The Northern Kentucky Academic League was founded in the 1980s by a group of Academic Team coaches who wanted to recognize and promote academic excellence through competition.  The league has grown to include nearly ninety schools and encompassing five counties in Northern Kentucky.


Weekly Competition

How Does an Academic Team Compete in NKAL?

Students participate in weekly games where they compete in “Quick Recall” which is comparable to Quiz Bowl or the television series Jeopardy!  Teams are allowed to seat four players at a time, though they may have as many players on the ‘side lines’ as they wish.

Format of Competition

Quick Recall, features two halves of tossup and bonus questions from a packet that have been prepared by the League.  The competition begins with tossup questions that are read aloud by a moderator   After the question has been read the competitor has five seconds at the Middle & High School levels or ten seconds at the Elementary level to ‘buzz in’ and attempt to answer the question.  If no one has attempted to answer the question, or if other teams have answered incorrectly, the moderator will move on to the next question.

During a tossup question competitors use buzzers (a signal indicating device that sounds a “buzzing” noise and – depending on the system powers a light – while simultaneously locking out other competitors) to alert the moderator they are ready to answer the question.  Competitors may interrupt the reading of the question without penalty; however, if they give an incorrect answer, the rest of the question is read for the other team.  Unlike other states and other forms of academic competitions there are no ‘negs’ or ‘powers’ for anticipations.  The student, after buzzing and being recognized by the moderator, must answer immediately or ‘hesitation’ is called with prejudice for the rest of the team and the opposing team is given an opportunity to answer.  Only one incorrect answer is allowed per team; if an incorrect answer is rendered the opposing team is given opportunity to answer.  If the opposing team does not answer within five seconds of if they do so incorrectly the moderator moves on to the next question. During tossup questions competitors may not confer with each other.  Each correct answer is worth one point.

If a team answer correctly, they are asked a bonus question for their team only. The team has ten seconds to discusses and give a complete answer which must be given by the captain.  Each team has one captain though the captain may alert the moderator that they are designating another team-member to answer.  No additional time is given for the designee.  Each correctly answered bonus is worth one point.

If a team does not answer a bonus question correctly or fails to render an answer in the ten seconds allotted the opposing team is given an opportunity to answer the same question.  Once acknowledged by the moderator the team captain must immediately give an answer or designate a team member to answer, the designee must also answer the question immediately upon being recognized.  Bounce-backs are worth one point.

The winner is the team with the most amount of points at the end of the second half.  Should there be a tie, an overtime tie-breaker of five tossup questions are asked.


Elementary schools use a set of 30 questions that are to be read in 10 minutes. Middle Schools use a set of 40 questions that are to be read in 12 minutes. High schools use a 50 question set that is to be read in 15 minutes. After the time has elapsed, no other questions can be read in that ‘half’.  All questions are written to be grade level appropriate.

The questions are divided into 5 subject areas: Math, Science, Social Studies (History, Geography, Current Events, Economics, Sociology), Arts and Humanities (Art, Music, Dance, Mythology, Religion, Pop Culture), and Language Arts (Literature [heavy emphasis here], Grammar, Literary Terms.)  The questions are divided equally amongst the subject areas.  (i.e. there are 20 questions from each area [plus one alternate from each area] in every 100-question game.)


Quick Recall matches are officiated by a four person team, made up of moderator, judge, spotter, and score-keeper.  Moderators read the questions, judges the correctness of the answer, and makes hesitation calls. The ultimate match authority however, resides with the judge, who can overrule any other decisions made by an official. Judges monitor the performance of the other officials and rule on inquires. A scorer keeps the official match score. The spotter recognizes the players who buzz in and operate the buzzer system. The standard format is school name and then player name. (e.g. “Dixie, Rick”.)  Even though there are now computer based systems that will keep scores, an official match score must always be kept on paper.


Quick Recall competitions, along with Future Problem Solving and Written Assessments (tests on subject areas) are parts of tournaments.  Teams receive points for individual performance in the written exams and for the wins in the quick recall rounds. The team with the most points wins the tournament.

Written Assessments are fifty multiple-choice question test to be completed in forty-five minutes in the following subject areas: Science, Social Studies, Composition, Mathematics, Arts & Humanities, and Language Arts/Literature. The only assessment that breaks from the multiple-choice format is the composition assessment which is an open ended question on a given topic.  Language Arts exam is based around a “focus work,” a piece of literature whose title is given to the participant before the competition.  The same exam (or topic/focus work in the composition and language arts assessment) is given to each competitor.   Each multiple-choice exam also has two tie-breaking open ended questions which are only graded in the event that two (or more) competitors receive the same score.