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Quizbowl at the University of Washington

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Quizbowl at UW

College Quizbowl Organizations


The two heavyweights in college quizbowl are ACF and NAQT. Together, they account for a majority of college quizbowl activity. But new players often forget which one is which! The easiest way to remember the differences is to remember that ACF is more socialist and NAQT is more capitalist. Just bear with me for a moment.

NAQT is a for-profit enterprise that focuses primarily on high school quizbowl, but they have a few projects in the college game. The company has a typical corporate structure, with question production being handled by employees who are hired every summer. These writers contribute to a large question pool, which is divided out into numbered question sets that are used in tournaments throughout the year. In general, NAQT questions are unusual in that they contain more geography, current events, and pop culture than the average question set. They also use shorter questions and sometimes use timed rounds for competitions.

In contrast, ACF is a nonprofit organization where players own the means of production. There are four ACF tournaments per year: Fall, Winter, Regionals, and Nationals. These tournaments each sit at a different difficulty level, and they each take place on one specific weekend of the quizbowl calendar. Instead of sourcing questions from employees, ACF uses a packet submission model. Teams are generally required to submit their own questions in order to participate. The editors of ACF take those submissions from the teams involved and compile them into a polished product.

To review our analogy, here are the main ways that ACF and NAQT differ from a socialist / capitalist perspective.



Speaking in broad terms, newer players generally prefer NAQT tournaments, while more experienced players tend to prefer ACF tournaments. NAQT's shorter questions and greater focus on more accessible topics like geography and pop culture give it a wider appeal. However, ACF's question sets are generally more consistent and adhere more strictly to good question writing practices. Perhaps the biggest difference in question styles besides length is that NAQT questions are less strict about adhering to the Rule of Themes. But none of this is to say that either organization is strictly better than the other. Everyone has their own preferences, and you will have to find out through experience which tournament style you prefer!


PACE is a quizbowl organization primarily focused on promoting quizbowl's growth. In our analogy, PACE is closer to the socialist side of things. PACE sponsors the majority of online quizbowl resources, including the Quizbowl Resource Center and the Quizbowl Packet Archive. PACE also supports quizbowl outreach, giving out funding and awards for successful work. PACE's biggest project of the year is a high school national championship called the NSC. NSC has an ACF-like distribution, which can be found here. Notably, the treasurer of PACE is current club adviser Mike Bentley. The VP of Outreach is PNW resident Colin McNamara, who occasionally communicates with our club and advises the team at Boise State.


Compared to the previous two organizations, IQBT is a newcomer to the quizbowl scene. It was created in 2018 to take over the production of NASAT, a high school all-star tournament that was previously run by the now-defunct organization HSAPQ. However, IQBT decided to branch out by creating the UCT, a new national tournament for undergrads, as well as some regular season high school questions. It looks like IQBT will be more similar to NAQT, but it is still early to say anything definitive.

High School Organizations

Knowledge Bowl

Knowledge Bowl is the most popular quiz competition organization in the states of Colorado and Washington. Knowledge Bowl dates back to the 1980s, and it comes from an era where academic competitions were far less rigorous. Knowledge Bowl matches are far shorter, less standardized, and unusually have 3 teams compete against each other at the same time. While Knowledge Bowl is certainly not quizbowl, the relationship between KB and quizbowl in the state has been relatively harmonious. Knowledge Bowl is very popular in Washington (especially in more rural areas), and it will probably continue to be for the foreseeable future. Most members of the current club have a Knowledge Bowl background.

IAC / History Bowl / NHBB

IAC is the parent company of NHBB, the National History Bee and Bowl. NHBB is a separate academic competition with similar popularity to quizbowl. Despite the name, NHBB also has questions on non-history subjects like literature, though it tries to focus on the "history" of those fields. The distribution for NHBB question sets can be found here and here. NHBB features an individual "Bee" component, as well as non-standard questions like "lightning rounds". However, History Bowl still adheres to many modern quizbowl practices like pyramidal difficulty. IAC runs a large number of academic competitions in addition to NHBB, including the International History Olympiad and the US Geography Championships. IAC is the most global of all of the organizations listed, as it runs events in not just the US and Canada, but also in locations in Europe and Asia.


AQBL is a relatively new organization that was founded during the pandemic to spread online quizbowl throughout the country. AQBL is most known for high school outreach; it is perhaps the most expansive quizbowl outreach operation that is active on a national scale. AQBL also produces question sets for regular season high school tournaments, similar to NAQT. AQBL uses a somewhat unusual sliding scale for its distribution, which weights certain categories more as the difficulty increases. The distribution for AQBL sets can be found here. The head of AQBL's outreach operation, Nic Pruitt, sometimes communicates with our club.

National Science Bowl / NSB

The National Science Bowl is an academic science competition funded by the Department of Energy. Unlike NHBB, Science Bowl does not adhere to modern quizbowl practices. The questions are considerably less rigorous, and computational math (which is not present in quizbowl) is a key component of the game. However, NSB has lots of reach (in part due to its government funding) and continues to be popular in high schools across the country. There is also a less mainstream Science Bowl competition called Prometheus Science, which is associated with the Effective Altruism movement. This competition has gained attention due to its large cash prizes, and it may become a more popular competition in time. Science Bowl is also loosely associated with more specific science competitions, like the National Ocean Science Bowl (referred to as "Orca Bowl" in the state of Washington).