Ease of Powers

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Ease of Powers

Post by quizbowllee » Fri Nov 01, 2013 12:19 pm

This may have been discussed before. If so, I didn't see it.

Anyway, I have been following the stats of several NAQT Tournaments so far this year. I am blown completely away by the percentage of tossups that are being powered by some teams.

When I last had a team that was at least marginally competitive on a national level, a team having more powers than regular tossups in a tournament was virtually unheard of. But, already this year I have seen stats from tournaments where even the 5th place teams are powering more than not.

Also, stats from teams like Arcadia, Ladue, and Western Albemarle show that teams are powering significantly more than not. The stat line for Arcadia seen here:

http://naqt.com/stats/tournament-teams. ... nt_id=5127

is simply unbelievable. They powered 127 tossups out of 240 heard. 49 regular tossups scored. Holy Crap. I'm in no way alleging anything scandalous at all. But, just five years ago, I can almost guarantee that stats like that would raise some serious eyebrows. But, it seems very common lately for teams to have significantly more powers than regular tossups.

My question is this: has NAQT deliberately made it easier to power tossups? Are the top-tier teams just getting THAT good? Or is there some combination of both?

As a coach that used to be at least somewhat competitive at HSNCT, to see frequent stats like that is somewhat disheartening. Clearly coaching has evolved somehow and I have failed to keep up with it. I can't imagine even the best teams I ever coached approaching that level - at least not on the questions that they played on in their time.

What am I missing?
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by AKKOLADE » Fri Nov 01, 2013 12:39 pm

I don't think they're significantly easier to get, I just think that there's more great teams these days.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by quizbowllee » Fri Nov 01, 2013 1:09 pm

Grams's Go-Go Boots wrote:I don't think they're significantly easier to get, I just think that there's more great teams these days.
I need to pick the brains of some of these coaches, then. I'm notoriously hard-headed and stubborn. But, this new breed of "Power Team" has even me almost ready to throw in the towel.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by Ringil » Fri Nov 01, 2013 1:13 pm

I think it's a combination of things. Teams have gotten much better and I feel NAQT has become more standardized in their difficulty assessment (at least at the IS level) and not letting in as many outlier questions.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by Cheynem » Fri Nov 01, 2013 1:16 pm

There's various reasons here:

1. Writing has become a bit more standardized in terms of difficulty.

2. Teams have improved. That doesn't mean kids today are inherently smarter, it's just that they have a lot of advantages that they utilize. Writing questions is more popular now. There's well written packet archives available online. There are online practicing tools.

3. The game has evolved. Even teams that finish in 5th at some HS tournaments in good circuits are teams that may have attended a college tournament, for example. While there's certainly a talent gap in many parts of the country, the idea of there only being a handful of teams who could put up super-hot numbers is no longer true.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by Corry » Fri Nov 01, 2013 1:26 pm

quizbowllee wrote:
Grams's Go-Go Boots wrote:I don't think they're significantly easier to get, I just think that there's more great teams these days.
I need to pick the brains of some of these coaches, then. I'm notoriously hard-headed and stubborn. But, this new breed of "Power Team" has even me almost ready to throw in the towel.
Funny story, actually. When it comes to team regimen, Arcadia's coach is the most relaxed guy you'll ever meet. The Arcadia quiz bowl team is almost a wholly student-run organization; our coach mainly just hosts once-a-week practices, helps us with the school administration, and drives us to tournaments. He doesn't even compel us to study, if you could believe that-- all of Arcadia's "good" players tend to study by themselves.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by MorganV » Fri Nov 01, 2013 2:00 pm

For HSAPQ sets, IS sets, and some housewrites, there tends to be more reusing of early clues out of necessity (for HSAPQ and NAQT who need to write tons of questions every year) or laziness/inexperience (housewrites). Given the proliferation quizbowldb/protobowl as studying tools, which let players be exposed to a large number of early clues from old tossups, it is now much more likely that players will be buzzing off of reused clues due to the ease of rote memorization that these tools promote. A player who wants to learn science can search only science tossups, find all the science tossups with a certain answerline, and write down buzzwords for that answerline. In the past, the nature of packets (only 4 science tossups per packet, all science tossups in a set are by nature going to have different answerlines so to find multiple tossups on the same topic one must read through multiple sets) have made it more time-consuming to achieve this, especially if one is a specialist. Teams who prepare solely in this way are not necessarily the best prepared for nationals, but at regular-difficulty high school level it tends to translate to obscene number of powers due to pervasive reuse of clues and the constrained answerspace at the high school level.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by theMoMA » Fri Nov 01, 2013 5:57 pm

MorganV wrote:For HSAPQ sets, IS sets, and some housewrites, there tends to be more reusing of early clues out of necessity (for HSAPQ and NAQT who need to write tons of questions every year) or laziness/inexperience (housewrites).
I don't think this is quite right. Clues aren't really "reused." Answers are reused because players can only be expected to know so many things. There are only so many worthwhile clues about those things, so many of the same clues necessarily come up each time a question on the particular answer is written.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by Coach G » Tue Nov 05, 2013 2:44 am

Lee - I think another factor here is the increase in strong middle school programs in at least some parts of the country, and the fact that more middle school teams are playing on pyramid style questions (even if their "official" state associations don't use them yet). The players from these programs enter high school with more base knowledge for quiz bowl and a better understanding of the question structure than students who haven't played in middle school, so they can reach a higher level of play in high school earlier than those who didn't play in middle school. And I agree with earlier posts that the study information available free to everyone now helps players become better faster if they put in the time.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by AKKOLADE » Tue Nov 05, 2013 8:25 am

I think we're probably a year or two away from even seeing the true start of the effects of middle school teams playing pyramidal questions regularly, since before NAQT started writing sets there were few good, pyramidal sets available.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Nov 05, 2013 12:01 pm

My understanding is that many good high school players spend substantial amounts of time in chat rooms where robots read them questions and they compete against each other to answer those questions. I don't think it's a difference in coaching at all, I think it's a difference in how easy it is for any kid with an internet connection to access resources that make them better at quizbowl, such as questions and people to play questions against.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by Mewto55555 » Tue Nov 05, 2013 3:06 pm

When you get to the point where the top high school teams are able to pretty consistently buzz a line or two before FTP in regular difficulty college questions, then it should be no surprise that they're killing HSAPQ/IS-sets (nor should the leadins of those sets be made more challenging to appeal to these teams).
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by the return of AHAN » Tue Nov 05, 2013 4:34 pm

Grams's Go-Go Boots wrote:I think we're probably a year or two away from even seeing the true start of the effects of middle school teams playing pyramidal questions regularly, since before NAQT started writing sets there were few good, pyramidal sets available.
Well, don't look now, but the vanguard has arrived in the form of LASA B, specifically, Ethan & Corin, the heart of the two-time MSNCT champions (2011 & 2012). These guys are sophomores.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by AKKOLADE » Tue Nov 05, 2013 4:51 pm

That's the tip of the iceberg.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by quizbowllee » Wed Mar 19, 2014 9:14 am

After observing several NAQT tournaments this year and pouring over questions, I am 100% sure that it has become much easier to power tossups than it used to be.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by heterodyne » Wed Mar 19, 2014 12:45 pm

quizbowllee wrote:After observing several NAQT tournaments this year and pouring over questions, I am 100% sure that it has become much easier to power tossups than it used to be.
Care to elaborate as to what has led to this conclusion?
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by Howard » Wed Mar 19, 2014 1:08 pm

quizbowllee wrote:After observing several NAQT tournaments this year and pouring over questions, I am 100% sure that it has become much easier to power tossups than it used to be.
My observation is largely the same, Lee. There seems to have been a shift toward making questions about one clue easier to power.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by heterodyne » Wed Mar 19, 2014 2:45 pm

Howard wrote:
quizbowllee wrote:After observing several NAQT tournaments this year and pouring over questions, I am 100% sure that it has become much easier to power tossups than it used to be.
My observation is largely the same, Lee. There seems to have been a shift toward making questions about one clue easier to power.
While both of you clearly know more about qb than I do, I am interested in what leads to this conclusions. Is it the increase in power rates, or is it a feeling/observation that clues left in power are objectively easier?
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Wed Mar 19, 2014 3:12 pm

To answer Alston's question simply, the answer is both. I realize that a pileup of subjective opinions really isn't going to decide anything one way or the other, but: I think what really happened here is that IS-sets went through a phase in which they were much more difficult, running from about fall 2009 to spring 2012, and have begun to adjust back to an easier conception of regular difficulty. [During that time span, the aforementioned surge in skill level of many high school teams -- maybe not the best three or four in a year, who always powered at extremely high rates, but certainly the next 20 or 30 teams down the rankings -- occurred.] I read IS-136 recently at a tournament, and it reminded me of the IS-sets I played early in high school (IS numbers, I dunno, 72 through 83) in terms of willingness to offer power to teams that understand the basics of the tossup's subject matter beyond mere word association.

That said, I don't think the current average difficulty of IS-sets (or the ease with which very good teams get powers on them) is actually a problem. If anything, it merely reflects that more teams are serious about improving at quizbowl on quizbowl's terms. That's a good thing, and so long as there is actually competition to buzz earlier on tossups, there's no need to make powers harder to get or increase the average aggregate difficulty of early clues.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by Auroni » Wed Mar 19, 2014 4:04 pm

quizbowllee wrote:After observing several NAQT tournaments this year and pouring over questions, I am 100% sure that it has become much easier to power tossups than it used to be.
That might be, but the far more significant reason that the average power number has gone up is simply that today's 200 best teams are much better on average than their counterparts were a few years ago.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by Cheynem » Wed Mar 19, 2014 4:10 pm

Well...yes, but I think questions also are written better than in the past, in a way that rewards knowledge. Read some old, old NAQT packets (this is not to knock NAQT, lots of old quizbowl falls into this)--aside from just dumbly transparent or misplaced clues or title memorization stuff, they're really, really, really hard to power because the clues are vague or they require you to figure it out at a loony level. The reduction in such lead-ins, combined with an increase in skill and talent level, leads to powers going up.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by Howard » Wed Mar 19, 2014 5:48 pm

This Urn Is So Grecian wrote:
Howard wrote:
quizbowllee wrote:After observing several NAQT tournaments this year and pouring over questions, I am 100% sure that it has become much easier to power tossups than it used to be.
My observation is largely the same, Lee. There seems to have been a shift toward making questions about one clue easier to power.
While both of you clearly know more about qb than I do, I am interested in what leads to this conclusions. Is it the increase in power rates, or is it a feeling/observation that clues left in power are objectively easier?
I can't speak for Lee, but it's the latter for me. There are now more clues that surprise me that they're in the power range. I have no objective means of backing this up. We could get a more definitive answer by comparing questions on similar topics over a period of several years, but I'm not sure anyone would be willing to put in that time.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by quizbowllee » Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:17 am

I can't give specifics from this year, due to the questions not being cleared for discussion yet. However, I will say that there have been many clues within power that would not have been even four or five years ago. Some of them have even been shockingly easy.

Also, my team at West Point is fairly new. They just started last year, but we are powering roughly the same percentage of tossups as my old teams did in their best years - where we made it deep into HSNCT playoffs every year. There's no way my current team is anywhere near that good yet, but they can power a lot of tossups.

Also, when I read packets from 2012 onward in practice, I can expect my team to power 5-6 a round on the IS level, 10+ on A-series level. If I read a packet from, say 2009 or before, they may only power 1 or 2 (if any). I read a packet from IS-63A in practice a couple of weeks ago. This is a packet from 2006. Even though it was an "A" set, the team complained that the questions were really hard. They thought I was reading an HSNCT packet until I showed it to them.

One observation that I made, though, is that set IS-126 from last year was pretty tough. Incidentally, this was the set used in NAQT's State Championship Tournaments across the nation. I was wondering if perhaps NAQT made this set slightly more challenging for that reason. It seemed considerably more difficult that the other IS sets from last year. We haven't had our state tournament this year yet, but I will be taking note of the difficulty.

At any rate, I will say that the overall quality of NAQT's questions has improved greatly. I'm not complaining at all about it being easier to power the questions. I think it's a good thing for the most part.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by Important Bird Area » Thu Mar 20, 2014 1:17 pm

quizbowllee wrote:set IS-126 from last year was pretty tough. Incidentally, this was the set used in NAQT's State Championship Tournaments across the nation. I was wondering if perhaps NAQT made this set slightly more challenging for that reason.
We have no formal policy about this. It is often the case that the last IS set of the year will be slightly more difficult, if only because we try to avoid repeats and a lot of easier material will have appeared in the earlier sets.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by AKKOLADE » Sun Mar 23, 2014 9:00 am

I've been meaning to do this for awhile.

In 2011-2012, I have 1702 stat lines for normal IS difficulty sets with power rates recorded. Power rates ranged from 9.83 per game to 0. The average was 1.59. The median was 1. A team had 7+ powers per game 24 times, 4-6.99 powers 135 times, and 2-3.99 powers 323 times.

In 2012-2013, I have 1820 stat lines for normal IS difficulty sets with power rates recorded. Power rates ranged from 13.4 per game to 0. The average was 1.97. The median was 1.5. A team had 7+ powers per game 51 times, 4-6.99 powers 195 times, and 2-3.99 powers 417 times.

In 2013-2014 to date, I currently have 1552 stat lines for normal IS difficulty sets with power rates recorded. Power rates ranged from 10.7 per game to 0. The average was 1.89. The median was 1.43. A team had 7+ powers per game 41 times, 4-6.99 powers 170 times, and 2-3.99 powers 324 times.
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by I'm a goff (in case you couldn't tell) » Sun Mar 23, 2014 2:16 pm

Fred, are those numbers standardized to 20 TUH/game?
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by AKKOLADE » Sun Mar 23, 2014 3:12 pm

Nope, and they won't be!
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Re: Ease of Powers

Post by quizbowllee » Mon Mar 24, 2014 9:15 am

If you looked at the stat lines for A-series, you'd see a much bigger jump in powers, I think.
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