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Academic Challenge is a game show-style television program held by several universities throughout the United States. Each university hosts a group of regional teams (usually 8 or 16 teams) in a single-elimination tournament. The winner of each regional tournament receives an expenses-paid trip to the national tournament held later that year (usually in Washington, D.C.). Each team comprises up to six players, of which four play at any time, with the other players rotating in between rounds.
Each game in the competition is a one-on-one game between two teams. Each game has four rounds:
- Toss-Up Round
- Bonus Round
- Sixty-Second Round
- Expert Round
The rounds are as follows:
Miscellaneous questions covering any topic are asked. Any player may buzz in at any point during the question. Only one player per team may buzz in per round, and team members may not converse. Each question is worth ten points.
The same rules as the first round apply, however, if a player answers a question correctly, his team gets a series of four questions that they may discuss. The other team does not get a chance to answer these series of questions. Each original question is worth 10 points, and the four questions in a Bonus are worth 5, 10, 15, and 20 points, in that order.
At the beginning of this round, four topics are given. The team that starts with the lowest score gets the first chance to choose a category; once they have, up to ten questions are read based on that topic. The team may converse, however, since the round of ten questions lasts only sixty seconds, haste is necessary. Each question is worth 10 points, with an additional bonus if all ten questions are answered correctly. Any questions incorrectly answered may be answered by the opposing team afterwards. Once the first team's round is complete, the same process occurs for the second team (which may choose only from the three remaining categories)
Identical to the first round, except with slightly more difficult questions. Each question is worth 20 points.