Not just any trivial pursuit: UW’s quiz bowl team to compete in IQBT Undergraduate Championships


In the beginning of November, the UW quizbowl team qualified for the International Quiz Bowl Tournament (IQBT) Undergraduate Championships. The competition team consisted of fourth-year students Mattias Ehatamm and Jared He, as well as second-year students Micah Coleman and Caleb Ott. The championship tournament will take place in March 2024 and is set to follow the traditional format, including tossups and bonuses. 

A quiz bowl is an academic competition similar to trivia. Question categories include literature, history, science, and fine arts. Competitions generally consist of 10-point tossup questions that any team can attempt to answer, followed by 30-point bonus sets of three questions. The qualification event, however, differed from the traditional format and consisted only of bonuses. Teams were asked 60 bonus questions, followed by a 10-question tie-breaker. 

To prepare for the upcoming championships the quizbowl team will hold practices twice a week and select only the team members who attend a vast majority of these practices to compete in the tournament. Practices include mock tournaments using questions from past tournaments and carding software to keep players’ memories sharp. The team also practices writing questions for submission to other tournaments to help them better understand the game. 

Out of the 60 bonus questions, Waterloo answered 42 of them (70 per cent) to receive a final score of 1270 — an increase of 230 points from last year. To qualify for the undergraduate championships, Waterloo needed to rank within the top 40 out of 95 competing teams. Waterloo far exceeded this by coming in fifth, falling behind schools like Cornell University, Columbia University, and the University of Chicago.

Speaking to how the team acquires the knowledge to compete in tournaments, team captain Michael Du explained how “most people like to read books, articles, Wikipedia, textbooks” and use “lots of different sources of information” to try to “build up the information base” needed to take down its competitors. The team is overall “very strong in literature” and “lean[s] towards…the humanities side of trivia” but will be leaning more into the sciences in preparation for the upcoming tournament to create a more well-rounded base of knowledge.

Waterloo’s toughest competitor will no doubt be the University of Chicago, the reigning champions and “the strongest team around” according to Du. To go up against Chicago, Waterloo says they will focus on studying a broader base of subjects and will “cover each other’s weaknesses.”