Quiz bowl is a buzzer-style trivia game played by teams of up to four players. (Unless otherwise noted, teams can have more than four players, but only four can play at once. Substitutions can be made during time-outs or at half-time. Be sure to inform the scorekeeper every time you make a substitution.)

There are two types of questions: tossups and bonuses. Players buzz in to answer tossups, and a correct answer earns a team a bonus question on which they can collaborate.


Tossup questions are answered by buzzing in and without conferring with teammates. Once the moderator starts reading a tossup, players can buzz in at any point. After a buzz, the moderator immediately stops reading, and looks to the player for her answer. (Unless otherwise noted, players have five seconds after buzzing to begin answering, after which the moderator should call time.) If the answer is correct, the team earns 10 points (or 15; see "Power Tossups") and the team then gets a bonus question (see "Bonuses"). If the answer is incorrect, the moderator finishes the question for the other team (who must still buzz in and cannot verbally confer). Each team only gets one buzz per question.

Penalty for Incorrect Answers
An incorrect buzz before the moderator has finished reading the question results in a 5 point penalty. We call this a "neg 5." (Exception: Both teams cannot neg 5 on the same question. This rarely happens, as its a good idea to wait until the end of the question once the other team has missed it.) Answers given after the moderator has finished reading the question will never cause the team to lose points.

Verbally conferring with teammates is not allowed on tossups, even if the other team has already missed the question. If a team confers, it can be counted as an incorrect answer. Answering when a teammate's light is on instead of yours can also count as conferring, so be sure you are the one who buzzed in first!

Power Tossups
Some formats have tossups whose text contains a star. If a correct buzz comes before the moderator has finished pronouncing the syllable after the star, the player earns 15 points instead of 10. This is called getting a power tossup.

Once the moderator has finished reading a tossup, he will wait for a few seconds (five, unless otherwise noted) and then call time and move on to the next tossup.


After a player correctly answers a tossup, her team gets a bonus question. Bonuses can have multiple parts, and are usually worth 30 points total.

The entire team can confer on bonus questions, and the captain should give the answers. However, the captain can always designate another team member to answer for the team. Answers clearly directed at the moderator (his discretion) will be accepted as the team's answer. Unless otherwise noted, teams get 5 seconds to confer on each bonus part. After five seconds, the moderator prompts the team for an answer. After the prompt, the teams must start answering immediately.

On multi-part bonuses, the team can confer on each part. Unless otherwise noted, the moderator should read the correct answer at the end of each bonus part.

Missed bonus answers are not bounced back to the other team.

If there are multiple answers for a bonus part, the team should give them as a continuous answer without pauses. Don't direct one answer at the moderator and then go back to conferring; you will be called for a stall.

30-20-10 Bonuses
Some bonuses, called 30-20-10s, give three clues about the same answer. A team scores 30 points for answering correctly after the first clue, 20 points after the second clue, 10 points after the third clue. The team can guess after each clue. Obviously, the moderator shouldn't reveal the answer until the end.

Acceptable Answers

Each question lists its answer and any acceptable alternate answers. It also indicates the required information. If a player gives less than the required information (e.g., just says "Roosevelt" when the question requires a first initial), the moderator can prompt him to elicit more information. Multiple prompts can be given, as long as the player keeps getting more specific.

Any incorrect information given (e.g., the wrong first name for someone) makes the whole answer wrong.

Titles and quotations must be exact, except that leading articles (like "a" or "the") can usually be omitted from titles.

Once a player has given an answer, he cannot change it, and only his first answer will be considered. ("Roosevelt. No! Kennedy!" will count as an answer of "Roosevelt". "Roos- Kennedy" will count as Kennedy, since the player didn't finish "Roosevelt.")

Usually, a question makes clear what it is asking for. Pay attention to the first pronoun in the question ("This artist..." or "In 1999, she did..."). Answers beyond the first in a blitz (where a player gives multiple related answers) will be accepted only if the question didn't make clear what was required. Exception: For works which have an identifiable creator, both the creator and the creation can be given as one answer and will be correct if either one is what was desired. Any wrong information given in a blitz or under the creator/creation rule makes the whole answer wrong.

Commonly used nicknames and acronyms ("JFK", "FBI") are usually okay.

Last names are usually okay for people; if not, the question should prompt for more. For fictional characters, sometimes the first name is acceptable.

Answers should be given in English. Sometimes (especially for titles), answers given in the original language are acceptable.

Pronunciation of answers must be nearly right. You cannot add syllables or consonants, and vowels must be approximately right. Phonetic pronunciation is okay. The moderator may prompt a player to clarify his pronunciation ("Monet" vs. "Manet").

Players may spell answers, and phonetic spellings are acceptable.

Answers chosen from a list should include part of the actual answer; don't just say "the second one you said."

When a team is asked to put things in order, they get points for each "slot" filled correctly. Thus, having your ordering shifted from the correct ordering can get you no points.

Moderator Errors

If the moderator inadvertently reveals an answer, he replaces the question with another one of the same type (another tossup, or another bonus part with the same point value). If one team had already answered the tossup incorrectly, the moderator reads the replacement tossup for the second team only.


A player acting in a disruptive or unsportsmanlike way can be given a conduct warning. On the second violation, the player will be ejected from the current game. On the third violation, the player will be ejected from the tournament.


All decisions of the tournament director are final.

A team can protest if they think they've been treated unfairly (they think the moderator erred in accepting or not accepting an answer, etc.) Except for ones which can be resolved quickly, protests should be made at the end of the half. Usually, protests will only be resolved if they affect the outcome of the game. If a protest is accepted, corrective measures will be taken, perhaps including adjustment of the score and the playing of extra questions. Intangible factors (such as the breaking of a team's momentum in the game) will not be considered when determining corrective measures.

Players can ask for a buzzer check at any time, and it is their responsibility to make sure their equipment is working. Protests about buzzers not working should not invalidate whole matches or halves.

Protests merely stating that "My answer was correct at that point in the question" will be rejected. The player should have waited until the question narrowed down to one answer. (Most questions become specific very fast.)