How to Compete in the Science Bowl Competition

Similar to Quiz Bowl, the Science Bowl is a high school and middle school academic competition that consists of two teams competing against each other to answer science related questions. A buzzer system is used to answer questions. The Science Bowl is sponsored by the United States Department of Energy. Most of you reading this article probably already know all of this. What you want to know is how to compete in the Science Bowl competition, hence the title. You want to know how to improve your team and chances of winning at a regional Science Bowl or who knows, maybe even the National Science Bowl. So here are some tips from my own experience and the World Wide Web.

Forming a Team

You should first find many enthusiastic students that are interested in participating in the Science Bowl. This way you’ll have a pool of different students in different grades with various strengths in the different sciences. When you have an initial group of students that are interested, have some practice competitions to decide how prepared your potential candidates are. From here you have three different options…

  1. If you have a couple of strong juniors and seniors than maybe you are good enough to compete that year or the next. With more preparation this team should be able to compete well in a regional.
  2. If you don’t have a strong group of juniors and seniors but do have promising freshman and sophomores, choose a few students that you believe have the greatest potential for the future. You probably won’t do well at the regional the first or second year but by the times your tiny freshman and sophomores are juniors and seniors, chances are they will be well prepared, with experience and should be able to compete for the championship at the regional.
  3. You could also go with a balance. Maybe go with 3-4 juniors and seniors and the rest freshman and sophomores. This way if you have some strong upperclassmen, you could still compete while having the underclassmen gain experience.

Warning!!! The sooner your team is chosen the sooner you can practice more realistically but also the sooner your team is chosen, the sooner you remove motivation on making the top team.

Also, some regionals allow two teams from one school to compete. If allowed, bring a second team, that way you have your superstar, A-squad, “Major League” team and than a rookie, B-Squad, “Minor League” team.

When you have your team set, decide who will specialize each of the categories. Remember, the high school categories are: Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Space Science, Energy, Mathematics, and Physics. According to, it’s recommended that each team member specialize in 2-3 categories, I agree. Make sure that every subject is covered, don’t leave one out just because it’s too hard or you haven’t learned it yet.

Preparing for Competition

If you want to win at a regional science bowl, than you have to study. Each team member needs to study their own respective subjects and need to make sure they have a strong grasp on the material. The best place to study is in a classroom. Pay really good attention in your science classes (and your other classes). Make sure you study for every exam and do all of the homework. While doing your work in the classroom will do you well, it won’t do enough to prepare you for competition. You have to do extra studying at home. Go through college textbooks, read them, write notes, and make flashcards. Do EVERYTHING possible to learn the material and then some. Flashcards are an excellent way to practice vocabulary.

Spend your summer doing some extra studying. This way you won’t be distracted by school work and can really focus on preparation for the competition. I’d recommend learning Greek and Latin prefixes and suffixes because difficult words can be used during competition but if you recognize pulmo in pulmonary fibrosis, you’ll know it has something to do with lungs.

Also, for the Earth and Space Science category I would recommend studying Earth Science and Astronomy as two different categories because these are both subjects with vast material and a lot of things to learn.

Energy is a bit difficult to study for because it’s a very general topic. According to , (a National Science Bowl publication) energy questions could be sources of energy, energy applications, energy production, energy efficiency and other areas related to the field. Energy topics can be studied while studying for the other categories. Some Environmental Science textbooks contain energy chapters as well.

Some coaches decide to review material after school. Maybe make a schedule and each week a category is reviewed, this way the team members that specialize in the subject can review what they have learned, and the rest of the team could catch on to some facts as well.

The best way to prepare for the completion is through practice. I’d recommend staying after school at least once a week with your team to practice. Go through question sets and answer with real buzzers if possible. If you’re out of school, go to the library or something over the summer with your team to practice. There are plenty of resources online at your disposal. You’ll find thousands of practice questions. You should also checkout Zatobowl; it’s an online science bowl simulator.

Competition Day (and night before)

You should probably do some review the night before the competition. Make sure you get a good nights rest and a solid breakfast. Or you could do what my team did and pulled an all nighter studying, got one or two hours of sleep, had breakfast and hoped that adrenaline would keep you awake during competition, for us it did and I’ll just say that we did really well at the competition.

Make sure you’re relaxed and not nervous. You should be well prepared so don’t stress. Also, make sure you have fun during the day and keep your sportsmanship — no one likes a sore loser.

Final Tips

  • Please make sure your whole team completely understands the rules; maybe have a meeting just to go over rules. It would be really upsetting if you lose points, a question or a match because someone didn’t know the rules.
  • Takes notes during really long questions, or questions with numbers.
  • For short-answer questions, buzz in as soon as you know the answer.
  • Make flashcards for vocabulary words
  • Watch videos on the different categories
  • HAVE FUN!!!