A category (or subject) describes the subject matter of an academic quiz bowl question. In modern quiz bowl, every set has a prescribed distribution dictating what categories will appear in and how much of each.
- history, literature, and science comprise the Big Three and are apportioned 4/4 apiece
- fine arts is typically given 3/3 and split based on medium into audio, visual, and other
- religion, mythology (also called "legends"), philosophy, and social science are typically grouped into RMP or RMPSS and split 3/3
- the remaining 2/2 or so is split between geography, current events, and other academic, which comprise the nebulous group of "other"
- popular culture is given 1/1 in various otherwise academic sets
In general, the term "category" is only used for broader classifications which are distributed at least 1/1. Each of these categories are further divided into subcategories, which are subdistributed some fraction of the category's total. Subdistribution can be done on the basis of various criteria, which vary from category to category - for instance, the history category can be divided into slices based on when, where, or what is being discussed.
Subject tournaments whose questions focus entirely on a single category typically have subdistributions analogous to the distribution of an all-subject tournament; this includes pop culture tournaments.