Knowledge Bowl

From QBWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Knowledge Bowl (sometimes shorten to KB) is a quizbowl format produced by Academic Hallmarks and played in several states. It originated in Colorado, where it eventually spread to Washington, Minnesota, Tennessee, and other states. Knowledge Bowl tests a range of of academic subjects similar to other forms of quizbowl, but has come under criticism by advocates of good quizbowl. Another difference in Knowledge Bowl is the use of written rounds and simultaneous competition between more than two teams. All forms of Knowledge Bowl use questions supplied by Academic Hallmarks (also known as Greak Auk), the same company that produced Knowledge Master Open, however the format for actual competitions varies slightly from region to region. Despite its nationwide influence, there is no Knowledge Bowl national tournament. Rather, Chip Beall's National Academic Championship is usually what is attended by Knowledge Bowl teams and referred to as "nationals" by the media. Knowledge Bowl is also the name of an unrelated league in Southern California, as well as a photography school in Singapore.


The buzzer strip in action

Knowledge Bowl formats are generally the same across the nation although some regional differences exist. In oral rounds, three teams of four players each compete on 45 tossups. Many Knowledge Bowl circuits make use of a special "buzzer strip" system that consists of a single piece of pressure sensitive tape shared by members of a team. Once a team buzzes in, its members get to confer for 15 seconds before the spokesperson gives the answer. There are no bonuses. All tossups are worth one point and there is no penalty for guessing. Knowledge Bowl is also unique in that it has written rounds, which are 60 multiple choice questions. The written round serves as a seeding round. The top 3 teams after the written round get to play in room A, Teams 4-6 play in room B and so on. After the end of each round, the teams are reseeded based on the cumulative score. The aggregate score at the end of the tournament determines the winner.


Knowledge Bowl was started by the San Juan County Educational Service Union in Durango, Colorado (now known as the San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services). After the success of Knowledge Bowl in Colorado, the event soon attracted educators from Minnesota, Washington, South Dakota, and Tennessee who initiated the activity in their home states. At some point after 1983, former school superintendent Bill Brown founded Academic Hallmarks and began supplying questions to Knowledge Bowl events, and still do to this day. For a list of Knowledge Bowl and other AH events today see this page.


While Knowledge Bowl generally has support within the states it is played, it also has garnered criticism from other players. First, game play does not take place on a lock-out system. The questions are supplied by Great Auk, which tend to be full of hoses and buzzer races. The difficulty of the question ranges wildly; there are no prompts, and alternative answers are not generally accepted. Generally, one has to predict the flow of the question to be able to give an answer.

One rule that somewhat addresses this issue is that if a team buzzes in before the entire question is read, the spokesperson can give any amount of information that is included in the question (the information may or may not be read), and may also supply one factually correct statement that is not included in the question. Thus if tossup is binary, the spokesperson can give both the answers as a declarative statement, and his team can get points. For instance, if a question begins:

"He was Abraham Lincoln's vice-president..."

and a team buzzes in, it can say "Andrew Johnson and Hannibal Hamlin were vice-presidents under Abraham Lincoln" and still get points. However, the applicability of this rule is contingent on the reader and/or the judge knowing the truth value of the extra piece of information, and on several occasions, a correct answer has been ruled incorrect due to the moderator's incapacity.

Since the cumulative score determines the winner in KB tournaments, it can be advantageous for a "good" team to slide down to a lower room, and score several points more than they could have being in a higher room. Such a strategy is especially useful when there is no strength of schedule, and was roundly exploited at the 2006 Knowledge Bowl State Championship by Buffalo (link). A strength of schedule gives teams in the A, B, and C rooms 1.5, 1, and 0.5 points per round respectively. e.g. a team that starts in room C in round 1, goes to room A in round 2, goes back to room A in round 3, and goes in room B for round 4 receives 1.5 + 1 + 2*0.5 = 3.5 bonus points. Similarly, a team may deliberately underperform in the written round and play with weaker teams in order to score more points.

Sample questions

1. Which novel by Mary..... buzz buzz buzz ..... Ann Evans ..... (as opposed to Mary Shelley)

More sample questions available at the Great Auk website

Greatest Players

Andrew Hart is probably the world's greatest Knowledge Bowl player. Other great players may or may not include James Benhardus and others.

Regional formats

Colorado Knowledge Bowl

Main Article: Colorado Knowledge Bowl

The Knowledge Bowl format began Colorado and Academic Hallmarks is still based in Durango. Hundreds of high schools from across the state play Knowledge Bowl and the season culminates with regional championships and the state competition.

Minnesota Knowledge Bowl

Main Article: Minnesota Knowledge Bowl

Knowledge Bowl in Minnesota was initiated in the 70's and was formulated after the Colorado version. Today, Knowledge Bowl is run by Minnesota Service Cooperatives and over 800 teams from 290 Minnesota school districts are involved with it. Although KB is the dominant format in most of the state, several active pyramidal quizbowl schools, such as Wayzata and Eden Prairie, are not involved knowledge bowl entirely.

Tennessee Knowledge Bowl

Main Article: Tennessee Knowledge Bowl

Knowledge Bowl is also the name of a scholastic TV show in the Memphis/Midsouth area. Like the Minnesota version, it features Great Auk questions for two rounds but uniquely has a final 5-minute lightning round entirely composed of current event questions. It is notable for awarding massive scholarships to winning teams, with all six members of the winning team receiving $7,500 each and the runner-ups $3,500. Sponsored by WREG Channel 3, it has been running for almost 20 years. Unfortunately, teams that play this format have more incentive to focus on speed check questions and rarely, if ever, attend outside pyramidal tournaments. See [1] for the official site.

Washington Knowledge Bowl

Main Article: Washington Knowledge Bowl

Wisconsin Knowledge Bowl

An activity by the name Knowledge Bowl appears to have existed at some time in Wisconsin. Its current status and relation to other Knowledge Bowl organizations is unknown.

Iowa Knowledge Bowl

Is apparently a thing. A state meet is held every year in the spring. Additionally there seems to be an event held at the Iowa State Fair.

Other parts of the United States

A calendar posted onto the Academic Hallmarks website showed that a number of competitions known as Knowledge Bowl are also held in states without a major state-level competition. Such areas include: Arizona, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Massachussetts, New Mexico, Missouri, Kansas, and Wyoming.

International Knowledge Bowl Competitions

Knowledge Bowl in Europe

Knowledge Bowl is sponsored internationally by Central and Eastern European Schools Association (CEESA) at the middle school and high school level. Due to the large number of teams entering, each competition is split between two European cities. There are also two small nationally competitions are held annually in the Republic of Georgia.

Knowledge Bowl in Central America

Knowledge Bowl is also hosted annually in Central America in both national and international levels (the international being limited to Central American Countries). The international level competes every year in mid November, and is organized by AASCA (Association of American Schools of Central America), and is limited to AASCA schools. Schools from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama send students every year to compete. The national level dates vary depending on the country, and are also held once a year. The national levels are also limited to American schools; the Honduran Knowledge Bowl nationals are organized by ABSH (Association of Bilingual Schools of Honduras) and are also limited to ABSH. In El Salvador, the national is organised by the Association of Bilingual Schools of San Salvador, comprising five bilingual schools: four American and one British. The competition is also limited to these five.

In 2008, 2009, and 2010, the event was won by Colegio Maya of Guatemala for the junior varsity level, the most consecutive titles in the event's history. In 2011 and 2012 the title of varsity champions was won by the Escuela International Sampedrana (EIS of Honduras), with an outstanding performance of the two time MVP, Raul Jordan.

Meet Format

Schools that participate in the tournaments are randomly seeded into groups, and the number of groups vary depending on how many schools participate. For example, if in a certain year 20 schools participate, 4 groups of 5 schools are made. In every group, the first and second placed groups would proceed to a quarter-final elimination round. Position within the group is decided by how many points a group has accumulated while playing other teams (in every group, every team must play all of the other teams in the group once).

A team is composed of five students, four of whom participate in a game lasting thirty minutes. After every thirty-minute game, substitutions can be made. In every game, only two teams compete against each other. After the thirty minutes are up, the game enters the lightning round (see below), a set of five final questions with mildly altered rules. If after the lightning round, there is still a tie between the two teams, the game enters a sudden-death mode, in which the first person to gain any amount of points wins, but a team that loses a point also loses the match.

Points are decided as such: For a normal, "toss-up" question, a team that buzzes in and answers correctly gains two points and a bonus question. In toss-up questions, team members are not allowed to communicate with each other, and are given 10 seconds to buzz in, and 30 seconds plus the use of scratch paper if the question is a math question. If a team member buzzes in and answers incorrectly, the team loses one point, and the question is repeated for the second team to answer. This is called a rebound. In rebounds, an additional 10 seconds are given for the second team, and team members can communicate with each other, but only the team captain can declare the answer. When a rebound question is answered correctly, one point is given. If a rebound question is answered incorrectly, no points are taken away. Bonus questions are similar to rebounds, but are a bit different. Only the team that acquired the bonus question can answer it, and team members can discuss the question, and again, only the team captain can give the answer. When a bonus is answered correctly, three points are given, whereas if it is answered incorrectly, no points are taken away. Bonus questions are not cumulative, and once they are over, another toss-up is given. If no one buzzes in for a toss-up question, no one gains or loses points. It should also be noted that if rebounds are answered correctly, they do not bring with them a bonus question. Once the 30 minutes of the match are up, the lightning round takes action. 5 final questions, only that when a rebound is answered correctly, a bonus question is also attained.

External References