Improving Bonus Conversion

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Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by mithokie »

After 4 tournaments, I have definitely identified low bonus conversion as a problem area for my team. There are two matches in particular that I can point to that we had abysmal bonus conversion on that turned matches we probably should have won into matches we lost. (Listing these as BHrd/Bonus Points). One was a 4/10 and the other was a 5/20. My team has averaged 8 -9 PPB aside from one A-level tournament where we were at 12.3 PPB. Are there any suggestions or specific strategies that any of you use in practice to work on improving bonus conversion? Is this just a sign of my team not having deep enough knowledge? I feel like we're doing well on the Toss-up portion of the activity, but I want to find a way to help my team get to the next level. I appreciate any input that any of you could share.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo »

This is the story of CR's team for years. I can't think of more than a couple tournaments where we've hit more than 15 PPB, and often it's closer to 10. A match against Cosby B at GSAC the other week, we got 16 tossups in one game, but never once 30-ed a bonus and got i think 0 or 10 a dozen times. It was so agitating. No real idea as to how we can improve this, other than study deeper knowledge of, well, everything...
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by The Laughing Man »

I don't think there are any shortcuts; the best way to improve is to read a lot of bonuses. Once you've played a lot of bonuses, you'll realize that they are almost always the same. You may see a new 30 clue once in a while, but the easy and middle parts come up again and again. For example, nearly every high school Ginsberg bonus is A Supermarket in California- Ginsberg- Howl. If you read a lot of bonuses you will almost always have heard the easy and middle parts.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Study a lot of packets; figure out what sorts of information are asked about for bonus parts. For example, a common bonus format for literature bonuses asks about a relatively well-known book--say, Pride and Prejudice--from plot and character clues, then asks for the author--say, Jane Austen--and then asks either for a nontrivial character--perhaps Mr. Bingley--or for another work by that author--hard for Jane Austen because all her books are pretty equally well known. In this case, identifying P&P is the middle part, the binary part (give the author) is supposed to be easy, and the third part is supposed to be hard. if you know that given a book, you can always pull the author, you'll ten all of these literature bonuses. If you know a little about many of the books they're likely to ask about, then you'll probably get a 20.

Now, it's best not to rely on formulas like this, particularly because there are lots of ways to write bonuses, but I know that that's one way to go if you specifically want to increase bonus conversion (and want an answer better than just, like, "learn more things.")

This is where writing questions becomes really handy, too; just as for tossups you'll start to understand what likely leadins are, writing a whole bunch of bonuses will give your kids an impression of what third part-worthy subjects are in a certain field. And eventually you'll probably hit on at least one subject where you can confidently say that you'll probably see a whole lot of bonuses that have the same three or four choices for answers--and then you'll thirty that bonus. (I think three or four times earlier this year, when we were reading our freshmen EFT I and II, MUT, and a few ACF Falls, we encountered a Basho bonus that had haiku, Basho, and either Narrow Road to the Deep North or Record of a Travel-Worn Sachel. We figured that hey, Basho comes up a lot in the novice world lit canon, and hey, he has two askable works at the novice level.)

It really can't hurt just to learn more things, though.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by at your pleasure »

I will second reading packets. This will help a lot with getting easy parts(which don't tend to vary unless you have a really weird set), and you will see that certain groups of things tend to come up. Andrew mentioned one; another example would be Japanese authors, of which there are five that I would call "askable in high school"-Oe,Mishma, Kawababta, possibly Murimaki, and possibly Murisaki Shikibu. If you learn the titles and a few basic plot/character facts of each of their most famous works, that will help you out with pretty much every Japanese author bonus. As Bruce Arthur put it "The canon is a new player's best friend".
Other than that, learn things.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by aestheteboy »

Your weird spelling is killing me, pal.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by Blackboard Monitor Vimes »

Anti-Climacus wrote:I will second reading packets. This will help a lot with getting easy parts(which don't tend to vary unless you have a really weird set), and you will see that certain groups of things tend to come up. Andrew mentioned one; another example would be Japanese authors, of which there are five that I would call "askable in high school"-Oe,Mishma, Kawababta, possibly Murimaki, and possibly Murisaki Shikibu. If you learn the titles and a few basic plot/character facts of each of their most famous works, that will help you out with pretty much every Japanese author bonus. As Bruce Arthur put it "The canon is a new player's best friend".
Other than that, learn things.
Some comments on Japanese lit: learn Tale of Genji (by Lady Murasaki). Oe, Mishima, and Kawabata come up fairly regularly as well, and I've heard a number of questions on The Pillow Book. Tale of Genji/Murasaki/Pillow Book or Sei Shonagon is a pretty common bonus. Tanizaki, Akutagawa, and Murakami have been coming up more often lately, but primarily in toss-ups. I've heard one Murakami bonus in my career that I can recall (this year's HFT).

With lit in general most bonuses tend to follow the pattern mentioned above by someone I'm too tired to look up. For other bonuses, it really just seems to help to have a well-rounded team. We're not that good at science when Quint isn't with us, but we still manage to get points on science bonuses because between the four of us we can remember stuff we learned in class. Being able to work together is really important for bonuses, and your captain needs to get a feel for what people know and if they regularly confuse things. I know there are several answers Greg always repeats back to me to make sure I haven't temporarily lost my mind, and there have been times we've both regretted him not doing that. So, I think, being able to work together is almost as important as learning stuff, but definitely learn stuff too. Reading a lot of bonuses helps you figure out what comes up, so, if a toss-up goes dead at practice, read the bonus anyway for educational purposes.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Anti-Climacus wrote:I will second reading packets. This will help a lot with getting easy parts(which don't tend to vary unless you have a really weird set), and you will see that certain groups of things tend to come up. Andrew mentioned one; another example would be Japanese authors, of which there are five that I would call "askable in high school"-Oe,Mishma, Kawababta, possibly Murimaki, and possibly Murisaki Shikibu. If you learn the titles and a few basic plot/character facts of each of their most famous works, that will help you out with pretty much every Japanese author bonus. As Bruce Arthur put it "The canon is a new player's best friend".
Other than that, learn things.
For what it's worth, I think Akutagawa's probably askable. The whole Rashomon-movie based not on Rashomon-short-story but rather In a Grove is getting to be well known enough that it'll come up. I could be wrong.

In the same vein in the college canon, you'll get pretty far knowing, like, Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, and the Colloquy of Marburg. I think similarly, in high school you'd do pretty well knowing Luther, Worms, and Zwingli. (I don't know the relative difficulty of these, but I'm sure you could get them to be hard based on how many clues you give; i.e. if Worms is too easy, make it the first part and don't mention Luther, or make it the easy part, but make Luther harder...) Or the gratuitous Time of Troubles bonus, for example. False Dmitris, Fyodor I, Boris Gudonov or Ivan IV or whoever's easy will get you far.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo »

MLWGS-Gir wrote:Reading a lot of bonuses helps you figure out what comes up, so, if a toss-up goes dead at practice, read the bonus anyway for educational purposes.
At our practices, when we're finished the toss-ups, we always read the extra bonus questions... i let the "losing" team pick out of two bonuses (i summarize their content in a couple words) then they answer it and i give the other set to the other team, then i go back and forth til we used all the extras. Hasn't appeared to help us a whole lot, but, well, it feels like the right thing to do...
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

That's totally the right thing to do. I'm ashamed to admit that our practices were tossups only until maybe sometime my junior year when we realized that actually a lot of the information was in the bonuses...
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by cvdwightw »

I think an important thing for you to figure out first is why your team is performing so poorly on bonuses. If there are a lot of things that your team just doesn't know, then yeah, the only real way to get better on bonus conversion is to learn more. However, it seems to me that this isn't the problem.

Are people too reliant on the captain to give an answer, even if the captain doesn't know the answer and they do? Somewhat related, are people afraid to speak up ideas even if they know that it's a part that they won't get?

Oftentimes, the person who would be most likely to have the knowledge needed for the bonus part either missed a key piece of information or is overthinking the question. If there's a lot of "parts your team should have gotten, but didn't," then I'd guess that one of the above scenarios occurs more than it should. I don't really have any good strategies for getting people to communicate on the bonus.

One surefire strategy for improving bonus conversion is "always have a pony to ride." By that, I mean that you should always have one thing to guess if you are only able to extract a minimal amount of information from the bonus part. If you know, say, a single work by Aldous Huxley that's not Brave New World, then you "ride that pony" and guess that single work every time a bonus on Huxley comes up and a bonus part is clearly not talking about Brave New World. Every time that work comes up, you earn 10 points. Every time it doesn't come up, you get 0 points, which is what you would have gotten anyway. If you do this for a lot of basic things that show up in high school (e.g. authors, composers), then you will increase your bonus conversion significantly without really doing all that much outside of acquiring some shallow "list" knowledge and a skeleton on which to build a cognitive map.

Eventually, someone is going to get sick and tired of guessing that work all the time, and will learn more about that work, so now you have two works that you have knowledge of, and you can pick a new pony to "ride" when neither of those works shows up. Slowly, your cognitive map will expand, and those things that used to be your ponies will be things you can get almost 100% of the time with knowledge, freeing up the "things you can get 100% of the time by guessing" for another work and slowly, over time, improving your bonus conversion.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by theMoMA »

I find that a good bonus conversion comes with a dedication to learning things. For me and many, I suspect that getting tossups is the most rewarding part of quizbowl. I know that when I first started making a conscious effort to get good at pyramidal quizbowl, I would often skip the bonuses entirely because I didn't know enough parts to make reading them seem fun. But to get better, you really do have to slog through every part of every bonus, even when they seem over your head.

I don't want to sound too much like a football coach, but it's really a matter of taking pride in your bonus conversion to the extent that you do the work between tournaments necessary to improve. Set a goal; talk to your team about it; challenge yourself to learn new things; make a better effort to remember those answers that always seem to elude you; get a little mad when you miss stuff. It's a gradual process of building up, but it comes a lot easier when you've got the right attitude.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by Deviant Insider »

When you go to a tournament, make a list of bonuses that give you trouble. Have your team talk about which ones they think they should have done better at, and then have them discuss how they could do better on them the next time. Keep in mind that your goal is not 30 PPB, so it's OK to say that some of the bonus parts you missed were way beyond you at this point or poor questions, but by the end of the season a team that works hard should be able to hit 15 on an IS set just by learning the answers that come up very often.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

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Anti-Climacus wrote:I will second reading packets. This will help a lot with getting easy parts(which don't tend to vary unless you have a really weird set), and you will see that certain groups of things tend to come up. Andrew mentioned one; another example would be Japanese authors, of which there are five that I would call "askable in high school"-Oe,Mishma, Kawababta, possibly Murimaki, and possibly Murisaki Shikibu. If you learn the titles and a few basic plot/character facts of each of their most famous works, that will help you out with pretty much every Japanese author bonus. As Bruce Arthur put it "The canon is a new player's best friend".
Other than that, learn things.
Bassho is not askable @ the HS level? If not, apologies to the players subjected to that last season. I think I've asked about Musashi once or twice over the years.

To the OP: I agree with the riding the pony strategy - also whoever said the easy/middle bonus parts will repeat themselves frequently over the course of a year is also correct. Perhaps reading additional bonuses during practice might help -- is the issue a problem of 'not knowing it' or 'not communicating properly'?
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by yoda4554 »

everyday847 wrote: For what it's worth, I think Akutagawa's probably askable. The whole Rashomon-movie based not on Rashomon-short-story but rather In a Grove is getting to be well known enough that it'll come up. I could be wrong.
Well, the movie's based on both short stories. "Rashomon" provides the frame, and the central plot action is taken from "In a Grove."
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

yoda4554 wrote:
everyday847 wrote: For what it's worth, I think Akutagawa's probably askable. The whole Rashomon-movie based not on Rashomon-short-story but rather In a Grove is getting to be well known enough that it'll come up. I could be wrong.
Well, the movie's based on both short stories. "Rashomon" provides the frame, and the central plot action is taken from "In a Grove."
Sure, I was simplifying.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by at your pleasure »

Bassho is not askable @ the HS level? If not, apologies to the players subjected to that last season. I think I've asked about Musashi once or twice over the years
I don't hear him come up as much, but he's probably askable. I didn't mention him because Andrew already mentioned him.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

Anti-Climacus wrote:
Bassho is not askable @ the HS level? If not, apologies to the players subjected to that last season. I think I've asked about Musashi once or twice over the years
I don't hear him come up as much, but he's probably askable. I didn't mention him because Andrew already mentioned him.
Yeah, off the top of my head a list of HS-askable Japanese authors include Mishima, Oe, Kawabata, Tanizaki, Lady Murasaki, Basho, and at slightly higher levels, Akutagawa and Murakami.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by Sir Thopas »

Really, you think Tanizaki is easier than Murakami? I think you're overcompensating for higher-level quizbowl's way overblown love affair with the latter. Tanizaki's tough.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Sir Thopas wrote:Really, you think Tanizaki is easier than Murakami? I think you're overcompensating for higher-level quizbowl's way overblown love affair with the latter. Tanizaki's tough.
Ditto. I first heard of Tanizaki from Auroni, and by IO this year I learned Some Prefer Nettles, and because it came up ten million times since IO somehow I've learned Makioka Sisters... but I'd put Tanizaki on a tier right below Chickamatsu, or maybe with.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by at your pleasure »

So, in order to summarize this thread and get it away from the Japanese lit discussion I inadvertently started, read a bunch of packets and find reused bonuses (the Primavera or Birth of Venus/Boticelli/random minor Boticell and the Giberti or Brunelleschi/Gates of Paradise/Michelangelo bonuses come to mind). Also, find subjects with relativly small canons and get to know the basics about said subjects.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by Joshua Rutsky »

I think it also helps if you make a point of giving team members target areas that they will be responsible for. On our team, we have one "generalist" chair, but the other three seats are each expected to bring a very solid area of expertise to the table as well as general knowledge. We have large study binders with a great deal of material in them, and team members are responsible for knowing "their" sections solidly.

This is not to say that I don't want all my players learning everything--I do. But at the same time, I think it is reasonable to recognize that they will have different interest levels in different areas, and if I can get them to study (always a challenge) outside of practice in their area of interest, that can only help us. I think having a designated person for lit, music/art, bio, chem, and military history helps tremendously--the others will help, but that person is the one who I look at when we miss a question in that area, and that sense of accountability to the team helps motivate them.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by cvdwightw »

In high school we often read straight through a packet. Tossups first, then bonuses. Everything had people buzzing in.

I think this might be a worthwhile practice strategy, as although it completely dismisses the "conferral" part of the bonus, it does emphasize the ability to correctly guess a bonus part, and will arguably reinforce a clue-answer relationship as well as it would for a tossup. If someone is not 100% sure of the answer, that person is often more likely to "buzz in at the end" when playing bonus parts as tossups than to contribute a guess on a bonus part.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by at your pleasure »

I think having a designated person for lit, music/art, bio, chem, and military history helps tremendously--the others will help, but that person is the one who I look at when we miss a question in that area, and that sense of accountability to the team helps motivate them.
That's a good way to go about things. Of course, this should not be taken as prohibiting people from buzzing in on things they know that happen to be outside of their specialty.
In high school we often read straight through a packet. Tossups first, then bonuses. Everything had people buzzing in
We do this when we don't have enough people to form teams at practice. Otherwise, we play teams and then our coach reads the bonuses we miss as tossups.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by Matt Weiner »

A good way to predict future bonus answers is to look at what comes up as clues in tossups. The more frequently and the closer to the end of the question a clue is, the more likely it is to be an answer in the future. For example, if you keep hearing "Kulturkampf" as the second-to-last clue for Otto von Bismarck, you can reliably predict that some future bonus with "Bismarck" as the easy answer will have "Kulturkampf" as another part.

Just like in getting tossups, writing questions helps with bonuses on two fronts: First, it teaches you about the subject you are writing and its context that you have researched. Second, it gets you inside the mind of a question writer and lets you predict where questions will go. Anyone who is looking to compete at a serious level in high school quizbowl (state championships and above) should be writing at least one 20/20 packet's worth of good questions per month, and if possible more.

Practicing or reading packets from above the level you are preparing for helps you with both types of questions too. If you're looking to do well at normal-difficulty high school tournaments, then read high school nationals and novice collegiate events. The middle clues there are the leadin clues at the level below, and you will see more of the slightly harder bonus answers you want to prepare for rather than the easy stuff that you know already.
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Re: Improving Bonus Conversion

Post by Terrible Shorts Depot »

Matt Weiner wrote:Practicing or reading packets from above the level you are preparing for helps you with both types of questions too. If you're looking to do well at normal-difficulty high school tournaments, then read high school nationals and novice collegiate events. The middle clues there are the leadin clues at the level below, and you will see more of the slightly harder bonus answers you want to prepare for rather than the easy stuff that you know already.
I heartily second this. I experienced a huge jump in knowledge, and therefore points, after playing ACF Fall and HFT on consecutive weekends. A lot of things that were easy or middle parts at these tournaments showed up the following weekend, at a tournament on an IS set, as easy parts or early-ish clues in tossups. Tying into this, I like to write at a relatively higher difficulty level. Not only is it more interesting, but it is far more informative.
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