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Open-Book Strategy for Veteran Quizzers

One new and unique feature of the Christian Bible Quizzing (CBQ) rule set is the option to answer questions while consulting material, also known as “Open-Book.” A quizzer can select this option upon being called to reply to a query. The intent of offering this option is to enable newer or less-studied participants to contribute to their team score. However, even veteran quizzers with strong material knowledge should be aware that there are circumstances under which it may be strategic to select an open-book reply.

While going open-book carries with it severe limitations on the number of points you can get for a correct answer, a look at the big picture and the overall scoring structure will make the advantages clearer. But first, let’s consider the limitations.

Reduced Ceilings and Scoring

Each quizzer has a personal “ceiling” per quiz, which limits the number of correct replies they can get. Once they hit the ceiling, they are no longer eligible to buzz in – this is what many quiz programs call “quizzing out.”

When a quizzer opts to reply to a query with the open-book subtype, it will lower their ceiling. Let’s examine the specific rule:

A quizzer remains eligible to trigger for queries until they accrue correct rulings on:

In sum: unless you are selecting the open-book option on your final query which hits your ceiling, you are reducing the total number of queries you can answer in the quiz. If your next correctly answered query is going to hit your ceiling anyway, you are free to answer open-book with no penalty to your ceiling.

How about scoring? Unlike the “verbatim” and “synonymous” subtypes, open-book replies are only eligible for exactly 1 point. Contrasted with the maximum possible value per question of 7 points (for a verbatim reply on a Quote or Finish query with the "add a verse” and “with reference” bonuses), this is a massive difference.

In addition, while a quizzer is allowed to hit their ceiling on the 4th question with their first and only open-book reply in a quiz, the quizzer will miss out on the potential 3-point bonus for answering all 4 questions with no incorrect replies and no open-book replies. Whether or not this factors into the quizzer’s strategy depends, of course, on whether they had given any incorrect replies before they made it to 3 correct replies.

While the open-book query itself can only ever be worth 1 point, team bonuses can still be awarded. So if the 3rd quizzer on a team replies correctly to an open-book query, and the previous query was answered correctly by a different member of that same team, the total point gain of the query is actually 4 points – 1 for the query, 2 for the 3rd quizzer bonus, and 1 for the streak bonus.

So Why Use Open-Book?

While the ideal team would have 3 members who are always able to reply to every query verbatim and with reference and with added verse for maximum points, this ideal will be rare in practice. Instead, teams will want to strategize open-book replies around the limitations of their team’s knowledge. Here are just three of the many possible circumstances in which to consider selecting an open-book reply.

1. Limitations in material knowledge

In the highest levels of competition, many quizzers will have the entire quiz material memorized perfectly. But at least at this early stage of CBQ quizzing, possibly nobody will. Why? Because CBQ will be using a combination of chapters used by different quiz programs to increase accessibility and promote unity and collaboration across districts. At IOC 2023, we are not only sourcing material from one quiz program but are including material from Acts, Matthew, and 1+2 Timothy/Titus.1

Even the best-studied quizzers from their original programs will have gaps in their knowledge. For example, even former Matthew quizzers who are now studying Acts probably do not know Timothy/Titus.

So what is to be done about this? Are we to allow the quizzers present who do know that material to run roughshod over queries which come from that material? Hardly. The rules intend to incentivize quizzers to buzz in on most queries. If you haven’t memorized the material that the question is coming from, it is still in your team’s best interest to have at least some members of the team buzz in at a competitive pace and give the other teams a run for their money.

Consider this: while your team personally may only get 1 point for the query, you could be denying the other team anywhere up to 10 points (verbatim, add verse, with reference, with the +3 bonus for hitting the ceiling with no incorrect queries or open-book queries). Also consider that by making the speed competitive, you are requiring the other teams to buzz in faster, making correct replies harder and the competition itself that much more exciting.

With the open-book option to keep things interesting, high levels of quizzing should never allow quizzers to rest on their laurels and coast through to victory simply on knowing more material. They will also have to buzz in competitively, know their material cold, and be disciplined.

Keep in mind, there are only 12 questions in a quiz. Each quizzer’s minimum ceiling is 2 queries, and there are up to 9 quizzers in each quiz. So very few quizzers in any given quiz will hit their ceilings. Depending on the flow of the quiz, it may be in a team’s best interest to have even their top verbatim quizzer lower their ceiling by tackling a query in unfamiliar material with the open-book option.

2. Quizzers who are weaker at word-perfect memorization / “verbatim”

The most important factor in scoring high is to have quizzers on the team who can quote verbatim with references. However, in most practical scenarios, it’s unlikely that all 3 members of the team will have enough skill at this to consistently nail query responses verbatim. And if the less skilled members of the team try to hold themselves to that standard, they will find themselves not only failing to get points, but also handing over the potential to gain points to the two other teams. Incorrect replies can have big consequences.

In fact, quizzers with weaker knowledge of the material may even find it difficult to get correct replies under the “synonymous” subtype. If a quizzer lacks confidence in their ability to answer synonymous queries correctly, it may be in their best interest to go with open-book. Correct synonymous replies are worth only 1 more point, unless the quizzer is able to “add a verse” or select “with reference” – which would still make the maximum potential gain only 4 points. Sacrificing these extra points for the sake of a reliably correct reply could be the right call. The other teams are kept from scoring on that query, and you may pick up some sweet team bonuses... and even if not, you are setting your team up for a potential streak bonus on the next query!

3. A bad buzz-in

The quizzer’s subtype is only selected once they’ve buzzed in first and been acknowledged. So a quizzer who ordinarily would go for verbatim or synonymous queries, may choose instead to go for open-book based on what information they got when they buzzed in. This could be useful with any query type, but is probably the most likely to be helpful on Finish queries, which are easy to answer open-book even with very little information from the quizmaster. If the quizzer cannot quickly locate the start of the verse from their memory, a shift to open-book could save the query from being incorrect.

How Can I Prepare for Open-Book?

First, you will need to bring materials to use. Any printed materials are allowed. This means you can use not only the text itself, but you can print an alphabetical list of Finish queries in every translation represented at a meet. You can print concordances and unique word lists – again, for every translation. At minimum, quizzers who intend to make strategic use of the open-book query should be prepared to bring the material in every applicable translation, and alphabetical verse-starts from every translation.

You should also familiarize yourself well with these materials and ensure you can quickly find your way to what you need. Coaches should drill these things at practices.

But even with good materials making Finish and Quote queries easy, and Chapter queries not too bad, it will be tough for quizzers to answer open-book Phrase queries on stuff they don’t already sort of know. After all, the query could come from anywhere.

For this, I recommend a study/preparation strategy I am calling non-memorized proficiency. If a quizzer does not have time to memorize the entire material (as will almost certainly be the case for everyone for at least 2023 IOC), they can spend much less time on study and still have good success on open-book queries by familiarizing themselves with the general content of the material.

For example, if a quizzer has memorized Acts, and wants to gain non-memorized proficiency in Matthew, the quizzer should read through the Matthew material several times and make note of every event or theme in each chapter. The quizzer can take notes such as: Matthew 1 = genealogy and start of birth narrative; Matthew 2 = the rest of the birth narrative including the wise men and the shepherds; Matthew 3 = John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism; Matthew 4 = the temptation of Jesus, the calling of the first disciples, and the first healing miracles; and so forth. Not only will this greatly increase the likelihood of recognizing the query, but this strategy is also on-mission, as it is one extra way for quizzers to engage with more of the Bible.

An Example Team With Good Synergy

In this example, we have a team where all members have memorized in Matthew, but both of the other two teams in the quiz have memorized Acts. Two of the members of the former team are very strong and can quote most things verbatim. The third member of the team, whom we will name Bob, has memorized stuff in Matthew, but his knowledge of it is spotty. However, to support his team, Bob read through the material from Acts and has a decent grasp of it.

On queries 1 and 2, each of the other members of the team buzzes in and correctly replies verbatim to queries from the book of Matthew. When query 3 comes, Bob recognizes it quickly as something from Acts and buzzes in. The query is concerning something Abraham did, and Bob knows that Acts 7 is a chapter with a lot of Israel’s history recounted. He declares “open-book”, finds the location in the material from which the query is being asked and gets 4 points for his team due to the streak bonus and 3rd quizzer bonus, without the ceilings or max score of either of his skilled teammates being impacted.

In this scenario, Bob has not only contributed big points to the team, but he has shored up the team’s weaknesses by taking charge of the Acts questions, and “absorbed” the negative consequences of the ceiling penalty (see “Reduced Ceilings and Scoring” section above) from his two teammates. Not only is it good for Bob to get the query, but Bob is by far the best quizzer of the three to get it. Bob’s presence on the team is making a huge competitive impact just by his being engaged, even if his material knowledge is only average.

  1. To learn more about why this material selection choice was made, see article "Building Unity through Translational Diversity" ↩