Challenge Bowl: Who Will Win in 2018?

PA Schools Compete for Challenge Bowl Bragging Rights

By Caitlin Harrison and Erin Browne

Each year, more than 80 PA programs from across the country compete in the AAPA National Medical Challenge Bowl. Challenge Bowl, the hallmark student event at AAPA’s Conference, is a high-energy game-show-format competition in which students answer questions on a variety of clinical topics. Last year’s winning program, Southern Illinois University, faced tough competition from 81 other teams – the highest number of competitors in Challenge Bowl ever. 


Programs must register their team for Challenge Bowl by meeting multiple eligibility requirements, including:

  • At least 75 percent of all PA students in the team’s PA program must be AAPA student members;
  • The team’s Assembly of Representatives (AOR) representative must attend the AOR meeting;
  • All Challenge Bowl team members must be AAPA student members currently enrolled in an accredited PA program that has a student society registered with AAPA;
  • All team members must be registered for AAPA’s Conference;
  • Only one team member per team can be graduating within 30 days of competition.

As the Premiere Challenge Bowl sponsor, Rosh Review drafts questions, which are then vetted by a volunteer committee of PA educators and clinicians.

Preparing for Challenge Bowl

Erin Browne, a PA student at Southern Illinois University, 2017’s winning team, shared some of her Challenge Bowl team’s preparation tips:

  • Know key words. Certain diagnoses should trigger an immediate association like Kayser-Fleisher rings and Wilson’s disease or ranson criteria and pancreatitis.
  • Listen to the question. This may seem simple, but listen to what they are asking. The best or the most common diagnostic tests are often very different.
  • Use your teammates. Don’t study too much together. This may seem counterintuitive, but if you all know 90 percent of the same information, you will not get as far as a team who has diversified their study areas. Use the time given to consult each other on answers.
  • Play strategically. Not only should you be strategic with your answers, but you also need to be aware of points and game play. You will need to consider the level of confidence you have in your answer, and whether answering is worth the risk of losing points. Additionally, if you are up, are other teams waiting for you to answer incorrectly?
  • Most importantly, enjoy the experience! Challenge Bowl is such a unique aspect of PA school and Conference. It is meant to be a fun activity to bring programs together and show off the amazing knowledge we have all accumulated. Don’t lose sight of that!

    2016-2017 Student Academy Board of Directors at Challenge Bowl 2017 with AAPA Past President Josanne Pagel
    The 2016-2017 Student Academy Board of Directors at Challenge Bowl 2017 with AAPA Past President Josanne Pagel.

How to Win

Participating teams will be expected to answer 20 multiple-choice questions during Round One. Scores from Round One are tallied to determine the top-scoring 36 teams, who then move on to the subsequent two rounds with free-response questions. At the end of Round Three, three teams emerge for the Final Round.

Once the three teams for the Final Round have been determined, there is a Wild Card opportunity for a fourth team to participate in the Final Round. To win the Wild Card slot, teams will answer 10 difficult multiple-choice questions. The team with the highest score will join the other three teams for the Final Round. The Final Round consists of 10 difficult free-response questions. The team with the highest score at the conclusion of the Final Round will be the 2018 Challenge Bowl champion!

Want bragging rights for winning the 2018 Challenge Bowl? Team registration for the 2018 Challenge Bowl is open! All programs interested in participating must fill out the registration form before eligibility is considered. 

Caitlin Harrison is AAPA’s Student Academy Manager. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Erin Browne is PA student at Southern Illinois University.

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