understood.
If we subscribe to the whole "cognitive map" theory of quizbowl, then we must start at the bottom with any topic with which we are not familiar. To most of us, this means (a) hearing about a topic, and (b) gathering some basic information about the topic. Let's say we've never heard of Nietzsche before until he comes up at some tournament. The first thing we should do is familiarize ourselves with basic information: the names of a few major works, maybe a few aphorisms, and then a general idea of his philosophy. Once we have this skeleton, we can begin to expand in any number of directions (e.g. reading his books, reading books analyzing his ideas, etc.) that give us a bigger picture of who he is and why he's important.

Where, then, is the "ground floor" on which we have to enter? It should be either in lists (e.g. author-work lists) or the giveaways of old questions. Reading old questions is absolutely fine if you don't know what the question is talking about, because it gives you that most basic information that you need to know what the question is talking about. In all but a few cases (e.g. you're reading a book that you've never heard of before, and so you're acquiring top-down knowledge independent of quizbowl), you need to know the giveaway clue before you can start expanding on it. Yeah, no one wants to know "just the giveaway," but I think you have to start somewhere, and the giveaway's the best place to start.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by Self-incompatibility in plants »

"That is fine I guess, being able to get a clue at a give away does accumulate points, but shouldn't a player strive to do better than that?". This point of mine still does stand. Of course you have "a ground floor" of knowledge, and I hope my post was not construed as me saying otherwise, but again, why not strive for more knowledge by reading articles on the answers of the question once you have that basic knowledge? After reading the last two posts I'll admit that I am less fervent about my last post, but I still stick to it considering this is a thread about how to get great, which something that only having a ground floor level of knowledge will not accomplish. Reading articles to gain understanding and in depth knowledge of an answer from a question in a packet will take you in the right direction however.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by cvdwightw »

ImaPC wrote:"That is fine I guess, being able to get a clue at a give away does accumulate points, but shouldn't a player strive to do better than that?". This point of mine still does stand.
Yeah, I don't think I was disputing that. What I was disputing was the idea that "reading questions on topics you have no prior knowledge of is not good." Your last post implies that you have this ground floor of knowledge, whereas the post before it implied that there were areas in which one might not be familiar with an answer choice. If you're studying only for quizbowl (as opposed to studying for a class, or outside reading, with both of which you presumably have some kind of ground floor of knowledge that allows you to link in new information), reading about stuff you've never heard of gives you just as many "simply facts floating around that are not truly understood" as reading old packets, and may not give you the same hierarchical sense of what's important.

There is a saying that at higher levels of difficulty, the way to be a great player is not by having deep knowledge, but by being one clue deeper than everyone else. Reading old questions is a valuable way to earn that "one clue deeper than everyone else" knowledge, but at the highest levels of high school play, given the limited canon, you have to be one clue deeper than the best players in that area, and for this, you do need to go out and read articles and books and stuff, since that's what a lot of the best players are doing.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by at your pleasure »

I would like to propose the following model of quizbowl learning.
1. Hear a tossup and miss it.
2. Accumulate enough binary knowledge for you to other teams at a given level to that subject.
3. If you are intruiged by the answer based on your binary knowledge, study the answer in greater depth.
In practice, what happens is that for any given player, the process stops at step 2 for most things and for a smaller number of other things goes on to step 3
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by aestheteboy »

I think what's been mentioned is all nice and good, but I think you guys are missing the key point. The important thing is not how you work but how much you work. You beat teams like Charter and Dorman by studying 20 hours a week when they only study 10 hours a week.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by BuzzerZen »

TJ 2008 wrote:You beat teams like Charter and Dorman by playing basketball instead of practicing when they only study 10 hours a week.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by ihavenoidea »

BuzzerZen wrote:
TJ 2008 wrote:You beat teams like Charter and Dorman by playing basketball instead of practicing when they only study 10 hours a week. Basketball is much more helpful when you're playing NAQT.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by grashid »

ihavenoidea wrote:
BuzzerZen wrote:
TJ 2008 wrote:You beat teams like Charter and Dorman by playing basketball instead of practicing when they only study 10 hours a week. Basketball is much more helpful when you're playing NAQT.
Wait, you're don't learn about 19th century architecutre by making 3-pointers?
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by closesesame »

Note: we actually beat Dorman at PACE, and the one time we played them in the prelims at the HSNCT we lost. So I guess the whole basketball theory is out the window. I think it had to do more with enjoying the activity and wanting to learn rather than imposing a study plan. Also, we seemed to do better if Keshav lost some weight, so basketball undoubtedly helped with that.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by Whiter Hydra »

closesesame wrote:Note: we actually beat Dorman at PACE, and the one time we played them in the prelims at the HSNCT we lost. So I guess the whole basketball theory is out the window. I think it had to do more with enjoying the activity and wanting to learn rather than imposing a study plan. Also, we seemed to do better if Keshav lost some weight, so basketball undoubtedly helped with that.
Obviously it's ping-pong that did the trick.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by Cheynem »

Here's what's worked for me (and I'm obviously in a different situation, being in my seventh year of college, not high school). I will use not question specific examples from the most recent tournament I was at, T-Party, to support my points. I WILL NOT MENTION ANSWERS OR DETAILS.

1. Pay attention in class. Do the reading. I got a lit toss-up over far better lit players because I had read the book it was talking about in an English class. Obviously one cannot read everything and must rely on general summaries, notes, and (sigh) lists for books, but (hopefully) on well written, pyramidal questions, direct knowledge from reading the book will get you the points faster than someone who has not.

2. Listen to toss-ups and remember clues. I am not the best example for this because I continually suck at science questions, but there definitely shouldn't be any excuse for getting clues from topics you like to stick in your mind. I frauded another lit toss-up over better lit players because I remember the lead-in being used at several other tournaments. That's good.

3. Be curious about everything. Teams that only focus on trash, for my money, tend to be worse at trash than academic players who play trash because the former does not have academic curiosity or memory skills. I picked up a good chunk of pop culture toss-ups at T-Party not because OMG I LOVED THAT MOVIE but because I've read about or acquired knowledge about various pop culture topics. This same principle obviously should apply to academic topics. And, as Charlie and Chris have discussed, I got an incredibly embarrassing toss-up which prompted an incredulous stare from Greg Peterson. Shame, yes. Points, yes.

4. Pay attention to the toss-ups. This sounds obvious, but there is a tendency (and I still am occasionally guilty of it) of tuning out toss-ups that initially start off as something way outside of your expertise. This is bad, obviously, because you may still get it (either a sudden topic shift or a giveaway) but also because you will not learn clues to something you don't know. At ACF Fall, I frauded a science toss-up in this matter.

5. In this same way, be an active participant in the match even if you aren't getting a lot of points. I don't take notes, but you can if you like. Listen to the other team on bonuses. Ask for clarification if you weren't sure what answers were. Obviously, you always want to be cognizant of the score and game situation, but especially if the score becomes lopsided or if it is a scrimmage/practice match, take the opportunity to learn from questions.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by Strongside »

Ryan Westbrook made a good post two years ago about getting better at quiz bowl, that you should definitely read if you have not done so yet. viewtopic.php?f=30&t=3484

I would recommend you do this or some modified form of it if you are really serious about quiz bowl. By modified I mean you can look over high school questions as opposed to ACF questions, and use paper and pen instead of a computer, etc.

Looking over lists can also be really helpful. NAQT's lists, and lists of presidents, plot summaries of important works, etc. I find list memorization to be more helpful on high school questions than college questions, and poorly written questions than well written questions.

Playing in tournaments also helps a lot. I would recommend looking over the packet set of every tournament you go to if you can get a copy of the set.

I don't use notebooks at meets, but other people do, and this can be a good way to improve as well.

Also, Wikipedia is great for looking up quiz bowl related things.
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Re: Making A Great Leap Forward

Post by Sonic the Hedgehog and the Fox »

Cheynem wrote:3. Be curious about everything.
This is key.

To be truthful, the bulk base of my knowledge has come from thought-provoking movies and the research that I have done because they've piqued my interest. I would never get questions on The Dollar Wars without having watched Gangs of New York and doing lots of internet browsing because of it. I would not get questions on the Restoration without having watched Restoration and getting a good, more understanding background of English history during the time.
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