Vancouver Estival Trivia Open Question Packets
These guidelines are for the 2005
Vancouver Estival Trivia Open.
This document borrows heavily from:
Stanford College Bowl Question-Writing Guidelines
by Doug Bone, David Frazee, and Chris Golde;
Nittany Lion Invitational Tournament Question Writing Guidelines by
Michigan MLK Memorial Question Memorandum
written by David Frazee, with contributions from Pat
Matthews, Eric Hilleman, John Edwards, Tom Michael, Chris
Golde, Doug Bone, Gerard Magliocca, Kevin Olmstead, Mitchell
Szczepanczyk, Joe Saul, John Davenport, Rob Long, Maya
Kobersy, and Joel Goldberg.
Bonspiel Question Guidelines by Jon Morris and others.
If you have any questions that aren't answered here,
send e-mail to Peter, the VETO Vancouver site coordinator, at
pmcc -at- alumni -dot- sfu -dot- ca .
(Replace "-at-" with "@" and "-dot-" with ".")
Purpose of this Document
The goal of our tournament is to have fun. Given the nature of our
game, the fun that we have depends largely on the questions. Ideally,
questions will leave both the winning and losing teams with a sense of
satisfaction that they are richer for having played the game. Questions
that rely on retread material or the rote association of two entities
(title and author, for instance) do not provide the same stimulation
as does a well thought-out question that brings to light one or two
interesting facts. This is not licence to write questions that contain
only minutiae (as that extreme is very frustrating); instead, our aim is
to guide players in creating original and interesting questions.
We understand that good questions take much longer to craft than
unoriginal ones and that beginning players often do not have
the experience to realize what separates a good question from a mediocre
ones, so it would be unreasonable to demand perfection from every pack.
We simply ask that you try to create a pack of questions that you would
enjoy playing. (This should not be confused with creating a pack of
questions concerning only subjects that interest you.)
To help you with construction of the pack, we have included
a list of guidelines. Some of these are written to help
moderators who will read your packet but are not on your
team or at your site.
The Topic Areas and Reference Sources
section contains many links and particular advice for each subject
category. The idea is to make it easy for you to write your packet
while this window is open, going through each category in turn. The
biggest problem that we've found in writing a packet is simply coming
up with ideas on what to write about. We hope that this section
will be as helpful to you as it is to us.
How Packets will be Used
1. "Guerrilla" format
VETO will be a "guerrilla"-style quiz bowl tournament (term coined by
This means that every team is entirely responsible for editing its
own packets, because nobody else will be doing so.
Players will know
exactly whom to congratulate on a good packet but also
whom to blame for a bad one.
You may need to bring up to
three copies of your packet, because that's how many
simultaneous games may be played on it.
Do not send your packet to the contact person,
because he'll probably be playing on it!
The usual rule at packet-submission quiz bowl tournaments is that
nobody sees any part of any other team's packet. But
we recognize that some VETO teams will have players that have
written whole tournaments by themselves, and other teams will have
no players who have ever submitted questions to a tournament. In order
to allow more experienced teams to help novice ones, we are allowing
the novices to get help in writing and editing their packet
from those who have more experience. But
please follow these important rules:
- If you're a novice team and you're receiving help,
everyone who helps you with
your packet must be on the same team of more experienced writers.
- If you're an experienced team and you're giving help,
your team should give editing and writing help to only one other team.
- An experienced team should not share any of its own packet
with the novice team that it's helping.
- Clear it with us in advance if you want to give help to another
team or receive help from another team.
You can think of this as having some teams "adopt" one and only one
The purpose of the above rules is to allow more freedom in scheduling,
so that no more than two teams are required to have byes in a round.
If you're on team C and you
got help from both Bob on team A and Doug on team B, then all three
teams would have to sit out your packet. That's a situation we'd
prefer to avoid.
3. Sending it off to the other site
A few days before the tournament, you'll need to e-mail your packet to
a person who's playing in Toronto if you'll be in Vancouver, or
in Vancouver if you'll be in Toronto. You will be informed
of who your counterpart will be.
You may omit the multimedia questions
in the e-mailed packet, although visual questions are usually
easy to send by e-mail.
Basically, a multimedia question is one that requires props.
You must have one set for every game room, and
there may be up to four game rooms.
We are requiring at least one
multimedia question in every packet, because
these questions are fun to play on.
But they're also fun to compose!
These questions are
banned in most American quiz bowl tournaments,
but we think that this fact just adds to the thrill.
You can appeal to all five senses:
As you can imagine, multimedia questions tend to
work a lot better as bonuses than as tossups especially if
the moderator (who may be from another team)
is not familiar with the question beforehand.
The easiest kind to do. Look up
for a picture of a person or place or thing or work of art or map or diagram.
Print out copies
and ask about the picture, or individual features.
We'll have a cassette player in every room,
so bring 3 copies of your tape.
No need to limit yourself to your own CD collection:
the World Wide Web offers a wealth of
MP3 and RealAudio files that
you can record off your computer.
In our experience, it's best to limit each sound segment to at most
20 seconds, unless you have a bonus with several parts asking
about a single sound segment, in which case up to 30 seconds is OK.
If you have multiple sound segments on a tape, please include some sort
of audible signal between each segment, so that the moderator knows when
to press STOP (and has time to press it before the next segment
Bring something for players to handle, and ask questions
In 1999, Joel brought some leaves and asked the
players to identify the trees they came from.
Bring something for players to smell.
Bring some food or drink and ask questions about it.
(No alcohol, please.)
The Elements of Style
1. Packets should be easy to read aloud.
If you have time, try reading your questions aloud to your teammates.
Avoid confusing wording, unintended tongue-twisters, and run-on sentences.
Use at least as much punctuation as you would in normal text, in order
to provide natural pauses for the reader. Some wire-service
texts intended for radio announcers capitalize
the word "NOT" when it occurs; this is usually a good idea, because you do
NOT want the reader to miss this word.
2. Omit needless words.
Consider the following question about Nobel prize winners from 1995:
The Noble Prize in Medicine, I can never remember who won, at least most
of them. For ten points, name any one of the three recently announced
winners of this year's prize.
After correcting the spelling and the name of the prize, the question could
For a quick 10 points, name any one of the three winners of the 1995 Nobel
Prize in Medicine or Physiology.
Of course, either way, this is a one-fact tossup, which should be avoided
3. Use correct grammar.
Writers must use correct grammar. Although many strict grammatical rules
may interfere with the flow of questions ("the kind of English up with which
I will not put"), you must use grammar that is at least colloquially correct
("the kind of English I will not put up with"). Use simple past tense
("they did") when appropriate, and past perfect tense ("they had done")
to refer to events completed at or before a time spoken of.
4. Pronunciation guides.
For foreign or unfamiliar words or names, include a pronunciation guide in
square brackets immediately following the word. Use CAPITALS to indicate
stressed syllables. Examples:
The acid/base indicator phenolphthalein ["fee-nole-THALE-in"] is used in ...
The economist John Maynard Keynes ["KAYNZ"] wrote his General Theory ...
5. Avoid obscene language.
Prudes who don't like hearing indecent language
or, even worse, having to use it in reading your packet
or in answering your questions
will usually feel too intimidated to voice their objections.
Replace obscenities, in creative ways if necessary, with abbreviations
or "expletive deleted". Examples:
Name these things in the tirade located at www dot F the south dot com ...
C. At the end of the rant, the red states are told that they can't
have their (expletive deleted) convention here next time.
1. General format
To be clear, write the answer
immediately below the question, following the word
"Answer:". The minimum information required for a correct answer should be
in all CAPITAL LETTERS and also underlined to remove
any ambiguity. Include any and all alternative answers that
mean the same thing.
Answer: George A. HORMEL and Company
Answer: ACETONE or 2-PROPANONE or DIMETHYL KETONE or (CH)3(COCH)3
If you'll be using ASCII format, so that underlining isn't possible,
then put _underscores_ around the minimum information.
2. Names of people
If the answer to a question is a personal name, then:
- The family name is usually the minimum required, unless it's
Ambiguity means that there is another person with the
same family name who is
also prominent in the same general field.
In such cases, only the minimum information to distinguish the
correct answer should
Answer: (Martin) Brian MULRONEY
Answer: Rajeev Ratna GANDHI
Answer: Richard STRAUSS
- Include both married and unmarried names.
Answer: Shirley Jane TEMPLE or BLACK
Answer: Hillary Diane RODHAM, or Hillary Diane CLINTON
- Accept commonly used pseudonyms as well as real names.
Answer: George ORWELL, or Eric Arthur BLAIR
Answer: Francois-Marie AROUET, or VOLTAIRE
- This isn't as complicated as it looks.
Just remember that if the answer is a person's name, you should include
the full name and all alternative names.
These can usually be found easily in a
biographical dictionary or
3. Foreign-language answers
If the question asks for the title of a literary or artistic work,
and the original title is not in English, then both the original title
and English translations must be accepted. Whatever you do, don't penalize
players for knowing the original title!
Answer: CASSE-NOISETTE, or the NUTCRACKER ballet or suite
Answer: VOINA I MIR, or WAR AND PEACE
Answer: HEPTA EPI THEBAS, or SEVEN AGAINST THEBES
Answer: DIE ZAUBERFLOETE, or the MAGIC FLUTE
To find the original title, consult a literary encyclopedia such as
Benet's, or try a library catalogue, many of which are on-line.
Translations of the title into languages other than English should not be
accepted. So, for example, "La guerre et la paix", the French translation
of "Voina i mir", would not be accepted unless the question were actually
asking about a French translation.
Non-"standard" translations of original titles should also be accepted,
especially if they are better than the standard ones.
For example, the title of Dostoyevsky's Bratya Karamazovy is usually
translated as The Brothers Karamazov, even though this is not correct
idiomatic English. Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu is usually
translated as Remembrance of Things Past, even though this is a
mistranslation of the title. Include a literal translation when possible,
together with translations that have appeared in print.
Answer: A LA RECHERCHE DU TEMPS PERDU, or REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST,
or IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME [literal]
Answer: BRATYA KARAMAZOVY, or the BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Additional comment isn't needed in the last example, because the
moderator should be aware that "The Karamazov Brothers" means exactly
the same thing. Similarly, in the following example:
Answer: die ENTF▄HRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL, or the ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO
an answer of "Kidnapping from the harem" would also be accepted, even if it
does sound somewhat less refined.
Questions must be based on real, verifiable, factual information.
1. Be specific!
- You must make clear what kind of answer you're looking for.
Some examples of bad questions:
For 10 points each, name the two men who backed the Gallipoli campaign
during the First World War.
Backed in what way? There were hundreds, if not thousands of men who were
directly involved in the Gallipoli campaign, and there were other men in
politics, finance, the press, etc., who supported it.
What is the highest power in Hinduism?
What kind of power? In what way "highest"?
Even if we are told that the answer is
"Brahman", we haven't learned anything about Hinduism at all.
Answer the following about the AngloSaxon epic Beowulf 10 points a
Where does Beowulf travel to?
There are several possible answers: Denmark, Zealand, Heorot Hall,
or back home to Sweden. The question should ask "which kingdom",
"which island", or "which hall", and somehow specify that it refers to
the beginning of the story.
5 points for identifying each of these acronyms:
You get the idea. :)
2. Include names, dates and places.
- If you didn't have to look anything up to write the question, it's
almost certainly a bad question. An example with answer Prague:
The oldest German speaking university is, surprisingly, not in any German
city, but rather in the capital of Bohemia. For ten points, name this
city on the Moldau.
This question is based on an interesting fact.
However, far more information is begging to be added. What's the name of this
university? When was it founded? Any university
student should know how to find this information.
In fact the question is actually misleading as a tossup, because a good
player may buzz in early with the name of the university
(Charles University). The question is also not strictly correct as written,
because Charles U. no longer operates in German, so although it was the
first German-speaking university, it is NOT
the oldest German-speaking
university. Here's an improved version, written after a little on-line
Seventeen years before Vienna, and 38 years before Heidelberg, this city in
1348 became the site of Europe's first German-speaking university, which was
founded by, and named after, Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. However, Charles
University closed its German-speaking division in 1945. For ten points, name
this capital of a country from which 3 million German-speaking citizens were
expelled after World War Two.
Here's a question about John B. Watson,
which was (perhaps unsurprisingly) the last tossup written in a packet:
he maintained the view that behavior should be the sole subject matter of
psychology in the early 1900's. For ten points, name this American
This question contains no concrete facts at all. We also strongly suspect
that Watson was NOT the only American psychologist who maintained the
behaviorist view in the early 1900s.
3. Avoid subjective questions.
Questions such as "What is romanticism?" or "Who was the greatest
Belgian playwright?" or "Who is the sexiest man alive?"
may be interesting, but they do not belong in this game,
because there is no one answer that is unequivocally, factually correct.
Questions that ask players to list the causes of a particular war are
If you ask for a particular historian's list of causes of something,
that is closer to the realm of the acceptable, but these questions can be
hard to score. For example, Edward Gibbon gave a famous list of
five causes of the growth
of Christianity, but for some of these
(e.g., "the zeal of the Jews, its gradual increase"),
it can be hard for the moderator
to judge whether the players have given an answer that is "close enough".
In any case, it's better to have history
questions that ask about things that happened, instead of an historian's
comments about what happened.
Finally, avoid questions about what "is thought", or "is considered", even
if it's "by many". Example written in 1995:
In France, a spate of new terrorist attacks are thought
to be the backlash of fundamentalists in for ten points this
country where the current government is supported by France?
I'm sure there were several countries, with governments supported by France,
which were thought by at least one person
to be the source of fundamentalists
making terrorist attacks. Also note the complete lack of specific
names, dates, and places in this question.
4. Be careful when asking to generalize from examples.
You must make clear what kind of generalization you're looking for.
A bad example:
What do Ravel's D major Piano Concerto, Prokofiev's fourth piano
concerto, and Brahms' transcription of the Bach Chaconne have in common?
THEY'RE ALL WRITTEN FOR LEFT HAND (accpet equivalents, prompt on "one
One player's response: "They haven't been played in my kitchen." This
perfectly correct, and since it's correct, it deserves 10 points. There
are lots of other possible correct answers, such as, they were all written
by dead white European males, or Beethoven never heard any of them.
Mexico City. Munich. Montreal. Moscow. For 5pts. apiece,
name the next five cities in proper order in this chronological
Los Angeles, SEOUL, BARCELONA, ATLANTA, SYDNEY
(Summer Olympics Hosts, 1968-2000)
The four cities given in the list all hosted the Bulgarian team in the
summer Olympics; the next city to do so was not Los Angeles but Seoul.
Give the correct term to describe each of these statements, ten points
a) John is a student. All students study. John studies.
b) I fell down and hurt my knee yesterday. Therefore I will never eat
c) Whenever Bill leaves his room, he locks his door. Bill's door is
not locked. Therefore Bill is in his room.
All of these "statements" are written in prose. The first one consists of
three simple declarative sentences. And so on.
It is reasonable to ask for the collective name of a group, but
be precise. For example, in a question about the Fates,
instead of asking:
What are Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos?
which would have "characters from Hesiod" as a correct answer, you should
Give the collective name for Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos.
5. When in doubt, write questions with answers you've heard of.
Avoid "obscurity in, obscurity out".
Given the phylum, describe whether a member of the phylum would be an
acoelomate, pseudocoelomate, or coelomate for five points apiece.
Coelenterata or Cnidaria (Acoelomate)
What are acoelomates, pseudocoelomates, and coelomates?
Do we really want to know? Also notice that while this question
may be allowed by some tournaments, it is an illegal bonus question
for VETO because:
- It's worth only 25 points.
Every bonus must be worth 30 points.
- It requires 5 separate conferrals.
No bonus may require more than
4 separate conferrals.
- It is multiple-choice with only 3 choices.
Multiple-choice questions require
at least 4 choices.
1. What and why
- A tossup question is read until a player buzzes in and is recognized.
If the answer is correct, then that player's team earns 10 points and
is asked a bonus question. If the player's answer to the tossup
is wrong, then the team
loses 5 points and the moderator continues reading the tossup to the
members of the other team only.
Tossups are intended to be interrupted
at some point. The clues in a tossup should progress from hard to easier,
and must not trick players into giving a wrong answer.
2. Anatomy of a good Tossup
Consider these examples.
The name of this language means "of the coast" in Arabic. Today it is the
mother tongue of about six million people, most of them living near the
Indian Ocean, but it is also spoken by about forty million others as a common
language in east Africa. For ten points, identify this Bantu language with the
largest number of speakers, that is an official language of Kenya and Tanzania.
Answer: SWAHILI (or KISWAHILI)
This is a straightforward, factually dense question.
It has many substantial clues:
- the meaning of the name;
- the number of native speakers;
- what coast they live near;
- the number of other speakers and where they live;
- the language family;
- the countries where it is an official language.
The following example is modified from Gerard Magliocca:
This author's wife, Elaine, was upset when she saw his classic 1939
novel in a Japanese bookstore translated as "Angry Raisins".
For 10 points, name this American author who described Rose, Sharon, Ma,
and Tom as the Joad family travels during the Great Depression from
Oklahoma to California in The Grapes of Wrath.
Answer: John STEINBECK
This question has an interesting lead-in that will appeal to both
players and spectators alike, making the question entertaining and
memorable. It also has many substantial clues:
Someone who has read the novel a dozen times may be beaten by someone
who is able to figure out the answer based on the mistranslation
"Angry Raisins". This question, unlike the previous example,
is more like a puzzle in the beginning, rewarding more than "pure"
knowledge (but not punishing it). Many of the best questions have
- the name of the author's wife;
- the date of the novel;
- the translation;
- the nationality of the author;
- four of the characters in the novel and the main family name;
- the time setting of the novel;
- part of the plot of the novel;
- the title of the work.
Every tossup should have at least two separate clues.
Avoid one-clue tossups of
the following form:
For a quick ten points, what is the capital of Afghanistan?
We would prefer that almost all of your tossups contain at least four
separate concrete clues.
Tossups should not be too long, either, because long tossups slow down
Do not exceed six (6) lines if writing
in ASCII with 79 columns per line.
Tossup questions should be set at about a level of difficulty so that
if read in their entirety to two good teams, you would expect about 90%
of them to be answered by at least one of the eight players.
Two good teams should interrupt at least 80% of tossups.
5. How to order the clues.
Order clues from most obscure to least obscure. Two bad examples with the
answer of Otto von Bismarck follow:
Known as the Iron Chancellor, he received a famous telegram on September
17, 1862, from War Minister von Roon recalling him to Berlin to take control
of the government. For 10 points, name this statesman, who ruled Prussia
from 1862 to 1890.
In a real match, this question would likely be over in 5 words.
It could be rewritten as:
He received a famous telegram on September 17, 1862, from War Minister von
Roon recalling him to Berlin to take control of the government. For 10
points, name this politician who ruled Prussia from 1862 to 1890, earning
the nickname, "the Iron Chancellor".
Another example of a poorly written question:
The capital of North Dakota and the 19th-century Duke of Lauenberg who
epitomized the Junker ["YOONG-ker"] class share, for 10 points, what name?
This could be rewritten as:
The 19th-century Duke of Lauenberg who epitomized the Junker class and
the capital of North Dakota share, for 10 points, what name?
6. No misleading questions.
Avoid misleading questions which penalize knowledge and speed.
These questions are supremely evil in competition and are to be avoided.
Since each tossup potentially means a swing in the game score of 85
points, it is crucial that tossups be written clearly and fairly.
Neither of the following is an acceptable question.
A German chancellor, a U.S. state capital, an archipelago northeast of New
Guinea, the sea enclosed by that archipelago, and the largest city in
Equatorial Guinea. For 10 points, which is not named Bismarck?
He served as German chancellor from 1871 to 1890 and was known for his
policy of "blood and iron". For 10 points, spell his last name.
7. Watch Pronouns and Antecedents.
Pronouns almost always must refer to the answer. Use pronouns carefully
so as not to mislead the players. Poor antecedent usage is most often
the culprit in poorly-written questions. This example is poorly
Vowing that he would never go to Canossa, the chancellor of Germany
announced a cultural struggle against Roman Catholicism in the 1870s.
For 10 points, what 3-syllable German noun named this anti-Catholic
Answer: KULTURKAMPF ["cool-TOUR-kamf"]
This question tricks a player into answering Bismarck early. It could be
German Chancellor Bismarck, vowing never to go to Canossa, announced a
cultural struggle against Roman Catholicism in the 1870s known, for ten
points, by what three-syllable German noun?
8. Minimize Ambiguous Introductions.
Some questions have several possible answers after a few words have been
Facing legal difficulties because of alleged financial chicanery, he
resigned as Vice President of the United States...
Spiro Agnew is not the only answer. Calhoun had similar
difficulties in his time, though they may be less well remembered today.
Some players will interrupt the question at
this point. Players who are waiting to differentiate between Agnew and
Calhoun will be at a disadvantage to other players who are thinking of
only Agnew. Or, a player who is aware of Calhoun may bet the odds and
incorrectly answer Agnew. Either way, this question might trap a better
player, penalizing knowledge.
One might choose to add additional information at the start of the
question to minimize this ambiguity and precisely target the desired
answer as soon as possible, as in:
This former American state governor, facing legal difficulties because
of alleged financial chicanery...
There is nothing wrong with questions in which the answer is not the
immediately obvious one. Further, there is nothing wrong with more
general introductions (This U.S. President...). However, you should
strive to minimize question ambiguity as much as possible, especially when
the introduction narrows the possible answers to just a few probable
answers (This Norwegian playwright...).
Avoid beginning tossups with vague clues. Here is a bad way to begin
a tossup about Henrik Ibsen:
This playwright brought the problems and ideas of his day onto the stage,
and created realistic dramas of psychological conflict...
A player with an encyclopedic knowledge of theatre would
be able to think of several possible answers, and would
be at a disadvantage compared with
someone who had only superficial knowledge of
a few big names like Ibsen. This problem could be fixed easily by adding
In his plays, such as John Gabriel Borkman and An Enemy of the People,
this dramatist ...
9. Tossups with Multiple Answers
A tossup may require two closely related pieces of information
to be given as answers, but preferably no more than two. If a toss-up
does require n answers where n is greater than 1,
then begin it with the phrase
"n answers required".
Multiple answers should be of the same type: for example, two people, or
two species of animals, or two countries. Avoid toss-ups that require two
non-parallel pieces of information to be given, such as a created work
and its creator, or a country and its current ruler.
10. For Ten Points, the Final Clue.
EVERY TOSSUP QUESTION MUST CONTAIN THE PHRASE "FOR TEN POINTS", immediately
before the last clue. If the question is short, substitute
"for a quick ten points". Please avoid abbreviations "FTP" and
"FAQTP", because they are not necessary and can just confuse new readers.
In the part of the tossup after "for ten points",
the very last words should be what you consider the easiest clue.
If there is a word or phrase that's a "giveaway", then nothing
should go after it. Think of the giveaway of a tossup
as being like the punchline of a joke:
a joke ends as soon as the punchline is given.
1. What and Why
- A Bonus question is read to a team if a player on that team
has just answered a Tossup correctly. Teams may (and are encouraged to)
confer on answering a bonus question, which has either several parts or
several answers (and usually both).
Every Bonus question is worth 30 points. Scoring is such that
the number of points a team
may earn on any particular Bonus will be some multiple of 5 points
(hence 0 to 30 points).
Bonus questions are supposed to test deeper knowledge than tossups.
Since they will be read in their entirety, it is not necessary to put
more obscure facts before more obvious facts -- unless these facts are
given in separate parts of a multi-part question.
If a bonus has multiple parts, there should be some sort of theme
connecting the parts. The theme could even be a hidden one that won't
become obvious until the whole question is read.
No Bonus may allow for more than four (4) separate team conferrals.
Thus we are not permitting Bonuses with 5 or 6 parts. If you really
want to ask
a Bonus like, "for 5 points apiece, name the Greek counterpart of each of
these Roman deities", for example, you may want to pair them up so that only
three separate team conferrals are needed, and two answers must be given
in each (e.g., "Mercury and Venus",
"Ceres and Diana", "Jupiter and Juno"). This may seem a bit weird, but
it cuts down on the amount of time required to play the question.
No part of a bonus should have a text that exceeds six (6) lines.
3. No single-answer, single-part Bonuses.
Unlike some other tournaments, VETO will not use
questions that give 30 points, all or nothing. Ask several questions
with point values adding up to 30, or use a progressive format as
4. Format: Multiple parts related by a common theme.
The parts of the question should be of varying difficulty so that a team
with an "average" knowledge of the subject should get some points but not
a perfect score.
be no more than four (4) parts as each part can take 10-15 seconds of game
time to read and answer. Example:
Just as the U.S. has states like Alaska and Hawaii that are not contiguous
with the rest of the country, France has a number of overseas departments
scattered around the world. Identify these departments for 10 points each.
1. The most populous of the overseas departments, this island in the
Indian Ocean has been part of France since 1642.
ANSWER: La REUNION
2. Divided into the twin islands of Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre, this
Caribbean department is home to the dangerous volcano Soufriere.
3. Located 10 miles off the Newfoundland coast and occupied by the French
since 1604, this department is the last remnant of the French North
American colonial empire.
ANSWER: SAINT-PIERRE and MIQUELON
Be sure to be clear about how many points each part is worth,
as in "for ten points each" above, or "for the stated number of
points" with a point value stated in each part. Please avoid cryptic
abbreviations like "FTPE" or "FTSNOP", because you might as well spell
out the words rather than risk confusing new readers.
Other ways to allocate points in a bonus:
Please avoid ambiguous phrases like "on a 5-5-10-10 basis"
or "on a 5-10-20-30 basis", because not everyone is familiar with
5. Format: One question, multiple answers.
You ask for a list of things, and give points for each correct answer. Be
sure to specify clearly the number of items for which you are looking,
especially if a complete list is not required. Asking
teams to generate long lists with many possible answers ("Name any six
OPEC nations", or "Name 8 European Union members for 15 points, 9 for 20
points...," for example) tends to be difficult to moderate and should be
avoided. Use a precise and manageable list. Example:
For 5 points each, name the six wives of Henry the Eighth of England.
Answers: CATHERINE of ARAGON
ANNE of CLEVES
Putting each answer on a separate line helps the moderator in checking
off correct answers given by a team.
In some cases, an incorrect answer ends the bonus. In this case, which
should not be overused, include the phrase "but be careful, a miss will stop
you" in the question.
6. Format: Progressive bonus questions.
These questions are asked in multiple parts.
Each part is an additional clue to the same answer. The general category
is always given in the original question, which should begin "30-20-10",
for the sake of word economy, if the parts are valued 30, 20 and 10 points.
30-20-10, name the newspaper.
For 30 points: From 1851 to 1862 its European correspondent was
For 20 points: It was founded in 1841 by Horace Greeley, who edited it
until his death.
For 10 points: In 1924 it merged with the New York Herald.
Answer: NEW YORK TRIBUNE
THE FIRST CLUE IN A PROGRESSIVE QUESTION MUST SPECIFY THE FINAL
ANSWER UNIQUELY. A 30-20-10 bonus that begins with the following
is not acceptable.
30-20-10, name the man.
For 30 points: He was born in Cincinnati in 1938.
There were hundreds of males born in Cincinnati in 1938, and the name of
any one of them would have to be accepted as a correct answer.
Besides 30-20-10, a bonus may have two separate progressive parts
worth 15-5 each, or 20-10 followed by a 10-point question, or other values
depending on difficulty level. Just make sure all point values are
multiples of 5, the maximum possible score on any bonus question is 30,
and no more than four conferrals will be required.
If you write a Bonus with some multiple-choice parts
(the answer to be chosen
from some explicitly stated list), there should be at least four (4) choices
in the list. Avoid Yes/No, binary and ternary questions.
VETO rounds will be untimed, with 20 tossups played in each.
But you will have to write more than 20 tossups and 20 bonuses,
So your packet should include (at least):
- if a game ends in a tie, you'll need extra questions to break it;
- if a question must be thrown out, for example if the moderator
reads the answer by mistake, then you'll need a replacement for it;
- if the question asks about information that was repeated in a
previous packet, you'll also want to replace it.
Use the following subject distribution for both tossups and bonuses:
- 24 tossups, each worth 10 points no 15-point "powers";
- 22 bonuses, each worth 30 points but no single-part,
Avoid writing more than one question in the same narrow subject area,
such as Manitoba geography or Margaret Atwood literature.
Canadian content quota:
Of the first 20 tossups, at least 4 must refer to Canadian
people, places, things, events, or created works. The same goes for
the first 20 bonuses.
Don't include more than 50% Canadian content overall. The person who wrote
in 2002 now regrets having done so. Also spread your Canadian questions
around the various subject areas, rather than concentrating them in
Geography or Literature for example.
Aim for a level of difficulty approximating that of questions
you've heard at NAQT sectionals.
Try to keep the questions in your packet at a roughly similar level,
especially for bonuses, because players may get mad at you if they're
given a bonus that was much harder than the previous one given to
the opposing team.
Mix up the order of your questions, so that you don't have a bunch
of science questions followed by a bunch of history questions, etc.
Topic Areas and Reference Sources
Among the most reliable
sources on the World Wide Web are the
- Britannica Online,
the single best reference source on the Web. Available to
subscribers only. Many universities have
If yours doesn't, try the
contains the 6th edition of the Columbia Encyclopedia.
The Canadian Encyclopedia, all for free on the Web!
Note, however, that some articles are way out of date. For a good
laugh, read about the "relatively new form of technology" known as
Search engines and directories provide access to more pages, but
caution: you may find not only a lot of
links, but also
completely bogus stuff
written by any
fool with an account on the Internet. You have to judge the reliability
of sources you find:
MIT OpenCourseWare includes
course materials for classes at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Archive at Stanford University contains many American quiz bowl
packets from the past decade. This is a great source of examples
of the format (some good, some bad). It can be a good place to find
inspiration for questions on
similar topics. For example, you might see a question about a
particular novel, and copy its structure in an original question about
a different novel. Or, if you read
a question on a subject you know a lot about, it might
make you realize that you could write a more interesting question on
the same subject, with different clues and different answers.
A couple of caveats:
Also check out the question packets from VETO in
Since we'll have a lot of returning players,
please write about something new. :)
- DO NOT copy questions or parts of questions
from the archive. Many other
VETO players have seen these questions. These people will recognize
copied questions and will lose all respect for you if you include them.
- DO NOT treat the archive as a reliable source of correct
information. Confirm facts
with a separate source. Many of us have written questions that we
later discovered contained details that were incorrect and they
ended up in the archive.
- This category includes, but is not limited to:
- health and medicine
- biology: biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, botany, zoology,
physiology, ecology, microbiology, taxonomy
- chemistry: organic, inorganic, physical, polymers, bonding,
- astronomy: stars, planets, moons, galaxies, cosmology
- physics: mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, optics,
quantum physics, relativity
- earth sciences: geology, hydrology, atmospheric science
- mathematics, probability, statistics, and logic
computers, telecommunications, transportation,
industrial processes, consumer products, etc.
This category covers technical
aspects; if it's about business, then it's
or maybe History,
and if it's
about user culture, then it's
- history of science, history of technology
- recent developments in science and technology
Some possible answers to questions in this category:
Avoid questions that ask what letter is used to represent a
physical quantity, or vice versa.
Some multimedia ideas:
- tactile: bring some gadgets or rocks or plants or animals or
silvery-white metals, and ask players to identify them or their features.
Remember that you need
enough for every game room -- and there may be up to four game rooms.
- olfactory: identify non-poisonous chemicals by their odour.
- auditory: play bird calls or other animal sounds.
- visual: ask about a picture of something from science,
or a technical diagram, or source code listing of a computer program.
- science.ca, "The Best
Source for Canadian Science"
- Eric Weisstein's Treasure
Troves of Science, for
WebElements is a really cool site containing everything
you ever wanted to know about the elements but were afraid to ask.
- MIT Biology Hypertextbook
is a good place to learn about biochemistry and molecular biology.
- A couple of good zoology sites are
History Notebooks and
Animal Diversity Web.
- The ABC's of Nuclear Science
Anatomy of the Human Body (1918) includes 1247 engravings.
explicates many mysteries of technology.
Picture of the Day Archive from NASA
has over 3000 pictures with explanatory text. These can be useful
for visual bonuses on astronomy.
- The Nobel e-Museum
has a lot about the prizes in
- Science links from
Most teams seem to find that it's easier to write questions about
History than about the other two major categories,
Literature, probably because History
questions ask about
names, dates and places, which are the emphases
of quiz bowl.
You've got thousands of
years and a whole planet to choose from. (Questions about
extraterrestrial history usually fall under the category of
Science, or perhaps
Don't forget about the world beyond North America and Europe,
and don't obsess about wars. Wars are obviously important in
history, but if more than half of your history questions
are about wars, then it can seem excessive.
Some possible answers to questions in this category:
- a person
- a place
- a war or battle
- a treaty or convention
- an institution or organization
- a year: but don't include more than one tossup with a year as
answer. For bonuses, it's OK to have a lot of parts that ask for
a year, but avoid too many bonuses with years as the only
answers. On bonuses, you might also consider specifying partial
credit for a close year, such as: "For 10 points for the exact year
or for 5 points within two years."
Some multimedia ideas:
- visual: hand out maps, pictures of historic people
and places and things, or copies of historic documents.
- auditory: play historic speeches or reports of
- This category includes, but is not limited to:
- short stories
- literary criticism
- literary essays
- literary techniques and figures of speech
- general nonfiction not classifiable elsewhere
Writing questions about literature is hard for some of us who are
not confident of our own level of literacy. Are we asking about
works that are too obscure? If we ask about well-known
works, are our questions too easy?
Some possible answers to questions in this category:
- Titles from plot summaries: most common kind.
Especially in tossups. Remember
to include lots of names, dates, places and quotes from the story, and that
interpretations usually don't make useful clues.
This means that the way you would write about a story in a quiz question
is quite different from the way you would describe it to a friend.
Also, if originally in a foreign language, remember to include
the original title as an acceptable answer.
- Authors from descriptions and titles of works. Please
avoid "given the title [and nothing else], name the author."
If a literary work is worth asking about, it is worth letting other players
learn more about it than the name of the person who wrote it.
- Names of characters.
- Settings, either real or imaginary.
- Short phrases quoted from literary works -- works best when asking about
verse. Phrases should be only a few words, because remember that answers
have to be EXACT to be accepted. The moderator should not have to
decide what is "close enough".
Some multimedia ideas:
- visual: literary samples that are too long to be read
illustrations from illustrated works.
- auditory: a reading of literature, asking about the
reader (perhaps the author, perhaps another celebrity)
as well as the passage read.
- The Online Books Page
has an awesome, searchable collection of links to thousands
that you can read on-line! Since all of these works are, necessarily, in the
public domain, you won't find much from the 20th century, but almost every
"great work" from previous centuries can be found here.
- Coles Notes are not on the Web, but try the study guides on these
Poetry Online from U of T
authors listing from Manitoba. Nice set of links but
poorly organized page: instead of
clicking on an author's name, you click on the heading with the first
letter of the name.
- Literary awards:
Governor General's, and
Corner has thousands of famous poems in English (and a wee number in
- To get an idea of what quiz bowlers like to write about, see
Carleton College's list of 100
literary works that are most cited in American quiz bowl.
- Random House Modern Library's list of
best 20th-century novels in English.
(warning: telnet link), the Harvard OnLine
Library Information System, is a good place to check for correct titles,
translations of titles,
- Literature links from
- This category includes:
- physical geography
- political geography
- economic geography
- social geography
Some possible answers to questions in this category:
- a mountain, island, body of water, other physical feature.
- a city, country, province, other political feature.
- an airport, highway, other economic feature.
Some multimedia ideas:
- visual: maps, pictures of places.
For the purpose of distribution quotas,
questions about recent happenings in
science and technology
belong to those categories, not this one.
Some multimedia ideas:
- visual: maps, pictures of people and places and things
in the news.
- auditory: recordings of speeches, interviews with
newsworthy people, news reports.
- Include questions about:
- classical music and opera
- painting and visual arts
Some multimedia ideas:
- visual: the most obvious and simple kind of multimedia
question to have, a picture of a work of art.
- auditory: recording of music.
- The WebMuseum (previously
known as the WebLouvre) has a very good
exhibition of famous paintings
from Western Europe, the U.S. and Japan.
- The Louvre in Paris
has its own official site with tons of pictures of works in its collection.
THAIS: 1200 years of Italian sculpture includes a huge collection
of pictures organized by period, artist and city.
THAIS: 4000 years of architecture has pictures of Egyptian,
Greek, Roman, Islamic, Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine architecture.
Renaissance and Baroque Architecture from the University of Virginia
contains a lot of nice pictures but sometimes no explanatory text.
- The Artchive
is an excellent source for visual art. Lots of pictures!
is also pretty good.
Music is a series of 45-minute programs from the BBC, that you can listen
to through the Web.
- To get an idea of what people like to write about, see
Carleton College's lists of
musical works and
works of art
that are most cited in American quiz bowl.
- Fine arts links from
- This includes:
- the Bible
- world religions
- Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology
- all branches of philosophy
- astrology and occult
Some multimedia ideas:
- visual: pictures of people and places and things
in this category.
- auditory: recordings of prayers, hymns, etc.
- tactile: hand out religious artifacts.
- This category includes, but is not limited to:
- political science and ideologies
- law and legal theory (specific laws and court cases belong
under History or Current Events or General Knowledge)
- sociology and anthropology
- economics: macro, micro, finance, labour, agricultural,
- linguistics, including specific languages
When asking questions about terminology in these fields,
make sure that it's a standard term and not used only by your textbook
- This includes most of the subjects that are
covered at the "Trash" quiz tournaments, such as:
- popular music and musicals
- comic strips and books
- toys and games
- junk food
- sports: rules, championships, particular athletes and teams
Some multimedia ideas:
- visual: pictures of shows, celebrities, etc.
in this category.
- auditory: play popular music or excerpts from shows.
- tactile: hand out toys or games.
- gustatory: junk food.
- This category sweeps up the questions that are not subsumed in any
other, such as:
- word origins
- spelling (but no more than one spelling Tossup)
- national and regional symbols (best if you include something about
their history and symbolism, not just identification)
- interesting trivia from almanacs
- food and cooking
- business (unless it's more about Technology
or History or Current Events, etc.)
- government organization
- specific laws, constitutions and regulations
Back to VETO page.
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