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What is quiz bowl?

Quiz Bowl is an interscholastic competition in which two teams of students compete to answer questions in a variety of academic and non-academic subjects (with a heavier emphasis on the academic side than you would see on a show like Jeopardy!).  There are two types of questions: individuals attempt to be the first to “buzz in” with a correct answer on tossup questions, and teams collaborate to respond to bonus questions.  Question categories include literature, history science, the arts, pop culture, geography, current events, religion, and the social sciences.


Most quiz bowl games feature two teams with four players on each team, and consist of two halves of ten tossups each.  The team that correctly answers the tossup question then has the opportunity to answer a bonus question.  Tossups can be interrupted with a “buzz” by any player and are worth 10 points, with a 5 point “power” bonus for an early buzz.  If a player interrupts a tossup with an incorrect response, they receive a -5 point penalty and lock out their teammates for the remainder of the question.  Bonuses have three parts each worth 10 points, and teams have five seconds to confer before giving their response.


Tournaments are typically held on Saturdays and run from about 9 am to 4 or 5 pm.  Tournaments in Connecticut tend to attract anywhere from 8 to 30+ teams, while tournaments in neighboring states have hosted as many as 48 teams in recent years.  The day is usually split into two halves, with a break for lunch.  In the morning, teams are grouped into pools and play a round robin against every team in the pool.  In the afternoon, teams are placed in pools with other teams with similar morning records, which means even teams that won zero or one games in the morning will have competitive matches in the afternoon.  At the end of the day, the teams with the best records in the top afternoon group play in the tournament final.

Why should my school have a quiz bowl team?

From Greater Pennsylvania Quiz Bowl: “Go beyond the high school curriculum. Quiz bowl is a unique extracurricular in that it covers the entirety of the high school curriculum and beyond. From American Literature to Physics to Greek Myth to Current Events, quiz bowl covers a wide variety of topics from most school curricula but also goes beyond to encourage students to learn outside the classroom. In the process of preparing for and playing quiz bowl, students will learn about many culturally, historically, and scientifically important concepts, works, and individuals that they had likely never previously encountered.

Quiz bowl is also a great way for students to apply what they learn in school to friendly competition with other students. The camaraderie at quizbowl tournaments in the shared pursuit of knowledge is always great to see. If you’re intellectually curious and enjoy learning, quiz bowl is the competition for you.


Compete without breaking the bank. Quiz bowl is one of the most cost-effective extracurricular programs available for high schools. Practice questions and study programs are freely available online; tens of thousands of high-quality practice questions are available for free in many online archives or through interactive question search programs. You can purchase questions and study guides from some companies for a small fee too, but many teams simply create their own.

Local tournaments cost anywhere from $30 to $80 per team and often offer discounts for bringing a buzzer system, volunteering staffers, traveling a large distance, or being a new team. A buzzer system only costs about $250 for 8-10 players and isn’t necessary to begin a team (many teams start out playing “slapbowl” or shouting “buzz”). Furthermore, quiz bowl teams are encouraged to host tournaments, which can be a relatively lucrative source of fundraising and fully fund a team for the year without the school providing anything other than rooms for the tournament.

Flexibility for teachers and students. Teams can play as many or as few quizbowl tournaments as they would like during a year, from a couple of local tournaments to one practically every weekend if you’re willing to drive a few hours. Practices can take place any time, anywhere (even online). Schools can bring multiple teams to most tournaments, so anyone interested in quizbowl can get a chance to play – there is no need to limit yourself to bringing a single “A-team” (some schools send A, B, C, D, and even E teams to tournaments). There are also no quotas for students with specified GPAs; any student interested can compete.”


Source: Most of the material on this page was paraphrased or quoted from Greater Pennsylvania Quiz Bowl’s “What is Quiz Bowl?”

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