Improving

Old college threads.
Locked
User avatar
magin
Yuna
Posts: 964
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 5:50 pm
Location: College Park, MD

Improving

Post by magin »

To foster discussion, I thought it would be useful to post my theory about playing quizbowl and how to improve as a player. In several prior threads, people have identified looking at good packets, writing questions, doing research, and reading as some effective ways to improve. However, I think that all of the above methods are not intrinsically useful for getting better at quizbowl, but instead share a common attribute: expanding a person's cognitive map.

Before I go on, I think there's a dichotomy, at least for the purposes of playing quizbowl, of knowing facts and having a detailed cognitive map of something. I would define "knowing facts" as being aware of things outside of their context (for instance, being able to name titles of an author or battles in a war without being aware of the substance of either). On the other hand, if a person reads a book or deeply understands a topic, he or she not only knows facts about that topic, but understands how those facts relate to one another and how to apply them.

I think that attempting to know all the facts that come up fills a person's base of knowledge, at least for quizbowl, from the bottom up, meaning that it allows him or her to get questions by the giveaway or near the end, and to answer the more well-known parts of bonuses. However, improving one's cognitive map about a topic (the importance of the Stern-Gerlach experiment, the novels of Gunter Grass, the significance of Masaccio) allows that person to process and understand clues about those topics, rather than merely associating one set of words with another set of words, which are meaningless out of context. Basically, the more contextual knowledge and understanding people have about a topic, the more clues they can process and understand about that topic, meaning that they're less reliant on stock clues or giveaways, and more able to digest each clue they hear and match it to their understanding, rather than a set of words they associate with that clue.

I'd like to hear people's thoughts about this; I still haven't been able to fully express how I think players use and develop their cognitive maps, so perhaps someone else can elucidate it. The best example I have now is reading a novel; if a person reads, say, The Tin Drum, he or she understands not just the plot of The Tin Drum, but also part of the significance of certain episodes in the book, things Grass is critiquing, and so on, allowing that person to process many more clues about The Tin Drum, its characters, and Grass.

User avatar
No Rules Westbrook
Auron
Posts: 1226
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 1:04 pm
Contact:

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Eh, I think it's inaccurate to say people have either cognitive maps or simply "know facts" - in reality, on most subjects, most of the accomplished players in this game probably fall somewhere in between those two options. In my case, I'm certainly more on the knowing facts end when it comes to science and more on the cognitive map end when it comes to history, but I'd find it silly to say I'm firmly in either camp on any subject. The reality is that even when you go about gaining cursory knowledge about some subject, for example reading a packet and then proceeding to look it up on wikipedia or some other such handy source, you obtain some amount of knowledge that's tough to situate between the two ends of your dichotomy. Players will differ on whether they want to know a handful of things in depth or a lot of things less in-depth, and that's fine.

But, if you intend to be any kind of generalist in this game, you just don't have the time and probably don't have the will to go about creating cognitive maps on many subjects. The reality is that most of your buzzes will always come on things on which you haven't formed any real kind of cognitive map. The other advantage to the "read packets/write packets/research" method, which I trumpet so often, is that you gain an appreciation for the practice of playing good qb. You gain a deep familiarity with what clues belong where, which buzzes are good ones and which are just ordinary ones, how to write what we've agreed are good questions, things like that. You become a student of the game, for lack of a better phrase, and that's what I think we need more of in qb (a student of the good mACF game, not any other qb game).

Strongside
Rikku
Posts: 475
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 8:03 pm
Contact:

Post by Strongside »

Interesting posts so far. I like to think of quiz bowl as one big maze/family tree.

The tree would be headed by major subjects such as science, literature, history, art, geography, etc.

Each major subject would branch out into thousands of branches. For example a literature branch could evolve into American Literature, British Literature, French Literature, Australian Literature, etc. It could also be divided into novels, short stories, drama/theatre, poetry etc. A branch of British Literature could branch into the Metaphysical poets, and then to George Herbert, and then to Easter Wings, etc.

Everything that could conceivably come up in a quiz bowl meet would be located somewhere in the maze/family tree. At the beginning of a question, everyone is standing at the top of the tree. When the question begins and the clues narrow the possible answers down, the players run to where they think the answer would be.

There are two aspects in this maze, running speed and vision. A player will go around looking for the answer which is sitting somewhere on the maze. If they pick up the correct answer they get the question right, but if they pick up the wrong answer they get the question wrong.

An elite quiz bowl player would be very fast and have great vision, while a not so good quiz bowl player would be very slow and would have bad vision.

I don't think this really pertains to what Jonathan was looking to start a discussion about, but I feel it is an interesting representation for how quiz bowl is played.
Brendan Byrne

Drake University, 2006-2008
University of Minnesota, 2008-2010

User avatar
dtaylor4
Auron
Posts: 3733
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2004 11:43 am

Post by dtaylor4 »

bjb87 wrote:Interesting posts so far. I like to think of quiz bowl as one big maze/family tree.

The tree would be headed by major subjects such as science, literature, history, art, geography, etc.

Each major subject would branch out into thousands of branches. For example a literature branch could evolve into American Literature, British Literature, French Literature, Australian Literature, etc. It could also be divided into novels, short stories, drama/theatre, poetry etc. A branch of British Literature could branch into the Metaphysical poets, and then to George Herbert, and then to Easter Wings, etc.

Everything that could conceivably come up in a quiz bowl meet would be located somewhere in the maze/family tree. At the beginning of a question, everyone is standing at the top of the tree. When the question begins and the clues narrow the possible answers down, the players run to where they think the answer would be.
One problem with this analogy is how categories overlap. Also, to respond to what Jonathan posted about literature: what one gleans from reading a book depends on the reader. When I've had to read books for various classes, I'll try to get a grasp on what the author's trying to say. When I read for personal pleasure (which isn't often, admittedly), I often don't try to understand the big picture that the author is trying to get across.

yoda4554
Rikku
Posts: 254
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 8:17 pm

Post by yoda4554 »

I think in terms of basic effectiveness for qb, I tend to agree with Ryan. Particularly in the humanities, having more than cursory knowledge of a topic requires reading a book, listening to a symphony, spending a long time lingering on a painting/building, etc. etc., and doing enough of that to really appreciably improve one's qb skills takes a long time. After all, books are long, and there are a lot of them.

Let's take Jonathan's example of the Tin Drum. I finally got around to reading that about two years ago; the rest of Danzig has been sitting on my shelf unread since then. I've come across a number of Gunter Grass questions since; having read The Tin Drum has not proved useful in getting points on them in the least (luckily it's, you know, a good book which I read for reasons independent of direct qb benefits). For tossups on Grass himself, clues on the Tin Drum are usually preceded by a line like "In addition to Crabwalk and Dog Days..." which generally provokes a buzzer race among those of us whose years of qb play have provided us with a long list of Gunter Grass titles (this Penn Bowl included one such tossup). For bonuses, most end up in the form "Name these novels by Gunter Grass," of which the easy part will be something like "This first novel of the Danzig Trilogy is narrated by midget window-breaker Oskar Matzerath," which I knew long before I read the Tin Drum. Whatever wider cognitive map early Grass clues can provide tend not to really narrow the field: you can maybe get from them that the answer's a 20th century novelist who's slightly wacky and is into politics, but that still gives you a really long list of possibilities.

That's not to say that it can never be useful: for instance, I picked up the Judith slaying Holofernes tossup at Penn Bowl about halfway in, despite not being familiar with the early clues, through the logic of "there are two people, one of them sounds like he's not in such great shape, the other of whom sounds kind of triumphant; it sounds like we've still got another couple more famous people's depictions of it left to be described; since they're all paintings instead of statues, it's probably not David and Goliath." I think that sort of thinking tends to work best, though, on certain kinds of common-link questions and maybe one or two other subtypes of questions--say, maybe history questions where you're tracking a bunch of things that lead up to a certain event, stuff like that. I think these are probably no more than a substantial minority of the overall crop of questions.

User avatar
ValenciaQBowl
Auron
Posts: 2392
Joined: Thu Feb 05, 2004 2:25 pm
Location: Orlando, Florida

Post by ValenciaQBowl »

I've espoused something similar to what Jonathan theorizes above for a long time, though I'm probably defining "cognitive map" differently than he is. As coach for a CC team in which I almost never get players with HS playing experience, I find myself reading a toss-up or bonus early in the year, seeing blank faces, and then having to provide some background on the subject. But if I tell these freshman to remember that a German named Gunter Grass wrote "The Tin Drum," it's not much different from someone telling me, Gern Fardenvelder wrote "The Dog Painter." It's just two names I've never heard that I now need to correlate, and that's not an easy way to retain information, especially when in a given practice many of my new players have heard of only a handful of the answers and thus are getting lots of new correlations to make.

But if you've played the game for a while and/or know Grass already, it's not hard to continue to accumulate and add lesser-known works and characters to his name and to connect other details (Gruppa 47, etc.) to him, as typical readers of this forum can do very easily. I still think this can be done for QB purposes without actually reading the books or staring at the paintings by reading summaries or critical articles or magazines like The New Yorker. But I think the way Jonathan is expressing it makes sense.

User avatar
The Ununtiable Twine
Auron
Posts: 1000
Joined: Fri Feb 02, 2007 11:09 pm
Location: Lafayette, LA

Post by The Ununtiable Twine »

In improving as a player, I believe it is important to realize that interest in the subject that you are learning about is truly the most important thing. If you have truly developed an interest in a particular topic, then when the question concerning it comes your way, you'll buzz promptly and get your points. If you weren't truly interested in the topic then it's highly probable that you'll forget most of what you know about it, resulting in a later buzz. This method of being interested in what you are researching for use in competitions probably works better than anything else. For example, I didn't become a decent player on art questions until I became interested in the material. The same with geography -- once you become interested, the "of course" light goes off in your head.

Another thing that is extremely effective is to verbalize your answers. Talk to someone about a topic that you are interested in scoring points in. If there is no one around, talk to yourself. I know that sounds silly but I've done this before and I almost never forget what it is that I said. If you take the packet-reading method, say the answers to yourself! Repetition works well. You may remember something about a topic based on how something sounds. I know that may be a bit awkward but hey, you asked for ways to improve and this method will get you some more points.

It is imperative, in my opinion, to do a short review before every tournament if you want to maximize your effectiveness. You don't have to review everything you know (and with all of you, that's certainly impossible), but if you review a little from each topic you're familiar with, the "I remember that" light will go off a little faster. I recall when I started changing the way I play quizbowl (actually last semester) -- surely I was somewhat effective but not nearly at the peak of my game because I neglected reviewing before competitions. In addition to reviewing, allow yourself to broaden your knowledge base by opening up a book :) Read! And if you think you'll forget something that you read, or have read something before on a particular topic and proceeded to forget it, write it down in a notebook. Keep this notebook available to review all these things that you are likely to forget. Read it before the tournament.

I've been more prone to using a copy/paste method with regards to reading good packets. What do I mean? Well, open up a word processor. In this case, two documents are necessary. One of them being new and the other being your packet. Now begin to read through the packet and neglect ALL questions that you are completely familiar with. If you lack familiarity with a question, copy/paste it into your new document. Go through several tournaments (however many you have time to go through) -- now you have a list of all the shit that you don't know anything about or you're relatively unfamiliar with. If you have time, read about some of these things!

Of course, any area has a way in which you can maximize effectiveness. For the most part, being interested in the topics is the most important thing. I offer a little advice on my two strongest areas, happily.

--

math/physics: to be good/great in these areas, it is important that you do a lot of math/physics. Anyone who does math/physics will be far better at it than someone who is just a spectator. The more you do, the more you improve. Also it is important to look at the structure of the questions, as always.

sports: watch SportsCenter, people. Watch it every day for 10+ years. It works :)

Always consider your teammates and what they know, too. If you don't know the extent of their knowledge, just ask! They are your teammates. They will tell you. If they are strong in certain areas, then just do something else -- with interest, of course.

Experience is the most important factor when dealing with any trivia. Remember that.
Jake Sundberg
Louisiana '04-'10, '14-'16, '18-'xx
Alabama '10-14
President, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Club for Academic Competition

User avatar
pray for elves
Auron
Posts: 1048
Joined: Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:58 pm
Location: 20001

Post by pray for elves »

DarkMatter wrote: math/physics: to be good/great in these areas, it is important that you do a lot of math/physics. Anyone who does math/physics will be far better at it than someone who is just a spectator. The more you do, the more you improve. Also it is important to look at the structure of the questions, as always.
I disagree. Most physics and math questions are written in ways such that people who study those areas may not be able to get them until the same clues that most people know. I've certainly (semi-)frauded a number of physics questions in my time, while being beaten to far too many math questions by non-math majors, even when the tossups were on things I was studying or knew very well. (Also, when non-math people write math questions with non-math editors, there are frequently misleading or confusing clues which hurt people with more knowledge.)

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Post by grapesmoker »

DeisEvan wrote:I disagree. Most physics and math questions are written in ways such that people who study those areas may not be able to get them until the same clues that most people know. I've certainly (semi-)frauded a number of physics questions in my time, while being beaten to far too many math questions by non-math majors, even when the tossups were on things I was studying or knew very well. (Also, when non-math people write math questions with non-math editors, there are frequently misleading or confusing clues which hurt people with more knowledge.)
As a person who knows things about physics, I would not agree with the above. I routinely get physics questions before non-physicists based on knowledge acquired in class.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
Sima Guang Hater
Auron
Posts: 1877
Joined: Mon Feb 05, 2007 1:43 pm
Location: Nashville, TN

Post by Sima Guang Hater »

grapesmoker wrote:
DeisEvan wrote:I disagree. Most physics and math questions are written in ways such that people who study those areas may not be able to get them until the same clues that most people know. I've certainly (semi-)frauded a number of physics questions in my time, while being beaten to far too many math questions by non-math majors, even when the tossups were on things I was studying or knew very well. (Also, when non-math people write math questions with non-math editors, there are frequently misleading or confusing clues which hurt people with more knowledge.)
As a person who knows things about physics, I would not agree with the above. I routinely get physics questions before non-physicists based on knowledge acquired in class.
Both can happen; people who don't take math classes don't know what's easy or hard, and sometimes write questions in a confusing way, like Evan says. The same is true of other fields.

As someone who's only taken a handful of physics and math and is mostly self-taught in those areas, I'd say that about half of the questions I get in those areas are because of any previous non-quizbowl study, and the other half I get from old packets.
Eric Mukherjee, MD PhD
Brown University, 2009
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, 2018
Medicine Intern, Yale-Waterbury, 2018-9
Dermatology Resident, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, 2019-
Lord, Fiefdom of Impressionable Children, Unknown-

Member Emeritus, ACF
Member, PACE
Writer, NAQT, NHBB, IQBT

"The next generation will always surpass the previous one. It's one of the never-ending cycles in life."

User avatar
The Ununtiable Twine
Auron
Posts: 1000
Joined: Fri Feb 02, 2007 11:09 pm
Location: Lafayette, LA

Post by The Ununtiable Twine »

DeisEvan wrote:
DarkMatter wrote: math/physics: to be good/great in these areas, it is important that you do a lot of math/physics. Anyone who does math/physics will be far better at it than someone who is just a spectator. The more you do, the more you improve. Also it is important to look at the structure of the questions, as always.
I disagree. Most physics and math questions are written in ways such that people who study those areas may not be able to get them until the same clues that most people know. I've certainly (semi-)frauded a number of physics questions in my time, while being beaten to far too many math questions by non-math majors, even when the tossups were on things I was studying or knew very well. (Also, when non-math people write math questions with non-math editors, there are frequently misleading or confusing clues which hurt people with more knowledge.)
Note that you when you say this, also understand that there are a great deal of teams out there with players that don't possess vast knowledge of the previously-mentioned areas. Hence when these people are writing these types of questions, they tend to write questions about topics they've heard before (weak force, quasars, second law of thermodynamics, you know the rest). However, if someone decided to write a decent question about, say, Pauli matrices or Ehrenfest's theorem, there's a much lesser chance that a non-physics person will get this before a physics person. The best way to improve in this area is to go to physics classes, clearly, and to work problems. Some topics are, in fact, more frequent in the quizbowl canon than others, which makes them more accessible to more people. Some are not.
Jake Sundberg
Louisiana '04-'10, '14-'16, '18-'xx
Alabama '10-14
President, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Club for Academic Competition

User avatar
grapesmoker
Sin
Posts: 6368
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 5:23 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Post by grapesmoker »

I'm pretty sure I can get a tossup on quasars, the weak force, or the second law of thermodynamics before a non-physics-person, provided the questions are well written. I just think Evan mischaracterized physics questions as a whole; sure, if they're written poorly, it could be true, but that could be true of any question when written poorly.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

User avatar
pray for elves
Auron
Posts: 1048
Joined: Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:58 pm
Location: 20001

Post by pray for elves »

Yeah, I failed to clarify that I didn't really mean all physics questions, and my main problem is with math questions. There are a lot of well-written physics questions (many more than math, I'd say) that favor people who study physics. The problem is that the percentage of questions written well enough needs to be higher. Of course, it's much easier to write a question on a book such that a person who has read that book will get it before someone who hasn't than it is to write a math question such that someone who has taken a class on the subject will get it first, from what I've seen.

Of course, Jerry's key phrase in his last post is "provided the questions are well written".

Locked