Improving Your Team’s Face-Off! Performance


There are strategies such as SCAMPER and a close reading of the scoring rubric that can help USAT participants in obvious ways during Mind Sprints and P.A.R.T.Y. in a Box events. It is more difficult to strategize when it comes to answer the trivia and logic problems in Face -Off!, but there is one approach your team may want to try.

There are five categories in the Face -Off! competition, and they are the same in the oral and written rounds. Here is the breakdown:

  1. Science/Health- principles and vocabulary of rudimentary astronomy, biology, chemistry, and physics, plus human health issues
  2. Math/Music Theory- logic and math problems spanning arithmetic, geometry, and algebra as well as principles and vocabulary in music
  3. Current Events/Consumer Issues- News of the day and information about new advancements in technology and other industries
  4. English Literature/Usage- Characters, major plot points, and information about authors as well as definitions of words and grammar in the English language
  5. Social Science/Geography- American history and government, world history, and geography

Five categories, and five members of a USAT team. Coincidence, or opportunity?

Different students have different strengths and challenges; things that come easily to one will be difficult for another. As a coach, you can help your students by talking about these different abilities and working together to appoint “experts” in the various Face -Off! categories. This will encourage them to take ownership of different content, such as by staying on top of the news of the day or reading new books. The expert could last for a whole season or rotate by Meet, depending on your strategy and goals. Team mates can use the expert’s knowledge as their jumping-off point or deciding vote during a dispute about an answer, which, in turn, saves time.

US Academic Triathlon is both a chance for students to play to their strengths as well as push themselves to excel in other areas that don’t come as easily. By rotating your experts, or assigning tasks to students that they find challenging, it is also an opportunity for them to grow. Perhaps one of your students has a problem with remembering the location of the 50 US states. Rote memorization rarely works, but you could add something else to the research, like three fun facts about each state or asking them to use the outline as the basis of a drawing. The student could then potentially present on her findings during practices and expand the knowledge of all of her team mates at the same time.

Have you discovered any creative ways to practice for Face-Off? We’d love to hear from you!

I am the Creative Director and Webmaster for US Academic Triathlon. I write the curriculum for Meets, as well as the enrichment activities and articles for this site. Peggy Sheldon, the Founder of USAT, is my mother so I have been living and breathing the program since it was founded over 30 years ago.

Posted in Face-Off, Resources
One comment on “Improving Your Team’s Face-Off! Performance
  1. […] math/music theory, English/literature, and current events/consumer issues. We’ve provided some tips for improving Face-Off performance before, but there could certainly be other ways. And if the students come up with the ideas […]

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