Benefit(s) of question writing?

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kCobain911
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Benefit(s) of question writing?

Post by kCobain911 »

I know a lot of people on this forum write questions, so I was wondering, besides looking up stuff, what are the benefits of writing questions? Would someone get the same benefit from just researching and note taking?


on a side note, ( because i don't want to litter the forum), how much harder are NAQT national questions than NAQT IS sets?

intothenegs
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Post by intothenegs »

Question writing is much more helpful than just researching and taking notes. In the past, I played a lot of matches where afterwards, I just looked up information on questions I got wrong. Although it sometimes helped, I ended up forgetting much of it. By writing questions, though, you have to figure out what is most important and what might show up early; it's definitely helpful, and it allows you to predict what a question on a certain fact might be. Plus, at practices, questions can be used to quiz other team members, and hopefully those facts will stay in the mind of more than just one person.

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Post by The Atom Strikes! »

About the HSNCT question: It's about 1.8 times as difficult as an IS set... especially those early in the year. It's a very perceptible difficulty increase, but for the experience of competing on good questions against many teams at the national level, it's worth braving, as is PACE.
Henry Gorman, Wilmington Charter '09, Rice '13, PhD History Vanderbilt '1X

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Sima Guang Hater
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Re: Benefit(s) of question writing?

Post by Sima Guang Hater »

kCobain911 wrote:Would someone get the same benefit from just researching and note taking?
No. Using your research to synthesize a question, reading the question, and hearing somebody answer the question gives you not only the information, but the information in the framework of quizbowl. Even if you read some obscure fact in wikipedia and think to yourself "I'm going to remember this the next time it comes up", you won't remember it nearly as well as if you actually put it in a leadin.
Eric Mukherjee, MD PhD
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Dermatology Resident, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, 2019-

Writer, NAQT, NHBB, IQBT, ACF, PACE

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Captain Sinico
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Post by Captain Sinico »

One's recall and retention are generally better for information that one uses more, so writing questions is generally better as a learning exercise than is pure studying. Also, if one writes questions, one can use those questions for fun and profit, e.g. by contributing them to NAQT or other tournaments, reading them in practice, etc. Finally, I think there are useful (in play and in future writing) insights about how questions work that can only be gained by writing questions.

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Post by Tegan »

I'll go one further: there's a lot of research that suggests that the more different parts of your brain that are engaged in doing something, the better the chance you will recall it. Studying = reading ... just one part of the brain. But if you have to read ... and assemble clues physically, and then actually write them (even on a keyboard), this engaged more parts of the brain .... better chance of recalling something.

Not to mention ..... sometimes studying involves learning the basic information. Writing a question (properly) forces you to investigate real nitty gritty stuff.

I think I learned more writing questions over the last ten years than I learned in my previous years of schooling .... and people at my advanced age aren't supposed to be learning all that much.

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aestheteboy
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Post by aestheteboy »

I've always felt that from a purely cost(time-input) benefit(improvement) perspective, writing questions isn't the best way for me. This is probably because it takes me on average 30 minutes to write a tossup when I could be using that time to look up 5 things in considerable depth. It's probably more useful for people who can write questions efficiently.
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kCobain911
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Post by kCobain911 »

aestheteboy wrote:I've always felt that from a purely cost(time-input) benefit(improvement) perspective, writing questions isn't the best way for me. This is probably because it takes me on average 30 minutes to write a tossup when I could be using that time to look up 5 things in considerable depth. It's probably more useful for people who can write questions efficiently.
thats a frequent problem with me.

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Post by theMoMA »

As far as I know, both of you are still high schoolers, and this doesn't necessarily hold as well at the high school level. However, at any level beyond high school, writing questions is an irreplaceable means of improvement. Writing questions not only forces you to read lots of information on a subject, but to synthesize the information and cull specific, unique, and interesting facts to use as clues. So you're not only going through material on a subject; you're going through the material and identifying the parts of it that are likely to come up in quizbowl.

In my experience, "using that time to look up 5 things in considerable depth" usually results in aimless wandering that's as likely to take you to material appropriate for quizbowl as not. Even if you stick to entirely appropriate subjects of research, your comprehension and recollection of the material will be much less than that of someone who's written a question on the topic at hand.

Don't worry about the time aspect of question-writing. It's not an activity that you should be approaching with the mindset that you're going to write X questions an hour, especially if you're writing for a tournament. Instead, make a list of topics you think would make appropriate and interesting subjects of questions, then sit down and research them (using sources other than Wikipedia). The kind of directionless wandering through reference materials that can be so interesting can occur at this stage.

It's easy to misunderstand the college game in high school, but one common misconception that I see over and over again is that there's some kind of tradeoff between in-depth study like writing questions and reading books, and the kind of study that provides giveaway knowledge, like list studying and packet studying. No such tradeoff exists. "I'm going to look up 5 things on the internet" is not a viable method of study for the college game, simply because you'll find that most every competitive team has a good grasp of the canon, and so gaining cursory knowledge of subjects just doesn't get you many points.

So let me get back to question writing. The benefits of question-writing are pretty great: in the process of creating a product that can be exchanged for tournament entry or profit, you synthesize appropriate material in the way most conducive to learning things for quizbowl.

All things considered, question-writing is the best way to get good at quizbowl. While read books about the subject at hand is great and recommended, writing questions teaches players buzzable clues faster and more thoroughly than any other method.

List of ways to improve, based on my experience:
1) Write questions
2) Read a book
3) Playing a ton of packets
4) Some variant of list studying
5) Taking classes

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AlphaQuizBowler
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Post by AlphaQuizBowler »

theMoMA wrote:most every competitive team has a good grasp of the canon, and so gaining cursory knowledge of subjects just doesn't get you many points.
It is still important to have that basic knowledge even though everyone knows the information. The basic knowledge provides a base on which to build, and without that base, the knowledge is harder to remember.

For example, someone studying lit would want to start by knowing the authors of each book on the NAQT list. That provides familiarity with the books and authors through and easy memorizing task (100 pairs). This familiarity then makes it easier to learn new information on each book and author through further study or question writing.

I know that when I am listening to questions, I'm more likely to remember the hardest clues for an answer I knew from the later clues than an answer I had never heard of.

Finally, the usefulness of the information needs to be considered. There are many obscure and interesting facts about famous people. Memorizing a few of these through research and question writing won't help because there is a small chance that they will be in the question. However, the substantial work that a person has done in his life is likely to be in most every question. Therefore, it is more useful to know that Ernest Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises than it is to know that he wrote for the Toronto Star because although the Star clue may come up and you may get a power, if it doesn't, the team that has basic knowledge will beat you.

Interesting or obscure facts about a person are not useless, but the basic knowledge about them must come first.

William Horton
Alpharetta HS

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Post by theMoMA »

Perhaps I wasn't making myself clear; it's not only important to know the basic canon in the college game, it's entirely necessary. If you're simply looking up the answers you don't know and gaining cursory canonical knowledge, you're treading water. It's only by learning the in-depth clues that come from book-reading, class-taking, and especially question-writing that a player really improves at higher levels.

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Post by AlphaQuizBowler »

Okay, I agree with that.
So then your list:
theMoMA wrote: 1) Write questions
2) Read a book
3) Playing a ton of packets
4) Some variant of list studying
5) Taking classes
would apply to more experienced players, while for newer players looking to improve, a list like this may be more useful.
1. Some variant of list studying
2. Playing a ton of packets
3. Read a book
4. Write questions
5. Taking classes

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First Chairman
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Post by First Chairman »

I actually would play a ton of packets "first" with list memorizing for foundational clues being a step "1a or 1b." However, I would start practices on bonus/team questions first for newcomers. New students can start contributing more immediately if they "confirm" or know material in a team environment when the fear of buzzing in doesn't play as big a role. It also helps the elder players get a handle on their fundamentals.

As an alternative to generating lists and memorizing them, I also strongly suggest that teams research tossup questions "backwards." If true pyramidality holds, the easiest clues should be answerable. Start there, and then have the students research other "level one" clues about an answer... then get more difficult from there.

Practice tip, so pay attention: So a "reverse" practice question would be to have everyone with a piece of paper. The reader reads an ANSWER (no question text), and everyone has about 60 seconds to individually write down as many clues as they think are relevant to that answer. Compare what everyone wrote down to what was written as the question for that answer. Soon you'll get a good idea of what constitutes a difficult clue for writing questions, and then you're on your way to learning how to write.
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