Competition Rules

Competition Rules

Competition Rules Overviewnosb_logo

The Chesapeake Bay Bowl follows the official rules of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (  The following overview should help spectators follow the competition, but not all rules are presented here.

Officials’ Roles

  • Moderator: Asks the questions
  • Science Judge: Answer acceptability
  • Timekeeper: Keeps the match clock
  • Scorekeeper: Tallies team scores
  • Rules Judge: In charge of procedure
  • Team Challenge Judge: Grades TCQs


Each team consists of four or five students: one captain, three players, and one alternate (optional). At the end of each half, the team’s alternate player may rotate in.

Types of Questions

There are two “buzzer question” halves per match. In the buzzer half there are:

  • Toss-up questions – Must buzz in to answer. No consultation among players.
  • Bonus questions – Given after a correct toss-up. Teams may consult on bonus questions, but only the team captain may give the answer.

Team Challenge Questions – written, short essay questions presented between buzzer halves. There will be two TCQs at the half. Consultation allowed.


Responses to multiple choice questions can be the letter (W, X, Y, Z) or the word answer, exactly as specified. Anything else is unacceptable. The first answer stated is the one that counts.

If a player buzzes in before the moderator has completely read the question:

The moderator recognizes the player and the player answers the question. If the answer is unacceptable, the team loses four points and the question is read to the opposing team. If the answer is acceptable, the team gets four points and the chance to answer a bonus question. If a player “blurts” an answer without being recognized, their team loses its turn.


  • After toss-up question is read: five seconds to buzz in.
  • From being recognized to answer: three seconds
  • After bonus question is read to answer: 20 seconds.
  • For TCQ: two to five minutes.


  • Toss-up questions: Four points
  • Bonus question: Six points
  • Interrupt, recognized, but answer not acceptable: Four points are deducted.
  • Blurt, unrecognized: Zero points and team loses their chance to answer.
  • TCQ: Zero to 20 points (partial credit possible).

Challenges to Rules or Scientific Answers

Players (not audience members, alternate players or coaches) may challenge a ruling on toss-up or bonus questions, but only before the moderator begins reading the next question. The time keeper stops the clock, officials may confer and the appropriate judge makes a ruling. Officials’ rulings are final. There are no challenges on TCQs.

A complete set of rules is available here, and a hard copy will be available at Bay Bowl Central on competition day.

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