Mixed impure academic

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The Categorical Imperative

"Mixed impure academic" is a name for a type of quizbowl question that contains both academic and pop culture clues.

For example, a "mixed impure academic" question about Pittsburgh might include literature clues from August Wilson's plays, historical clues about the French and Indian War, and sports clues about the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Some "mixed impure academic" tossups may be common link tossups.


In the example "mixed impure academic" tossup below, pink text marks pop culture clues (and normal black text marks academic clues).

This title entity distinguishes a man who is “coming to you on a dusty road” in a Sam & Dave song. The player awakens in the Northern Undead Asylum in a video game whose title refers to these things. “Double consciousness” is examined in a (*) W. E. B. Du Bois book named for these things “of Black Folk.” The poem “Invictus” declares “I am the captain of” – for 10 points – what incorporeal entity contrasted with mind and body?

ANSWER: souls (accept Soul Man or Dark Souls or The Souls of Black Folk; accept I am the captain of my soul)

(from 2019 HSNCT Finals)

Note the longer-than-usual answerline that accounts for the various specific uses of the word "soul" referred to throughout the question. Note that this is also a common link tossup.


The name comes from NAQT's official question distributions, which includes categories for both "mixed impure academic" and "mixed pure academic" questions under a "Miscellaneous" category (which accounts for roughly 6% of all NAQT questions).[1][2]

The name can be understood as being formed by the terms "mixed" (meaning a question whose clues come from several categories) and "impure academic" (meaning "not purely academic" in NAQT's specific usage[3]).


"Mixed impure academic" questions are rare outside of NAQT events. Almost no mACF tournaments include "mixed impure academic" questions, either as a separate category or otherwise (such as within an "Other academic" category).


Proponents of "mixed impure academic" questions may see them as helping improve conversion rates, especially for some questions for which teams might not know the answer from more difficult academic or pop culture clues alone. Opponents tend to find such questions confusing and prefer questions whose clues are entirely academic or entirely pop culture.[4][5]


  1. https://www.naqt.com/college/distribution.jsp
  2. https://www.naqt.com/hs/distribution.jsp
  3. This concept is unlikely to be referred to by most everyone else using any term that adds a modifier or qualifier to "academic," since the premise of "good quizbowl" presupposes that questions are purely academic (except for those few that are explicitly on pop culture). In other words, "impure" would in most other contexts be understood as synonymous with "mixed" (where "impure" means not purely from one category), and thus "mixed impure academic" would be a redundant phrase.
  4. https://hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewtopic.php?p=252568#p252568
  5. https://hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewtopic.php?p=214101#p214101