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New to Quizbowl?

Starting a Team

Quiz bowl, also known as academic team, is a game in which teams compete to score points by answering mostly academic questions. Although format and styles can vary widely, the most common forms adhere to the following structure with only mild variations:

  • Teams of 4 to 5 players
  • Use of a lockout system (buzzers)
  • Tossup questions which individuals race to answer
  • Bonus questions which teams try to answer collaboratively

Schools may form more than one team. Usually these are designated as A team, B team, C team, etc...* As a coach you will have to decide whether you will have tryouts, what diagnostics to use, and how many teams you want to support. You will also need to arrange a practice schedule and access to practice materials for your team. It is highly recommended that you purchase a buzzer system as soon as possible to facilitate your practices and acclimatize your students to their use.

GATA also serves as a resource for you when starting a new team. We can try to put you in touch with other coaches or our board members to guide you and answer any questions you may have as you start your quiz bowl journey. Be sure to take a look at the downloadable documents available for new coaches on this website.

When you have the players you want for your team, it will be time to choose a captain. Different coaches use different methods to choose their captain. Most agree that the most knowledgeable person does not always make the best captain. The captain of your team will be the player who gives the answer on collaborative bonus questions. Therefore it needs to be someone who demonstrates leadership, can make quick decisions, and knows their teammates.

*Note: when forming multiple teams the general standard is that your best players should be grouped together on your A  team. Tournament coordinators will assume teams designated B, C, etc. are constructed of weaker players. It is considered bad sportsmanship to place your stronger players on these teams.


Preparing for Competition

Once you have a team, it's time to prepare to compete. Since quiz bowl can cover such a wide range of topics, it sometimes seems a daunting task to prepare players. There are many different strategies and techniques that coaches use to get their players ready, but the tried-and-true method that is agreed upon by nearly all coaches, is simply asking questions from past tournaments. A bundle of questions from a past tournament is usually referred to as a packet. Each packet is usually divided into the various rounds of the tournament which consist of anywhere from 16 to 22 questions on average. Each question is accompanied by a bonus question in most cases. Therefore it is not uncommon for a packet containing 500 or more answers. Packets can be purchased from various vendors such as NAQT, or many can be downloaded for free online. GATA members have access to questions from our past tournaments to use as practice questions.  A useful list of available packets that can be downloaded for free can be found here.

It is also recommended that you review the most commonly used rules and formats and familiarize your players with them. Players should learn not to answer until they are recognized by a moderator, what kind of answers are acceptable, time limits, point values, and effective collaboration on bonus questions. We also recommend that you encourage good sportsmanship and a spirit of fair play.



When you are ready to compete in a tournament, there are several factors you must consider. One of the most important is your travel arrangements. Most tournaments are on Saturday and  begin around 9 AM, frequently lasting until 3 or 4 PM. You may need to check your school's rules regarding transportation of students and the availability of that transportation.The easiest way to find a tournament is to go to the tournament list here on the GATA website.

To enter a tournament you must complete a registration form and pay an entry fee. The entry fee usually ranges from $50-$80 per team. Many tournaments offer discounts for teams willing to bring volunteers to read or keep score, buzzer systems to use during the tournament, or even travel discounts. Check with the tournament coordinator if you are unsure what discounts may be available. It is recommended that you register as early as possible. If you are not able to go to a tournament for which you are registered, we encourage you to please notify the tournament coordinator as soon as possible.

GATA hosts several tournaments throughout the year. The GATA fall tournament is a great one for new teams since it offers a novice division. Teams designated as novice cannot have more than two years of quiz bowl experience. GATA tournaments are inexpensive compared to most other tournaments, especially for members who get a discount. 

Tournaments can vary widely on format, rules, and size. You're encouraged to get in touch with the determined coordinator to make sure you are aware of the rules and format being used. Tournaments may be just a few teams playing a round robin, or extremely large with separate divisions and playoff rounds. Most tournaments have early rounds, followed by a break for lunch, then another set of rounds.At the end, there will be a break where scores are calculated and awards are given. We encourage teams to stay through the awards if possible to support the winners and show good sportsmanship.

Here are a few things you should remember when at a quiz bowl tournament:

  • All of the people hosting the tournament are volunteers giving up their free time
  • The moderator reading questions is the authority in the room. If you have a complaint, please know the proper procedures to voice it.
  • Just like referees in sports, moderators will sometimes make a bad decision. We try to minimize that but it will likely always be part of the game.
  • This is about the kids.


Jared Lovering,
Aug 25, 2014, 6:55 PM