Five Tips for Challenge Bowl Success

Past Winners and Finalists Share Their Strategies

By Katie Desmond

AAPA 2018 is just around the corner, and PA programs around the country are starting to get ready for the ultimate PA student event: AAPA National Medical Challenge Bowl. Over 80 programs participated last year and 2018 Challenge Bowl in New Orleans is shaping up to an equally competitive field.

Of course, competing in Challenge Bowl is all in good fun, but the winning team does get bragging rights for a full year. AAPA checked in with past years’ winners and finalists to uncover their best Challenge Bowl tips.

Challenge Bowl 2017
Challenge Bowl 2017

1. Practice!
Donald Diemer, DHSc, PA-C, program director at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, the winners of the 2017 Challenge Bowl, shares the reigning champions’ preparation strategies.
• The students study board review books.
• SIU hosts mock Challenge Bowls for the whole class at the end of each didactic unit (five in total).
• Students participate in the state’s similarly-formatted competition in April.
• Students create their own question bank throughout the year and quiz each other.

2. Conquer your weak spots.
Mina Fawze, PA-C, was a member of the Jefferson College of Health Sciences team that made it to the final round in 2016, and shares her school’s technique: “Our team prepared by meeting regularly at our various favorite study spots in Roanoke, Virginia. Studying in familiar areas helped to ensure we were comfortable as we rapid-fire quizzed one another on various Challenge Bowl-style questions. We listed out various body systems, and each team member claimed a few that they felt a bit weaker in. We would then focus on improving our knowledge of those areas before the next meeting.”

3. Invite your whole community to help.
Christine Bruce, MHSA, PA-C, program director at Penn State University, recommends involving the different medical school programs. She explained, “The PA students get together and practice and I will join them when my schedule allows. They have their PA classmates join them and they get into the competition with their peers. Since we are at a medical school, the third and fourth year medical students often join in the practice sessions.”

4. Devise and follow a team strategy.
An important part of Challenge Bowl is managing your team’s points and wagering strategically. Deimer, of SIU, gives this advice to his students:
• If you are ahead by more points than the number of questions left – don’t touch the buzzer! Even if you know the answer, your win is assured unless you get questions wrong.
• Always take the ten seconds to discuss the answer with your team before saying it out loud.
• Do not buzz in unless you know the complete answer to a question. Lots of Challenge Bowl answers require two or three parts, and you may inadvertently provide one of your competitors with information they didn’t have if you answer partially.

5. Have fun!
Challenge Bowl is a singular student event at AAPA Conference, and players and students should – first and foremost – enjoy the experience.

Program directors Deimer and Bruce reiterate their commitment to helping students have fun at Challenge Bowl. “I tell my students to have fun and enjoy the moment,” Bruce says. Deimer echoes her sentiments: “Challenge Bowl is awesome!” Fawze, as a Challenge Bowl team member, recalls “the day was a whirlwind, but I certainly remember the energizing music, boisterous audience, and camaraderie among the Challenge Bowl participants.”

Katie Desmond is AAPA’s assistant director of student membership and PA program relations. Contact her at [email protected].