Instead of one-line questions that create buzzer races that test reflexes rather than deep, relevant academic knowledge, Quizbowl has longer (but not any more difficult) questions called “tossups”. These tossups progress gradually from difficult to easy clues, following a concept known as pyramidality, as the number of people who can answer the clue grows gradually from top to bottom like a pyramid.
Here is an example of a tossup:
The size of these objects is given by the Schwarzschild (“SHWARTZ-child”) radius. According to quantum mechanics, these objects emit Hawking radiation. One of them, Sagittarius A Star, sits at the centre of our galaxy and has four million times the mass of our sun. For 10 points, what are these massive dark objects in outer space from which supposedly nothing, not even light, can escape?
ANSWER: black holes
Source: Collaborative Middle School Tournament 2010, Round 8
The ideology behind these tossups is that the team with more knowledge wins, not the team that can buzz faster. Quizbowl is academically-focused, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t pop culture questions, and it doesn’t mean that the game isn’t fast-paced, exciting, and fun.
After a team answers a tossup correctly, they receive three extra bonus questions only their team can answer. Each set of three bonus questions consists of one easy, one medium, and one hard question (not necessarily in that order). Here is an example of a bonus:
For 10 points each, name these deserts:
 This largest North African desert is separated from the rest of Africa by the Sahel (“suh-HAIL”).
ANSWER: Sahara Desert
 The largest desert in Asia is this cold desert in Mongolia, the home of wild Bactrian (“BACK-treeun”) camels.
ANSWER: Gobi Desert
 The oldest desert in the world is this Southern African desert. It is mostly located in, and provides the
name of, the country whose capital is Windhoek (“vind-HOYK”).
ANSWER: Namib Desert [do not accept “Namibia”]
Source: Collaborative Middle School Tournament 2010, Round 1
Quizbowl has an academic-based question distribution. An example distribution is shown below:
- 4 tossups / 4 bonuses of literature
- 4/4 history
- 4/4 science (includes math)
- 3/3 arts (visual arts, music, architecture, film, opera, etc.)
- 2/2 religion, mythology, philosophy
- 1/1 social science
- 1/1 geography
- 1/1 current events, pop culture, and questions that mix categories
For an endless amount of free online Quizbowl questions, visit quizbowlpackets.com. Please note that difficulty of questions varies from middle school all the way to university/collegiate national championships; for a guide to packet difficulty, see this page.
More online reading sources include Quinterest (use the “Study Function” or search for questions based on topic) and Protobowl, an online question reader in which you can play against your friends! For all useful Quizbowl resources, check out this page.
If you aren’t already eager to play Quizbowl, see this page for reasons why you should! The best and easiest way to learn more about Quizbowl is to simply show up to a practice at lunch. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a fulfilling and enjoyable Quizbowl career!
If you have more questions on Quizbowl and the club in general, don’t hesitate to email team captain Ted Gan.