Practice Questions

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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.

Team Practices

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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.

Other Formats

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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.

Individual Study

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Novice

  • You started a new team
  • You recently joined a team
  • You struggle at practice and want to take the first steps to improvement
  • You competed at a tournament and lost every, or almost every, match.

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.

Beginner

  • You have attended practice for six months
  • You have attended multiple tournaments
  • You average over 15 points-per-game at tournaments
  • You find novice questions less challenging

If these describe you, great work. We recommend some moderate-difficulty sets such as CAST, LIST, and WHAQ.

Moderate

  • This is your 2nd or 3rd year attending practices
  • You perform well in consolation rounds and aim to make playoffs
  • You average over 30 points-per-game at tournaments
  • You find beginner questions too easy

At this stage, we recommend sets such as RAFT or CALISTO. Questions at approximately this difficulty are used by the AQBL at our October, February, and April tournaments.

Advanced

  • You often narrowly miss playoffs or barely qualify for playoffs
  • You received a national championship qualification
  • You can answer every novice or beginner question by the end
  • You average over 50 points-per-game at tournaments
  • You find moderate questions too easy

Use sets such as Harvard Fall and Yale’s BHSAT. Questions at approximately this difficulty are used by the AQBL at our November and May events and in ONCT preliminary rounds.

National

  • You aim for playoffs at a national championship
  • You contend for 1st place at regular-season tournaments
  • You average over 70 points-per-game at tournaments
  • You tried out or plan to try out for a state all-star team
  • You find advanced questions unchallenging

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.

All-Star

  • You qualified for playoffs at a national championship
  • You competed in the finals at multiple tournaments
  • You exceed 100 points-per-game
  • You were selected to a state all-star team
  • You find national-level questions unchallenging

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.