This page explains the purpose of the difficulty scale used by this website.1

This website uses difficulty ratings to roughly communicate the difficulty of upcoming college quizbowl events.2 It is meant to help you gauge which events are relevant to you.

Traditional difficulty terms like “Regular”3 and vague qualifiers like “Fall-plus” or “Regular-minus” are non-standard and confusing and should be deprecated (read more).

Approx. Example (non-definitional) Deprecated terms
2017 ACF Fall
●◖ 2019 ILLIAC “Fall-plus”
●● 2017 EFT old “Regular difficulty” was ambiguous and referred to any of these
●●◖ 2016 Terrapin “Regular-plus”
●●● 2018 ACF Regionals
●●●◖ 2018 CMST
●●●● 2018 ACF Nationals

This site uses the following four-level categorical scale:

Dots Difficulty Difficulty is most comfortable for Example (non-definitional)
Beginners Intermediates Experts
Easy ✓︎✓︎ 2017 ACF Fall
●● Medium ✓︎✓︎✓︎ 2020 ACF Winter or 2017 EFT
●●● Regionals ✓︎ 2018 ACF Regionals
●●●● Nationals ✓︎ 2018 ACF Nationals and above

This scale was designed to be unambiguous and easy to communicate, especially to people not well-versed in quizbowl. It assumes that there are only a few fundamental levels in quizbowl’s difficulty progression.

Two primary thresholds define Easy, Medium, and Regionals difficulty: Easy is too easy for experts, and Regionals is too hard for beginners. The final threshold is between Regionals and Nationals difficulty.

If you plan to write a tournament, please consider targeting one of these four difficulty levels. Like overly long questions, difficulty creep is selfish and insular; quizbowl does not need to be so hard.

Although difficulty varies on a continuous scale in reality,4 please avoid using half-dots for rating your own tournament’s difficulty. Please also avoid using the ambiguous abbreviation “regs.”

Any correspondence of high school difficulties to this scale is unreliable in part because the HS canon (total knowledge tested) is too different. But HS nationals is near Medium difficulty.

This scale is undefined for other difficulties extrapolated beyond its extremes, since they have little relevance to the college quizbowl calendar.

  1. This scale is preferably called “the college quizbowl calendar difficulty scale” (or “the difficulty scale,” or “the difficulty scale used by the college quizbowl calendar”), and the unit of difficulty is a “dot” (not “circle” or “star” or “level” or “pip” or “point”). 

  2. Anticipated difficulty may differ from perceived difficulty in hindsight, so ratings on this website likely have less utility for other purposes (such as a quizbowl packet archive). 

  3. “Regular difficulty” can be understood as a catch-all term originally meaning “the usual range of difficulty of most tournaments” – it was always a wide undefined range, not a specific difficulty level. 

  4. Think of these levels as ordinal categories, like four different fruits. For example, blueberry, kiwi, pomegranate, and grapefruit are unrelated by color or family, but can still be ordered by size and tartness: