Game in a Nutshell

The NOSB is an academic competition that tests competitors’ knowledge of the marine sciences. It is played in a quiz-show format with 2 teams of 4-5 students competing in each game. The competitors for each team sit at a table before the officials and audience. Questions are read aloud and are answered with quick responses by the competitors. Each competitor has control of a buzzer that will shut out all the other buzzers when activated.


Toss-up questions are answered by the first competitor who buzzes in and is verbally recognized by the moderator. If the answer to a toss-up question is wrong, and the question was completely read, the other team is given the opportunity to answer the toss-up question.

Bonus questions are only offered to a team that has correctly answered a toss-up. Bonus questions may only be answered by the team captain but team members may consult with each other before giving the answer.

Team challenge questions are offered to both teams at the end of the first half of each game. Both teams are given the same amount of time to answer two written questions (2 – 5 minutes each) and collaboration among team members is encouraged. The team captain must turn in the team’s answer. Partial credit is given.



Correct Answer

Incorrect Answer

+ 4



+ 4

– 4




6 points for a correct answer to a BONUS question.

20 points maximum for a correct answer to a TEAM CHALLENGE question.

Important Rules & Tips Regarding Acceptable Answers:

  • All toss-up questions are multiple choice with the choices labeled W, X, Y or Z.
  • Saying the letter of the correct answer is an acceptable way to answer.
  • Prefacing the answer with phrases such as “My answer is” is NOT acceptable on a toss-up question.
  • On a toss-up question, the first answer given is the only one that counts.
  • For a multiple choice answer: If a participant gives both a letter answer and the scientific answer, both must be correct. Further, the scientific answer must be identical to the correct answer in the NOSB answer book.

Timing & clocks:

Each competition round consists of two halves, each including a 6-minute buzzer session of approximately 10 question pairs. After the first buzzer session, two team challenge questions are administered. Then, after a minimum 2-minute break, the second 6-minute buzzer session begins.

The game clock is used to time the halves and break. It sits in view of the competitors and it may be stopped at the request of any official or when a team player challenges the validity of an answer.

The answer clock, typically a stopwatch, is used by the Timekeeper to time the brief intervals allowed for teams to answer questions. These intervals are as follows:

  • 5 seconds from when the Moderator finishes reading a toss-up question to when a competitor buzzes in.
  • 3 seconds from when a competitor buzzes to when he/she begins to give an answer.
  • 20 seconds from when the moderator finishes reading a bonus question to when the team captain starts giving an answer.
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