Sample Questions from Previous Competitions

Social Science

There is both a written test (multiple choice and essay) and an oral presentation on a topic chosen by the judges. The written test is approximately:

25% US History

25% World History

25% Government and Economics

25% Current Events, World Geography, Sociology and Psychology

Sample Written Test Questions

1. The number of United States Representatives

a. has always been the same.

b. is increased after each census.

c. was limited to 435 in 1913.

d. is equal to the number of Senators.

Answer is C

2. The Strait of Gibraltar is between

a. France & England

b. Egypt & Syria

c. Kuwait & Iraq

d. Spain & Morocco

Answer is D

3. The first female leader of a Muslim nation was ____________ of Pakistan.

a. Indira Gandhi

b. Benazir Bhutto

c. Margaret Thatcher

d. Golda Meir

Answer is B

Essay Question (from 2004)

Why has the Arab-Israeli dispute proven so difficult to resolve? How and when did this dispute get started? Does a solution seem any more likely now than during the 1970’s, 80’s, or 90’s? Why or why not?

Oral Question (from 2008)

Your presentation will be judged on the coherence of your answer, on the support you provide for your stand, and on the quality of the presentation itself.

In 1920, the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified into law, setting the stage for profound changes in our customs, values and beliefs. Eighty-eight years later, a beneficiary of this landmark amendment aspires toward the highest level of political achievement in America, the office of President. Trace the main points of the socio-political struggle that led to the amendment and the adjustments that have occurred in our society since that time, including the social and psychological hurdles this candidate continues to face in contemporary America.

Oral Question (from 2009)

Your presentation will be judged on the coherence of your answer, on the support you provide for your stand, and on the quality of the presentation itself.

Should the government bail out those in danger of losing their homes due to mortgage costs? Why or why not?


The written mathematics test will be comprised of questions from approximately the following content areas:

Algebra I 10%

Algebra II 24%

Analytic Geometry 10%

Number Theory 15% (properties of real numbers)

Probability & Statistics 10%

Calculus 10%

Trigonometry 10%

Systems of Equations 5%

Sequence & Series 5%

Set Theory 1%

The format for all questions will be open response.

Sample Math Questions

Three women were sitting at a table playing hearts. Each passed three cards to the person on her right. Ms. Z passed the 2 of hearts and the 2 of spades. Ms. Y passed three hearts to the American. Ms. X passed the queen of spades and two clubs to the lady who passed her cards to the French woman. In order: The American, the French, and the English women are:

a) XYZ

b) YZX

c) XZY

d) YXZ

e) ZXY

Oral Math Questions

The oral exam is judged based on the analysis and presentation of that analysis as well as accuracy. The oral question comes from fields of mathematics K-12 that competitors have studied. Calculus may be used, but is never required to give an accurate answer. Questions may come from any of the areas found in the written test, and are chosen so that competitors can give a presentation of their results that will interest the audience. Some years information is given ahead of time, this is particularly true if the question involves data analysis. Other years competitors will be given a question that can be solved with a general high school math background in less than 30 minutes. If competitors do not receive data, they may be asked to construct something to display.

Sample Math Oral Question (from 2001)

Applegate Lake Inflow 182 CFS (cubic feet per second)

Applegate Lake Outflow 120 CFS

Applegate Lake Level 1,892.46 feet

Lake Surface Area 386 Acres

Lake Storage (at current level) 15,422 Acre – Feet*

Applegate Watershed Area 223 Square Miles

Suppose you are an engineer at Applegate Reservoir (your actual title is Dam Engineer). A storm has dumped 2 inches of rain on the Applegate Watershed in a one hour time period. Assume that one inch of this rain is absorbed into the soil and the rest drains into Applegate Reservoir during the next 24 hours. Use the following data and information to answer the questions below.

*Definition: 1 Acre–foot of water is equivalent to one acre of water one foot deep.

Conversion Factors

1 Acre = 43,560 Square Feet

1 Square Mile = 640 Acres = 27,878,400 Square Feet

1 Cubic Foot = 7.48 Gallons

1 Cubic Foot = 1,728 Cubic Inches

1 Mile = 5,280 Feet

1 Foot = 12 inches


1) Estimate how many gallons of water drain into the lake from the storm (not including normal inflow from streams and rivers). Round off your answer to the most convenient unit of measure.

2) Consider your answer to number one and the normal inflow and outflow given in the above table to estimate the rise in the water level of the lake during this 24 hour period assuming the outflow remains constant.

Sample Oral Math Question (from 2003)

Many times in problem solving we must gather, compile, and then analyze tremendous amounts of data in order to make a conjecture about the solution to a problem. This problem will give you a chance to hone your problem solving skills by analyzing population, income, inflation, and tax data.

The following pages contain State of Oregon statistics concerning Oregon’s population, total personal income of Oregonians and Oregon tax revenues. Also attached is a US inflation rate schedule based on the increase in each years’ Consumer Price Index (CPI). The personal income and tax data and the personal income data have not been adjusted for inflation.

Certainly the amount of money collected in personal income taxes and property taxes has increased in Oregon, but is the average Oregonian paying a greater or smaller percentage of his or her income in taxes to Oregon?

In answering this question:

Consider only personal income and property taxes—ignore corporate taxes.

You must briefly explain the methods used in computing your results.

You must use only the provided data.

You must prepare ahead of time, and use, graphic representations that help your audience understand the trends involved over time.


The English written exam includes a multiple-choice section, a fill-in-the-blank identification section, a short answer section, and an essay. In the essay, competitors get a choice of three questions, and they must answer the question using 2-3 works from a list of some 20 or so major works of literature (with poems, plays, short stories, and novels).

Sample English Questions

Which two authors wrote the poems in Lyrical Ballads (1798)?

a. Wordsworth and Byron

b. Blake and Shelley

c. Keats and Coleridge

d. Wordsworth and Coleridge

e. Byron and Shelley

In Greek mythology, Theseus was king of which city?

a. Sparta

b. Athens

c. Troy

d. Mycene

e. Thebes

What is the name of the literary device used in the phrase, “a head count”?

a. personification

b. synecdoche

c. onomatopoeia

d. alliteration

e. hyperbole

Describe how the Myth of Sisyphus is used to define twentieth-century existentialism. Also, what writer used this myth as such a description?


Following are the first lines from major literary works. Identify the author and the title of each work.

1. If music be the food of love, play on, / Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, / The appetite may sicken, and so die . . .

AUTHOR ________________________________ WORK _________________________________

2. When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself . . .

AUTHOR ________________________________ WORK _________________________________

Identify the author and title of the original work from which a more modern novel drew its title.

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World



Answer: William Shakespeare and The Tempest

Essay (students are given a list of some 20 works to choose from)

Sometimes an author creates a first person narrator who is naïve or otherwise unreliable. Drawing on two works from the above list, discuss various ways that authors have used this strategy and speculate on the advantages to both author and reader from the use of this character’s point of view.

Oral Performance

*** Competitors are to read a pre-selected book for the oral performance. The books will be provided to the competitors at the written exams at RCC.

Competitors may bring the selected book to their preparation session but no other notes or resources are permitted. Internet access is also not permitted and cell phones are given to the proctors. Competitors do not see the questions based on the pre-read book until 30 minutes prior to appearing on the stage.

Sample Oral Question (2008: The Road)

Choose one of the following questions for your oral presentation:

1.The Road is written in a sparse, elliptical style-with many seemingly important details left out. For your oral presentation, describe McCarthy’s prose style, using examples from the novel, and explain how it relates to the book’s message.

2.The Road depicts a world in ruins, but it centers on the powerful relationship between the unnamed father and his son, who describe themselves as “the good guys”–in opposition to the many predators they encounter on their journey. Explain how this central relationship stands against the dark world they inhabit and whether you feel these two offer any redemption for the nightmarish future McCarthy has imagined.


The Science written exam is primarily multiple choice. will be approximately:

Biology 25%

Chemistry 25%

Physics 25%

Geology and Astronomy 25%

Sample Science Questions

Directions: Each of the questions or incomplete statements below is followed by five suggested answers or completions. Select the one that is best in each case.

  1. Sound waves travel fastest through a

  2. vacuum

  3. gas at high pressures

  4. gas at low pressures

  5. solid

  6. liquid

2 Lichens are most typically formed by the symbiotic association of an alga or cyanobacterium and:

  1. an ascomycete

  2. a deutromycete

  3. a basidiomycete

  4. a zygomycete

  5. all of the above

Answer: A

  1. A black hole might form when.

  2. a white dwarf cools, no longer emitting light.

  3. the core of a super-massive star collapses.

  4. a neutron star begins to spin, creating an extremely powerful magnetic field.

  5. a supernova implodes.

Answer: B


The written music test will include:

Music History

  • Matching dates with periods of music history

  • Matching periods of music history with a variety of musical genre and styles

  • Matching composers from their period of music history with a selection of their work and its period in music history

Music Theory

  • Constructing major, minor, augmented, and diminished triads in a given clef

  • Identifying major and minor scales

  • Identifying meter in given notation

Music Notation

  • Notating a common tune in a given key signature

  • Identifying a common tune by notation

Music Sample Questions

What period does the Gregorian Chant fall under?

  1. The Middle Ages

  2. The Baroque

  3. The Renaissance

  4. The Classical

  5. The Romantic

  6. The Modern

Answer: A

The Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead is called a:

  1. Marian mass

  2. Requiem mass

  3. Magnificat

Answer: B

Name one piece or composition from the following composers:

Irving Berlin _________________________________

George Bizet ________________________________

Answers: White Christmas and Carmen (among others)