Monday, September 7, 2009

Creating Effective Quiz Bowl Questions

In scholastic quiz bowl competitions, the questions are as important than the answers, because a player can't answer a muddled question. Good questions equal good games.

Nothing frustrates quiz bowl players as much as a confusing question. Players look at their coaches, wondering if they should risk an answer on a poorly worded question. Coaches frown at each other, wondering if the poor word choice is worth tossing the question. Soon someone buzzes in and gives a possible answer, only to find that the question was misleading. The question is tossed, time is wasted, and everyone wonders, "Who wrote these questions?".

Write Open Questions

Even though any question that has limited answers is technically a closed question, in the world of quiz bowl, a closed question has two answers, such as yes/no or true/false. These questions should be avoided because if one team answers incorrectly, the other team will automatically get it correct. This is frustrating because it amounts to gaining an unearned point.

Clear Questions Have Clear Answers

Questions need to be short and pointed. Long questions or questions that include unnecessary detail are harder to understand. An example of differences in phrasing can be found in these two questions: "George Washington is famous for having wooden teeth. However, his false teeth were not actually made of wood. What were his teeth actually made from?" and "What were George Washington's false teeth made of?". Players might buzz in with the incorrect answer of "wood", but they also might buzz in with the correct answer of "bone". Quiz bowls are competitions of knowledge, not competitions of focus.


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