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Secrets of Successful Knowledge Bowls

 Use these ideas to help you plan

 your own Knowledge Bowl


Pristine Questions
Knowledge Bowl Questions

Academic competitions offer exciting opportunities for students to develop and exercise their scholastic abilities. Recognition, publicity, and appreciation for students and schools committed to educational excellence are also important benefits of these events.
This guide explains the popular and successful Knowledge Bowl competition format and how it is organized and conducted. An important advantage of this format is its emphasis on students' participation. In this unique educational activity:

  • No teams are eliminated.
  • Every student has an opportunity to respond to every question.
  • All teams are involved continually rather than waiting for their turn.
  • The number of questions required is minimized, and you get the maximium use of the questions.
  • It is relatively easy to set up and operate.

The success of your Knowledge Bowl depends on careful planning and attention to detail. The following basic information is helpful to begin planning:

  • The total number of teams in a competition must be a multiple of two or three. Multiples of three are being used for the illustrations and examples in this guide, however the information can be adapted for use with multiples of two teams. The total number of teams in the event is flexible -- some meets have two or three teams; others have 60 or more.
  • This format requires that all teams must be present before the competition can begin. Prior to the meet, confirm all teams' participation and emphasize prompt arrival at the contest site.
  • The contest usually includes five rounds-the first is written; the others are oral.
  • Each round must consist of the same number of questions. Most meets use 40, 50, or 60 questions per round. The examples, agenda, and schedule in this guide are based on 50-question rounds. Multiple-choice questions are used for the written round; short-answer questions are used in the oral rounds. It is advisable to have additional questions available in case of ties.
  • Each team consists of four members, plus alternates if desired. Alternates may be substituted at the halfway point in any oral round.
The power tournament structure lends itself perfectly to Knowledge Bowl. While not eliminating any team, it leads to competition among teams of similar caliber. Team groupings are rearranged after each round on the basis of their total points accumulated. In each round, while the teams with the highest cumulative scores are competing in one room, the next highest teams are competing in another, etc. All teams compete in every round. Question use is maximized since all students in every room are exposed to every question.

Typical Agenda for a One-Day Knowledge Bowl

8:30 a.m.- 9 a.m. Registration
9 a.m.- 9:30 a.m. Welcome and Review of Rules
9:30 a.m.- 10:20 a.m. Written Round
10:30 a.m.- 11:10 a.m. Oral Round #1
11:15 a.m.- 11:55 a.m. Oral Round #2
12 noon - 12:55 p.m. Lunch
1 p.m.- 1:40 p.m. Oral Round #3
1:45 p.m.- 2:25 p.m. Oral Round #4
2:30 p.m. Awards and Closing Ceremony

 Equipment and Resources

Facilities Meets are often held in school buildings on weekends or evenings. Another possibility for appropriate facilities is a local college or university during semester break. In any case, a Knowledge Bowl requires:

Contestant response system Equip each room with a response system. Systems designed for two- or three-team Knowledge Bowl competition consist of a display unit for the officials' table and electronic buttons or press strips for the team tables. Team members respond by pressing the buttons or strips, and the display unit shows the moment and order of response.

Officials Three officials are needed in each room for each round. Readers, who also serve as judges, must be able to read difficult questions fluently and have a good knowledge of contest rules and procedures. Readers should be confident and enthusiastic, speak distinctly, emphasize key words, and avoid speaking in a monotone or stumbling over words. There will be variations in the style of the readers; they should be scheduled to rotate to different rooms each round so students encounter different reading styles. Every community has a large pool of people willing and able to be readers- teachers, administrators, board members, librarians, members of the local media, business people, PTA members, political figures, etc. Remember, one of the best parts of a Knowledge Bowl is showing off students to the community. The other officials are the scorekeeper-timer (with a stopwatch or a watch with a second-hand) and someone to call on teams for answers in the order indicated by the response display unit. The latter two officials are often team sponsors or audience members and can be recruited by the reader at the beginning of each round.

A schedule of readers' room and round assignments Prepare this in advance of the meet. Schedule one or two extra readers so everyone doesn't have to read every round and so they have an opportunity to observe other readers in action. (See sample below.)

Sample Knowledge Bowl Readers' Schedule
 Room #  Written Round  Oral Round 1  Oral Round 2  Oral Round 3  Oral Round 4
   9:30-10:20  10:30-11:10  11:15-11:55  1:00-1:40  1:45-2:25
 101  Dr. Auk  Mr. Spauk  Ms. Claukston  Sen. Brauk  Mrs. Smith
 102  Mr. Jones  Dr. Auk  Sen. Brauk  Mrs. Smith  Ms. Claukston
 103  Mr. Spauk  Sen. Brauk  Mrs. Smith  Mr. Jones  Dr. Auk
 104  Mrs. Smith  Ms. Claukston  Mr. Jones  Dr. Auk  Mr. Spauk
 105  Ms. Claukston  Mr. Jones  Dr. Auk  Mr. Spauk  Sen. Brauk

Running score sheets Tape one of these to the officials' table in each room where it will remain throughout the day. The scorekeeper circles the next number on a team's line when that team gives a correct answer. This makes a running total available during the round. (See sample below.)

Sample Knowledge Bowl Running Score Sheet for Oral Rounds

 Oral Round 1
A (write in team name) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

B (write in team name) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

C (write in team name) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Note: Numbers to indicate points earned, not question numbers.

Questions Provide 50 short-answer questions plus five alternates for each oral round and 50 multiple-choice questions for the written round. To maintain the integrity of the competition, it is preferable to use Pristine Questions. Some events use questions generated by faculty members, but most rely on an outside source.

Three copies of the written round for every room and one copy of each oral round for every room. These are accompanied by a form showing the round number, the room number, and the assigned reader, with a place for the reader to list the scores for that round. Following each round, this form is turned in at the central scoreboard area and used to record the results on the scorecards.

One scorecard for each team These cards are posted at the central scoreboard area to record round and cumulative scores. (See sample below.)

 Knowledge Bowl Scorecard

Aukville High School

Cumulative Score

Written Round 1 ______
Oral Round 2 _______ = _______
Oral Round 3 _______ = _______
Oral Round 4 _______ = _______
Oral Round 5 _______ = _______

GRAND TOTAL ________

Central scoreboard coordinators (2 or 3) record scores and sort and rehang the scorecards following each round.

How Knowledge Bowl Works

The written round is held first in Knowledge Bowl competitions, with three teams randomly assigned to each room. This round (which has a 50-minute time limit when 50 questions are used) serves two purposes. First, it is the fairest way to start the meet and to determine team groupings for the first oral round. It is also another way for students to evaluate their performance -- some teams do well in the written round, but their scores may slip in the oral rounds due to the speed requirement.

Readers take three copies of the questions and one answer key to their rooms. The reader distributes and proctors the test and scores it as soon as the teams finish or at the end of the allotted time, whichever occurs first. Four students on each team collaborate on the exam. One point is awarded for each correct answer.

The readers deliver their scores to the central scoreboard where the score for each round is recorded on each team's scorecard. The scorecards are sorted from highest to lowest score, and posted in groups of three on a wall under room number signs so the students can see to which room they report for the next round.

Oral rounds consist of 50 questions, which are read aloud to the contestants. Going through 50 questions usually takes 25 to 35 minutes. Since all scores must be posted after each round before the next round can begin, each reader needs to control activities in the room so this pace can be maintained. Remember, the meet can proceed no faster than the slowest reader.

Preceding each question is a category, which is read aloud to cue the students that the next question is about to be read and to help them focus on its general topic. Any time during or after the reading of a question , teams may "buzz in." The official watching the response display unit verbally recognizes the first team to buzz in, and the reader stops reading immediately. Once acknowledged, the team has 15 seconds to answer. Any answer blurted out by a team which has not been properly recognized cannot be accepted, but the recognized team may use that answer if it wishes.

After a team is recognized, the timer should call out a 5-second warning after 10 seconds elapse. If time expires or an incorrect answer is given, the other teams that have buzzed in are recognized in order and given 15 seconds to answer.

A question may be re-read on request after an incorrect answer is given, but only if the remaining team(s) has not yet buzzed in. Conceivably, a question could be read up to three times. Once a team has buzzed in, the reader cannot provide any additional information until that team offers an answer or the time expires. If a team has not buzzed in, it may do so within 15 seconds of the last attempted answer; if that time elapses, no points are awarded, and the reader moves to the next question.

A team has only one opportunity to answer each question, and only one member on each team may give an answer. If two or more members of a team call out answers, the reader will accept only the first one. Team members may discuss only who will answer- they may not discuss the question or answer, and they may not write notes to each other. Pencils and paper are permitted for individually working out answers, but no other tools, resources, or reference materials are allowed.

Occasionally, disputes about a question or an answer will arise. Sometimes a given answer will be close, but not exactly what the reader expects. Whether the response is close enough is the decision of the reader. For example, if the complete answer is Dwight Eisenhower and the student just said Eisenhower, a point would be awarded. If a student just said Roosevelt and the answer is Teddy Roosevelt, the reader would ask for a first name. In the case of a variant answer (for example, 22/7 instead of 3.1416 for the value of pi), when a reader may be unsure if the variant is equivalent, it may be best to initially say no to the answer and continue with the normal procedure, giving the other teams a chance to respond. Then, if there is discussion about accepting the variant, the reader can reconsider and award the point to the appropriate team. If the problem is not easily resolved, the reader should throw out the question and use an alternate. The decision of the reader is final and cannot be altered once a round is completed.

Scores are kept by both the scorekeeper and the reader during oral rounds. One point is given for each correct answer. There are no penalty points for incorrect answers. Periodically during each round and at the end of the round, the scorekeeper announces the scores. If there is a dispute, the reader compares his or her independent tally with the scorekeeper's, and together they resolve the problem. At the end of the round, they should be sure their tallies match and verify the scores with each team captain. No score changes are possible once a round is completed and the reader leaves the room.

Readers record the results on the form attached to the questions and turn them in at the central scoreboard area where the round and the cumulative scores are recorded on each team's scorecard. After all scores are posted, the cards are removed from the wall, sorted from highest to lowest cumulative score and rehung in groups of three under room assignments for the next round.

Knowledge Bowl Tips

These important incidentals can help your Knowledge Bowl run smoothly and can enhance the experience for the students, the staff, and the community.

If you would like more first-hand experience before planning your own Knowledge Bowl, you are invited to attend one in Colorado. The state Knowledge Bowl is held every spring and regional events are conducted several times during the school year. Contact Academic Hallmarks to make arrangements.

Also contact us for:

Best wishes for a successful competition from the Great Auk and his humble minions at
Academic Hallmarks
P.O. Box 998,
Durango, Colorado 81302

Academic Hallmarks publishes Knowledge Master software and produces the Knowledge Master Open academic competition

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