Hitting 20 point "complete answer" questions

Probably the most common introductory remark among 20 point questions is Give a Complete Answer (GCA). If it’s not a quote or a straight analysis question, this is probably what it’s going to be. The ability to identify these questions and correctly complete them is essential to a successful quiz program. Let’s talk about the 20-point GCA.

The first thing you need to understand is that there a few standard formulas that these questions tend to follow. While there are always exceptions, a large percentage of the questions you hear will fall into these categories.

The second guiding principle is to teach your quizzers that on Complete Answers, they need to first think of two words: “do” and “say.” GCAs are lousy with “what did Jesus say?” and “what did Peter do” completions. Often quizzers will over-complicate these completions. Keep it simple.

The third guiding principle is that the question will generally look to include as much of the verse as possible. To apply this, look at the whole verse, and avoid including extraneous words in the question. This goes against the “kitchen sink” principle where you try to include as many different completion options as possible (everything but the kitchen sink). This is a more old-school technique that is less important with today’s predictable questions. Instead, on GCAs, you want to leave the question relatively vague to allow for as much of the verse as possible in the answer.

There are three dominate formulas to 20-point GCAs:

According to Questions

The “According to” question has a reference, followed by a question. For example:

According to Mark 1:17, what did Jesus say?

Now, many coaches will tell quizzers to wait until the question word comes, rather than flying on the reference. That is the cautious play, and it’s not all bad. I teach my team to fly on the reference on these. The reason is because they really are very predictable. Look for the question that allows for most of the verse to be the answer. Often, it will be a “do” or “say” completion. Over epistles, these can be a little more complicated, but a good quizzer can usually figure them out. Over gospels, they tend to fall very predictably into this pattern.

Describe Questions

I did a whole post on these before, but I’ll recap here briefly. Example:

How does Mark 1:6 describe John?

With these, you want to go with the first thing in the verse, even though it doesn’t always make perfect sense. The example above is fairly straightforward, but there are times you could be describing a house, an animal, or the sea. The key is that writers consistently do it this way, for better or worse, making the interruption predictable. Again, you want to fly on the reference, and go with the first thing in the verse. If the first thing in the verse is a pronoun (he, she, it), you want to identify the antecedent (it may be one or more verses before). This makes it clear to the judges, and it avoids needless contests.

Timeframe Questions

I expect these to be very popular over Mark, as they were over Acts two years ago. An example:

Without delay, what happened?

Here you want to hit on the timeframe (“without” ought to get you there from chapter one, and certainly by “delay”). From there, you have two options. Most often, it will be “what happened.” This is natural for a timeframe if you think about it, but I have seen it stump very talented quizzers, so it helps to take the guesswork out of the completion.

The exception to the “happened” rule is one person doing one thing. An example from chapter one:

Very early in the morning, what did Jesus do?

Most of the time, question writers will go with this completion when Jesus (or someone) is basically doing one thing. Here, Jesus is going to pray, so to ask “what happened” seems superfluous. Note that this is not a hard and fast rule, so you are still playing percentages, but in my experience, it works pretty well.

In general, completing questions is always about playing percentages. If you understand how questions are constructed, you can take the guessing out of the mix. Of course, there will always be a few that burn you. Perfection is not the goal, winning is. To win and be effective, you should aim to get 75-85% of your questions correct. Fewer than that, and you aren’t scoring enough points. More than that, and you aren’t taking enough chances.

Good completion skills take a lot of practice and require hearing a lot of questions. Drill your quizzers heavily, and you should start to see improvement. I push my quizzers from the second practice on to try to interrupt early. This allows me to teach them the rules. None of them ever catch on immediately, but as they keep trying and learning the rules over and over again, they get better at completing questions.