Transitioning from Being a Specialist to a Generalist

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Periplus of the Erythraean Sea
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Transitioning from Being a Specialist to a Generalist

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Thu Oct 10, 2013 4:02 pm

I was wondering if anybody here had any experience transitioning from being a specialist to a generalist at the college level, since I'm considering doing that myself (and probably am already in the process of doing so).

For a little backstory: I played as a (very mediocre) generalist in high school, and upon coming to college I realized that continuing to do so would be rather pointless, given the amount of material I would need to familiarize myself with to keep doing this [semi-]effectively. I focused on the categories I was able to get questions on with some consistency - history, religion, and current events - and picked up some knowledge of mythology as well. At a couple of spring tournaments, when Nick wasn't around, I got to play as a mediocre generalist again, but I was basically way out of my league.

At the recent MFT, I also played as a generalist, buzzing on questions in basically every category with varying degrees of success (except for biology and the Bible, which I ceded to my esteemed teammate and good friend, Charles Jang). This resulted in lots of negs on subjects I know very little about (my worst G/N in a very long time, with the exception of Chicago Open), and the vast majority of my powers were concentrated in areas I've specialized in; history (roughly half), religion, mythology, and current events, with some sporadic early buzzes on science and literature. However, I was able to put up a decent performance on bonuses in most categories, largely based on knowing what comes up/playing a lot of quizbowl and being rather successful with logical guesses throughout the day. I wasn't sure what to take away from this, since the tournament wasn't particularly difficult, but I realized that between our team's fairly rigorous practice schedule (three to four times per week) and a reasonably strong motivation to improve, I could probably do a decent job of branching out into categories our team isn't that strong on, or won't be in the future when some of our players graduate - mainly math, computer science, astronomy, physics, and social theory, but also some topics in literature and philosophy. I have basically no background in these subjects besides courses I've taken in introductory physics, multivariate calculus, and differential equations.

I'm looking for advice and experience from players who've transitioned from being specialists to generalists and advice on how to do this effectively. I'm also looking to hear from other non-science people who have picked up knowledge in Math/CS/physics, as those categories seem (to me) to have fairly small canons but require a lot of knowledge to effectively understand.

Thanks,

Will
Will Alston
Bethesda Chevy Chase HS '12, Dartmouth '16, Columbia Business School '21
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Cheynem
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Re: Transitioning from Being a Specialist to a Generalist

Post by Cheynem » Thu Oct 10, 2013 4:21 pm

One thing that helped me is to just pay attention to when buzzes are made on topics you don't know. That may be a clue and maybe it's not that helpful, but it's a foundation of thinking about future buzzes. Another thing that helped me is to write (or try to write) questions on topics you don't know; I'm not saying use them in your housewritten tournament without help, but when I wrote a question on BCS theory, for instance, I found myself getting some buzzes on superconductivity. Finally, make an effort to learn giveaways. This sounds silly, but it should be fairly easily retainable and a lot of times as a generalist if you can buzz on giveaways in things outside of your subject fields, that makes another set of tossups up for grabs in most matches. It was a year before I finally decided I should look what the giveaway for "Diels-Alder" was, for example.
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Periplus of the Erythraean Sea
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Re: Transitioning from Being a Specialist to a Generalist

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Thu Oct 10, 2013 4:31 pm

I have a bad habit of zoning out on a lot of literature, painting, bio, and chem, because Nick is infinitely better at these categories than I am. I suppose kicking that habit should be the first step. And yeah, I've found writing questions to be helpful whenever I do it, though I still don't write a whole lot outside of my categories (except for easier tournaments like MFT and ACF Fall).
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Re: Transitioning from Being a Specialist to a Generalist

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Thu Oct 10, 2013 4:52 pm

gamegeek2 wrote:I was wondering if anybody here had any experience transitioning from being a specialist to a generalist at the college level, since I'm considering doing that myself (and probably am already in the process of doing so
I'll say more later, but I "transitioned" when Dwight Wynne listed me on the QBWiki article about generalists. I had no idea before then.

The point of this is to say that its not necessarily something you can force. Just read up on things that interest you, keep writing packets (write outside of your area especially) and the change will happen.
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