List of Collegiate Difficulties
See also: Difficulty
The following is an (incomplete) list of commonly-used collegiate tournament difficulties, in order from easiest to hardest.
The first three correspond roughly to ACF Fall, ACF Regionals, and ACF Nationals respectively. In turn, ACF Regionals difficulty corresponds to DI SCT and ACF Nationals to DI ICT; there is no exact NAQT equivalent to ACF Fall, though DII SCT is similar. Each of these pairs of ACF and NAQT tournaments are roughly interchangable. The fourth "post-nationals" difficulty designates any tournament harder than ACF Nationals, of which Chicago Open is the prototypical example.
Plus and Minus
Sets that aim to be easier or harder than an existing set or difficulty are typically denoted "plus" or "minus". For example, a set trying to be more difficult than ACF Regionals might call itself "Regionals-plus" or "regular-plus."
Regular vs. Regionals
Theoretically, "regular" difficulty and "Regionals" difficulty are the exact same, as regular difficulty is defined as the difficulty of ACF Regionals. However, regular typically refers to a wider range of difficulties and includes a number of easier tournaments. This distinction between the "regular" and "Regionals" difficulties has been pushed further by arguments to have ACF Regionals no longer represent the difficulty of the median tournament, e.g. by lowering the difficulty of other tournaments relative to Regionals or by making Regionals itself easier.
Advocates for lowering the average difficulty of college quizbowl to be roughly the difficulty of 2018 EFT have used "regular" difficulty to refer to this new difficulty - "Regionals" difficulty would then represent the unchanged objective difficulty of ACF Regionals, which would now be harder than "regular".
College Quizbowl Calendar Scale
As part of his work to improve tournament scheduling, cooperation, and knowledge sharing in quizbowl, Ophir Lifshitz developed the college quizbowl calendar difficulty scale in March 2018 to remove much of the ambiguity associated with the previously mentioned terms and to better communicate the difficulty of the tournaments being listed side-by-side on the College Quizbowl Calendar. The scale uses four broad ordinal categories, spanning from one to four "dots", to cover the range of difficulties of mainstream college quizbowl tournaments, with two principal relative thresholds ("too easy for experts" and "too hard for beginners") defining 2 and 3 dots. Thus, it is not recommended for question sets to target fine-grained difficulty levels (or "half-dots") in between each of these categories.
- "true novice" - NAQT Collegiate Novice
- novice - ACF Fall
- 1 dot on the college quizbowl calendar difficulty scale
- regular-minus - MUT, ILLIAC, SMT - typically considered the step above novice
- "1.5 dots" - by convention, the college quizbowl calendar scale does not recommend half-dot increments
- Regionals-plus - 2015 VCU Open
- Nationals-minus - the difficulty of typical Spring Open tournaments
- Nationals - ACF Nationals, ICT
- 4 dots