All matches at the National History Bowl will be played using a lock-out buzzer system, with four players to a team. Teams may have up to two substitutes, who can switch in between any one of the four quarters of the match. There is no limit to the number of substitutes that can be made.

All matches will feature two teams of four students playing at any given time. They also feature a “4-Quarter” format – although this is unlike any other 4-Quarter format currently being used. The 4 Quarters are described below.

  1. First Quarter. The first quarter will consist of 10 relatively brief toss-up questions, all of which are worth ten points. These will be written in a modified pyramidal format despite their brief length. “Pyramidal” refers to the questions featuring more than one piece of information, with the more obscure information coming at the beginning, and more familiar information coming towards the end. We are describing these as “modified pyramidal” as this is largely different from what many teams think of when they use this term.
  2. Second Quarter. The second quarter will consist of 10 somewhat longer pyramidal toss-up questions, also worth ten points a piece. Each of these questions will then have one related bonus question, worth ten points a piece. The team that gets the toss-up correct gets the first try at the bonus. If they answer incorrectly, the other team does not have a chance to answer the bonus (i.e. no “bouncebacks”) One of the ten bonuses per game will be a matching question, and one of the others will be a chronological ordering question.
  3. Third Quarter. The third quarter will consists of two timed 60 Second rounds. Three categories will be offered. The trailing team selects first. The 60 Second rounds feature 8 questions per category and are specifically designed to be easily answerable by a team that is not dallying within the allotted time- even with a relatively slow reader. All questions are worth ten points. If a team sweeps the category, they get a 20 point bonus for a total of 100 points. Questions that are answered incorrectly will be turned over to the other team.
  4. Fourth Quarter. The fourth quarter will consist of 10 questions worth twenty points a piece. These questions are the longest and will be written entirely in standard pyramidal format.
  5. The following rules apply at all times for the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Quarters:
  • Any member of either team can ring in at any point and interrupt the moderator with their answer.   Team members cannot talk or write during the questions, except on the second quarter bonus questions.
  • Students do not have to wait to be recognized by the moderator to give their answer, though it is advisable to do so.
  • If the student is incorrect, then the students on the other team have a chance to answer. No student on the team that answered incorrectly may ring in again for that question.
  • There are no penalties (i.e. no negative 5 points) for a wrong answer.
  • Non-verbal conferring, such as raising one’s hand high, is allowed.
  • Unlike the rounds used in the National History Bee, there are no theme rounds in the National History Bowl, although the focus of the 60 second rounds changes from one round to the next.

Additional Notes

Ties will not be broken during the preliminary rounds. If there is an exact tie in terms of the number of points to determine who advances to the playoff rounds, the first tiebreaker will be the head-to-head competition (if the two teams played each other in the prelims), followed by overall Won-Loss record. If neither of these are conclusive, then the teams play sudden death with long-form pyramidal tossups. Both teams in such a situation, however, will qualify for the National Finals. This method of breaking ties also holds true for seeding in the playoffs (e.g. if two teams are tied for what would be the #2 seed).

There will also be “power tossups” and audio and visual questions, but for logistical reasons, only at Nationals. For those unfamiliar with the term, “power tossups” refer to questions being worth more (usually 5 more points) if answered early in the question. This rewards deeper knowledge as well as being willing to venture an early logical guess. The State Bowls will not have power tossups, but there will be 5 point power in the 1st, 2nd and 4th quarters at the National Finals. The 4th quarter tossups at Nationals will also feature “super-power,” i.e. a second level of power worth an additional 5 points.

Audio and visual questions will also be used exclusively at Nationals, and then only as all of the bonus questions in the second quarter.

Questions will be edited for fairness, lack of repetition of answers within tournaments, and relevance. “Left-turns” “Hoses” and other sorts of bad and misleading questions will not be found at the National History Bowl.

The Executive Director of the National History Bowl is aware that many teams and students feel passionately about the merits of various quiz bowl formats. The National History Bowl has been designed to appeal to as many teams as possible by emphasizing pyramidality within a format that nevertheless allows for some variety. While experienced teams may not care for the shorter questions of the first quarter, they should keep in mind that the vast majority of points are found in the other quarters, the first quarter questions will still  feature some degree of pyramidality, and that many teams (especially teams to a quiz bowl format) appreciate a certain number of slightly shorter questions.

Also, regarding distribution,  a clear distribution is listed in the practice packets. The distribution not change in the State Bowl playoffs, though at Nationals, a somewhat more defined set of distribution requirements will be used. Teams are advised, though, that the definition of history employed at the National History Bowl will be a very broad one and will encompass, inter alia, historical geography, biographies, history of science, history of the arts and letters, and 21st century history.

Finally, difficulty will be increased in the playoff rounds, especially in the final match. This will also be true for the National Finals, where the prelim games will be comparable to playoff games at the State Bowls, and the playoff games will be harder still.

Two free downloadable practice packets are available, and additional practice questions will be posted before Nationals under the “Sample Questions” link.