HSNCT and its Problems

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"HSNCT and its Problems"[1] was a forum thread started by Aadi Karthik in the lead-up to the 2021 HSNCT. It summarized a number of issues with the logistics of HSNCT and with the operation of NAQT more generally.

The initial post was criticized for its poor tone, and discussion largely focused on the arguments regarding logistics, costs, and NAQT's finances rather than more subjective questions of question quality and difficulty variance.


The 2021 season was marked by a rise in anti-NAQT sentiment among members of the high school community, largely centered around the hsquizbowl Discord. Throughout the regular season this manifested as widespread dismissal of IS sets in favor of housewrites like DART and STASH and (to some degree) the events run by AQBL. Some amount of this can be attributed to many members of the writing staff of these sets being active members of online spaces and actively proselytizing for their projects, but that behavior was not a new phenomenon. Regardless of the specific reasoning, it quickly became a popular opinion to think NAQT was a subpar quizbowl product and that the idiosyncrasies of the distribution (and in particular the mixed impure academic) were distinct negatives compared to mACF-style sets. Two months before HSNCT, a discussion of perceived flaws in the HSNCT set and the tournament itself in the hsquizbowl Discord culminated in the post.

Initial post

The major points raised in the initial post were a lack of guidelines to deal with cheating, the high cost of the tournament, the timing rules, and issues with the quality and variable difficulty of HSNCT questions. The post drew controversy for describing HSNCT questions as "of such low quality that it's hard to call NAQT 'pyramidal good quizbowl' anymore." The accepted definition of "good quizbowl", however, focuses on factors like pyramidal structure and fairness rather than any strict standard of quality. It is the community consensus that NAQT continues to be "good quizbowl".

While several posters noted their openness to criticisms of NAQT and the HSNCT,[2], and though NAQT soon provided the requested clarity on their cheating guidelines, the remainder of the post was almost universally criticized (the section on timing rules being the exception). After the 2021 HSNCT, Aadi made a post reaffirming their support of their arguments and criticisms.


None of the counterpoints raised were addressed further publicly, with any discussion that did occur happening in the hsquizbowl Discord (effectively out of the public eye) or in private channels.

The sentiments that led to the writing of the post persisted (and may continue to persist) long after - in a discussion held after the final post in the thread, individuals in the high school Discord claimed that "its a general consensus" that NAQT questions didn't meet modern standards[3][4] and that NAQT should just consider doing college mirrors of HSNCT.[5] Most sentiments were and still are due to improper understandings of the economics of quizbowl in general and NAQT in particular: other claims include that NAQT was not "even close to losing money" due to revenue from Buzzword,[6] that NAQT should make HSNCT at a loss,[7] that NAQT was not trying hard enough to lower prices,[8] and that NAQT doesn't pay a lot for rooms.[9]


  1. HSNCT and its Problems by etotheipi » Thu Mar 04, 2021 3:27 pm
  2. Re: HSNCT and its Problems by jonpin » Fri Mar 05, 2021 12:43 pm
  3. some of the questions just aren't up to the standard that we have in quiz bowl now days
  4. i believe its a general consensus
  5. for example, maybe naqt could seek college mirrors of hsnct? smh will likely be paying both its writers and editors pretty decently, and this is why
  6. I don’t think NAQT is even close to losing money, given the revenue Buzzword generates
  7. you can still make overpriced things at a loss
  8. this does not necessarily mean that naqt is maliciously raising their price! it just means that they are possibly not putting enough attention into getting costs down
  9. to be fair, it's really unlikely that it costs a lot for naqt to pay for rooms