Are college quiz bowl questions too long?

Elaborate on the merits of specific tournaments or have general theoretical discussion here.
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Do you feel that non-NAQT college questions are currently too long?

Yes, questions are too long
35
34%
No, question length is fine as it is
64
62%
Other (please reply below)
4
4%
 
Total votes: 103

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eygotem
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Are college quiz bowl questions too long?

Post by eygotem »

Since there hasn't been a real discussion on this site for some time, I figured I would start one... Does anyone else feel that typical college questions should be shorter than they currently are, referring to the ACF and mock-ACF tournaments that make up most of a typical team's schedule?

My own two cents, as a first-year college player who played occasional college sets in high school:

Looking at a random HARI packet, the tossups (with bolding removed) are all between 6.5 lines and 7 full lines in 10-point Times New Roman, and bonus parts are mostly 2 to 3 lines (not including the FTPE line break). This might seem pretty good compared to housewrites a decade ago, but the packets still feel pretty long when they're read aloud—especially if a less-experienced moderator is trying to read clearly rather than quickly. Also, every college tournament I've been to has run at least somewhat behind schedule, which I suspect has to do with question length (I wasn't aware of any major disruptions).

Plus, there's the long-time issue of difficulty perception that I feel is exacerbated by long questions. Even if an answer line is easy, a longer tossup will have a greater number of harder clues that a given team wouldn't know, which makes for a less exciting game and more things to feel disenchanted about not knowing (which can sway people on the fence of participating). In contrast, shorter questions are over sooner, meaning that even if a question overshoots in difficulty it'll have less of an impact on players' overall experience listening to the packet.

I know that some players prefer a slower-paced game, and I've heard writers say longer questions are easier for them write. Despite this, I still think there's a benefit to reining in length a bit more—after all, high school housewrites play pyramidally enough with less-than-6-line-long tossups. Let me know what you all think down below.
Eric Yin
Ladue Horton Watkins '21
WashU STL '25
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Cheynem
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Re: Are college quiz bowl questions too long?

Post by Cheynem »

I think kind of depends on the tournament--for easier college tournaments, six lines might be fine. However, at regular college difficulty, six lines is very hard to get in good clues and gradate. I think personally college questions are generally appropriate length-wise, but they, especially on bonuses, could also eliminate some of the "fat" or weak clues.
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger
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Gene Harrogate
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Re: Are college quiz bowl questions too long?

Post by Gene Harrogate »

I think question length for main tournaments is fine as is. But I wouldn't mind seeing greater variety. Those old NAQT-style housewrites like FICHTE are neat but extinct, maybe there's space for a Spring/Summer event written in a similar vein (or even, 30 tossups of four lines each, with two part bonuses targeted at 66 and 33 percent).
Henry Atkins
McGill
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ryanrosenberg
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Re: Are college quiz bowl questions too long?

Post by ryanrosenberg »

I was going to post saying that bonuses are too long, but Henry basically already did that as part of his thread here. Condensing bonuses is the easiest way to ensure matches move quickly.
Ryan Rosenberg
North Carolina '16
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ryanrosenberg
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Re: Are college quiz bowl questions too long?

Post by ryanrosenberg »

What should we expect top-end and low-end PPBs to be like for two-part bonuses pitched at 66% and 33% conversion? I'd be worried you'd get a fair number of PPBs in the 19 range and a fair number < 5.
Ryan Rosenberg
North Carolina '16
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benchapman
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Re: Are college quiz bowl questions too long?

Post by benchapman »

eygotem wrote: Mon Jan 17, 2022 7:25 pm This might seem pretty good compared to housewrites a decade ago, but the packets still feel pretty long when they're read aloud—especially if a less-experienced moderator is trying to read clearly rather than quickly.
In my experience, a big factor in question length perception is how clunky/smooth the English in the question is. If a 6-line question is written so that it's unclear exactly what's being said or it keeps using awkward constructions/"quizbowlese", it's much harder to follow along. That question can feel longer than an 8-line question constructed in clear, simple English, or at least like more of an ordeal compared to the longer question.

Also, even slower readers can get through a round reasonably quickly as long as they avoid between-question chatter. I found that I was able to moderate rounds much faster when I immediately switched from tossup to bonus to tossup and didn't let a 10-15 second conversation break out after every question.
Benjamin Chapman
Hunter College High School '21
University of Toronto '25
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Skepticism and Animal Feed
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Re: Are college quiz bowl questions too long?

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Like 5-6 years ago, didn't they actually start tracking where in a question people buzzed at some tournaments, and didn't the stats show that very few people were buzzing on early clues?
Bruce
Harvard '10 / UChicago '07 / Roycemore School '04
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ErikC
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Re: Are college quiz bowl questions too long?

Post by ErikC »

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote: Wed Jan 19, 2022 11:25 pm Like 5-6 years ago, didn't they actually start tracking where in a question people buzzed at some tournaments, and didn't the stats show that very few people were buzzing on early clues?
This is pretty broad, but one regionals it was clear that the soc sci and philosophy consistently had few buzzes on the first two, sometimes even three lines. Some questions went very far before a buzz, which is beyond just a length issue.
Erik Christensen
University of Waterloo - School of Planning Class of '18
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ThisIsMyUsername
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Re: Are college quiz bowl questions too long?

Post by ThisIsMyUsername »

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote: Wed Jan 19, 2022 11:25 pm Like 5-6 years ago, didn't they actually start tracking where in a question people buzzed at some tournaments, and didn't the stats show that very few people were buzzing on early clues?
Erik is right about this being a not fully accurate summary. But also, it doesn't really serve as evidence in favor of any particular position. This phenomenon could be primarily due to the choice of early clues.
John Lawrence
Yale University '12
King's College London '13
University of Chicago '20

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Cheynem
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Re: Are college quiz bowl questions too long?

Post by Cheynem »

I also think that early clues also sometimes form a foundation for future buzzes--even if few people buzz on that particular clue, they receive some context and information that helps them to buzz at a later point. (This isn't always true, and it's not good if consistently no early clues are being buzzed on, but I just wanted to point out that simply shortening questions by removing clues that aren't attracting a lot of buzzes per se isn't the best move.)
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger
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Apocolocyntora
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Re: Are college quiz bowl questions too long?

Post by Apocolocyntora »

I am not sure if this poll has been shared on the Discord or any other forum, but it seems to me like the poll on this thread is likely to have a lot of sampling bias, since frequent forum users are largely active/very dedicated members of the community. Not that this one poll is the end all be all on the question, but it would be interesting to see what the response to this question would be based on a survey of, say, teams who played ACF Winter.
Tora (she/her/hers)
Wayzata '18
Minnesota '22 (President, '20-'22)
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