Official NAQT Rules

(Copyright © 2010 NAQT)

Download a printable PDF copy of these rules.

  1. General Information

    1. Official NAQT rules are maintained at:
      This version is current as of August 1, 2010.

    2. These rules are written for Official NAQT tournaments, but are available free of charge for other events (including those not using NAQT questions) provided that:

      1. The rules are identified as NAQT rules.

      2. The tournament is not advertised as an official NAQT event, though it may bill itself as an NAQT-style tournament or as an Unofficial Event if NAQT questions are being used but the complete requirements of an Official Event are not met.

      3. Any variations from the official NAQT rules are announced before the tournament begins.

      4. NAQT is notified within ten days after the end of the event of the tournament name and date, and any rule variations used.

    3. If you would like to use these rules given the conditions stated above, or under other circumstances, please contact NAQT at or by mail at 11521 W. 69th Street; Shawnee, KS 66203-3749.

  2. Tournament Officials

    1. All decisions of the tournament director are final.

    2. The term "tournament director" includes the director's designated agents or committees.

    3. Each game will have a moderator. The moderator will read the questions, enforce time limits, supervise the clock, determine the correctness of answers, award and deduct points, and otherwise enforce the rules of competition.

    4. Other officials may be provided to assist the moderator with his or her duties including, but not limited to, keeping a running score, recognizing, and supervising the clock.

    5. The moderator may consult with other game officials at any time to determine the correctness of an answer or the proper application of these rules. If the moderator and other game officials disagree, the final decision rests with the moderator.

  3. Equipment

    1. Matches should be played with a lockout system ("buzzer"), electronic equipment which determines which player signals first. Should no working lockout systems be available, tournament officials may require players to signal by other means (such as slapping the table).

    2. In the absence of a fully functional lockout system, teams may agree to use a partially working lockout system. If either team objects, the game will be played or resumed without a lockout system.

    3. If a game is played without a fully functional lockout system, a designated official (who might be the moderator) will be the final judge of which player signaled first. These determinations are not protestable.

    4. If a player objects to using a working lockout system because of religious or other reasons, the player may signal in a suitable manner, and a designated official will be the final judge of which player signaled first. These determinations are not protestable.

    5. Each player is responsible for monitoring whether his or her own signaling device is operating properly throughout a match. If a signaling device malfunctions, only the current tossup or the just completed tossup can be replayed, subject to the moderator's ruling that the malfunction affected play of that question.

    6. Matches should use a clock clearly visible to both teams, preferably one with an alarm that will sound at the end of the half.

  4. Participants

    1. All participants are presumed to be responsible individuals and will be treated as such. Players and schools are responsible for any liability arising from their conduct while at the tournament, or while traveling to or from such events.

    2. A team consists of any number of players who meet all eligibility rules. However, no more than four of a team's players may be actively competing at any one time. Teams may play short, with a minimum of one player.

    3. No player may play for two different teams in the course of a tournament.

    4. Each team will designate a captain prior to the beginning of each match. The captain has precedence when answering bonus questions and is expected to be the primary student spokesperson for the team. If no explicit designation is made, the moderator may infer the captaincy from team behavior on bonus questions or in other situations. A team may change its captain at halftime, during a timeout by either team, or before the first overtime question.

    5. A team may substitute one or more players at halftime, during a timeout by either team, or before the first overtime question. Players substituted for may re-enter the game at a later opportunity.

    6. A coach is a person who acts in a recognized advisory role to a particular team. A coach may not be a player for any team in the tournament. A team can have an unlimited number of coaches or no coach, but only one may be designated the official coach prior to each match. A team may change its official coach at halftime, during a timeout, or before the first overtime question. A person may act as a coach, official or otherwise, for any number of teams. If a team has only a single coach, that person will be assumed to be the official coach.

  5. Questions

    1. Each game uses tossup questions worth 10 points each (or 15 points if answered before the power mark), and bonus questions worth 30 points each.

    2. A team receives a bonus question for each tossup question correctly answered by one of its players (except in overtime).

  6. Time

    1. The tournament director may declare that a team has forfeited a match should it fail to appear in time, or if the team is otherwise unable or unwilling to compete in accordance with the tournament's rules.

    2. A game consists of two timed halves or until all of the tossup questions provided for the game have been read, whichever comes first. If the score is tied at the end of the game, an additional overtime period will be played.

      1. Intercollegiate matches will use 10-minute halves.

      2. All other matches will use 9-minute halves.

    3. The clock starts when the moderator begins reading the first tossup question.

    4. When the clock sounds the end of time, the half or game shall end with the conclusion of the current tossup-bonus cycle. In particular:

      1. If the moderator has just finished a bonus question or an unanswered tossup question and has not yet begun the next tossup, then the half or game is over. A tossup is considered to have been begun when the first syllable of the actual question is read. Preliminary statements (e.g., "Here's the next tossup" or "Tossup 23") do not count as having started the tossup.

      2. If the moderator is reading a tossup question, then he or she shall continue reading it, giving both teams a chance to answer, and their full time allotment to signal. If the tossup is answered correctly, that team will earn a bonus question. If the tossup goes unanswered, then the half or game is over.

      3. If the moderator is reading a bonus question, then the half or game shall end when that bonus has been completed.

      4. A team will be read its entire bonus question, even if time expires during the bonus or before the bonus is begun.

    5. The team with more points at the end of the game wins. If the score is tied:

      1. An off-the-clock overtime period consisting of three tossup questions will follow. These tossup questions are scored normally (including power points and interrupt penalties), and bonuses are not used in overtime. These tossups will be read from the original set (if unread questions remain) or may be obtained from the tournament director.

      2. If the score is still tied after three tossups, the moderator will read tossup questions until the score changes. These tossups will be read from the original set (if unread questions remain) or may be obtained from the tournament director. The game ends immediately if a team receives a penalty for interrupting a question with an incorrect answer.

    6. The clock shall not stop, except:

      1. When a timeout is called.

      2. When stopped by a game official to resolve a serious problem; to discipline, warn, or eject a player; to replace a question; or to acquire replacement questions when necessary.

      3. At the end of the half.

    7. Each team has one 30-second timeout per game. Timeouts do not carry over from game to game, nor are teams given additional timeouts in overtime periods.

      1. Only an active player or official coach may call a timeout. A timeout is called by saying "timeout" or "time."

      2. A timeout may be called only before the beginning of a tossup question. Once a tossup-bonus cycle has begun, a team cannot call a timeout for the duration of that cycle.

      3. Game officials will ignore any attempt to call a timeout at any other time, unless they consider such an attempt unsporting behavior.

      4. Game officials will also ignore any attempt to call a timeout by a team that has already called one. Repeated or disruptive attempts to call additional timeouts may be considered game-delaying tactics and result in a player's warning or ejection.

    8. The timepiece used by the game officials is the official time and is not protestable.

  7. Tossups

    1. A player may signal to answer a tossup question at any point after the moderator has begun reading the question. Only one player per team may signal to answer each tossup.

    2. When a player has signaled, a game official will acknowledge ("recognize") the player by name, by number, by pointing toward the player, or merely by looking at the player. There is no penalty if a player who has signaled answers before being acknowledged.

    3. If a player signals before the moderator has finished reading the question, the moderator will stop at that point. If the response given is incorrect, the moderator will finish the question for the other team only (if it is still eligible to answer the question). The moderator need not reread the entire question, but should resume at a natural point in the question.

    4. An answer to a tossup must begin within 2 seconds after the player has been recognized. An answer begun after the moderator has said "Time" will be treated as no answer. Ties between the player and the moderator are decided in favor of the player.

    5. Players have 3 seconds to signal after the moderator has finished reading the tossup. If the player answers incorrectly, the other team (if it is eligible to answer), will then have 3 more seconds to signal. Some questions may permit more time, which will be noted specifically by the question.

    6. Computation tossups (marked by text that begins "Pencil and paper ready") have slightly different timing rules: Teams have 10 seconds (not 3) to ring in after the moderator finishes the question. If the first team signals before the end of the question, the second team will have the full 10 seconds to signal after the reading of the question is completed. If the first team signals after the end of the question, the moderator will allow whatever time remained of the initial 10 seconds (or 3 seconds, whichever is greater) for the second team to signal. Despite this additional time, players still have only 2 seconds to give their answer after signaling on a computation tossup. If a computation tossup specifies a different time limit than 10 seconds, that time limit shall be used instead.

    7. Decisions as to whether players have exceeded the allotted time to signal or to answer may be rendered only by the game officials of a given match and are not protestable.

    8. Each tossup question is worth 10 points. In addition, tossups have "power marks" (noted with an asterisk). A player earns 15 points for a correct answer to a tossup if the player signals before the moderator has completed the first syllable after the mark. The moment of judgment is when the player signals, not when the moderator stops reading, so it is critical that moderators stop instantly once they hear a signal. Ties between the player and the moderator are decided in favor of the player. The decision to award power points is not protestable.

    9. There is a 5-point penalty if the first team interrupts a tossup with an incorrect response. A subsequent incorrect interrupt by the second team does not result in another penalty; only one 5-point penalty may occur per question. The second team may still earn 15 points with a sufficiently early signal. Players may earn 15 points on power tossups at any point in the game, including overtime.

    10. If a player who was not the first to signal gives an answer:

      1. The moderator will ignore the answer (even if it is correct), and will recognize the player on the other team who had actually signaled. Only that player will have a chance to answer, as the non-signaler has disqualified his team on that tossup by illegal conferral.

      2. If the player who answers is a teammate of the first player to signal, the moderator will treat the response as an incorrect answer from that team, assess a 5-point penalty to the player who answered (if appropriate) and turn the question over to the other team, if appropriate. Note that any penalty is applied to the player who answered, not the player who signaled.

      3. If a player answers because an official incorrectly identified who signaled first, the question must be replaced.

    11. If the moderator inadvertently reveals the answer to a question after one team has given an incorrect answer, but before the other team has had a chance to answer, the moderator will read a tossup for the second team only, off the clock. If neither team has had a chance to answer, the tossup is thrown out and replaced off the clock. The clock is turned back on for a bonus.

    12. Players may engage in non-verbal, non-written conferral with teammates (not alternates, coaches, or spectators) on tossup questions, provided that the conferring does not convey any information about the substance of the answer. In other words, players may hold their signaling devices forward, gesticulate, or otherwise indicate that they know the answer, but cannot indicate in any manner what they believe the answer to be, nor can they communicate with teammates verbally or in writing. Illegal conferring on a tossup question will be treated as an incorrect answer.

  8. Bonuses

    1. Teams may confer on bonuses. It is recommended that the captain give the answer for the team or clearly indicate who will give the answer. The moderator, however, will take the first answer unambiguously directed at him or her. If conflicting answers are directed at the moderator, the captain will be asked to choose the team's answer. The determination of whether an answer was directed at the moderator is unprotestable.

    2. A team has 5 seconds to answer each part of a bonus question, unless otherwise noted by the question. After reading each part, the moderator will prompt the team for an answer after 4 seconds. Once prompted, someone on that team must begin answering, or the captain must immediately designate the person who will answer.

    3. A team may begin its answer before the end of a bonus question. In such cases, the moderator stops reading when the team begins its answer. If the bonus contains another part, the moderator then asks the next part. This happens even if the part asks for more than one piece of information and the team gives only one; a risk of answering the bonus while it is being read is that a team might miss the fact that it is asking for multiple pieces of information.

    4. If the bonus question contains multiple parts, a team may answer only the part that is being read. Any "introduction" (e.g., "For 10 points each--given a Vice President of the United States, name the President under whom he served.") belongs to the first part of the question.

    5. If a bonus question calls for multiple answers, the answer must be given as a continuous list. Any pause of 1 second ends the answer. The moderator will not prompt a team to complete its answer if it gives a partial list.

    6. On progressive bonuses, with three clues to a single answer ("30-20-10" questions), a team may answer after each part. On list bonuses that call for a specific order, the moderator matches the first given answer to the first correct answer, the second to the second, etc., to determine correctness. If a bonus calls for no specific order for multiple answers, a team may give the answers in any order.

    7. If a moderator inadvertently reveals the answer to a bonus or to part of a bonus before the team has answered, the next bonus will be read, instead. However, the team may not earn more or fewer points on the replacement bonus than would have been possible with completion of the original bonus. For example: a team earns 10 points on a three-part bonus before the moderator botches the third part; the team will get a replacement bonus, but will receive a minimum of 10 points, even if it actually scores only 5 on the replacement bonus, and a maximum of 20, even if it answers every part correctly. Such replacement bonuses are read off the clock.

    8. If a team receives an anomalous bonus valued at less than 30 points, it may request a replacement. If they choose to keep the lesser valued bonus at the time of play, it will stand. A request for a replacement must be made as soon as it becomes apparent that the bonus is not worth 30 points.

    9. If a team receives an anomalous bonus valued at more than 30 points, it must be replaced as soon as it becomes apparent that the bonus is not worth 30 points.

  9. Correct Answers

    1. To receive credit, a response must indicate accurate ("correct") and precise ("unambiguous") knowledge of the correct answer. The moderator's question sheet will also list acceptable alternate answers. The minimal information for a correct answer is underlined (e.g. Abraham Lincoln or An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations).

    2. If a player gives an answer that demonstrates accurate, relevant knowledge, but is ambiguous, the moderator will prompt by saying something like "more information, please" (e.g., a player says Roosevelt, and the answer sought is Eleanor Roosevelt.) Unless otherwise noted by the question, the moderator will not state what type of information is sought by the prompt (e.g., it would be inappropriate for the moderator to say "I need a first name.") On a multiple-answer bonus, however, the moderator should indicate which part of the answer is ambiguous. A moderator may prompt more than once so long as each additional clarification by the player demonstrates correct, but still ambiguous, knowledge.

    3. A player who has been prompted on a bonus may quickly check with a teammate for the further information, or simply designate that person to give the additional information, so long as it is not done in an unsporting attempt to delay the game. This may not be done on a tossup.

    4. The moderator will accept only the first answer given by a player, except for multiple answer questions and situations enumerated below.

      1. Anything a player says following the first response will be ignored unless it is acting to make the first answer more specific. For example, if a player says Nixon, Watergate, the moderator will consider only Nixon. If a player says Nixon, Fred, then the moderator will consider Fred Nixon. Similarly, matter, cold dark, is treated the same as cold dark matter.

      2. Modifying words before the first noun of a response are, of course, considered as one answer with the noun.

      3. Extraneous information preceding a response is disregarded (e.g., What is a wombat? or They're all Californians), unless the moderator determines that the extraneous information was given in an unsporting attempt to delay the game, in which case the response is treated as incorrect (in addition to any other penalty for misconduct). Harmless or inadvertent embellishment of responses will not be penalized, so long as the embellishment does not make the response wrong.

    5. If a question has multiple answers, a player may give multiple responses so long as there is at most a 1-second pause in between. Some questions with multiple answers will require all of the responses to be correct for any points to be awarded, others will award points for each correct response. The text of the question will explain how points are to be awarded.

    6. Multiple responses are permissible under these situations:

      1. The created works rule (defined below).

      2. Director-movie.

      3. City (or specific location)-state (or equivalent)-country (or equivalent), in any combination.

      4. When called for by the question.

    7. The created works rule:

      1. For created works, the player may give the name of the work and its creator in either order. For example, Shakespeare's The Tempest, The Tempest by William Shakespeare, and The Tempest, Shakespeare would all be acceptable.

      2. The created works rule applies to works that are created by individual humans, corporations, groups, or computers, such as books, pamphlets, essays, stories, plays, scientific theorems and theories, inventions, products, compositions, artwork, and musical compositions, but not movies. This rule also includes architectural work-architect, choreographer (or composer)-work of dance, librettist-libretto (or opera). Being able to copyright or patent the product usually establishes this rule (except for movies).

      3. The link between creator and created work must be obvious. One may not use this rule for instances in which the creation is a multi-faceted effort (though one such circumstance, director-movie, is separately acceptable).

    8. In rare cases, an otherwise acceptable answer may be ruled incorrect when it creates ambiguity with another plausible answer (e.g., even though first and last names are almost always sufficient, John Adams would not be acceptable--or promptable--for John Quincy Adams, as it creates confusion with the full name of his presidential father.)

    9. At the end of each tossup question or bonus part, the moderator will read the correct answer if no one correctly answered. The moderator may wait until the end of the half if the answer is long or complicated. If both teams agree, the moderator may be directed to refrain from reading the correct answers. This decision must be made at the beginning of a half or during a timeout, and may be revoked at the request of either team at halftime or during a timeout.

    10. If the moderator determines that a response was given in an unsporting manner (e.g., to delay the game or insult an opponent), the moderator shall issue a warning or ejection to the player and shall also rule the response incorrect.

    11. Though not part of the official rules per se, NAQT maintains, as a separate document, Correctness Guidelines that define "accurate and precise answers" in several specific contexts (e.g., real people, fictional characters, elements). NAQT questions will be written in accordance with these guidelines, and protests at Official NAQT events will be resolved using them as guidance.

  10. Protests

    1. Protests may be lodged only by an active player or by the official coach at the end of a half, the end of the game, or during a timeout. All protests about events in the first half must be lodged before the second half begins. All protests about events in the second half must be made within 5 minutes of the end of the game and before the protesting team leaves the game room. The only protest that may be lodged while the clock is running is that the moderator has just accepted a tossup answer from a player other than the one who has signaled.

    2. Active players and official coaches may indicate their intention to protest during a match by quickly saying "protest" after an answer or action they deem to be incorrect. So long as this does not disrupt or delay the game, the moderator should acknowledge the intent (by saying "noted") and continue with the match. The nature of the protest should be taken up at half-time or at the end of the game.

    3. The person making the protest should briefly explain the nature of the protest to the moderator, other game officials, and a representative of the other team. Protestable matters include the acceptability of an answer, the execution of game procedures, scoring errors, insufficient prompting, excessive underlining, and like factors that have a concrete and quantifiable effect on the game.

    4. If a question contains a verifiable factual error which misled a player into giving a reasonable response, the response given will be accepted as correct only if the information available when the player signaled uniquely identified the given response. Otherwise, the question will be replaced as if the moderator had prematurely revealed the answer.

    5. If a question contains a verifiable factual error which misled a player into giving no response (leading either to an unanswered question or a question answered by the opposing team), the question will be replaced.

    6. If a player gives an incorrect response to an interrupted tossup before the question has uniquely identified any answer (including the correct one) the response will be treated as incorrect. Players may not protest that they gave an answer that was "correct when they buzzed" if their answer was not uniquely specified by the clues at the time that they signaled.

    7. Technical protests, such as an incorrect score, as well as protests that can be quickly resolved, may be handled by the staff in the affected game. Insofar as possible, the game must not be delayed because of protests. Similarly, while protests may be lodged during timeouts, protests will not be adjudicated until the end of the half, except in exceptional situations in which the moderator decides the problem can be quickly corrected within the 30-second timeout period.

    8. NAQT strives to ensure that every tossup question will have a power mark; in the anomalous event that a tossup question is missing a power mark, its absence (or its argued effect on the game) is not protestable.

    9. For protests lodged in the first half, game officials should try to quickly resolve the protest to both teams' satisfaction. If this cannot be done, the protest will be deferred to the end of the second half. No protest(s) will be adjudicated unless it (they) could change the outcome of the match. For example, if one team loses by 50 points and protests a 10 point bonus answer, the protest will not be considered. If the game officials are unable to resolve a protest quickly to both teams' satisfaction, the protest may be appealed to the tournament director.

    10. The tournament director may resolve a protest with or without a protest committee, depending upon the protest (e.g., one that simply requires verifying the correctness of an answer with a reference source). If the tournament director gives a decision, it is final.

    11. The tournament director may choose to convene a protest committee by selecting three or more tournament staff (which may include the tournament director) not involved with the game. The committee's decision is final.

    12. If a protest is upheld, the remedy is to restore the game to its condition had the error not been made. Thus, all points erroneously awarded or not awarded shall be removed or added. If a team was incorrectly credited with a tossup, both the tossup points and any bonus points will be removed. If the other team was not given a chance to answer the tossup, it shall hear a replacement tossup and, if answered correctly, a bonus.

  11. Ethics and Conduct

    1. All players, coaches, institutional representatives, and other persons associated with a team are bound by an honor code to behave responsibly and ethically. This includes, but is not limited to: treating all other participants and staff with courtesy, neither giving nor receiving impermissible assistance, not creating the temptation for another to cheat, abiding by all decisions of the tournament staff, not colluding with another person to "fix" a match result, not intentionally "throwing" a match, honestly reporting details of game situations to tournament officials, and promptly reporting violations of this honor code to a tournament staff member.

    2. Any tournament official may find that a player, coach, institutional representative, or other person associated with a team during the tournament has committed misconduct. Misconduct includes disruptive behavior, unethical behavior, any violation of the honor code, or other unsporting conduct. Officials may interpret these categories broadly. Teams are responsible for the conduct of all persons associated with that team.

    3. All instances of misconduct must be reported to the tournament director at the conclusion of the game, or as soon as practical.

    4. Instances of misconduct may result in sanctions to be determined by the tournament director. These sanctions include, but are not limited to, suspension of a participant from one or more matches, loss of game(s) for a team, score or clock adjustment, or expulsion of an entire team from the tournament.

    5. Unless the tournament director decides otherwise, other staff may not impose sanctions, except that a moderator must eject from a game any person found to have committed misconduct a second time during that game (i.e., a tournament director may give the staff greater powers to sanction than this minimum.) A player ejected from a game may not be replaced during that game.

    6. For official NAQT events, the tournament director must, following the tournament, report all instances of misconduct to NAQT. These instances, as well as instances of misconduct occurring outside the tournament site, may result in sanctions to be determined by NAQT.

    7. Sanctions are not appealable.