National Academic Quiz Tournaments

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National Academic Quiz Tournaments, LLC
President or CEO R. Robert Hentzel
Location: Various
Status Open

NAQT or National Academic Quiz Tournaments is a company that produces pyramidal quizbowl questions and tournaments for middle school, high school, and collegiate play. NAQT produces many regular-season sets at all levels for tournaments run by independent hosts throughout the regular season. NAQT also hosts end-of-year championships for middle schools, small high schools, high schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges.


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

NAQT was founded in 1996. They hosted the first NAQT Sectionals in fall 1996, the first NAQT ICT in January 1997, and the first HSNCT in spring 1999. They also hosted the British Championship from 1998 to 2003, and ran Conference Championships, later renamed Intercollegiate Fall Tournaments, from 1998 until their discontinuation in 2001. NAQT's middle school program began in the 2010-11 school year, and continues to this day.

NAQT's first president was Patrick Matthews, who moved on from the organization in 1998. The current president, R. Robert Hentzel, has been running the organization since.

Invitational Series packet sets, for use at tournaments throughout the year, debuted in fall 1997. There are two difficulties of IS sets: IS-A sets, which are "introductory" level and identified by an "A" after the set number, such as "Invitational Series #123A," and "regular" IS sets, such as "Invitational Series #124." There have been over 170 IS sets produced since. IS sets were originally marketed towards college teams, but they are now a staple of high-school play. Although few college tournaments are now hosted on IS sets, IS questions continue to see play at the collegiate level at NAQT's Collegiate Novice events, which are hosted on a set modified from an IS set to conform to a collegiate distribution.


NAQT offers pyramidal question sets at all levels of play in the standard Tossup/Bonus format, with packets typically consisting of 24 tossups and 24 bonuses. NAQT's official rules typically call for timed matches consisting of two 9-minute halves (high school) or two 10-minute halves (many college events); in 2018, some collegiate events will begin using untimed play, and many regular-season hosts at all levels choose to use untimed halves as well. NAQT uses powers, which means that early correct answers falling within the "power" portion of the tossup (which is designated by a mark in the packet) are worth 15 points rather than the usual 10 points.

High-School Program

NAQT produces sets for regular-season high-school play and for its end-of-year high-school championships.

Regular-Season Play

NAQT's primary offerings for regular-season play are Invitational Series (IS) sets and Invitational Series A (IS-A) sets. Individual IS and IS-A sets are marked by number designations that correspond to the number of IS sets that the company has produced (i.e. IS-170 and IS-171A); as of 2017, NAQT has produced over 170 IS and IS-A sets. Regular IS sets are considered to be "regular" high-school difficulty, and the tossups are between 375 and 425 characters long (about four lines in the printed packet). IS-A sets are considered to be "beginner" high-school difficulty, and the tossups are slightly shorter, between 260 and 291 characters long (about three lines in the printed packet). Both IS and IS-A sets are written in the tossup/bonus format, with pyramidal tossups and three-part bonuses consisting of an easy, middle, and hard part. In recent years, NAQT has produced five IS and five IS-A sets each year; in the past, NAQT produced six IS sets a year.

NAQT also produces custom regular-season sets. For example, NAQT produces sets of questions for the Missouri, Illinois, and Virginia state formats (including custom state championship series for the high school associations of Missouri and Virginia) that are drawn in part from IS sets.

NAQT encourages states to run NAQT State Championships on an IS set.

Teams can qualify for NAQT's end-of-year championship tournaments based on their regular-season play at NAQT tournaments, including the state championships.

NAQT also produces an annual television series set used by TV quiz shows around the country.

Championship Tournaments

NAQT hosts two end-of-year championships at the high-school level. The flagship high-school tournament, which crowns the overall high-school champion, is the High School National Championship Tournament, or HSNCT. The HSNCT is the largest quizbowl tournament of the year, with the 2017 event drawing 304 teams, and typically takes place at a large hotel over Memorial Day weekend. Teams can qualify for HSNCT based on their regular-season play, or they can apply for a wildcard.

NAQT also hosts the Small School National Championship Tournament, or SSNCT, which crowns a champion among small schools. Like HSNCT, the SSNCT is held in a large hotel in the spring; the 2017 event drew 126 teams. Starting in 2018, the tournament will have two divisions: one for small "traditional" public schools, and the other for all other small schools, such as private and magnet schools.

College Tournaments

NAQT runs four major college tournaments. For four-year schools, the core tournaments are the Intercollegiate Championship Tournament (ICT) and NAQT Sectionals (SCT), which are the end-of-year championship and the qualifier event for that championship, respectively. The SCT and ICT are both held for two divisions; Division II is a less-difficult and eligibility-restricted level for newer players, while Division I is open to all college players and crowns an overall champion. NAQT also hosts a sectional tournament and championship tournament (CCCT) at the community college level. NAQT converts an IS set to produce its Collegiate Novice tournament, which is an introductory college event.


ICT is an end-of-year championship, typically taking place in April at a large hotel, that crowns four-year collegiate champions. The tournament is held for both Division I and Division II players, with each division using a separate set of questions; the Division II set is largely derived from the Division I set, but with the questions converted to be shorter and easier. Currently, 32 teams in each division earn invitations to ICT based on their performances at SCT, which is the qualifying tournament for ICT.

National winners of each division by year can be found here.


SCT is the qualifying event for ICT, which typically takes place in early February, and is hosted by schools or other independent hosts across the country. The tournament is held for both Division I and Division II players, with each division using a separate set of questions; as with the ICT sets, the Division II set is largely converted from the Division I set. Teams playing SCT earn D-values based on their performance and statistics that can enable them to qualify for ICT.

Community College Tournaments

NAQT also hosts a sectional qualifying tournament and an end-of-year championship (CCCT) for community colleges. The CCCT takes place in late February or early March, and the top teams earn bids to compete at the Division II ICT.

Collegiate Novice Series

NAQT also produces the Collegiate Novice series, largely derived from IS questions, which is used for introductory college tournaments around the country.

Middle School Program

NAQT produces sets for regular-season middle-school play and for its end-of-year Middle School National Championship Tournament MSNCT.

In 2010, NAQT began producing middle school sets (which are styled MS-01, MS-02, etc.) for regular-season play. NAQT has produced over 20 regular-season middle school sets, and currently writes four such sets per year. NAQT's middle school packets are written in the tossup/bonus format, with pyramidal tossups and three-part bonuses consisting of an easy, middle, and hard part; the tossups are 260 to 291 characters long, or about three lines in the printed packet.

The MSNCT, or Middle School National Championship Tournament, debuted in May 2011 as the first and only national tournament for middle school teams that follows good quizbowl standards. The MSNCT typically takes place in May at a large hotel. The 2017 event drew 160 teams.


Controversy and Criticism

Although NAQT has largely avoided major scandals, in 2013, the company discovered that several college players, including an NAQT member, had exploited a technical bug (since fixed) to access the content of questions that they subsequently played. In 2004, the company granted a controversial eligibility exception for two UCLA players to play the DII ICT a second time.

NAQT has faced criticism, especially from vocal college players, about several aspects of its collegiate and high school programs. Culminating in the late 2000s, critics called for NAQT to stop selling IS set questions for collegiate play, avoid certain types of gimmicky questions (sometimes known as "funn" questions), and eliminate computational math questions from its distribution. In recent years, these complaints have abated as NAQT has hired more circuit writers, become more integrated with the college quiz bowl community, and made meaningful changes in response to criticism, including evolving its editorial standards, eliminating computational math tossups at HSNCT, and mostly confining the use of IS sets for college play to IS questions shared with the Collegiate Novice series.

NAQT has also been criticized for mandating strictly enforced length limits on tossups; placing an emphasis, relative to circuit quiz bowl, on geography, current events, and pop culture; using timed rounds at its championship tournaments; and selling college questions as practice material. Although NAQT has stated that these features are central to its conception of quiz bowl or its business model, the company has made several changes in response, and many of these criticisms have subsided. These changes include moving SCT to untimed rounds; lengthening the character limit for DI college play; changing the distribution based on player input; and focusing on improving geography, pop culture, and current events questions to increase conversion and avoid stale questions.

External Links


National Academic Quiz Tournaments, LLC

Members Emeriti