Non-pyramidal question sources?

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shandelman
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Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by shandelman »

I am a coach of a relatively new team at a Nebraska high school in Lincoln, NE. We've participated in a handful of competitions in the Lincoln/Omaha area. Unfortunately, all of these competitions are run by the same person and are not run in the pyramidal, NAQT syle, for better or for worse. We have been practicing using NAQT packets, but I feel like it may not be the best use of our time if it's not going to be what we'll be experiencing in actual tournaments.

I know that there are some strong feelings here about non-pyramidal questions, and I'm well-versed as to their flaws. That said, does anyone know of good sources of such questions for practice purposes and their respective qualities?
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by heterodyne »

What specific format and questions are these tournaments using? I'm no expert, but it may be a good idea to continue practicing on good questions if the only nearby tournaments are not. This is because hearing one pyramidal question gives you several clues, while non-pyramidal gives one or two real clues at most.
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by cchiego »

You are likely playing under the auspices of the AUK, aka "Academic Hallmarks." The guy who writes them has the entire state of Colorado under his thrall along with parts of the rest of the West like Nebraska (and other enclaves).

The best thing you can do is to start running tournaments on good questions (NAQT, HSAPQ, novice housewrites, etc.) and making a concerted effort to show other teams why pyramidal questions are better than what you have now. In a few years, you may be able to have a circuit in your area (NE seems very active with lots of teams playing) on good questions and, if you have an "official" tournament you have to participate in, changing the questions used at that tournament. It's happened in many other areas before and it can happen in your area too, it just takes a bit of polite outreach to other coaches and teams.

You can probably find some AUK questions by searching online. I'd recommend avoiding paying for the questions if you can help it though.
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by Mnemosyne »

When I was in high school, we played in the local Louisiana format. There were 4 quarters, lightning round, worksheet, non-pyramidal tossups, etc. When I found this website, I started studying pyramidal questions, and we went from being useless to winning almost every tournament, regardless of format. I think relevant knowledge is relevant knowledge. Regarding academic stuff, I think the pyramidal canon was pretty well-aligned with the non-pyramidal canon. I got most of the stuff I learned from pyramidal questions, and honestly, everything that wasn't in the pyramidal canon was too hard or obscure for the other teams.

I don't know the specifics of your tournaments, but I can pretty much guarantee that learning the basics of the pyramidal canon (authors, composers, artists, important history stuff, etc) will get you where you need to be. Once you have that down, you can figure out what specific local-tournament questions you're missing, and more importantly, what questions other teams are getting that you aren't. That's when you can decide if it's worth it to memorize the elements in order or state birds or whatever strange things you need to know.
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by shandelman »

This Urn Is So Grecian wrote:What specific format and questions are these tournaments using? I'm no expert, but it may be a good idea to continue practicing on good questions if the only nearby tournaments are not. This is because hearing one pyramidal question gives you several clues, while non-pyramidal gives one or two real clues at most.
The students do like pyramidal questions, but if every other team in the area is training on buzzer-beaters, then we're at a natural disadvantage. Also, the questions contain lots of grammar and math that you don't see in NAQT tournaments, so we're at a disadvantage when it comes to the fast math as well.

As to the specific format and questions, AUK sounds right. Rounds are 15-20 minutes, 10 point one-sentence toss-up followed by 5 point one-sentence bonus.
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by Theodore »

I play pyramidal Quizbowl in a region (Ontario, Canada) where a non-pyramidal format is dominant. Please do not feel obliged to play non-pyramidal Quizbowl just because the other schools in your region are. Even if pyramidal Quizbowl is not the dominant format in your region, it's still more academically rewarding, and is the dominant format of high school quiz competitions in the United States and universities in the US, Canada, and Britain.
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by cchiego »

shandelman wrote:
The students do like pyramidal questions, but if every other team in the area is training on buzzer-beaters, then we're at a natural disadvantage. Also, the questions contain lots of grammar and math that you don't see in NAQT tournaments, so we're at a disadvantage when it comes to the fast math as well.
Again, it doesn't have to be that way. If your kids like the good pyramidal questions, why not start the change in your area?

You can begin with just hosting one or two tournaments this year on pyramidal questions. Invite the other local teams and turn it into a fundraiser for your team so you can perhaps seek out some pyramidal tournaments further afield in Missouri or Iowa. Make sure to explain how pyramidal questions work and talk to other coaches to show them the larger world of quizbowl that's out there and how it's based around pyramidal questions. Get other schools to host tournaments too and soon you'll get a lively circuit going.

There's lots of useful information out there on how to run a tournament (an exhaustively in-depth guide is available here) and I'm sure people here on the forums would be happy to help you out if you have any questions.
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by shandelman »

I knew that asking for a source of non-pyramidal questions on this forum would be like asking WebMD what brand of cigarette to buy. All you get is advice on how to quit.

Thanks for the suggestions. That said, if anyone *does* know any quality sources of non-pyramidal bowl questions, I'd still like to peruse and make my own decision.
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by Stained Diviner »

There are no good non-pyramidal questions. If your goal is to do well at a tournament with bad questions, your options are to practice on pyramidal questions so that your team learns important things that might come up, practice on questions written by the same exact vendor who writes for the competition you're in so that your team learns unimportant things that might come up, or a combination of the two. Please excuse us for not getting excited about your goal.
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by cchiego »

The truth is there simply aren't any large, free online troves of bad quizbowl questions. Most of the large speedcheck companies that used to exist are defunct and even Questions Unlimited now is starting to tack towards the general realm of pyramidality (albeit with plenty of funn along the way still).

The fact the advocates of pyramidal quizbowl believe so wholeheartedly in their products to put them online for free so other people can learn from them speaks volumes.

You can look at the AUK samples here and see them for what they are. I'm sure you could pick up an old copy of Campbell's Quiz Questions too. But in general, it's pretty tough to find lots of these questions out there for free or cheap prices. And even if you pay for them from the vendor, it's not always clear what you'll be getting.
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by Blackboard Monitor Vimes »

One of the issues with non-pyramidal vendors is that they don't make their questions freely (ala HSAPQ, PACE, and most housewrites) or easily (ala NAQT) available. If you feel that your kids are at a disadvantage in most of your local competitions because they're slower on the buzzer, you could try what some of my teammates and I did years ago before nationals to get over some problematic buzzer-shyness: read the last two lines or so of pyramidal tossups (for these purposes, you can even use packets you've already practiced on in full). You could also read bonuses as tossups for the same effect. As for grammar and math, I don't think any of us can really help you there in quizbowl-specific ways, but if I remember high school correctly, there are drills to be found online for both subjects in general. I don't like them in quizbowl myself, but they're subjects it doesn't hurt to learn as a life-skill (or standardized test-skill, I suppose) sort of thing, and as such there are resources floating on the web.

I agree with Chris that you might be able to get something pyramidal going if you and your kids are up for it, but I know not everyone has the time or energy for that sort of thing. If you ever do, though, a number of us here would be more than happy to help with whatever advice we can.
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by shandelman »

ether a go-go wrote:Please excuse us for not getting excited about your goal.
I am thankful, I swear! And I do wish that the competitions were using NAQT style. I'm just can't see myself being the one who does all the legwork on what might very well be a fool's errand. I don't know any of the other coaches, and haven't the slightest clue how I could get them on board for a complete overhaul of the system. And that is what it would take...a complete overhaul. There are exactly two people I know of who run competitions in the area, and both of them are not going to change anytime soon. And they've both been doing this a heck of a lot longer than me, so it's not like I have the authority to say "Your system is inferior."
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by cchiego »

I agree that the direct bull-in-a-china-shop approach likely won't work, but I definitely think that you can come at it indirectly and be quite successful.

For instance, note that pretty much all varsity-level tournaments on NAQT questions qualify for both NAQT and PACE nationals. You can simply hold a "nationals qualifier" tournament as a complement to some of the current tournaments. You can find a lot of information like coach emails online or in the CC part of emails for other tournaments. At the speedcheck tournaments, a handshake and a quick "Hope you're coming to our tournament!" can do wonders with other coaches. It doesn't sound like the schedule is packed with dates already, so just try to schedule on an open date and make sure to send email, snail mail, and ideally in-person invites.

The legwork for a tournament isn't minor, but it's also not overwhelming if you check out the tournament-running guides that we have and come to the community with questions. You've got the whole quizbowl community willing to help you out here; we're all rooting for the spread of good quizbowl to Nebraska and it's great to see someone come to the boards with the chance to make it happen.
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by the return of AHAN »

shandelman wrote:
This Urn Is So Grecian wrote:What specific format and questions are these tournaments using? I'm no expert, but it may be a good idea to continue practicing on good questions if the only nearby tournaments are not. This is because hearing one pyramidal question gives you several clues, while non-pyramidal gives one or two real clues at most.
The students do like pyramidal questions, but if every other team in the area is training on buzzer-beaters, then we're at a natural disadvantage.
This is false. I've been coaching for 17 years and I finally had a team that broke through, winning both the NAQT MSNCT AND the Illinois Elementary School Associations Class AA State title last year. The latter is most assuredly NON-pyramidal, and we occasionally lost buzzer races at state, but my team's depth of knowledge was so much deeper than their opponents that, even at state, the rounds went fairly easily for us, and we were complimented on more than one occasion regarding our range of knowledge (favorite example; my kids swept a bonus on Picasso, Dali, Goya, Velasquez... they did NOT learn those from studying the vendor of the State Series, nor would they have if we tried). I only really started to use pyramidal toss-ups in practices 5 years ago. Prior to that point, no matter how much I had my team practicing on the non-pyramidal questions purchased by the IESA, my teams at my current school could never get beyond sectionals. Interestingly, only when my team consisted entirely of students who had studied for this activity primarily on pyramidal toss-ups did we get over the hump and into the state finals. Studying and practicing with non-pyramidal questions? We'll never go back.
Also, the questions contain lots of grammar and math that you don't see in NAQT tournaments, so we're at a disadvantage when it comes to the fast math as well.
Feel free to practice this on the side if it's that much of an Achilles heel, though you may find the teams beating you at this are simply deploying players who participate in Math team. In State Series play last year, our 5th starter (5 vs 5 in Illinois, 4 vs. 4 at NAQT) was a math specialist.
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by Ithaca Cricket Ump »

The Laughing Cavalier wrote: you could try what some of my teammates and I did years ago before nationals to get over some problematic buzzer-shyness: read the last two lines or so of pyramidal tossups (for these purposes, you can even use packets you've already practiced on in full). You could also read bonuses as tossups for the same effect.
Sarah has, I think, given some excellent advice here for training for non-pyramidal tournaments, and I have recommended something very similar to coaches in my area who have wanted to know how to go about preparing for tournaments where buzzer speed is at a higher premium than deep knowledge. You could do a lot worse than to follow her advice.

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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by cestep »

I am the coordinator for our county Quiz Bowl Tournaments. Check out my web page at http://www.monroecountyquizbowl.wikispaces.com. Click on "resources" and you can view some web sites that we use to order questions in keeping with the tournament questions that your students will be exposed to during your tournament.

I am not particularly impressed with pyramidal questioning. Students still have to memorize things in either case. My big problem is that this is the first year that I will be sending a high school tournament champion to the state tournament that uses pyramidal questioning. I have the reverse of your problem, and pretty much feel unable to change their format.

Hope you find this helpful.

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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat »

Hi, I'm the president of MSU's quizbowl team. We host many high school tournaments every year, and would love to see more teams from Monroe County at them.

We do use pyramidal questions at all of our tournaments. I believe that pyramidal questions tend to reward deeper knowledge - for example, pyramidal questions encourage students to read books to learn the minor details which can be early clues, while nonpyramidal questions simply require students to memorize the titles of books by an author. Actually reading the book will, of course, help a student to learn more and develop intellectually.

Last year, myself and several other members of our team worked with the Honors College staff to help them transition to pyramidal questions. The reaction we got from coaches at the tournament was universally positive. While I'd be happy to further discuss any specific concerns you may have about the questions, I believe that the style of questions now used will help promote deeper learning and better prepare teams for nationals, as the two premier national tournaments, PACE's National Scholastic Championship and NAQT's High School National Championship Tournament, both use pyramidal questions.
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by Joshua Rutsky »

Scott--

When I took over my school's team in Alabama 10+ years ago, our state was about 95% non-pyramidal questions at the MS, JV, and HS levels. Questions Unlimited was our state provider for most levels except HS state, which was independently written. We had a four-quarter format, worksheets, etc, and speed, mathcomp, and knowledge of grammar were huge in our events. It was all about the buzzer races.

I got introduced to NAQT at an event (I don't remember where) where my team went 0-10 for the day. It was BRUTAL for the students. Afterwards, though, they REALLY wanted to compete in that sort of tourney again. They HATED the buzzer races, and felt like the longer questions would be more fun to play because they would reward deeper knowledge.

Lee Henry did a great deal to pioneer pyramidal quizbowl in our state out of his little base at Brindlee Mountain, which none of us in the city had ever heard of. He held three tourneys a year up there, including an NAQT state event, and kept pushing everyone else at every opportunity to get off the speed checks. It didn't get a lot of traction with people at first, but three or four teams, mine included, became advocates of the better questions. We heard all the objections--the tournaments take much longer because the questions are longer, the questions are too hard and teams won't score points, the questions are written for a different class of players, the teams won't come, etc. It's just not true. When we moved the Hoover Invitational to pyramidal questions in 2008, we saw absolutely no difference in the number of teams attending. We are now the biggest tourney each year in the state, with 40+ teams attending annually from a five state area.

Furthermore, more and more teams started to switch over to the pyramidal question sets to study and prepare, and to host their own events. This was partly because so many sets were free online, making cost minimal, but also partly because the sets were better, and that made them more fun to play. Competition started to be more about what you knew and less about how quickly you could buzz, and that drew more players in as well.

I started pushing for our state to move to pyramidal questions around that time. It took us another four years to do so, but we finally got enough of our membership on board to vote the change in at our annual meeting, largely because we went to them with a convincing argument about what we were trying to achieve with quiz bowl and why. Now our state is pyramidal from MS straight through to college, and, as current president of the state association and host of multiple state tournaments at all levels of play, I have yet to have a coach come up to me and say, "you know, I miss the good old days when we could get a one-line toss-up on the subjunctive."

What I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't give up despite being the new guy on the block. Embrace it! If you host a tourney, host it the way YOU want, and show everyone around you how well it works. Be the standard for your state. You don't have to win the fight today; you're fighting a war that's important for you and for your kids, and it may take years. As teachers, though, and as parents, aren't we always telling students/kids that everything worth having is worth working for? Yes, it is a pain to be the coordinator for three events a year, to do all the legwork, and to argue with the "they'll never change it" people, but your students are worth it to you, or you wouldn't have taken the time to find this forum, get on, and ask for advice and help.

Good luck this year, and like Sarah and others have said, let us know if we can help you out.
Joshua Rutsky
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by the return of AHAN »

cestep wrote:I am the coordinator for our county Quiz Bowl Tournaments...I am not particularly impressed with pyramidal questioning. Students still have to memorize things in either case. My big problem is that this is the first year that I will be sending a high school tournament champion to the state tournament that uses pyramidal questioning. I have the reverse of your problem, and pretty much feel unable to change their format.
THANK GOD. And if your kids are focused on "memorizing things" in pyramidal questioning, you're doing it wrong.

In pyramidal quizbowl, there is learning and developing a cognitive map. I liken it to learning about the U.S. by driving around the country and visiting all the stops along the way. Playing and mastering buzzer-beater trivia bowl is more akin to flying to the 20 largest airports in the U.S., and staying a few days in each locale, and professing to know all about, say, Wyoming because you flew over it several times. In buzzer-beater trivia, you know about Devil's Tower from its appearance in Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind. In pyramidal quizbowl, you've also hiked around the base of it, and learned of the Indian legend regarding its origins.
Jeff Price
Barrington High School Coach
Barrington Station Middle School Coach (2013 MSNCT Champions, 2013 & 2017 Illinois Class AA State Champions)
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Re: Non-pyramidal question sources?

Post by High Dependency Unit »

cestep wrote:Click on "resources" and you can view some web sites that we use to order questions in keeping with the tournament questions that your students will be exposed to during your tournament.
I notice you have Questions Unlimited as one of your resources. I highly discourage teams from using or practicing on questions written by :chip: or other members of his company. Many questions are plagiarized, some are factually incorrect, and they are just terrible questions in general. My middle school team used to go to JNAC, and they stopped because of the questions. Buzzer races are generally not fun and questions such as, "Name the two countries whose names contain the letter Q" (actual question) do not encourage actually knowing anything about the countries of Qatar and Iraq, but merely encourage just knowing the name of every country. I am certain that I knew more than the person that got the question correct, and if they had asked something relevant about the two countries, such as how Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world per capita, how it was selected to host the world cup, and how its capital is Doha, I would've gotten it. Good questions (especially pyramidal) reward deeper knowledge, speed checks encourage a fast thumb.

If anything, I would say non-pyramidal questions encourage rote memorization rather than knowing useful knowledge, and your resource page seems to suggest that. "Do you know the periodic table of elements?" suggests that you would ask a tossup like, "What element has atomic number 1?" rather than asking a question that includes the properties of hydrogen. With pyramidal questions, you need to know more about something, and how all of that information is connected. For example, your students may only have to know that the Nile is the longest river in the world and it runs through Egypt and some other countries, but a pyramidal question would require a student to understand that the Nile's sources are near Lake Victoria (White Nile) and Lake Tana (Blue Nile), and they may need to know Lake Tana is in Ethiopia. They may also have to know the two branches connect in Khartoum, Sudan, and that it passes through Cairo, as well as that Lake Nasser is formed by the Aswan High Dam on the Nile. For the non-pyramidal question, a student could read one sentence about the Nile as part of a longest rivers list, while for a pyramidal question a student would have to look at a map to get it early on in the question, and it will test that they have actually learned relevant material (and hopefully, that they are interested in it).
Michael Borecki
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Darien (co-captain) '17,
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