How is Quiz Bowl Different from Knowledge Bowl?

Some players, particularly those who currently attend or have graduated from Colorado high schools, may be more familiar with Knowledge Bowl. While quiz bowl is in the same general category as Knowledge Bowl (both are buzzer-based academic competitions), the formats are very different.


Knowledge Bowl features shorter questions, usually two or three sentences. In quiz bowl, the questions are generally longer–around a paragraph—and the clues are listed from hardest to easiest (more here). This means that if a player knows more about a given subject, they can buzz in before a player with less knowledge. For example, a player who has studied several of Tchaikovsky’s works is more likely to get a question on him than someone who has only heard of the 1812 Overture. With shorter questions, the more knowledgeable player will frequently be beaten in a buzzer race.

Bonus questions are another defining feature of quiz bowl. When a team answers a tossup, they are asked three short questions (all related to the same subject), with 5 seconds to collaborate on each one. Bonuses generally consist of an easy part, a medium part, and a hard part. This is designed to reward teams for the depth of their knowledge.

Match format

In Knowledge Bowl, three teams play each other at once. In quiz bowl, each match is a face-off between two teams.


In Knowledge Bowl, everything is 1 point. If a question is answered correctly after the first word, it’s worth 1 point. If someone gets it right after all other teams buzz and miss it, it’s still 1 point. In quiz bowl, if a player answers a toss-up before the power-mark (a pre-designated point in the question), their team earns an 15 points instead of the usual 10. This mechanic rewards players for their depth of knowledge.

Correctly answering a tossup earns a team a bonus—three questions worth 10 points each. This allows a team to earn up to 45 points in a single tossup-bonus cycle.

Levels of Play

While Knowledge Bowl ends after high school, quiz bowl is played by colleges and universities across the US and Canada. Several Colorado schools, such as CU Boulder and UCCS, have quiz bowl teams and regularly attend tournaments.


Far more statistics are recorded in quiz bowl than in Knowledge Bowl. Perhaps more importantly, quiz bowl records individual stats for every player. When a player attends a quiz bowl tournament, they can find out exactly how well they did compared to every other player at the tournament. Teams (and individual players) can see how they improve over time and identify what they need to work on.

In addition, all results from quiz bowl tournaments are posted online (usually on the Quizbowl Resource Center or NAQT’s website).