Regular difficulty is the normative difficulty for questions at a given level of quizbowl. Theoretically, it represents the difficulty level at which any eligible closed team across the whole range of skill levels can play meaningful games against any other eligible team. For example, a regular-difficulty high school set should have a distribution, selection of clues/answers, etc. that allows the more knowledgeable high school team in a given match to consistently win, regardless of whether it's a match between weak teams, average teams, or strong teams.
Regular difficulty tournaments must be more difficult than novice and easy tournaments, or else games between highly-skilled teams will feature too many buzzer races on early clues. They must also be less difficult than hard tournaments or national championships or else games between average and below-average teams will feature too many dead tossups, buzzer races on late clues, and situations where luck of the draw on bonuses determines the victor.
Since regular difficulty tournaments typically represent the modal questions in a circuit, it is more important than usual to avoid especially-wild fluctuations in difficulty from question to question, from category to category, and from packet to packet.
In high school quizbowl, the range of regular difficulty is usually defined by the difficulty level of NAQT Invitational Series sets, with many independently produced mACF sets like LIST and RAFT attempting to align closely with this standard. These sets are designed to produce consistent, meaningful aggregate results for all high school matchups. Team rankings like HSQBRank and GrogerRanks have historically used the season's regular-difficulty set to calibrate its PPB (and in the case of GrogerRanks, power) adjustments when computing teams' scores.
In college quizbowl, the barometer for regular difficulty has traditionally been set by ACF Regionals, i.e. "three-dot" difficulty on the college quiz bowl calendar's difficulty scale - for many years, "Regionals difficulty" was used interchangeably with regular difficulty. As a result, it can be difficult to assess the precise difficulty of ACF Regionals, which does fluctuate from year to year, but it is generally held to have avoided overshooting in every year since 2008.
Division I SCT is held to be equivalent difficulty to Regionals despite differences in distribution, an assertion that largely holds true based on empirical data. SCTs from 2012 onward
Other sets which are generally considered to be represent regular difficulty:
In the years since ~2015, there has been a push to redefine college regular difficulty to be the level of EFT, i.e. "two-dot" difficulty on the quiz bowl calendar scale. Among the stated reasons is that reducing the normative difficulty of the game could lessen perceptions of difficulty among newer players.
Institutional inertia has prevented widespread adoption of this redefinition, with no true community consensus as many older members of the community resisted the change. Despite this, a considerable proportion of younger players have already switched to the new meaning, producing much confusion surrounding the term's meaning. This has been exacerbated by the fact that the abbreviation "regs" may refer to either "Regionals" or "regular," and has led to a decline in the usage of the term "regular difficulty" in the college quizbowl community in favor of more objective scales like dots.
- Some thoughts on the distribution and regular difficulty by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Sat Nov 13, 2010 9:09 pm