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How to Prepare for National Science Bowl

What is National Science Bowl

National Science Bowl (NSB) is a nationwide academic competition that tests students’ knowledge in all areas of science and mathematics. NSB is a buzzer based science competition on questions ranging from Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Earth Science, Energy, and Mathematics. This competition is sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE)


Middle and high school student teams from diverse backgrounds are comprised of four students, one alternate, and a teacher who serves as an advisor and coach. These teams face-off in a fast-paced question-and-answer format. There are 65 high school and 50 middle school regional Science Bowl tournaments, and the winner from each region is invited to attend the National Science Bowl competition in Washington DC.

You can find more details about the 2022 National competition in this video:

Competing at the Most Prestigious Science Competition in the US


Who can participate in National Science Bowl


NSB has two divisions:

  • Middle schools: The middle school division has 45 regions, where each school can send 1-2 teams comprised of students in grades 6, 7, 8.

  • High schools: The high school division has 60 regions where each school can send 1/2 teams to comprised of students in grades 9-12.

When is National Science Bowl held


The competition dates typically are:

  • Regional Competitions: February - early March (different regions host it on different weekends)

  • National Competition: April (Washington DC)

You can find more information about the 2023 NSB Finals here.

How to do well on National Science Bowl


  1. Understanding all the content: The concepts asked in NSB go beyond the school curriculum so you need to go deeper into the different subjects. The High School Nationals is significantly harder and requires using many topic specific textbooks (for example Organic Chemistry or Cell Biology). Olympiad Preparation (USABO, USNCO, USAPHO, USAAO, USESO) helps a lot as well. Many accompanying resources (like Chapter Notes, Videos) can be useful for learning and review as well.

  2. Being able to answer fast:  NSB is a buzzer based competition so you need to practice fast buzzing speeds especially for the toss-up rounds. Some fast buzzing tips are provided at the bottom of this page.

  3. Subject and Topic coverage: This is a team event where 4 members competing (with 1 alternate). It is best to divide the topics such that every topic is covered across the team.

  4. Practice Team Strategies: To maximize your chances, you need to work on team strategies like taking notes, non-verbal clues, and double checking answers. 



What are the best resources to prepare for NSB

Note: These resources were compiled and/or created by former participants of the National Science Bowl® and not officially endorsed by the U.S. Department of Energy or the National Science Bowl®.  Outside content and resources may be out-of-date or even incorrect.  Students and coaches should always confirm the validity of any resources and study questions independently.

Official list of resources and information from the NSB website:

Tips and Resources for National Science Bowl


Middle School Regionals (Advanced Middle School Level)



Middle School Nationals / High School Regionals (AP Course Level)



High School Nationals (College Undergraduate/Graduate Level)



  • Crash Course Physiology Videos



Biology Questions:

These questions can help you refresh your concepts and practice answering the style of questions asked during Science Bowl rounds.





Middle School Regionals (Advanced Middle School Level)


  • Crash Course Physics Videos



Middle School Nationals / High School Regionals (AP Course Level)


High School Nationals (College Undergraduate/Graduate Level)



Physics Questions:





Middle School Regionals (Advanced Middle School Level)



Middle School Nationals / High School Regionals (AP Course Level)


  • Test Bank for Zumdahl Chemistry




High School Nationals (College Undergraduate/Graduate Level)

Chemistry Questions:


Earth Science

Middle School Regionals (Advanced Middle School  Level)








Middle School Nationals / High School Regionals (AP Course Level)



High School Nationals (College Undergraduate/Graduate Level)


Earth and Space Questions:




Middle School Regionals (Advanced Middle School Level)

Middle School Regionals is similar to AMC 8/MATHCOUNTS competitions.

  • Free Mastering AMC 8 Book: This is a 400+ page hybrid book with hundreds of practice problems and video lectures for every topic. 

  • Volume 1 book by AoPS: For even more advanced students, the Volume 1 essentially provides a summary of the Introduction Series by AoPS, covering many important concepts.


Problem Trainers

For even more practice, there are a variety of websites which can help you practice specific topics and improve problem solving speed.


  • Alcumus: Free resource by AoPS to practice problems from specific topics.

  • MATHCOUNTS Trainer: Four different levels of problems from MATHCOUNTS competitions. This trainer makes problem solving fun by giving you harder and harder problems as your rating increases.

  • For the Win: Practice speed and accuracy by playing head to head against other players to answer questions quickly

Middle School Nationals / High School Regionals

Middle School Regionals is similar to AMC 8/MATHCOUNTS competitions.


High School Nationals





















Science Bowl Practice Rounds:



Science Bowl Practice Rounds Books

  • R & A's Science Bowl Practice Rounds: Volume 1 ​​​This book contains 460 questions that are meant to emulate the US Department of Energy National Science Bowl® (NSB). The subjects include Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth and Space Science, Energy, and Math. The topics and difficulty of these problems are similar to that of the High School Regional Round Robin rounds.

  • Middle School Science Bowl - Volume 1 Ten full rounds of authentic, realistic practice questions. Each round has 50 questions (25 toss up questions and 25 bonus questions) and is formatted like the official Department of Energy’s Science Bowl questions. 

  • Middle School Science Bowl - Volume 2 This book has 10 full rounds of practice questions in increasing difficulty, with each round having 50 questions (25 toss up and 25 bonus questions.) Formatting like the official DOE Science Bowl questions.

  • 2019 National Biology Bowl Question Sets 2019 National Biology Bowl Question Sets contains all the questions used in the 2019 National Biology Bowl, which was held on May 25th, 2019, in Claremont, California. It is a great study guide and provides excellent practice material for the middle school National Science Bowl, National Academic Quiz Tournaments, US Academic Bowl, and National Biology Bowl.



Invitational Tournaments

Here is a list of invitational tournaments that can help you practice and compete against other teams


  • NSB Niskayuna High School Science Bowl

  • SMH South Middle Hollylake Invitational


*If you know of any other Science Bowl events, please email


Tips for Fast Buzzing

  1. Know the content extremely well: The better understanding you have of a topic, the less time it will take for you to figure out the answer.

  2. Exact Answer for multiple choice: Remember that for multiple choice questions, your answer must be exactly as written in the answer choices. So it is generally better to just say w, x, y, or z. This is also why it’s risky to buzz before the choices are read. 

  3. Buzz as soon as you hear the correct choice: When you are confident of the answer, just buzz as soon as the answer choice (w, x, y) is spoken. And if you realize that w, x, and y are not correct, then you can buzz right after y and give the answer as z (don’t even need to wait for the reader to finish reading z)

  4. Predict the answer choice: Sometimes, you can predict the format of the choices after hearing the first option (w), and then you can guess the exact wording of an upcoming answer choice. 

  5. Predict the question: Sometimes, you don’t need to wait for the question to be finished. A few words in the beginning may hint at what the question might be asking for.

There are some sites which can help you practice your buzzing speed for the Science Bowl.


Protobowl: Protobowl is a multiplayer buzzer system which can help you practice questions for Science Bowl, however sometimes it is a bit unreliable and has several errors.


ZatoBowl Science Bowl Simulator:  Zatobowl provides thousands of questions for National Science Bowl (NSB), National Ocean Science Bowl (NOSB), and other national and international quiz competitions. It is a single player system for practicing your buzzing speed.

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