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PB13 Packet Requirements
Penn Bowl the 13th:
23-24 January 2004
Packet Requirements

Announcement | Registration Form

Updates | Introduction | Difficulty | Distribution | Question Styles | Formatting & Submission | Unacceptable Packets | Question Writing | Comments, etc.

Text Last Updated: 21 October 2003

21 October 2003: Document posted.


This document contains the packet requirements for Penn Bowl 13.

Schools sending one team are required to submit a packet of 24 tossups and 24 boni.

Schools sending two teams are required to submit a packet of 42 tossups and 42 boni. [If you know who will be playing on A and B teams, the A team can submit 24/24, and the B team submit 18/18 independently.]

For schools sending three or more teams, the packet must be written blind to the third (and subsequent) teams.

Please submit all packets to pennbowlpackets @ Please do not mail them to the regular Penn Bowl account.

The deadlines are at 11:59:59 PM EST as listed on the announcement page.

An automatic extension of 72 hours beyond the above deadlines will be granted provided that at least 50% of a school's required questions are submitted by the deadlines above.

PADT reserves the right to charge late fees or to deny registration to teams that have not submitted the required packets by the regular deadline. Such penalties will be announced in December.


Packets should be accessible to all teams competing. Packets that are inordinately difficult will be returned for rewriting.


Aim for as high an overall tossup conversion rate as possible. Avoid questions that are likely to go dead in every room: the bottom two teams in a bracket should be capable of answering at least two-thirds of the tossups as written. This is not the same thing as saying that teams should "recognize the answer."

[We are aiming for an overall tossup conversion rate of 83-87%.]


While 30s and 0s should be rare, zeros should be rarer than 30s. Questions should be written so that teams with at least rudimentary knowledge of a subject will get some points, but are not likely to get all the available points. For example, do not write a bonus along the lines of "Name these geological features related to glaciers that aren't eskers, fjords, or moraines," or "For 10 points each, name these works by French economist Claude Frederic Bastiat."

[We are aiming for an overall bonus conversion rate of 50-55%.]


We have not explicitly specified exact distributions. However, we expect that all teams will exercise common sense, and will submit packets that are diverse with respect to time, location, and content both within and across categories. We reserve the right to reject any packet that fails to show a reasonable attempt at diversity. A good rule of thumb is this:

If a subject could not reasonably be expected to come up once every other packet, it should not come up twice in your packet.

The term "subject" here means the narrowest category that will include both questions. As an example: having two questions on US history before 1900 is acceptable; having two tossups on slave rebellions is not.

Finally, minor omissions and deviations in an otherwise well-written packet are acceptable, though gross deviations are not.

Remember, there is a $1 discount for each question used. That discount will not be awarded, however, for questions that are substantially rewritten; exceed the length guidelines; are deemed offensive by the editing staff; or contain significant errors or typos (ones that might have an outcome on a game). [And, obviously, if you submit questions that are too close together in subject matter, you will not receive credit for those that cannot be used, so don't write them.]



I. Science


Do not write more than two questions on people or historical topics.

II. Literature


Questions on religious texts belong under Rel/Myth/Phil, not Literature. Questions on romance novels cannot go here. Vary your time periods and answers; ideally, you should have authors, characters, and works as answers.

III. History


No more than 1/3 of your questions should cover wars (battles, treaties, military leaders, etc.).

IV. Fine Arts and Trash


Visual Fine Arts 1/1

Musical Fine Arts 1/1

Popular Culture 1/1

Sports 1/1*

There is some leeway as to what counts as Fine Arts and what counts as Trash, but please use your judgment.
Second teams should submit three questions on Fine Arts and three questions on Trash.

* First and second teams may replace one of these two questions with an additional musical fine arts question.

V. Other Academic


Social Sciences 1/1

Religion/Mythology/Philosophy 2/2

Geography 1/1

Second teams should remove one tossup or bonus from RMP, and remove the remaining question from either geography or social science.


VIa. Current Events


Questions should cover events since January 1, 2003. Avoid crime-of-the-week questions. Questions on celebrities and athletes belong under Popular Culture.
*Second teams may move one question from Your Choice to Current Events.


VIb. Your Choice


The only restrictions on Your Choice questions are: (1) max 2 questions total per major category above (3 questions for combined packets), and (2) no duplication of information.



Question Styles, etc.



Formatting and Submission


We have provided sample files illustrating formatting for packets sorted by category and for randomized packets. Please follow these samples closely in preparing your packet.

Unacceptable Packets

PADT reserves the right to reject packets that contain gross violations of the above guidelines, or that are essentially unusable as written. Please note that any discounts that might have been earned will be forfeited if they are rejected. [If corrected quickly enough, though, the discounts can be re-earned.]

Writing Questions

Penn Bowl attracts players at a wide variety of experience levels: some are playing in their first tournament ever, some have been playing for a dozen years. Questions need to be written to accommodate both. In any case, there is one fundamental rule which must always be obeyed:

Questions must NEVER intentionally mislead players into giving an incorrect answer, and care must also be taken to insure that questions do not unintentionally mislead players.

Also, please note that no question type, with the possible exception of the single-part, all-or-nothing bonus, is inherently flawed; rather, it is the individual questions themselves that are inappropriate.

Finally, as far as the distribution of answers: except as noted above under Science, while we are not specifically placing an upper limit on the number of questions that have people as answers, you should make every effort to have a mixture of people (real and/or fictional), places, works, and other things as answers.


With rare exceptions, tossups should be written in a pyramidal style. The lead-in should be difficult or obscure, but not vague; the answer desired should be uniquely specified as soon as possible. The remaining clues should gradually lead towards the answer; the final clues, after, the "for 10 points" marker, should contain the most helpful information. Tossups should not end "For 10 points--name this man." Also, keep in mind the "pronoun rule:"

The first pronoun in a tossup that (a) lacks an antecedent, (b) is not part of a quote, and (c) is not clearly part of a grammatical construct, should refer to the answer being sought.

Tossups should be factually dense; they should not be one-fact questions.

Since we intend to have power marks, there should be some point in the question, before the words "For 10 points" appear, that marks a division between difficult clues and less-difficult clues. This does not mean a single easy clue in a sea of otherwise unrecognizable information.

In general, you should aim to have a mixture of people, places, and things as answers to your questions.


Multidisciplinary boni are allowed and encouraged, especially when they combine answerable questions in a unique or unusual way.

You do not need to have every bonus in your packet be a 3x10. In fact, this is strongly discouraged. Any reasonable question type, other than single-part all-or-nothing boni, and boni with five or six "long" parts, are allowed at Penn Bowl. Each question type, however, has appropriate and inappropriate uses. A question asking whether certain statements apply to specific fundamental forces may be reasonable; a question asking for the order in which a composer's works were written probably would not.

A final reminder on style: even though Penn Bowl will not be timed, strive to be succinct: don't use six words to say what can be said in three, use "name" instead of "identify", etc. Economical writing allows for shorter, more factually-dense packets. [The average tossup can be shortened by 5-10 words without removing any clues.]


Please contact the Penn Bowl staff.

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