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Quizbowl skills

Postby BryceI » Mon Jun 26, 2006 9:28 am

from http://ken-jennings.com/blog/?p=23

No, the big payoff from quiz bowl is, simply put, the way it changes the way you think under pressure. There’s a moment in certain quiz bowl questions where you hear something familiar, and some part of your reptile hindbrain subconsciously starts deciding for you whether or not you know this answer. (Evolutionary psychologists believe this is a vestigial trait left over from dinosaur pub quizzes.) Before your higher brain function can catch up, certainly before the answer has materialized on the tip of your tongue, some part of the brain has done the math, instinctively decided that the answer is within reach, and instructed your thumb to buzz. It’s an odd feeling: you don’t quite know the answer yet, but somehow you know that you know it. The buzz itself is almost reflexive. Then you have a second or two to dig for the answer.


A related skill that quiz bowl experience gives is the ability to free associate answers to questions about which you don't have any actual knowledge. I'm not talking about the garden-variety, knee-jerk reflexes that kick in when you hear the phrase "Finnish architect" (although you can be burned here), but rather the kind of associations that allow you to produce a correct answer to a question about which you have no actual conscious knowledge. I'd give an example, but I don't have access to my subconscious knowledge base right now, so you'll just have to take my word for it. This is a skill that is occasionally useful at parties, as you can dredge up bits of information to keep a conversation going even when you don't really know what you're talking about. If you're wrong, people don't pay much attention, but if you're right, your conversation partner can be impressed that you actually "know" something about whatever arcane topic he or she happens to be harping on and on about.

Also, writing questions is one of the ways that playing quiz bowl can really help improve one's knowledge base.
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Re: Quizbowl skills

Postby DadofTwins » Mon Jun 26, 2006 11:50 am

BryceI wrote:
Also, writing questions is one of the ways that playing quiz bowl can really help improve one's knowledge base.



This is the best advice anyone can give somebody who wants to be a good quiz player. Case in point: The three finalists in the J! UTOC were a question writer/editor for NAQT, the host/writer of a Pennsylvania high school quiz show, and the former head writer for Win Ben Stein's Money.

If you want to get good at answering questions, write questions.


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Re: Quizbowl skills

Postby Ken Jennings » Mon Jun 26, 2006 12:13 pm

BryceI wrote:A related skill that quiz bowl experience gives is the ability to free associate answers to questions about which you don't have any actual knowledge.


This is especially true of Jeopardy, which often drops little cues and clues into the answers, even the high-dollar-amount ones, to help point the players toward educated guesses. I bet most good Jeopardy players are just guessing an astoundingly high percentage of the time.
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Re: Quizbowl skills

Postby dtaylor4 » Mon Jun 26, 2006 12:21 pm

DadofTwins wrote:This is the best advice anyone can give somebody who wants to be a good quiz player. Case in point: The three finalists in the J! UTOC were a question writer/editor for NAQT, the host/writer of a Pennsylvania high school quiz show, and the former head writer for Win Ben Stein's Money.

If you want to get good at answering questions, write questions.


Per Ken's request, I will not debate the credibility of Brad Rutter's quizbowl experience. As for the question writing, it couldn't be more true. To write questions, you have to find the information from several sources. In some cases, you'd be surprised how many questions you could write with the same answer. If you need help writing questions, several college quizbowl teams have question-writing guides.

As for the lack of actual knowledge (frauding), this can come from writing/hearing/reading questions. There are also several "reflex answers" that players can come up with, and on J!, sometimes the writers like to include little puns which when deciphered, can lead to these reflex answers.
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Postby rkd » Mon Jun 26, 2006 2:47 pm

Writing Jeopardy!-style questions is a strategy Mike Dupee endorsed in his book (which was a topic in another thread), both for its information value and for thinking like a Jeopardy! writer would think. I don't know that it's necesarily an essential bit of preparation ... it's a bit slow, so one can't cover as much as one would in scanning through past games or studying reference guides. Though I too am an NAQT question writer, I think reviewing trivia books and such things is a more time-effective way to go. But that'll vary from person to person -- I already had a good general knowledge base, so most of my preparation was aimed at pop songs, detective novels, food, musicals, and other such things.

FWIW, I agree wholeheartedly with Ken's discussion of the matter in the blog. I feel like my quizbowl background was most useful to me in terms of recall and effective guessing. (It's safe to say that the buzzer experience certainly didn't help me!)

--Raj Dhuwalia
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