How to be a Good College History Player + other stuff

Elaborate on the merits of specific tournaments or have general theoretical discussion here.
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SpanishSpy
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How to be a Good College History Player + other stuff

Post by SpanishSpy »

As it currently stands I am William & Mary's premier history player, with a particular focus on modern history (but I can do some premodern, depending on how you define 'modern') as well as the main geography player.

Is there anything in particular I should do? Any strategy? I'm only recently getting into the 'meta' of Quizbowl if you will.

And another question:

As you can see here, I'm not buzzing in nearly as much as my teammates. James and Ben are very good generalists, whilst I'm much more of a history/geography specialist. Even so, I didn't get many tossups per round (but I think I did decently helping with bonuses). Basically, is this a bad thing? Am I a bad player for this? I feel like I'm not pulling my own weight. How can I be more useful to the team?
Last edited by SpanishSpy on Thu Nov 10, 2016 3:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
Alex Wallace
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Re: How to be a Good College History Player + other stuff

Post by Louis XIV and Twenty Million Henchmen »

Generalists will be buzzing in more because they're generalists, but it doesn't mean that you're not good or that you don't pull your weight. As you've alluded to, nothing about bonuses is reflected in individual stats, and if you're the person with the deepest history knowledge, you're probably contributing the most on history bonuses. Being able to buzz early on tossups in your specialist areas is extremely helpful as well: the earlier you're able to buzz, the earlier the other team has to be able to buzz in order to win the tossup. Especially in formats without powers, this is also something that's hard to see in individual stats, but wins games nonetheless.

The On Being a Fourth Scorer thread in the archives has some good ideas in it about how to fill that supporting role (including how to contribute effectively on bonuses -- even the ones outside of your specialist areas).
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Re: How to be a Good College History Player + other stuff

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

20% of all the questions in a given game of quizbowl are going to be history questions. That is a significant chunk: no other subject gets more than that, and only two other subjects get that much. If all you can do is reliably nail down the history questions in a given packet, then you will be a very valuable player to any quizbowl team.

Many history players have branched out into other subjects as well. Many also know geography, religion, mythology, social science, etc. These are relatively easy to learn compared to other subjects in quizbowl. If you get reliable at them too, then suddenly you are looking at the potential to get 4-6 good buzzes in a game, which is very significant.

Quizbowl is a team game, and in the history of college quizbowl there have been maybe half a dozen people who could know it all by themselves. If you "merely" get very good at 40% of the distribution you will be a very good, nationally renown player.
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Re: How to be a Good College History Player + other stuff

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

I pretty much started out in college as a history specialist - in fact, it's still the subject that I'm best known for! My freshman and sophomore years of college, well over half of my buzzes were history, and decent number of the others were in geography or current events.

My base of history knowledge has always come from personal background and reading, but to really get ahead, I read through about five or six "regular difficulty" tournaments my sophomore winter break and looked up clues in the history questions that I didn't know and which either had a memorable name attached or seemed intrinstically important - and I made sure to look at the early clues as well as the late ones. If there was a bonus part I didn't know, I also made sure to look it up every single time.

My improvement at history has been far more sporadic since then, as I only make occasional efforts to read over sets and make notes, and because studying has diminishing returns over time. But getting a good "initial burst" in to round out my history knowledge, such that I could almost always guarantee a 20 on regular-difficulty history and get 30s at a pretty good clip, was by far the most valuable thing I did.

EDIT: As Bruce suggests, religion, myth and the social sciences (as well as geography and current events) are pretty natural fits for a history player. I always managed to get sporadic buzzes in those as a history player, and over time I was able to learn enough to make them a consistent part of my wheelhouse. Start small, though, and get to nailing history down first.

As for "pulling your weight" - it takes 11 tossups to get a majority and make your team the favorite to win, assuming you do fine on bonuses. Looking at stanford housewrite, Jason Golfinos mostly added history and literature to our team (with scattered buzzes in other areas), and usually only a buzz or two per game. But his buzz against "Hell Hath No Fury" is the margin between us getting 10 tossups - and winning on bonus conversion - and getting 9 tossups and almost certainly losing. Same with the questions he got against Columbia, where the rest of us decided to neg ourselves almost to oblivion.
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Re: How to be a Good College History Player + other stuff

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region »

I'm comically rusty at this point, but I used to be a pretty good history player. One thing I've seen younger players make mistakes with when studying history questions is to get too narrowly focused. I've seen lots of players commit to things like "knowing everything about the Civil War" or "knowing all Roman history." Those are good things to know, but if that's all you know to the exclusion of everything else, you'll only get a handful of PPG at best because a tournament will probably have a total of 1 (if any) Civil War tossups and maybe a few Roman history tossups. If you're the greatest American history expert in the world but don't know anything else, you'll get 10 PPG. Nothing wrong with 10 PPG, but it basically makes you a good 4th player and nothing more. So to get a lot of PPG through history, you have to be really ambitious and broad with your studying. One thing that really helped me with modern history was to get basic knowledge of history country-by-country over the last 50 years or so.
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Re: How to be a Good College History Player + other stuff

Post by Majin Buu Roi »

The most important thing you need to do, and I can't emphasize this enough, is to really enjoy history as something to learn regardless of its quiz bowl utility. The primary reason I'm remotely competent at this game, especially in history, is that reading old packets and wikipedia articles and history books is just what I do for fun. Not only will doing so inhibit burnout, but you will probably remember what you learn way better if you're emotionally attached to what you're learning. In my experience, the stuff I learn for the heck of it actually sticks in my head, whereas stuff I learn "to get good" doesn't unless I reinforce it a lot.

Another bit of advice that may seem obvious but isn't said enough around here: PAY ATTENTION IN CLASS. And annoy the Tuonela out of your professors by asking for more details on things from lecture. I've been lucky enough that my major (poli sci) can be really multi-disciplinary and provides a lot of history and philosophy clues without being designed to, but even if you don't have a major like that, take advantage of gen. ed. requirements.

A great way to start, I've found, is to find a small area or two that comes up once or twice a tournament and master them to the point that you feel like it would take Jordan Brownstein or Eric Mukherjee to beat you to it. Having little pockets like that has definitely boosted my confidence both in my ability to score and in my ability to expand my knowledge base.
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Re: How to be a Good College History Player + other stuff

Post by Lake Winnipesaukee Mystery Stone »

Ethnic history of the Vilnius region wrote:I'm comically rusty at this point, but I used to be a pretty good history player. One thing I've seen younger players make mistakes with when studying history questions is to get too narrowly focused. I've seen lots of players commit to things like "knowing everything about the Civil War" or "knowing all Roman history." Those are good things to know, but if that's all you know to the exclusion of everything else, you'll only get a handful of PPG at best because a tournament will probably have a total of 1 (if any) Civil War tossups and maybe a few Roman history tossups. If you're the greatest American history expert in the world but don't know anything else, you'll get 10 PPG. Nothing wrong with 10 PPG, but it basically makes you a good 4th player and nothing more. So to get a lot of PPG through history, you have to be really ambitious and broad with your studying. One thing that really helped me with modern history was to get basic knowledge of history country-by-country over the last 50 years or so.
Further on this, if you have some specialism in a specific area of history, you almost certainly don't need to work on it. In the UK, there is probably only one other player who can match me on ancient history - but several who can beat me on Early Modern European or American. It's easy to get stuck in with reading really deep in the areas you like. This gets you cool first line buzzes a couple of times a tournament perhaps, but doesn't get you that broad range. Deliberately hunt for interesting books to read on areas you know nothing or comparatively little about - get that knowledge that allows you to pick up that history of Poland tossup before the giveaway.
Oliver Clarke
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