Quiz Bowl Jobs

NAQT is always looking for new writers to assist in the production of our questions. We can use questions in any subject area and at any difficulty level, though we are particularly in need of additional writers of high school questions. Previous experience writing questions in our style is helpful, but not necessary for acceptance.

NAQT currently pays $3.30 per tossup question and $2.45 per bonus question accepted by its editors for use in tournaments. There is a 50% bonus for high-school- or middle-school-difficulty questions in certain subjects (typically mathematics, most physical sciences, the social sciences, philosophy, and vocational topics), and there is a 10% bonus for questions (in any subject) used at or above regular high school difficulty.

Players who currently compete in tournaments using NAQT questions are encouraged to become writers themselves; NAQT tracks the author of each submission to make sure writers do not hear their own questions at tournaments. Writers who are still playing may choose to write questions for other levels of play (e.g., college players could write for high school tournaments) or we can stockpile their questions for use after they graduate.

Writing for NAQT is the way many people enter the organization. Most of our current editors, and a number of our members, started out as writers for NAQT.

NAQT requires prospective writers to submit 10 sample questions (at least three tossups and at least three bonuses, with more than three of at least one of those so that the total is 10 questions) to our editors. After your writing sample is evaluated by a committee of NAQT members, you may be offered a renewable one-year contract to work for NAQT as a question writer.

These 10 questions should contain both tossups and bonuses and should reflect the subject matter you plan to write. If you don’t like literature, don’t write literature questions. If you love history, write history questions. We want to evaluate you on the material you know best. One benefit of being a writer for NAQT is not having to write questions in categories you don’t know well. Alternatively, you can opt to write questions in categories you don’t know in order to improve as a player.

It is expected that applicants will have experience playing or coaching quiz bowl. In general, successful applicants writers have had at least two years of experience as a player or coach. Please see samples of recent questions to get a feel for NAQT’s preferred style.

Tossup Questions

A tossup is a question read to both teams; a player who buzzes in and answers correctly earns points for his or her team.

  1. A tossup should be three to four sentences long and contain at least six to eight specific, interesting clues that uniquely identify the answer. Please avoid vague clues (such as “this artist was known for the use of vivid color”) and clues that primarily reward memorization of reference sources. (Biographical clues about birth and education, such as “this philosopher was born near Leipzig in 1844,” usually fall into this unhelpful category.)

  2. Place your clues in pyramidal order. The most difficult clues belong at the beginning of the tossup, and the easiest at the end. Remember that the purpose of the tossup is to reward the player who has the most knowledge about the subject of the question.

  3. Indicate to the players what kind of answer the question is looking for. The first sentence of your tossup should unambiguously indicate the type of response being sought: “this author,” “this battle,” “this experiment.”

Bonus Questions

A bonus question is read to the team whose player successfully answered a tossup. Each bonus is a set of 3 questions (“parts”) worth 10 points each.

  1. Bonus parts should be complete sentences containing two or three substantive clues indicating the correct answer.

  2. The three parts of a bonus should be at three distinct difficulty settings. Each bonus should have an “easy,” a “middle,” and a “hard” part. You should write your bonuses with the expectation that 85–90 percent of teams that hear it will be able to answer the “easy” part, around 50 percent of teams will be able to answer the “middle” part, and 10–15 percent of teams will be able to answer the “hard” part.

  3. Most of NAQT’s bonus questions use one of two styles:

    • Three items from a common set. For example:
      For 10 points each--name these Stuart monarchs:
    • Narrative style, in which the introductory section of the bonus gives additional clues. In this style, “For 10 points each” appears at the end of the first sentence. For example:
      He was beheaded in January 1649. For 10 points each--

      A.    Name this Stuart king whose forces lost the English Civil War.

Please proofread your questions to make sure that both tossups and bonuses are factually accurate and grammatically correct. Send your questions as an unformatted text file to application@naqt.com.

NAQT’s editors aim to review all submissions and respond with comments within 30–45 days. Questions submitted for evaluation must be clean questions that have not been shown to anybody active, or planning to become active, in organized trivia competitions at any level.

NAQT has a corporate style sheet and set of guidelines on writing alternate answers, pronunciation guides, and the like. We don’t require that writers follow it with their original submissions, but it will be required of those accepted as writers. Expect to adopt some different conventions when writing for NAQT.

Although it falls outside the realm of requirements per se, NAQT has prepared some suggestions for prospective applicants. We suggest you read them and incorporate them into your application.

If you have any questions about this process, feel free to contact NAQT at application@naqt.com.