State Contest Directors
Integrating Science into Classroom Instruction
Elements of the Contest
The purpose of the Science Contest is to challenge high school students to do a wide range of reading in biology, chemistry and physics, to gain an understanding of the significance of experiments rather than to recall obscure details, to be alert to new discoveries and information in the areas of science, to gain an understanding of the basic principles as well as knowledge of the history and philosophy of science, and to foster a sense of enthusiasm about science and how it affects our daily lives.
The contest consists of a two-hour objective test with 60 questions – 20 from biology, 20 from chemistry and 20 from physics.
Science Overview Video
Individual Competition: First, second and third place overall winners qualify for the next higher level of competition. Alternates are named for the overall winners. If an individual qualifier cannot compete at the next higher meet, the alternate shall be notified and allowed to compete.
Top Scorer: The contestants with the top score in each of the three subject areas qualify for the next higher level of competition. One alternate is named for each of the three subject areas. If a top scorer qualifier cannot compete at the next higher meet, the alternate shall be notified and allowed to compete.
Team Competition: Four members of the winning team will advance to the next higher level of competition. If a member of a school’s team is unable to compete at the next higher level of competition, only one substitution may be made. The substitute shall give the contest director a letter certifying eligibility signed by a school administrator.
Use of Calculators in the UIL Science Contest
The UIL rule for the use of calculators in the science contest, in Section 952 of the Constitution & Contest Rules, states that the calculator “cannot have built-in or stored functionality that provides scientific information, and cannot have wireless communication capability. If the calculator has memory, it must be cleared.” The use of graphing calculators is not prohibited. The requirement is that the memory must be totally cleared. For many graphing calculators, this means that you must select “all” when choosing which memory to clear.
Several people have asked for clarification about specific calculators, but there is no longer a single approved list of calculators. Coaches and contestants should be careful that the calculators they select do not violate the restrictions of the rules. Dr. Denis Kohl, UIL state contest director, believes that a calculator such as the HP 33s, which provides a short list of physics constants, is allowable because a list of physics constants is included on the test, so no additional scientific information is provided that would benefit any contestant. However, he will not allow a student to use a calculator that will accept memory cards or memory sticks, as these could be reloaded after calculators were cleared at the beginning of the contest.
Instructions for clearing the most commonly used calculators can be downloaded from the following link: Instructions for Clearing Calculators, courtesy of Tony David Potter of Texas Competitive Mathematics. Competitors may bring a spare calculator into the contest room, but if both calculators were disallowed, the student would have to take the test without any calculator. Science coaches, not contestants, should be prepared to assist contest directors in seeing that all calculators are completely cleared prior to the beginning of the contest at the district, regional and state contests if needed, just as coaches should be available to assist in grading.