Tuesday, March 16, 2004

College Bowl a.k.a Quizzing in the U.S

A major digression from the intense discussions featured on this blog on quizzing in Pune and on many related things. Anti is our first guest contributer for this blog. His "blogchalk" reads "USA, Ohio, Athens, Ananthanarayanan, Anti, Male, 21-25, Quizzing, Cricket, Music, Books, Cars" which tells you enough about him. Additionally, he turned out to be a year senior to me at school in Madras, the revelation all to be blamed on a post on childhood cricket (but we digress away from the digression). Anti has been two ponds apart for a while and in the process learnt a little about the "quizzing" scene as it exists there. The following is the first of a two-part series on College Bowl Quizzing.

College bowl explained

"College Bowl is a question and answer game of general knowledge and quick recall. It spotlights the fastest minds on campus as they excel on the playing field of knowledge. Game questions cover every conceivable topic, from history, literature, science, multiculturalism, religion and geography to current events, the arts, social sciences, sports and popular culture". (quoted from the College Bowl webpage)

College Bowl is purely academic based i.e based on all the information that you possibly would get if you were a stud with school work. It is different from quizzes popular in India by the fact that questions are purely general knowledge and zero trivia. So why are we even discussing about College Bowl?

I personally think that these kind of quizzes can be used to popularize trivia quizzes among school children (and colleges too). In India, in a lot of places like Chennai and Pune, quizzing is driven by colleges and most of the junta have come in from schools that have been strong in the quizzing scene traditionally. So sometimes we find talk of the so called drop in standards because there are not enough people to continue the good work when regulars leave town in search of their ideal careers. These College Bowl type quizzes could be used to revive flagging interest.


College Bowl is a buzzer based quiz. Two teams of a maximum of four players each (at least 3 players each is mandatory) take part. Each session (called a game) of intra-institutional College Bowl is played over two 7 minute halves. A whistle starts and ends each half. The team that is ahead when the final whistle sounds at the end of the second half is the winner. And in case of inter-institutional games, each session is of eight minutes each.

Every team has one buzzer each for every team member. Name tags for each of the team members are placed so that the QM can identify each member by name. The teams also nominate captains before the start of the game. The role of the captain shall be apparent as I tell you more about the rules of the game.

The QM reads out the question. If any of the individual member think they know the answer, they should hit their individual buzzers. In doing so, they are competing not only with the members of the other team, but also the members of his/her own team. No collaboration of any kind is allowed for direct questions and only the person on the buzzer is allowed to speak.

The participant to hit the buzzer first after the QM reads the full (or part of a) direct question gets the chance to answer the question for his/her team. The member has to be identified by the QM by name before the answer is given. The QM calls out the name of the participant who has hit the buzzer and waits three seconds for the answer. If the answer is deemed correct and verified by the QM from his question card, his/her team gets the exclusive chance to answer the bonus question that follows. The correct answer to each direct question increases the team's score by 10 points. If the answer is incorrect, the team might be penalized (Read the section on Negative Points) the other team in the game gets the chance to answer the question and any bonus questions that may follow.

The bonus question may be composed of a number of part questions as well with each answer earning the team the points indicated in the question. Usually the correct answer(s) to the bonus question(s) earn teams between 20 and 30 points. Bonus questions are non-passable and do not contain any negatives. For the bonus questions, the buzzer is not involved and the team members can discuss among themselves. However a five second time limit is applied. Once the members have decided upon a likely answer, the captain is expected to give the answer out to the QM. In case the team gives more than one answer, the QM prompts the team's captain for his choice of answer and accepts that answer as the official response form the team.

Negative points

A team is penalized a 5 point penalty if they give a wrong answer to a direct question that they INTERUPPTED i.e. hit the buzzer before the QM finishes the question. The question then passes to the other team and the QM completes the question for them. There is no penalty however for the second team if they give the wrong answer for the question. However, if a team gives a wrong answer to a direct question that was completely read out by the QM, there is no penalty whatsoever. In essence, there is only ONE 5 point penalty involved per question and that is applied only if there is an interruption by one of the teams.

Acceptable answers

Since all questions and answers are prepared not by the QM, but by someone else, all acceptable answers and part points are indicated clearly in the question cards. If the answer given by a team matches the answer indicated in the card (or acceptable alternates that are indicated in the same card), the points (or part points as indicated) are awarded to the team. In case the question setter expects certain answers that will not be acceptable, these answers are indicated too.

For example: Vern Mikkelsen and John Kundla were a player coach duo named to the Basketball Hall of fame in the same year as Kareem Abdul Jabbar. For ten points name the team that Mikkelson and Kundla played for and coached respectively and the year they were inducted into the Hall of fame?

The answer is the Minnesota Lakers (which moved to LA later to become the LA Lakers) and the year was 1995. For full ten points, both 1995 and Minnesota Lakers has to be mentioned. Now while the Minnesota Lakers is the correct answer, just the Lakers could be deemed acceptable, but not Los Angeles Lakers.

Note: I hope I am conveying the general idea here. This would probably be the toughest question of the game. I framed the question myself after a random google search for "Minnesota Lakers" and found a result that talked about Hall of Fame entrants in 1995.

Tie breakers If the score is tied at the end of the game (end of the second half that is), the tie is broken by a sudden-death play-off of direct questions. The first correct answer scores 10 points and wins the game. An incorrect interruption loses 5 points and the game. Directs continue until a score change breaks the tie.

:: Anti

Part II in a separate post

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