Anticipating Interruptions

The single most important Bible Quiz skill is the ability to interrupt questions. Quizzers who can interrupt, complete, and answer questions correctly are the essential component of a winning team. Unfortunately, interrupting can also be the most difficult skill to master.

We’ll set aside buzzer technique for the moment. There are lots of theories on the best way to hit, but the truth is that this is mostly preference. The key to successful interruption is anticipation. This is where it gets tough.

Anticipation is rooted not in a preternatural ability to read a question writer’s mind, but in a superior knowledge of the material. The way questions are written places either a word or a reference as the key word in the question. The reference part is relatively simple. The trick is when the question links to a specific word in the text.

An example:

for 20 points. 2-part reference question. Give a complete answer. How was the law put into effect, and why was the law put in charge?

The key word in this question is “put.” But in order to know that, you must know that there are two “puts” that directly relate to the law. You must further know that the first part requires a “how” question, while the second requires a “why” question. You must also be confident that no other questions could reasonably be asked from that combination of introductory remarks and key word. The average quizzer would likely not even realize that “put” is the key word. It takes an intense knowledge to connect all those dots.

But wait, there’s more. Remember, not only does the quizzer have to recognize the key word, they also have to know it’s the right place to hit. This is where anticipation comes in.

Follow the logic here. If “put” is our key word, but the quizzer reacts to hit when they hear that word, the actual hit is going to come on “into” or “effect” (depending on the quizmaster’s reading and the quizzer’s reaction time). To actually hit on “put” the quizzer must hit at “law.”

But how do you know that the word after “law” will be the key? In truth, you don’t have any guarantees. Anticipation is most often an educated guess. It’s educated, in our case study, because the rules of grammar and propensities of question writers tell us that the key word is going to be the next one. “How was the law…”

The most obvious burn word here is “described,” but that would almost always follow a reference, as in “How does Galatians 3:19 describe the law?” Further, such a question would not fit the intro remarks. There are other possible burn scenarios, but none are terribly likely. The reasonable conclusion based on the intro remarks is that the key word will follow the word “law,” so the correct place to hit is at the end of that word.

So let’s assume you anticipate the key word and hit in the right spot. Now you have 30 seconds to correctly complete and answer the question. Once again, superior knowledge of the material makes this possible.

First you must go to your likely “law” chapters. Locators make this easier, but remember our question didn’t have one. Still, if you know the material well, you know that the first place to look for law is Galatians (as law and grace is a big theme), and chapter 3 is the best place to start. If you know the material well, you know that “law” and “put” are only found relatively close together in two verses. This is handy info, as we are looking for a 2PRQ. The best way to know this is to have quoted the material so thoroughly that the word combination instantly jumps into your mind. If this happens, you are reviewing the perfect amount.

You know the first part of the question is “How was the law put…” This ought to easily get you to either verse 19 or verse 24. Here is where you might make a mistake. If you lock into 24 first, you’ve found a “why,” not a “how.” You can’t use this for part one. At this point, it’s safe to assume you’re close, as if you aren’t, you’re not going to make it. If it doesn’t immediately come to mind, start from 24 and go backward through the verses.

Why backward? It’s an unwritten rule that questions always go forward in the material. So if you know you have part two, go back until you find part one. The reverse is obviously also true.

Once you find both parts of the question, you spit out your completion, and then give your answer. You can save time by initially only giving the answer demanded by the question. So skip the first half of 19, and start with the 3rd sentence. 24 requires nearly the whole verse, but it is much shorter.

Anticipation is the holy grail of interrupting. It is also the single most complex quiz skill to master. The best way to practice is for quizzers to hear as many questions as possible. They need to be challenged to interrupt very fast. This will result in a lot of missed questions in practice. Be patient, and keep your quizzers patient with themselves. If they can master anticipation, they are bound for success in quiz.