Official Rules


    These rules were last updated on September 14, 2022.

    1. Governance
      1. Buzzword is overseen by one or more committees of NAQT staff. The composition and decision-making processes of such committees are at NAQT’s discretion.
      2. Decisions about Buzzword—including, but not limited to, what games to offer and when; billing; answer judging; and the resolution of protests, technical issues, misconduct, and all other situations—are solely at the discretion of NAQT and not subject to appeal in any venue (beyond the protest process).
    2. Equipment
      1. Buzzword games are played on a computer, smartphone, tablet, or other device with a screen, speakers (or headphones), a method of text entry (voice recognition is not recommended), an Internet connection, and a reasonably modern web browser.
      2. Players are responsible for their own equipment, including compatibility, functionality, and reliability. There is generally no remedy for technical problems due to the player’s equipment or situation.
      3. All time zones pertaining to Buzzword are United States Central time, with daylight savings time when observed in the United States.
    3. Players
      1. Players must meet the Eligibility Rules for the division they play in.
      2. Players must be at least 13 years of age.
      3. Players must use their own account to play. This entails compliance with the Terms of Use.
      4. All players are presumed to be responsible individuals and will be treated as such.
    4. Questions
      1. Each game uses tossup questions (or just “questions”) worth up to 20 points each, depending on when a correct answer is given, with earlier correct answers worth more points. No points or penalty are awarded for incorrect answers.
      2. Celerity is the fraction of the question that had not been read at the time of a buzz (for which a correct answer was provided). 1.000 is an immediate buzz, .500 is an answer given halfway through the question in terms of time on the sound recording, and .000 is an answer given at the very end.
      3. The judging of buzz timing and celerity, and the awarding of points, are solely at the discretion of NAQT.
      4. Games typically consist of 10, 48, or 50 questions. Games of other lengths may be offered.
      5. There are no overtime questions. Players are ranked by their total points, with ties broken by their average celerity on questions they answered correctly.
    5. Time
      1. When a player buzzes in, the question stops immediately and the player has 15 seconds to provide an answer. If time expires before the player submits their answer, the portion they have completed (if any) will be judged.
      2. If a question is completely read and the player has not yet buzzed in, they will be asked for an answer and have 15 seconds to provide one. In other words, when a question ends the player is considered to have buzzed in exactly at the end. The player may skip the question at this time.
      3. Each game is available for a specific period of time (typically several days) and must be played entirely within that period. There are generally no refunds for unplayed games. NAQT makes a best effort to send reminders to registered players when a game begins and on the last day to play (for players who have not yet played), but there is no remedy for failure to receive a reminder.
      4. If a player starts a game but does not finish it, the player may be awarded 0 points for each question not answered (and the game otherwise treated as having been finished).
      5. It is not necessary to play a game in a single sitting—the player may take a break of any length at any time, subject to the rules about finishing games in time and the treatment of unfinished games.
    6. Correct Answers
      1. To receive credit, a response must indicate accurate (correct) and precise (unambiguous) knowledge of the answer.
      2. To be considered accurate, a response must generally be compatible with every clue in the question. Some questions may allow alternative answers that are to be considered accurate at various points in the question (e.g., accept Arthur Wellesley before “Wellesley”).
      3. A player will never have a chance to revise their answer, even if it is correct but imprecise. That is, there is no prompting as there is in face-to-face quiz bowl.
      4. Some questions are accompanied by an instruction that appears on the screen. Often, the instructions accompany questions where answers that are not specific enough would be prompted for a more specific answer in face-to-face quiz bowl, such as requiring a first and last name for people whose last name is shared with other prominent people.
        1. Except as described below, a response must follow the instruction to be considered correct.
        2. If a portion of an acceptable answer appears in the question text at or before the point at which the player buzzed and the player’s response supplies the missing portion of that acceptable answer, then that response will be accepted even if it does not follow the instruction. For example, if a question lists Catherine the Great as a correct answer and the question ends in For 10 points—what Russian empress was nicknamed “the Great”?, a response of Catherine given after “Great” has been read will be accepted even if the question had an instruction saying Name and regnal number or nickname required.
        3. The Buzzword judging and protest committee may, at its sole discretion, accept a response that does not follow the instruction if the committee determines that the response demonstrates accurate and precise knowledge of the answer at the time at which the player buzzed.
      5. If a player gives multiple answers, only the first one will be evaluated, except for multiple-answer questions and situations enumerated below.
        1. Anything a player gives following the first response will be ignored unless it is acting to make the first answer more specific. For example, if a player gives Nixon, Watergate, the answer Nixon will be judged. If a player gives Nixon, Fred, it will be judged as 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 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). Harmless or inadvertent embellishment of responses will not be penalized, so long as the embellishment does not make the response wrong.
      6. 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 for John Quincy Adams, as it creates confusion with the full name of his presidential father.)
      7. All answers must be given in Latin script (i.e., the alphabet used for English, inclusive of accented characters/diacritics and punctuation marks) and/or numerals (Arabic and/or Roman). Phonetic and systematic transliterations of terms from non-Latin scripts into Latin script are generally acceptable, as are translations into English (assuming they meet the other acceptability criteria). Answers in other scripts, emoji, etc., are not acceptable.
    7. Protests
      1. A protest is a request for correction of a possible error. Appropriate subject matter for protests includes…
        1. The proper evaluation of a response (e.g., “The response of CSS Virginia should have been accepted.”),
        2. The correctness of the clues in a question (e.g., “There was no correct answer to that question because the clues were contradictory.”),
        3. The proper application of game rules, or
        4. A technical issue that is believed to be the fault of NAQT or any technology or infrastructure controlled by NAQT.
      2. Factual protests are those in the first two categories. Procedural protests are those in the latter two.
      3. Protests may not be lodged over other topics (e.g., “The subject matter of that question is inappropriate.”)
      4. A protest may only be lodged by the player of the game to which it applies.
      5. Protests must be lodged through the mechanism on NAQT’s website.
      6. Players are required to give an explanation for their protest.
        1. The explanation should identify the specific fact, rule, or circumstances in question.
        2. The explanation should cite one or more reliable sources or specific rules. The player should not rely on the protest committee to do extensive additional research beyond information provided by the player (but the protest committee may choose to do so).
        3. The explanation should not include the player’s name or any other identifying information.
      7. All protests must be made within a designated time period. NAQT makes a best effort to send reminders to registered players when the window for protesting will be ending soon, but there is no remedy for failure to receive a reminder, nor for failure to protest in time for any reason.
      8. The issue underlying a procedural protest must have a concrete and quantifiable effect on the game. Unquantifiable factors (e.g., “The error in a previous question destroyed my momentum for the rest of the game”) are not protestable.
      9. If a protest is upheld, points may be awarded (or, rarely, removed) accordingly. In the common case of an answer originally being ruled incorrect but turning out to be correct, this would be the number of points based on the timing of the buzz. In some cases, such as questions with contradictory clues, the player may be awarded a different number of points based on their performance or average performances on that question and/or in the game. There are no replacement questions in Buzzword.
      10. When considering factual protests, the following remedies will be applied:
        1. If the clues of a question contain a verifiable factual error which misled a player into giving a response, the response given will be accepted as correct only if the information available when the player buzzed uniquely identified the given response. If no answer is consistent with all available information, the player will be awarded their average correct celerity, the number of points corresponding to their average celerity on questions they answered correctly in that game.
        2. If the clues of a question contain a verifiable factual error which misled a player into giving no response, the player will be awarded their average correct celerity.
        3. If the clues of a question (at the point at which a player buzzed) do not uniquely specify an answer and the player gave an answer different than the one that was intended, then the resolution is based on when the buzz occurred:
          1. If the player buzzed prior to the end of the first sentence of the question, the response shall be evaluated as if the buzz had occurred at the end of the first sentence. That is, a protest that an answer during the first sentence was “correct when the player buzzed” will be unsuccessful if the rest of the first sentence would have ruled out that answer, but will be successful if the rest of the first sentence failed to rule out that answer.
          2. If the player buzzed after the end of the first sentence, the response shall be accepted if it is correct (for all the clues that had been read) and precise.
      11. A remedy will be provided for technical issues only if NAQT has good reason to believe the issue was NAQT’s fault or involved infrastructure controlled by NAQT.
    8. Communication
      1. Buzzword is an individual game. Players may not collaborate or communicate with any other person during gameplay for any reason.
      2. It is not permitted to combine efforts to play Buzzword with another person. Players must play separately, but are welcome to use features such as leagues to share and compare results.
      3. Question content (such as, but not limited to, answers, clues, and themes) may not be shared or discussed with any person, nor communicated in any way, until the gameplay period has closed (i.e., when no person could play the game, not just when any particular player has finished playing). The sole exception is that it is permitted to communicate with NAQT staff about protests via the protest process. Once the game is no longer available for playing, question content may be freely discussed in any medium, including the Buzzword Community group on Facebook.
      4. Information about Buzzword that is not question content, such as total scores and ranks, may be shared at any time.
    9. Additional Documents
      1. The NAQT Correctness Guidelines are incorporated, except for the portions that would not make sense (e.g., portions related to bonuses, portions related to answers given orally). This document defines “accurate and precise answers” in several specific contexts (e.g., real people, fictional characters, chemical elements). NAQT questions are written in accordance with these guidelines, and protests are resolved using them as guidance.
      2. The Buzzword Answer-Judging Guidelines are incorporated. These describe answer acceptability for the particular context of Buzzword, especially in the sense of answers being submitted in writing rather than orally.
      3. The Buzzword Eligibility Rules are incorporated. That document itself refers to several additional documents for different divisions.
      4. The Guide to Technical and Audio Issues describes and governs the handling of such issues.
      5. Since Buzzword requires the use of an account, the Terms of Use are incorporated.
    10. Ethics and Conduct
      1. All players are bound by an honor code to behave responsibly and ethically. This includes, but is not limited to, treating all players and NAQT staff with courtesy, neither giving nor receiving impermissible assistance, not creating the temptation for another to cheat, abiding by all decisions of NAQT staff, not colluding with another person to “fix” a result, not intentionally “throwing” a result, honestly reporting details of game situations to NAQT staff, and promptly reporting violations of this honor code to NAQT staff.
      2. During gameplay, players may not make use of communication devices (such as phones or computers) for any purpose other than answering, nor may they consult reference materials or communicate with any other person in any fashion. “Gameplay” means any time after a question’s audio has begun playing but before the answer has been submitted; time between questions is not considered gameplay for the purpose of this rule.
      3. If NAQT finds that a player committed misconduct, it may sanction the player in any fashion such as, but not limited to, voiding results, banning the player from Buzzword, banning the player from standard NAQT quiz bowl, reporting the incident to organizations the player is associated with, and/or reporting the incident to other quiz bowl organizations. The same applies to any other person involved with the misconduct or who was aware of the misconduct without reporting it.
      4. Concerns about possible violations of this section should be reported to promptly.