Adjusting to College Quizbowl

Elaborate on the merits of specific tournaments or have general theoretical discussion here.
Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 191
Joined: Tue Sep 22, 2015 12:49 am

Adjusting to College Quizbowl

Post by kitakule »

Hello, I've been lurking on this site for a week or so, and this is my first actual post.

I have played quizbowl since my sixth grade year, for the Episcopal School of Acadiana (Louisiana). We were pretty successful, I'd say, winning two high school state championships (LAAC) and coming in second place at the 2015 NAQT Louisiana State Championship. I'd consider myself a pretty good player, being a generalist with a slight speciality in geography. Now that I'm a freshman at Yale, I'm surrounded by some of the nation's best players and the questions are (understandably) a lot harder. How can I adjust to this new level of play? Should I just try to study and play/read packets as much as I can to keep up with my generalist style, or should I try and pick one area and specialize there?

User was reminded to enable a signature. --Mgmt.
Moses Kitakule
Episcopal School of Acadiana '15
Yale University '19
User avatar
Posts: 15646
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2003 8:08 am

Re: Adjusting to College Quizbowl

Post by AKKOLADE »

The key thing is to have fun. Do your best, learn what you can, but enjoy the activity.

Mike Cheyne wrote a great guide to being a fourth scorer on a team here. Max Schindler also wrote a very good guide to studying here. Read those and learn them.

One thing to do is consider the areas where your team is the weakest and learning material for those areas. Of course, if you're like me and don't care one iota about, say, physics, this isn't necessarily the best idea, but if it's something that does spur your interest, go for it.
Fred Morlan
University of Kentucky CoP, 2017
International Quiz Bowl Tournaments, co-owner
former (?) hsqbrank manager, former NAQT writer & subject editor, former hsqb Administrator/Chief Administrator
User avatar
naan/steak-holding toll
Posts: 2355
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:53 pm
Location: New York, NY

Re: Adjusting to College Quizbowl

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

Figure out what you like learning and learn more of that. Very few good college players are known for being equally capable across the board - even those with very good generalist ability have subjects they have much better knowledge in than others (in the case of Yale, Jacob Reed and music these days, or Matt Jackson and religion/myth and thought in years gone by). At the college level, I think it's easier to build up a specialty and then branch out as you get familiar with what comes up by osmosis than to try to learn everything all at once. At the very least, that's my experience.
Will Alston
Bethesda Chevy Chase HS '12, Dartmouth '16, Columbia Business School '21
NAQT Writer and Subject Editor
Posts: 153
Joined: Tue Apr 22, 2003 8:13 pm
Location: Metairie, Louisiana

Re: Adjusting to College Quizbowl

Post by Kevin »

I came out of Louisiana high school quiz bowl years ago, then didn't really get involved in college quiz bowl until I started grad school. As someone who has been involved with quiz bowl in Louisiana for the last 15+ years, I believe I'm qualified to say that it is a huge jump from being among the best high school players in Louisiana to being among the best college players in the country.

I've always been a generalist by temperament, and as a player and coach I've always found myself working on different subjects. However, it is very hard to contribute to a good team without learning a tremendous amount about some particular subject area. Figure out where you are strong relative to your teammates, and develop your strengths. That's much more important at the start of a college career than worrying about your weaknesses are.
Kevin Marshall
Coach, Mount Carmel Academy, New Orleans, LA (2014-present)
Coach, Chapelle HS, Metairie, LA (2011-2014)
player and/or secretary and/or captain, Tulane Quiz Bowl (2007-2009)
User avatar
The Ununtiable Twine
Posts: 1001
Joined: Fri Feb 02, 2007 11:09 pm
Location: Lafayette, LA

Re: Adjusting to College Quizbowl

Post by The Ununtiable Twine »

Making an effort to go to every practice you can and taking notes in practice will be crucial to your success. Being at Yale, you have excellent teammates who can give you pointers on what comes up during tournaments. If you want to make an impact sooner than later, you should probably pick an area and learn it very well. At the same time you shouldn't neglect general improvement, so it's probably smart to read a regular difficulty tournament a month or so in your spare time, making note of what comes up over and over again. Exposing yourself to the canon in these ways can also help you to explore interesting topics you may not have been exposed to outside of quizbowl. is the college question database. Personally, I've either read through or played each regular difficulty set listed here at least once and it's helped quite a bit as far as retention goes. You should also pay attention in practice to find out what your potential teammates don't know. Learning those things will increase your production.
Jake Sundberg
Louisiana '04-'10, '14-'16, '18-'xx
Alabama '10-14
President, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Club for Academic Competition
User avatar
Posts: 55
Joined: Tue May 14, 2013 2:03 am

Re: Adjusting to College Quizbowl

Post by gerbilownage »

Welcome, anonymous Yale player!
Laurence Li
Westview HS '13
Yale '17
Harvard '20
User avatar
Skepticism and Animal Feed
Posts: 3209
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2004 11:47 pm
Location: Arlington, VA

Re: Adjusting to College Quizbowl

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Attend as many practices and play as many tournaments as you can, and don't be intimidated if you don't do as well as you'd like at first. You will learn things from hearing the questions, you will learn things from chit-chat between questions, you will learn things from conversations in the hallway, you will learn things from conversations with your teammates on the way to and from the tournament. As a college freshman I learned who Leon Walras was from a conversation I had in a men's restroom during a tournament (a clue I learned in that convo got me a tossup over half a decade later) - a tournament is just a clue-rich environment.

All of the above advice is good too - but even if you do no additional studying or work, you can learn a lot just by playing the game and taking in its social aspects.
Harvard '10 / UChicago '07 / Roycemore School '04
ACF Member emeritus
My guide to using Wikipedia as a question source
Post Reply