National Academic League

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Terrel H. Bell & Associates
National academic league.jpg
President or CEO Donna L. Elmquist, PhD
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Status Open

The National Academic League is a middle school competition run by Terrel H. Bell & Associates, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Despite its obvious similarities, the NAL interestingly does not claim to be "quiz bowl" or any equivalent phrase.


The NAL was created by Donna Elmquist, PhD. and Terrel Howard Bell. Bell was the former Secretary of Education under the Reagan administration. Its creation was partially inspired by the National Academic Super Bowl.


Gameplay mostly involves terrible one-clue questions and quirks that attempt to emulate basketball, such as "tip offs", "shot clocks", and "possessions". Competitions also include some non-quizbowl activities.

A round consists of four distinct "quarters", each of which are distinctly different. Thus the quarters are probably more properly described as "rounds" or "phases".

First Quarter: Roundabout

Players use strategy to keep possession of a sequence of short-answer questions.

Second Quarter: Teamwork

Players learn teamwork as they huddle to answer a complex question in one minute.

Third Quarter: Problem

Players research problems in the world and create solutions. Teams receive the topic a week before the competition and plan a presentation. During the actual competition, "players" create their presentations on the research and score points for organization, content, critical thinking, and presentation. For an example see: [1]

Fourth Quarter: One-on-One

Players join in a fast-paced one-on-one speed quizbowl contest. Any other teammate may buzz in if both players involved in the one-on-one are unable to answer the question.

Sample Questions

1. Calculate the GPA of a student who made a "C" in Trigonometry, a "B" in American History, an "A" in Botany, and a "B" in Microbiology if some courses contribute more towards an overall GPA than other courses. For example, a science class is worth 4 points; mathematics is worth 3 points; History is worth 2 points; and English is worth 3 points. The values of the grade letters are as follows, A= 4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0. Answer: 3.08

2. Identify the country where you would find an ancient Easter tradition called "Smingus-Dyngus" -- a custom of people pouring or splashing water on each other Answer: Poland (Note: Smingus-Dyngus is also celebrated in countries containing significant Polish diaspora; a notable Smingus-Dyngus celebration occurs in Buffalo, NY)

3. Identify the title of the Shakespearean play that has the line "A horse! A horse ! My kingdom for a horse." Answer: King Richard the Third

4. Name the planet has a diameter of 4,200 miles and orbits our sun every 687 days. Answer: Mars

5. Explain the name "Pesach" and then describe this important Jewish Holiday.
Answer: The name "Pesach" (PAY-sahch, with a "ch" as in the Scottish "loch") comes from the Hebrew root Pei-Samekh-Cheit , meaning to pass through, to pass over, to exempt or to spare. It refers to the fact that God "passed over" the houses of the Jews when he was slaying the firstborn of Egypt. In English, the holiday is known as Passover. "Pesach" is also the name of the sacrificial offering (a lamb) that was made in the Temple on this holiday. The holiday is also referred to as Chag he-Aviv , (the Spring Festival), Chag ha-Matzot , (the Festival of Matzahs), and Z'man Cheiruteinu , (the Time of Our Freedom) (again, all with those Scottish "ch"s).

Sample Second Quarter Questions

The following is example of problems that teams solve for the second quarter:

Place the following animals in the categories of carnivore, omnivore, or herbivore: Fruit bats, white-tailed deer, bears, humans, and frogs.

Give the number of vertices, faces, and edges for the following shapes: Pyramid, rectangular prism, cone, cube, and cylinder.

Capitalize the words in the following sentence that need to be capitalized, then give the animal the capital letters spell: Sylvia went to Egypt, and while there, gave Alex a book on Lithuania.


National Tournament

The NAL culminates in a national tournament (also known as the National Academic Games) which is held entirely over video conference.

Participating school districts

Regular season play seems to be organized around school districts, although many of the districts listed on the NAL website as participating no longer exist. Most current leagues seem to be in Salt Lake City, Wichita, Baltimore, and Charlotte.

According to the NAL website, the following school districts organized NAL events at some point:

  • Mesa Unified School District (AZ)
  • Pueblo City Schools (CO)
  • Wichita Public Schools (KS)
  • Baltimore City Public Schools (MD)
  • Kansas City School District (MO)
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (NC)
  • Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools (NC)
  • Pittsburgh Area Schools (PA)
  • School District of Philadelphia (PA)
  • Pasadena Independent School District (TX)
  • Davis School District (UT)
  • Granite School District (UT)
  • Weber County School District (UT)
  • Lake Washington School District (WA)