Academic Competition Federation

Packet Submission Guidelines

Last Updated: October 21, 2019

Table of Contents

Who needs to submit packets?

For ACF Fall and ACF Regionals, any team with at least two people on it who played a regular, collegiate, academic quizbowl tournament (either as a college student or as a high school student) the academic year two years prior to the current year, that school must submit a packet (e.g. any team with two players who played prior to September 1st, 2018 must submit a packet to compete in ACF tournaments in the 2019-2020 academic year.)

The packet submission rules for ACF Nationals 2020 will be announced shortly.

  • What counts as a “regular, collegiate, academic quizbowl tournament”?

All ACF tournaments, NAQT Division I or Division II SCT, NAQT ICT, and typical academic invitationals and summer opens count as regular collegiate academic tournaments. Novice collegiate events with strict eligiblity requirements do not count as regular collegiate academic tournaments in determining packet requirement.

Pop culture or “hybrid” tournaments, College Bowl/HCASC, and tournaments played on NAQT “Invitational Series” questions do not.

This test is applied to each individual team, not to your school’s contingent as a whole. If you are unsure about whether you are required to write a packet, then please contact the ACF eligibility committee.

Sample packet

Want to know what a well-formatted packet looks like? Take a look at this sample packet.

Packet submission checklist

Victor Prieto of Penn State created a handy checklist of things to keep in mind when writing a packet to submit to an ACF tournament – please make sure your submitted packet checks all these boxes!

How to submit your packet

Document format

Please submit your packet as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf file. Submit all questions in 10-point Times New Roman font. Your document should have 1-inch margins on all sides. PDFs, .odt, .html, .txt or any other formats are not acceptable.

If editors cannot open your packet on the first try, they will return your packet to you and have you re-send a fixed version before it is considered submitted for fee purposes.

Document Name

Please follow the following file-naming scheme when submitting packets:

<Tournament Name> <Year> – <School Name> <Team Name or Letter>

For instance, if UC Irvine’s A team is submitting a packet for 2015 ACF Regionals, it should be named:

ACF Regionals 2015 – UC Irvine A


All Full Packet submissions should have 24 tossups and 24 bonuses according to the distribution outlined below.

The following distribution applies to ACF Regionals and ACF Nationals Submissions. See the ACF Fall Announcement for information about half-packet distributions.

Note: The X/Y notation used throughout this section refers to X tossups and Y bonuses. Eg. If you see Fine Arts 3/3, it means 3 tossups and 3 bonuses.

Literature 5/5

  • American literature: 1/1
  • British literature: 1/1
  • European literature from 500 CE onwards: 1/1
  • World (anything not covered above): 1/0 or 0/1
  • Anything you want, including ancient European literature, more of any category above, or combinations of categories above: 1/2 or 2/1

Vary questions across time periods. Do not write more than 1 question on very recent (post-1990) literature. Please make sure your questions span a variety of answers such as authors, novels, poems, criticism, essays, etc.

History 5/5

  • American history: 1/1
  • European, Canadian, and Australian history: 3/3 (1 should be on classical history, 1 on British history, and 3 on continental Europe from three different post-classical time periods.)
  • World history: 1/1 (from two different areas of the world besides those covered above) You may write up to 4 questions on military history (battles, wars, or people known primarily for their military accomplishments.)

Science 5/5

  • Biology 1/1
  • Chemistry 1/1
  • Physics 1/1
  • Math or computer science: 1 question
  • Astronomy, earth science/geology, or other science not covered above: 1 question
  • Any science: 1/1 (you can write a math question here if you wrote computer science above, or earth science here if you wrote astronomy above, but don’t write a second question on any of the “minor” fields. Questions which straddle the line between disciplines should be used for Any Science. You can also just write more biology, chemistry, or physics here.) You may write up to 1 question on the history of science. Questions on famous experiments which focus on the scientific principles at work are considered science rather than science history.

Religion, Mythology and Philosophy 3/3

  • Religion: 1/1 (different religions)
  • Mythology: 1/1 (different myth systems)
  • Philosophy: 1/1 (different parts of philosophical history) Write least 1 and no more than 2 questions in this category on non-Western topics. You may write about events which straddle the line between history and religion for either history or religion, but don’t write about religious history for both categories.

Fine Arts 3/3

  • Painting: 1/1
  • Classical music (excluding opera): 1/1
  • Other Fine Arts: 1/1 (opera, sculpture, architecture, dance, jazz, photography, art film; do NOT write more painting or classical music) Write on a visual category and an auditory art for Other Fine Arts. e.g. pick jazz and photography, or opera and architecture, but not opera and jazz.

Social Science 1/1

Possible topics for this category include economics, psychology, sociology, linguistics, anthropology, political science, social criticism, and law. (Questions on Supreme Court cases go under history; other law questions may go here.)

Do not write more than 1 question from a particular field of study.

Geography 1/1

Possible topics for this category include physical features, countries, cities, regions, etc. Ethnic groups can be geography; languages are more likely social science.

Do not write both questions on the same kind of political or physical feature, such as rivers, bodies of water, mountains, cities etc. Do not write both questions on the same area of the world.

Pop culture, current events, or your choice 1/1 You can write anything you wish here except for topics included in the other broad categories above. You can write questions which mix categories here.

Do not write more than one pop culture, question from the same general category. e.g. Don’t write two questions on sports.

Question-writing philosophy

Difficulty Level

Consult individual tournament announcements for difficulty guidelines.


A simple, two-line description of good tossup writing:

Write your tossups on easier topics. Use challenging clues for the leadin, and use progressively easier clues. End your tossups with a giveaway that most in the field would know.

Do NOT write tossups which are:

  • Geared towards specific players. You should write your questions for a general audience.
  • Heavy on difficult or easy clues. Make sure you devote appropriate amounts of space to hard, medium, and easy clues.
  • On your pet topics or things which are likely to go unanswered. Dead tossups are the enemy of fun.


Nearly all bonuses should have 3 parts worth 10 points each. Bonuses should have:

  • An easy part – one which 90% of the field should be able to convert;
  • A ‘medium’ part – one which roughly 50% of the field should be able to convert; and
  • A ‘hard’ part – one which a person well-read in the subject of the should be able to convert. If you are unsure about the difficulty of a bonus you are writing, then you should err on the side of easier or write on something else entirely.

You may, very occasionally, write a bonus with four parts, two worth 5 and two worth 10.

We prohibit specific types of bonuses and levy penalties on teams that submit packets with prohibited formats. For more information, see the “Discounts/Penalties” section of these guidelines.

More guidance on writing questions

Please follow ACF formatting guidelines when formatting your packet.

Several ACF editors have provided tips on how to write good questions. Please consult the following guides:

Jerry Vinokurov’s Guide to Writing Questions is intended for newcomers and has guides on basic principles of good writing. Subash Maddipotti’s Tips on Question Writing provide excellent advice on what to avoid when writing questions. Andrew Hart’s Primer on Regular Difficulty is an excellent resource for teams writing questions for ACF Regionals (or a “regular difficulty” tournament.)

In addition to the above question-writing guides, we encourage you to consult old ACF events as writing models.

We recommend:

  • For ACF Fall-level difficulty – ACF Fall 2012, ACF Fall 2017, and ACF Fall 2018
  • For ACF Regionals-level difficulty – ACF Regionals 2010 and ACF Regionals 2019
  • For ACF Nationals-level difficulty – ACF Nationals 2017, ACF Nationals 2018, and ACF Nationals 2019


We offer discounts for early submission of packets, and levy a penalty for late packet submissions. The exact schedule will be set in each tournament’s announcement.

Gross deviation from packet-formatting guidelines: $50 penalty

Submission of prohibited types of questions: $25 penalty per question

Prohibited types of questions include:

  • Spelling questions, i.e. questions for which the answer involves spelling a word.
  • Binary matching questions, i.e. questions of the form “Given X, name Y” which do not have prose clues.
  • 5-10-15 bonuses, i.e. bonuses whose hard-parts are worth 15 points. These questions should instead be changed to 10-10-10 bonuses.


Plagiarism of any kind in your packet submissions is absolutely unacceptable. In general, anything that is considered plagiarism for coursework at your school will be considered plagiarism in your submitted packet. In particular, note that our concept of plagiarism includes but is not limited to lifting wording directly from Wikipedia, Britannica, or any encyclopedia, webpage, book, or other reference source without attribution; and taking questions or parts of questions from previously existing quizbowl packets.

Teams caught plagiarizing will have their packets rejected and will not be given the opportunity to write a replacement. Such teams will be substantially penalized, i.e., you will either be charged hundreds of dollars, or kicked out of the tournament. We promise you that we WILL catch you if you are plagiarizing. Please make sure that every person writing for your packet is fully aware of the consequences of plagiarism.

Also, your packet may not include any questions that were previously submitted to any tournament whatsoever (including questions submitted with minor revisions). Even if your previous questions were not used at the other tournament, you do not know for certain who assisted the editors of the prior tournament or otherwise may have seen your questions, and thus you cannot guarantee that the people who saw your questions are not playing in this tournament. While less serious than plagiarism, question recycling is, likewise, totally prohibited and will result in bad things happening to you, so you should take pains to avoid engaging in this practice.