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Introduction to Quizbowl

How Quizbowl Works

Tossup-Bonus Format
Good quizbowl
How to Get Good at This Game
How to Write Questions

How Collegiate Quizbowl Works

The circuit

Quizbowl basics

The Judge

A "buzzer system" is a common name for a device used to indicate which player has signaled that he or she wishes to answer a question first. They are a necessary component to playing quizbowl matches when available, as they help avoid any ambiguities as to who buzzed in first. When no buzzers are present, teams must play slapbowl, where buzzing is indicated by slapping the desk or saying something like "buzz". While using a buzzer system, other players are prevented from buzzing after the first player until the system is reset; for this reason, buzzer systems are sometimes called "lockout systems" (e.g. in the official NAQT rules).

Ideally, a buzzer system consists of a control box which sits near the moderator, which connects to individual pushbuttons or paddles held by each player. The best buzzers trigger a sound and turn on a light specific to the player who buzzed when an individual pushbutton or paddle is used. Any one component of the system held by an individual player is often referred to as a "buzzer" as well.

Almost all tournaments require some number of teams to bring buzzers in order to have enough to run the tournament properly; for this reason, TDs usually offer a discount (-$5 or -$10) to teams that bring a buzzer.

Buzzer System Manufacturers

Here is a list of buzzer system manufacturers. The ratings are provided for the benefit of teams shopping for buzzer systems.

This list also includes prices as of May 2017 for minimum systems that meet the NAQT Lockout System Discount Policy (and which will be accepted for discounts at invitational tournaments).


  • Anderson Officiator (website)--affordable, durable, easy to set up ($235 for the Officiator 10-player system)
  • ($299 for the 8-player "traditional" system)
  • Zeecraft ($465 for the 8 player Challenger I system)

Other commonly-used systems

How to buy a buzzer system

New quiz bowl programs commonly ask how and where to buy a buzzer system. All buzzers break, so it is better to buy two $200-$300 systems with good warranties (so a backup is on hand for when one is being fixed) than to buy a $600 system without a warranty just because you've heard the more expensive system is less likely to fail.

There are other concerns about buying a buzzer system for quiz bowl:

  • Quiz bowl does not use "self-resetting" systems; you should buy a buzzer with a moderator reset button.
  • Wireless buzzer systems are inappropriate for tournament play due to the potential for lag.
  • Battery-operated buzzer systems will require you to always keep spare batteries in the case in the event of a mid-tournament battery failure. For tournament use, systems plugging into the mains are preferred (it helps to keep an extension cord in the case because some rooms have inconveniently-located power outlets).
  • Individual player lights on or next to each player's buzzer make it easier for everyone to recognize who has buzzed in first.

External Links