While good players study with a variety of methods (see our article on studying resources), reading past quiz bowl questions is invaluable at every level of play. As a beginner, practice questions introduce you to the canon and the types of answers and clues that tend to come up frequently. As you advance, packets help you to adjust to longer questions and a wider range of content. Reading packets during team practices serves all of these purposes while improving buzzer reflexes and team chemistry.
We believe in the principle of “practicing the way you play.” The best packets to prepare for our tournaments would therefore be old AQBL tournament questions. Currently, we do not sell old questions as practice material, but there are a number of publicly available past tournament packets at the QuizBowlPackets.com website. All of the packets on the site are freely available for use at practices or study sessions. The question sets are all in the same pyramidal style and similar in length to our tournament questions, but they are arranged in chronological order, not order of difficulty.
Ensuring you prepare with questions at the appropriate difficulty, both at team practices and during individual study, is essential for maximizing your improvement rate. Packets that are too easy fail to promote growth and new knowledge, while packets that are too difficult can be discouraging or be unrepresentative of the types of questions you encounter at tournaments. One of the roles of the coach, adviser, or captain is to select effective question sets to read at practices.
We present a guide below to the best sets to use depending on skill level, first for team practices and then for individual preparation.
For each of the difficulty levels of our tournaments, we present question sets of a similar difficulty.
Easy - For an Easy event, practice first with the SCOP Novice set. Our questions are about the same length.
Moderate - For a Moderate event, practice first with the CAST set. Our questions are a bit shorter in length.
Difficult - If you’re about to play a Difficult event, you should practice on the Harvard Fall Tournament set. Our questions are about a line or two shorter in length.
National - If you plan to attend the ONCT, practice with difficult and national-level sets, the best of which is the PACE NSC set, though our championship questions are substantially easier and shorter than NSC questions.
Lightning Rounds - We present a few free sample lightning rounds [here].
Tossups with Related One-Part Bonuses - We present a few free sample packets in this format [here], at Moderate difficulty.
If you fall into the 1st category, welcome to quiz bowl! We encourage you to see our article to starting a team. If you fall into the 3rd category, take heart! Most players take some heavy losses at their first tournament. Every AQBL administrator started at this stage as well.
Either way, improvement is fastest at the beginning. The SCOP Novice sets are the very best for new players. Questions at approximately this difficulty are used by the AQBL at our September, December, and March tournaments. See our guide to individual improvement for more tips.
At this point, high school sets are generally too easy. Easy college sets are best. We recommend EFT, NASAT, and MUT. We use questions just below this difficulty in the playoffs and finals of the ONCT.
At this level, collegiate “regular difficulty” sets are best. The AQBL does not produce collegiate sets, but sets such as ACF Regionals are at this level, and more collegiate questions sets at this link.