Pennsylvania State Academic Competition

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The Pennsylvania State Academic Competition is a quizbowl tournament held each year around May in Harrisburg, in the state House of Representatives and Senate Chambers. Each year's top three competing teams are awarded scholarships. It is run by the Chester County Intermediate Unit.

The competition is televised live by the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) and rebroadcast throughout the year.


The Pennsylvania State Academic Competition (PSAC) was started in 1992 by Pennsylvania Representative Joseph Pitts. The first year contained 12 qualifying schools but has since been expanded to one school for each of Pennsylvania's 29 "intermediate units". For several years, the winning team received a scholarship to the Panasonic Academic Challenge, and its format is loosely based on PAC. Most years, the field is around 24 teams.


Three teams compete head-to-head in each game in the tournament. The game is broken into two tossup rounds made up of 10 questions each, and two "fanfare" rounds where each table is given a series of 6 questions. Tossup rounds allow conferring before a team buzzes in, and give the team up to 15 seconds after the entire question is read to come up with an answer. One buzzer is supplied to each player. Fanfare rounds are 60 second timed affairs. Each team gets one fanfare per round. Prior to the adoption of simultaneous fanfares on a whiteboard, this could result in widely varying swings in difficulty between the fanfares given to different teams. This concern has subsided after the adoption of single fanfares for a round answered by all teams as of the 2019 competition. Fanfare questions are asked in rapid succession and once a team passes on a question, they are not permitted to go back to answer it.

The day's preliminary matches are followed by 3 semi-finals and final match for the top 9 and 3 teams respectively. The semi-final round was introduced at some point between 1999 and 2007. Prior to that time each team played two preliminary matches; of the teams which won both preliminary matches, the three teams with the highest points per game were selected to play in the final match. The preliminary matches are currently randomly assigned, which can lead to wildly imbalanced schedules.

During the 2021 competition, after a lobbying effort led by coach Bern McCauley of Great Valley, the competition adopted a two team format for its online competition that year (due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) It is not clear if this will continue or the competition will return to three teams for the upcoming season.

Qualifying and Costs

Main article:Pennsylvania Regional Academic Competitions

Qualifying teams, usually the winners of local championships, are chosen by the various intermediate units. In addition, the previous year's champion receives an automatic bid to attend the tournament.

The top three competing teams are each awarded scholarships. The winner receives 2,000 dollars, while the runners-up receive 500. There is no charge for participating teams, but hotel costs are only partially subsidized, and travel costs are the responsibility of each district.


Up until 2016, PSAC used house-written questions, some of which were recycled from year-to-year and from the CCIU tournaments. In 2016, after fielding many complaints about the questions, PSAC switched to the NAQT state championship set for tossups and a mix of NAQT and CCIU-written fanfare questions.

Sample old questions included:

Q. Written by Stephen Crane, this novel depicts the civil war by describing an individual soldier's reactions, fears, cowardice and courage in the battle zone. What is the name of Crane's novel? A. "The Red Badge of Courage"

Q. In 1963, representatives from thirty African nations met in Addis Adaba, capital of Ethiopia, and signed a charter establishing the O.A.U.. What do the letters O.A.U. stand for? A. Organization of African Unity

Q. This German physiologist was noted for his work with digestion; however, he is better known for stating the theory that all animals are made up of cells. Name him. A. Theodor Schwann

Q. In 1953 Congress pass a legislative act which extended the U.S. government's guarantee to protect the rights of workers to organize or join labor unions. Name the act. A. Wagner Act

Q: What kind of colleges are best for women? A: Women's colleges

Q: Cetology is the study of whales. For 10 points, who wrote Moby Dick? A: Herman Melville

2003 was notable for having at least 4 different questions on characters from Catch-22 as tossups in different rounds, as well as at least 4 different questions on ranks in the US military in different rounds.

Notable Events

In 2013, an extremely unlikely three way tie occurred between Conestoga, West Chester Henderson, and State College in the championship match. Conestoga won the tournament after a five question tiebreaker.


External Links

Chester County Intermediate Unit's PSAC Page