Sixty-Second Rounds

An NHBB sixty-second round is designed to gauge how much a team can quickly recall about a certain subject. The philosophy behind writing sixty-second rounds is very similar to that for writing tossups: we want to reward depth of knowledge while keeping the game competitive for new and novice players. Pyramidal clue ordering makes that happen for tossups; in sixty-second rounds, the job is done by differentiating the difficulty [...]

2017-10-29T12:41:52-04:00October 29th, 2017|

“Description Acceptable” Tossups

Beginning with NHBB Nationals 2015-16, some NHBB tossups began to appear with a pre-tossup notice of "Description acceptable." While the notice only began to appear at Nationals in April 2016, tossups that functioned in a similar manner have been part of NHBB and general quizbowl for many years. As head editor, I've been using (or not using) that notice in a particular way; I think it's worth explaining the [...]

2016-11-22T14:13:59-05:00November 22nd, 2016|

What Makes a Good Clue?

In this lesson, we begin discussing what makes a clue good or bad. This lesson can only serve to start the discussion; it takes an immense amount of experience and writing practice to internalize this lesson. If you’ve only played quizbowl for a year or so, you will struggle with this in your early writing. If you’ve played quizbowl for a long time, you might be used to judging [...]

2016-08-30T13:32:54-04:00August 30th, 2016|

Clue Density

The goal of a tossup is to provide as many helpful clues as possible; the easiest way to make room for more clues is by cutting down on excessive wording that isn't providing clues! In this lesson, we discuss how wording can be condensed, using two example tossups that were taken from the fall 2015 Provisional Writer Program. Example 1: This man once asked to borrow a pinch of [...]

2016-08-30T13:11:00-04:00August 30th, 2016|

NHBB Cultural History

The following is a guide to how NHBB writes its cultural history questions. It's presented to NHBB writers as a means of explaining the job, and is presented to players more for "how to prepare for NHBB competition" purposes than any sort of real writing lesson. Somewhere between 15 and 25% of each NHBB packet is cultural history. Our full list of cultural history topics is Science & Technology, [...]

2016-08-30T12:58:31-04:00August 30th, 2016|


This lesson discusses what it means for a tossup to be pyramidal and dissects an example tossup.   The word pyramidal is used to invoke the mental image of a pyramid to represent the number of people who can buzz in during the tossup. The lead-in is compared to the capstone, and the giveaway is compared to the base. "More bricks at a lower level of the pyramid" serves as [...]

2016-08-29T17:20:08-04:00August 29th, 2016|

Tossup Themes

Quizbowl questions are meant to be both playable and educational; a player should be able to decide whether to buzz during the tossup and able to learn from the clues presented in the tossup afterwards. Therefore, we don't want a tossup to just string together a random collection of facts; the clues should be related to each other by some substantive theme. Doing so makes it easier for players [...]

2016-08-29T16:49:50-04:00August 29th, 2016|

Anatomy of a Tossup

This beginning lesson introduces how tossups are structured and explains some basic quizbowl terminology used in the later lessons on question writing. It's a great general introduction to the game of quizbowl, not just for beginning writers!   A tossup question is meant to determine which player knows the most about the subject at hand. The main difference between a quizbowl tossup and other forms of trivia questions is [...]

2016-09-02T13:53:03-04:00August 29th, 2016|

Why Write Questions?

By Brad Fischer, NHBB, Director of Question Production Writing questions serves as an excellent way to improve as a player, as a writer in general, and as a scholar. It exercises all the mental muscles involved in scholarship, especially some that don't get used in other forms of quizbowl study. Why write? You get practice doing research and using (and judging!) source material. Wikipedia may have all the basic [...]

2016-09-19T19:46:51-04:00August 29th, 2016|

Question Writing for Fun and Learning

(Rockford, IL - March 31, 2016) Hello! I'm Brad Fischer, NHBB's Director of Question Production. My playing days preceded NHBB, but I've played and coached in all-subject quizbowl for over a decade, in addition to teaching math in Rockford, Illinois. To me, the best part about academic competitions like quizbowl and History Bowl is the ability to see yourself grow through competition. New History Bowl players often ask, "What's [...]

2016-03-31T01:26:54-04:00March 31st, 2016|
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