“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 [...]

2016-11-22T14:13:59-04:00November 22nd, 2016|

NHBB Begins Its Seventh Year in Record-Setting Fashion!

The National History Bee and Bowl's seventh season is off and running! As of November 21, twelve tournaments have taken place throughout the USA, with hundreds of students and teams having had a chance to compete on our C Set of questions. Highlights have included a stunning 620 point single game score from Naperville North at the Northern Illinois History Bowl which is an all-time National History Bowl record! [...]

2016-11-21T12:19:45-04:00November 21st, 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|

Welcome to the 2016-2017 Season of The National History Bee and Bowl!

The National History Bee and Bowl is set to begin its seventh year of history quiz tournaments for students and teams across the USA, and we hope that you and your friends will be able to join us for our largest year ever! We're planning just about 100 tournaments from October to April culminating in our 2017 National Championships at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA on April [...]

2016-08-27T18:01:33-04:00August 27th, 2016|