General MasterMinds Information

I.  Overview:  MasterMinds is a quiz bowl-style academic competition for high school students.

II.  Organization:  The organization of MasterMinds is fairly unique.  In some areas, MasterMinds is a BOCES service available to public schools through a BOCES center.  Private schools, depending on the region, sign up through BOCES or CYPRAS.  CYPRAS, a non-profit company which established the MasterMinds program, organizes and administers the program.

III.  History:  CYPRAS started MasterMinds in the fall of 1993 in the Rochester area with 25 schools.  In the fall of 1995, MasterMinds became a BOCES offering and the program expanded into the Buffalo region.  Forty-eight schools participated in 1995-96.  Fifty-two schools participated in the 1996-97 season.  A junior varsity option was made available in 1997-98 with 13 of the 61 schools fielding both varsJVity and  teams. In 1999-2000, MasterMinds expanded into the Albany/Capital Distict area and participation topped 70 schools.  In 2003-2004, MasterMinds was introduced into the Syracuse area and total participation crested 100 schools for the first time.

IV.  Format:  MasterMinds uses a form of the NAQT™ Quiz Bowl format for match play.  Matches are played in eight-minute halves with each school playing four students at a time.  Students must ring-in and be recognized before answering.  Correct answers earn that player’s team ten or 15 points and the opportunity for the team for answer a 30 pointy bonus question.  

V.  How:  In each region, schools are arranged into different leagues at the start of the school year, playing a 12 game regular season with the top schools advancing to double elimination playoffs.  MasterMinds has divided the state into eight regions:  Buffalo (Section VI), Rochester/Genesee Valley (Section V), Syracuse/Watertown/Utica/Rome (Section III), Binghamton/Southern Tier (Section IV), Albany/Capital District (Section II), Adirondacks/North Country (Section VII and X), Catskills/Westchester (Sections 1 and IX), and Long Island (Sections VIII and XI).  State tournament play began with the 2005-2006 season.

VI.  Who:  All public, private, charter and parochial high schools are eligible.  Any student from those schools may play.  Seventh and eighth graders may be allowed to participate in leagues upon approval of a majority of coaches within that league.  There are no scholastic requirements other than those established by individual districts for their own students.

VII.  When & Where:  Meets are held after school with each league gathering once every few weeks.  Meets are held over the course of the school year with the regular season running from approximately mid- to late October through to early April, followed by playoffs.  Each meet is normally designed so that each school plays two matches.  Meets are held in the high schools with the location rotating among the participants with the actual days, starting times and places scheduled at the start of the year.  Each meet consists of four to eight matches, generally beginning between 3:15 and 3:30 with the final match ending between 5:30 and 6:30, possibly later on select occasions.  If all participants agree, meets can be held in neutral locations and scheduled at other times.

VIII.  What:  The questions cover a broad range:  art, biology, chemistry, current events, geography, history, literature, music, political science, pop culture, religion and sports.  Sample questions can be viewed at:

IX.  How many students make up a team:  A team plays four students at a time and has the opportunity to substitute as many as all four at the half, so eight different students could play in a single game.  Schools have generally averaged 9 students per team if they have a junior varsity program.  Schools without a JV program tend to average a bit more.

X.  How time-consuming is MasterMinds for the advisor/coach?  It’s difficult to say since the only true coaching requirement is to chaperone the team during meets.  This chaperone does not have to be the same person and the duty can rotate among several people.  It is, however,  important to have a single contact person for communications, arranging transportation and getting students practice questions.  Even if one person handles those duties, MasterMinds is not very time-consuming.  Many coaches hold weekly practices or hold practices the week immediately prior to a scheduled meet.

XI.  How time-consuming is MasterMinds for students:  Since meets are held roughly once every three weeks, even a varsity athlete can participate as long as MasterMinds meets do not conflict with athletic games and the athletic coach is agreeable.

XII.  How do schools recruit/identify players:  Coaches ask teachers from the various disciplines who some of their better students are and then supplement that group with anyone who responds to a morning announcement recruiting people who enjoy Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy.  Word of mouth will do the rest.

XIII.  How do schools practice and how often:  Schools are given practice questions at the start of the year.  Some coaches do set aside some practice questions and run a ‘real’ game complete with recognizing, ringing-in and the like.  Others have students read the questions to each other to improve their listening skills while freeing the coach/advisor to do other things.  The students can practice the listening drills whenever.  Coaches should also make sure they do their homework and read the newspaper.

XIV.  Why should schools participate:  It is fun for students and adults.  It is an activity that is more educational and intellectual than sports.  It provides students, particularly the non-athletically inclined, with a meaningful opportunity to represent their school in an interscholastic setting.  There is not enough attention paid to academic extra-curriculars, especially compared to athletics. MasterMinds attempts to fill an extracurricular void on the academic side of school.