National Academic League

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The National Academic League (NAL) is a popular in junior high schools (middle schools) around the United States. In participating schools, one or two coaches and anywhere from at least fifteen to approximately forty students compete with other schools in the same district. Students study Mathematics , Science , Social Studies, and English In the game, students prepare presentations about current events, and/or answer questions from any of the above listed categories. If a championship is won, it is possible to compete all the way to a national level. Most games are played with the two teams, judges, and coaches meeting in person, but in the national competition video conferencing may be used.

There are also four quarters or rounds in a game; each quarter is different from all the others in some way which will be explained below. The buzzer team competes in the first, second, and fourth quarters, but the buzzer team members may be different from quarter to quarter; the presentation team competes in the third quarter, and some may compete in the fourth quarter.

Game structure[edit]

Tip Off Question[edit]

The game begins with a tip off question; the captains of each team are asked a question, and the first captain to buzz in and answer correctly wins the tip off. They now have the choice of going first or second in the first quarter, or first or second in the third quarter. Captains almost always choose to go first in the first quarter, because it gives the team a decisive advantage. Another popular option that the captain who wins may pick is second in the third quarter because it lets them adjust their presentation based off of the other teams. Then, the losing captain will pick first or second in the other quarter.

First Quarter[edit]

The buzzer team competes in first quarter. First quarter lasts for exactly ten minutes with fifteen seconds (maximum) for each question. (Until recently, the quarter lasted twelve minutes.) Five members sit in the front row and five in reserve. The first question goes to chair one, the captain. If (s)he answers correctly, two points are added to the team's score; the second question will go to chair two. If (s)he also answers correctly, two more points are added to the score and the question goes to chair three. If (s)he also answers correctly, two more points are added, but the team does not get another question. After three correct answers, the questions go to the opposing team.

If one of the questions are answered incorrectly, the other team is given a chance to steal. If they answer correctly, the series of questions goes to the other team and one point is added for a steal, they then have a chance to score up to six points (Three two-point questions), starting with the player who got the steal.

If any team member answers wrongly, they are given a foul. After two fouls, the first reserve player in line takes the fouled-out player's seat, and the fouled-out player moves to the back of the reserve line.

Second Quarter[edit]

In second quarter, five members of the buzzer team work as a team to answer lengthy questions. There is a back row of five reserve players, but this reserve used only at the discretion of the team coach, who can substitute any or all backup players for any or all active players; this quarter lasts ten minutes with 60 seconds (maximum) for each question. The questions are printed on a card, which is carried to the team by a player of the opposite team, the "runner"; when the judge says "Drop", each runner drops the card down on the table. The time starts when the judge reads the question aloud. Players are allowed to talk with each other and write down answers, and collaborate. Although communication is a prime skill in second quarter, no other team member may speak after the captain has buzzed in; each correct answer is worth three points.

Third Quarter[edit]

In third quarter, the presentation team gives a presentation on the question they were given after the tip off question; the third quarter team will have been given a topic one week before the day of the game. This topic is more broad than the question received at the beginning of the game; the topic only gives the presentation team a range of information to research and study before the game day. At the game, they take the question from the judge and a bucket of supplies, including posterboard, construction paper, markers, pencils and paper, and each team works separately in a room for about thirty minutes- until 2nd quarter is over. A parent, teacher or sponsor will give each team a five-minute warning, letting the teams know they have five minutes left before they present; when second quarter is over, the teams present in the order determined by the captains after tip-off. The two judges over the match judge on paper the presentation, on basis of eye contact, memorization, quantity and quality of information, vocabulary, shown interest in the subject, charisma, enthusiasm in speaking, etc; the team must take at least three minutes, but no longer than five in their presentation, or three points are deducted from the team's score. The two scores (each out of a possible 25) are averaged out and added to the team's score.

Fourth Quarter[edit]

There can be a mix of the buzzer team and the presentation team participates in fourth quarter. Five players sit at the buzzers with an additional five in reserve; the first question is given to both teams with members in seat one. the preceding questions continue down to seat two, three, and so forth. When a question is given to seat one, for example, no one but seat one may answer; the students must wait until the judge calls on them. If a student answers correctly, they are awarded two points. If the answer is wrong, however, one point is deducted from the score and a foul is given to the player. If a student does not know the answer, they may pass; this means they receive a foul, but no point deduction. If both students pass, answer wrongly, or time runs out and the right answer has still not been given, the judges declare "Free for all"; the student must wait until the judge finishes saying "Free for all." Anyone on either team at this point has five seconds (or the remaining time in the 30 seconds, whichever is longer) to buzz in and answer.

End of the Game[edit]

At the end of the game, the judges verify the score, and the team with the highest cumulative score wins. If there is a tie, there is a short 2 minute overtime played under fourth-quarter rules.

Sample Topics[edit]

Students in NAL study a broad range of topics in preparation, including math, science, geography, world history, and English; these are the main topics that are studied in each category:

Math: GCF, LCM, probability, Roman numerals, area, and perimeter.

English: Parts of speech, pronouns, poetry terms, gerunds, participles, infinitives, authors, and Greek roots.

Geography: US states and state capitals, postal abbreviations, nicknames, world rivers, world capitals, and currency.

World History: Explorers, inventors, branches of US government, requirements for US office, wars, US bill of rights, Current leaders and amendments.

Science: Elements, biology, and compounds.

Sample First and Fourth Quarter Questions[edit]

Listed below are sample questions asked in an NAL match: (Answers are given in parenthesis)


  • What is -81 divided by -9? (9)
  • If a factory produces 7000 bottles a day and 18% are defective, how many good bottles are produced? (5740 bottles)
  • What is 50% of 100 (50)


  • What are the demonstrative pronouns? (This, that, these, those)
  • Who is the author of Little Women? (Louisa May Alcott)

This question would NOT be used:

  • Correct the following sentence: My Dad and I went fishing. (Change Dad to dad)

(It would not be used because first and fourth quarter questions are given purely verbally.)


  • What is the capital of Turkey? (Ankara)
  • Give the postal abbreviations for the following states: Vermont and Utah. (Capital "V" Capital "T" and Capital "U" Capital "T")
  • Give the two states whose largest cities are Portland. (Maine, and Oregon)
  • Give the 4 countries that are in The United Kingdom. (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England)

World History[edit]

  • What did the Albany Plan of Union do? (Set up an army for the US, provided councils for each colony to deal with purchasing lands)
  • What king of England executed 2 of his 6 wives? (Henry VIII)
  • How did World War II start and what are the alliances? (When Germany invaded Poland, World War II started. The alliances were the Allied Powers and the Axis Powers)
  • Which country did Ferdinand Magellan land on at March 16, 1521 that he thought was the Spice Islands? (Philippines)


  • What type of rock is formed below ground by cooling magma? (igneous)
  • What is the element symbol for potassium? (Capital K)
  • What is the freezing point of water in Fahrenheit? (Freezing- 0 degrees Celsius, 32 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • What is the element symbol for iron? (Capital Fe)
  • If all the insects in the world died, how would it affect the world? (insects are used to pollinate our plants, so if they died, our crops would die out and we wouldn't have any plant food)


  • Say and spell ignore (ignore i-g-n-o-r-e)
  • Say and spell the capital of New York. (Albany, capital A-l-b-a-n-y)
  • Say and spell amphibian. (amphibian, a-m-p-h-i-b-i-a-n)

Sample Second Quarter Questions[edit]

Place the following animals in the categories of carnivore, omnivore, or herbivore: Fruit bats, white-tailed deer, bears, humans, and frogs.

Give the number of vertices, faces, and edges for the following shapes: Pyramid, rectangular prism, cone, cube, and cylinder.

Capitalize the words in the following sentence that need to be capitalized, then give the animal the capital letters spell: Sylvia went to Egypt, and while there, gave Alex a book on Lithuania.

External links[edit]