Theory Bowl Handbook

Draft 11/3/2014

  1.  Content:
    1. The competition will be made up of four rounds with up to three team members competing at a time

The lASP Board of Directors believes academic competitions are an extra-curricular Therefore,organized team practices for academic competitions shall not take place during any instructional part of the school day. In addition, special courses should not be designed or implemented for the primary purpose of preparing teams for academic competition.

  1. It is permissible for students to read and do online research during the school day, as long as there is not any organized practice, and research does not occur during school instructional time.
  2. All building principals are encouraged to review this position statement with academic coordinators and coaches to clarify that all organized team practices occur as an extra-curricular However, non-instructional time, such as lunch and recess, could be used for organized team practices.
  3. Study Guide
    1. Music Theory Bowl Study Guides are developed by participating coaches and question writers. The study guide will consist of an outline of the material to be used in writing the questions and a list of possible sources of It is not the responsibility of IMEA to provide copies of selected works, references, or books.
    2. Coaches will have the opportunity to provide comments, suggestions, and resource material ideas annually during a spring feedback period. Question writers will then more specifically develop the Study Guide from this input.
    3. Study guides will not be considered “official” until after questions have been written. Official Study Guides will be available at the IASP Academic Coaches Conference, and on the IMEA website. Ideas and suggestions may be sent via email to Lane Velayo (
    4. A coaches meeting will be held in the fall of each year. The meeting will have sessions to explain the various study guide outlines and to answer any questions coaches might have about the competition. A call will be scheduled at a later date.
  4. Expenses:
    1. An entry fee will be charged to participate in the Indiana Music Theory Bowl. Schools must also be a current member of the Department of Student Programs (DSP) OR the educator a member of the Indiana Music Education Association. The DSP membership form is available at, IMEA membership information can be found at Competition enrollment form can be found at The entry fee must be received by the deadline on the Entry Form. A late entry fee will be assessed if the deadline is not met. These fees will help to defray the costs of writing and duplicating the questions, purchasing awards, and meeting other expenses associated with the competition. Each school will be responsible for its own expenses including any incurred while attending competitions.
  5. Registration Form:
    1. Each school may certify up to ten students on the Team Roster form and then designate the members competing on for the registered team at the host site on competition day.
    2. The competition copy of the Team Roster form must be turned in to the registration official by the beginning of the coaches’ meeting or as soon as the team arrives if the meeting has already started when the team
    3. A coach will be allowed to register a squad member who is not present if the coach has knowledge of a conflict or problem which will make the student late (such as participating in a track meet and then coming later to the Theory Bowl, etc.). No changes can be made in the registration form after it is turned in to the registration official at the competition site.
    4. The captain of a squad is designated when the squad arrives at their competition table at the beginning of each round.
  6.  Eligibility:
    1. Any student enrolled full-time in grades 9-12 is eligible to compete on a high school team.
  7. Procedural Committee:
    1. A Procedural Committee of 4 site representatives and a Procedural Official will be appointed by the host coordinator. The Procedural Official will be designated the chairperson and will be responsible for calling the committee together to decide questions involving procedure and rules violations.
    2. When a proctor or competitor indicates by standing that there is a problem or question, the Procedural Official will approach that table to determine the nature of the challenge. Based on the nature of the question, the Procedural Official either settles the matter or convenes the whole committee. If the question is raised by schools from more than one class, then the entire committee will make the decision. (A committee member whose school is raising the question is not included in the final decision-making.) The Procedural Official will explain the nature of the challenge and the resulting decision to the emcee, who will then inform the competitors and spectators.
    3. Examples of situations that would be handled by the Procedural Committee include, but are not limited to:
      1. How long to wait for a late arriving school.
      2. Determination of what to do if a competitor becomes ill while at the competition table.
  • Deciding when alternate questions should be used.
  1. Problems arising between proctors and squad members.
  2. Awareness of problems with sound system, projectors, screen visibility, tables, equipment etc.
  3. Awareness of “obnoxious” coaches or squad members.
  • What to do if a captain repeatedly marks the answer on the wrong line of the answer sheet.
  1. The Procedural Committee, at its discretion, may disqualify a question, squad member, squad, or team.
  1. Supervision:
    1. The host site will have an administrator present during the competition to handle any situations which may The Procedural Committee may bring disruptive or questionable behavior on the part of coaches, competitors, or spectators to the host administrator’s attention so that the situation may be addressed.
    2. Each team is to be supervised by a coach designated by the school principal. This coach will be responsible forseeing that all team members follow all rules and behave in an appropriate manner. A high level of sportsmanship will be expected of competitors,coaches, and fans. Failure of a coach to adequately supervise the team may result in the disqualification of the whole team.
  2. Format:
    1. The competition will consist of four (4) rounds
    2. A squad may consist of no more than four students competing at a time. The alternates (maximum of 2) will be available for substitution. A squad may participate with fewer than three students.
    3. All students competing must be listed on the team roster form that has been given to the proctor to verify at the beginning of the round when the student signs in.
    4. The competing team members will be seated at the desk/table facing the projection screen. Tables will be arranged with the students’ backs to the audience and so that each table has an unobstructed view of the screen.
    5. There may be more than one team per school. Schools providing more than one team will be referred to with a number following the school name (i.e. School Name I, School Name II, etc.)
  3. Questions:
    1. A team of college professors, retired teachers and/or teachers who are not academic coaches are convened to generate questions keyed to the study guides and theme for the Academic Super Bowl. Standards for question writing have been developed and disseminated to those participating in the question writing session. Questions are subject to further validation and evaluation by a second group to assure authenticity and a degree of consistency among subject areas. Every effort will be made to maintain th
      e integrity of the questions and to keep them from being seen except by the question readers and those responsible for making overhead transparencies or slides, and the machine operators. Question Readers should be given the questions ahead of time to check pronunciation and the meaning of any symbols used. These readers should be warned of the confidentiality of the questions and reminded to make sure no one except themselves sees the questions.
  4. Consultation:
    1. No notes, formulas, etc. may be written on any paper by any member of the squad until the reader begins the first question. If a practice question is used at the beginning of a round, the students may begin writing or entering notes when the practice question is read. Once a round has begun (either with a regular or practice question), students may write down or enter any information at any time for the remainder of the round.
    2. Competing students may not orally confer with other squad members until the reader says “begin”. Only written communication is allowed before the word “begin”. If an infraction of this rule occurs, the proctor will warn the squad captain and remind the squad of the rule. If the squad continues to confer vocally before the word “begin,” the proctor shall notify the Procedural Committee, which may disqualify the squad’s answer for that question.
    3. No written material, mascots, stuffed animals, balloons, etc. of any kind may be brought to the competition table. No electronic devices such as phones or tables may be brought to the competition table.  Any such material will be seized by the Proctor. No clothing may be worn which has any information on it that could be of assistance in answering the questions (such as a keyboard tie or a circle of fifths t-shirt). Any team or member wearing such apparel should be brought to the attention of the Procedural Committee which will disqualify the offending party or parties. Pencils and scratch paper will be provided by the host school, but graph paper will not be allowed. Efforts to hide written material, notes, etc. will be construed as being a conscious attempt to cheat and the squad will be disqualified from the round.
  5. Challenges:
    1. Procedural questions and challenges may be raised during the course of the competition to correct a procedural error. Such a challenge must be made by a squad member participating in the competition at that time. Coaches, spectators, or non-participating team members may not make a challenge. To make a challenge, the student should bring the question to the attention of their proctor, and the proctor will stand to gain the attention of the Procedural Official. Challenges may be made at any point before the score sheet is signed at the end of the round. Specific questions or answers may not be challenged during the competition. All questions and answers are considered to be official as presented. If a coach believes a question was incorrect, the lMEA office should be notified of a challenge to questions or answers by phone before 1 I :00 am (eastern time) the day after the competition. The lMEA office may request written documentation proving the answer or question is wrong. If a challenge is made, IMEA may delay posting of the statewide scores for that round. The IMEA staff will work with question writers and officials to determine the validity of the challenge, and the proper response. If the challenge is upheld, the IMEA staff will communicate the decisions to all coaches.
  6. Alternate Questions:
    1. Extra questions for each subject area will be provided. They are to be used when a question’s validity is destroyed. These extra questions will be provided in separate subject area power points. In the Interdisciplinary round, if an alternate question is required, it should be replaced by an alternate question from the same subject area. The Procedural Official will make all decisions concerning when to use an alternate question. Examples of situations when an alternate question is needed would be: if a member of the audience shouts out an answer before the buzzer sounds or if the overhead projector operator shows the question early (for example, during the substitution period). The use of the alternate questions will be left up to the Procedural Official and/or Committee.
    2. If the Question Reader inadvertently calls time at the warning bell instead of the buzzer and gives the answer to a question before all squads have had the opportunity to mark their response, the Procedural Official and/or Committee will make a ruling. Those squads that marked the correct answer before the error was made should be All other squads will be given an alternate question and have it scored accordingly.
    3. If the Procedural Official and/or Committee rules that an alternate question should be substituted for a previously read and answered question, only the team( s) that missed the question will have the chance to answer the new question. For teams who are given an alternate question, the alternate will replace the original question for all scorekeeping purposes, including tie-breakers.
    4. An alternate question cannot be used for what is perceived to be a “bad” question or a question with a wrong answer. All questions will stand as written and challenges should be sent directly to the state director (see Challenges).
  7. Decorum:
    1. Every effort will be made during competition to allow contestants to concentrate. No unnecessary talking or gestures should be made to or around contestants in competition. This is particularly important for judges, proctors, scorekeepers, timers, emcees, and coaches to note.
  8. Proctors:
    1. Each school competing will be responsible for furnishing an adult proctor. Proctor assignments will be made by the host coordinator. Proctors will be assigned to proctor a school not in the proctor’s school size classification if at all possible. This is to avoid a charge that a proctor tried to benefit his own school’s position by his conduct with a competing school.
    2. The proctor will sit at the end of the squad’s table. Before the round begins, the proctor will fill in the school name and subject for that round. The proctor will instruct the students to fill in their names on the lines provided at the top of the answer sheet. The proctor will cross-check the names on the answer sheet with the names on the registration form, and report discrepancies to the procedural judges immediately. If all are correct, the proctor will initial the names on the registration form.
    3. If the squad captain inadvertently marks the answer on the wrong line, the proctor will warn the captain of the error and allow the same answer to be placed on the correct line. Similar subsequent errors should be referred to the Procedural Official who will, on the second offense, warn the captain and allow the same answer to be placed on the correct line, and on the third and any subsequent offenses disqualify the squad’s answer.
    4. After a correct response is given by the question reader, the proctor will draw a line through the entire line of response of a wrong answer. If an answer is correct, the proctor will mark a “+” to the left of the question number and signal the student assistant to add one point on the score chart. If students insist on talking before the word “begin,” the infraction should be reported to the procedural judges. The proctor will make sure the students lift pencils from the answer sheet when the buzzer sounds and will refrain from talking to the students once each round
    5. At the end of each round, the proctor will total the score, record the squad’s regular score in the appropriate box on the bottom of the answer sheet, and record the squad’s tie breaker scores in the appropriate boxes. The proctor will have the squad captain validate the accuracy of the score for the round by signing hislher name on the designated line. The proctor should then sign the answer sheet to make it official.
    6. The coach is responsible for the preliminary train
      ing of his/her proctors. In the event a proctor fails to follow through with his/her responsibilities as described in the study guide, a letter of censure will be sent to both the coach and the building principal.
  9. Scoring:
    1. Every question that a squad answers correctly will be worth one point.
    2. At the Area and Invitational competitions, scores will be displayed on flip charts. Each school will be responsible for having a student to keep the flip chart current. The student will operate the flip chart for the same school that the proctor from his/her school is proctoring. The proctor will signal the student assistant each time that team scores a point. The student assistants will then turn a page on the flip chart to indicate that the point was scored. If the squad’s answer was incorrect, no point is scored, but no penalty is deducted from the existing score. The score charts will be turned toward the audience throughout the competition. This has the effect of heightening their enthusiasm and support of their team.
    3. At the Senior Division State Finals, an electronic scoring system may be utilized. In that event, schools will not have to furnish a score chart flipper. However, flip charts will be available as a back-up in case of technical difficulties with the electronic system. If this occurs, the proctors will be responsible for flipping the chart and keeping the score current.
    4. If the squad captain inadvertently marks the answer on the wrong line, the proctor will warn the captain of the error and allow the same answer to be placed on the correct line. Similar subsequent errors should be referred to the Procedural Official who will on the second offense warn the captain and allow the same answer to be placed on the correct line and on the third and any subsequent offenses disqualify the squad’s
  10. Breaking Ties:
    1. In the event there is a tie score at the end of the competition, the first tie-breaker will be the number of correct answers given to the last five (5) questions asked (questions #21-22-23-24-25). A perfect score on the first tie-breaker would be 5.
    2. If a tie still exists after us ing Ole first two tie-breaker methods, the second tie-breaker will be the number of correct answers for the last three (3) questions asked (questions #23-24-25).
    3. If a tie remains after utilizing the fi rst tie-breaker method, the third tie-breaker will be the greatest number of questions answered correctly in succession, regardless of where in the round the succession For example, if a squad missed the first two questions and answered all the rest correctly, they would have a third tie-breaker score of 23.
    4. If the tie is not broken after using the three tie-breaker methods, the score will stand. Alphabetic order will decide who gets the physical award at this time and duplicate awards will be ordered for the other squad(s) There is no “sudden death” elimination. The schools who rank below the tie will not move up in rank. i.e. schools A and B tie for first, school C finishes third, school C does not move up to second. No second place award is given.
    5. Because of the importance of the last five (5) questions in each subject round, every effort will be made to ensure questions 2 I through 25 will be the most A perfect score for the round would appear on the answer sheet as: 25 – 5 – 3 – 25.
  11. Awards:
    1. Certificates will be awarded to all team members.
    2. Medals will be awarded to each of the members of the top three teams in Gold, Silver and Bronze.
    3. Plaques will be awarded to each team.
  12. Code of Conduct


The Indiana Association of School Principals (IASP) sponsors various programs that benefit all students in Indiana. One of these programs, Department of Student Programs (DSP), organizes academic competitions for elementary, junior high/middle, and high school students. By the nature of academic competitions, the atmosphere at each competition should be challenging and intense, but sportsmanship, common sense, decency, fairness, and respect should prevail at all times. These virtues should be taught to students by adults, then adhered to by students and coaches at all competition sites.  The majority of coaches and students conduct themselves in an exemplary manner and are commended for displaying positive attitudes and behavior.


The IASP Board of Directors reminds principals of their responsibility to make certain all personnel and students conduct themselves in the proper manner at all school functions. Therefore, the board expects all principals to require coaches and students to display appropriate behavior and sportsmanship at all academic competitions. The board strongly suggests that principals share the DSP Position Statement, Philosophy, Objectives, and Potential Outcomes of the Program with academic coaches and, in turn, the students.


If inappropriate conduct occurs at academic competitions, an incident referral form will be submitted to the Program Director within 48 hours of the competition. Then, the Program Director will contact the principal with a warning (unless the situation is serious, then step two will be followed immediately). If inappropriate behavior occurs a second time, then the principal and coach(es) win be expected to appear before a panel of Advisory Board members and IASP Board of Directors members to explain the reason for the continued inappropriate behavior. Depending on circumstances, the school and/or involved parties could be placed on probation or even lose the privilege of participating in further academic competition( s).



Guidelines: Question Writing Procedure (Revised)

  1. The questions must be in the multiple-choice format.
    1. This format should be used to guarantee-within reason-only one correct answer. The source or calculation of the correct answer must be included on initial submission, no matter what format is used for submitting the questions.
    2. The three incorrect answers should be verifiably incorrect, but not blatantly so.
  2. The questions must be meticulously cross-referenced with any sources identified on the subject matter outline.
  3. The percentage of questions identified on the subject matter outlines must be carefully followed and distributed according to the question distribution sheet.
  4. The selected questions should be distributed according to proportions of the first four classes of questions identified in Bloom’s taxonomy: remembering (recall and recognition), understanding (comprehension and interpretation), solving (application and convergence), analyzing (induction and deduction)
  5. Emphasis should be placed on higher level questions.
  6. Certain subjects may lend themselves more to one class of questions than to other classes
  7. Questions should be kept brief-but not at the cost of clarity. In competition, each question will appear as a projection of a single PowerPoint slide.
  8. The multiple-choice options should avoid the commonplaces that have become part of “psyching out” a question.
    1. The longest or shortest answer should not always (ever?) be the correct answer.
      (In any case no answer should be significantly longer or shorter than the other options.)
    2. No pattern of answers should exist among those selected for a given round of the competitions.
    3. First consideration for tie-breakers should be given to questions that fall into Bloom’s third and fourth classes.
    4. Tie-breakers may require recall of minute detail.
  9. Analogies-though requiring careful wording and evaluation of the incorrect responses-serve this criterion well.
  10. A variety of strategies relevant to the responses are open.
    1. A particularly strong type follow the pattern of “All of the following EXCEPT …. “
    2. No set of options should include “none of the above” or “all of the above. n
    3. The combination response-such as “both A and B”-Iend themselves well to the team approach to determining the answer, providing such responses are not consistently the correct response.
  11. Questions should not resemble those found in “Trivial Pursuit” or “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Instead, they should be significant to the subject matter and theme.
  12. Questions should not be so easy that the answers are egregiously clear.
  13. Complicated graphics and charts should be avoided in the interest of both clarity and slide size.
  14. Ways to Make Distracters Plausible:
    1. Use important-sounding words (e.g., significant, accurate) that are relevant to the item stem, but don’t overdo it.
    2. Use words that have verbal associations with the item stem (e. g., politicianpolitical)
    3. Use textbook language or other phraseology that has the “appearance of truth.”
    4. Use incorrect answers that are likely to result from misunderstanding or carelessness on the part of competitors (e.g., forgets to convert from feet to yards).
    5. Use disracters that are homogeneous and similar in content to the correct answer (e.g., all are inventors).
    6. Use distracters that are parallel in form and grammatically consistent with the item’s stem.
    7. Make the distracters similar to the correct answer in length, vocabulary, sentence structure, and complexity of thought.
    8. Note of Caution: Distracters should distract the uninformed, but they should not result in “trick questions” that mislead the knowledgeable competitor (e.g., don’t insert not in a correct answer to make it a distracter).
  15. Checklist for Reviewing Multiple-Choice Items
    1. Does the item stem present a meaningful problem?
    2. Is the item stem free of irrelevant material?
    3. Are the item stems stated in positive terms (if possible)?
    4. Have negative words been placed in all capital letters?
    5. Are the distracters grammatically consistent with the item stem?
    6. Are the distracters brief and free of unnecessary words?
    7. Are the distracters similar in length and form?
    8. Is there only one correct or clearly best answer?
    9. Are the items free of verbal clues to the answer?
    10. Are verbal alternatives in alphabetical order?
    11. Are numerical alternatives in numerical order?
    12. Have “all of the above” and “none of the above” been avoided or used sparingly?

1 Adapted from Gronlund, Norman E., Measurement and Evaluation in Teaching. 5th edition. New York: Macmillan, 1985.