World Scholar's Cup

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World Scholar's Cup
Daniel Jakarta 2011.png
Daniel Berdichevsky showing off an alpaca at the Jakarta Round 2011
Type: International Academic Tournament
Founded: 2006
Founder and Alpaca-In-Chief: Daniel Berdichevsky
Headquarters: Los Angeles, California
Managing Director: Jeremy Chumley
Director of Social Stuff: Burch Wang
The official tournament logo.

The World Scholar's Cup (occasionally abbreviated as WSC) is an international team academic tournament with students participating from over 40 countries. The competition was founded by DemiDec, in particular by Daniel Berdichevsky, DemiDec's president, in 2006. The World Scholar's Cup has attracted what it calls "a global community of future scholars and leaders", and promotes that it allows participants to "discover strengths and skills you never knew you had." However, despite technically being a competition, The World Scholar's Cup focuses far more on bringing students from different cultures together to discuss issues and ideas relevant to today and the future.

Tournament Format[edit]

A team for the World Scholar's Cup is composed of three students. The teams are usually made up of students from the same school, but that's not always the case. Students have the option of forming "independent" teams that may include students from other schools or even other countries. Each team participates in the four standard, round events.

Teams may participate in any regional round. If teams are unable to attend a regional round, but would still like to participate in the Global Round, they may qualify for a wildcard berth.

To qualify for the Global Round, teams must do one of the following:

  • Place in the top fifty in their division at a regional round
  • Earn a wildcard "at-large" berth at a regional round (through strong point performance)
  • Apply for an exceptional berth (granted only in extraordinary circumstances)

To be invited to the Tournament of Champions at Yale University, teams must:

  • Place in the top 150 in their division at the Global Round


  • Apply for a berth based on their performance throughout the season, at the regional and/or global level

There are both senior and junior divisions in the competition. A student's age designates which division they may participate in. Students that are below age 14 participate in the junior division, while students 15 and older participate in the senior division.[1] A junior can participate in the senior division if he/she wishes to. Both divisions participate simultaneously, though juniors only compete against juniors and seniors against seniors.


The World Scholar's Cup consists of four main events: The Scholar's Challenge, Collaborative Writing, The Team Debate, and The Scholar's Bowl. In addition to these four main events, at select tournaments additional activities take place. These activities are both social and academic, and strive to solidify the community aspect of the World Scholar's Cup.

The, "Tournament of Champions," has been held at Yale University, in late November/early December. The Scholars Dilemma (a special additional event in which Teams would be asked to present their solutions to a creative challenge related to the year's subject areas) was supposed to be added to the first Tournament of Champions round in 2012, but this event was cancelled at the actual tournament.

Main Events[edit]

The Scholar's Challenge[edit]

The Scholar's Challenge is a multiple choice exam given to each individual competitor to complete within 60 minutes. For both the junior and the senior division there are 120 questions. The prizes are awarded for each subject as well as for the entire Challenge, for teams and for individuals.

Collaborative Writing[edit]

Collaborative Writing is based on an argumentative structure, with students picking one of six prompts (there is one prompt pertaining to each subject). You pick one side of a topic and write in favor of it... your target being to persuade readers to agree with your views. Students are expected to provide evidence to support their claims using any resources available to them (including the internet), with the exception of social networking sites and communicating with people other than their teammates during the exam.

At the beginning of the event, students have 25 minutes to work with their teammates to discuss and research their arguments. Following the collaboration period, students have 45 minutes to write their essay. There is no word minimum or maximum, and students are expected to cite sources. Following the writing period, students then have 12 minutes to collaborate again with their teammates to copy edit one another’s work, but they may not finish a teammate’s essay.

Team Debate[edit]

The Team Debate focuses on encouraging students to develop their speaking and logic skills, as well as teamwork, to argue orally for or against a topic pertaining to the curriculum. The Team Debate is a very important event in The World Scholar's Cup, because it focuses on coming together as a community to discuss intellectual topics (At a debate competition held in Dubai, U.A.E. Berdichevsky stated, "The team debates are at the core of this program.") The format is a straightforward one, designed specifically to be accessible to all levels of debaters, as many students in the competition are experiencing debate for the first time (about two-thirds of the competitors at regional rounds are debating for the first time.)

The event proceeds as follows: All teams are assigned a debate room for the first round of debates. Debate room assignments are distributed at a central gathering place just prior to the beginning of the debate event. Teams will debate three times. In the debate room, teams will meet their opponents and learn the motion. Teams are pre-assigned whether they are to support or oppose the motion. Teams will have 15 minutes to confer within the room before the debate begins. Teams may use World Scholar’s Cup materials or any outside resources to prepare, including computers and Internet access where available. It is up to the members of individual teams to assign themselves speaking orders. One student from each team will write the names of all team members on the judge’s scoring sheet.

Each student will stand in front of the room for the length of his or her speech. Teams may not make noise or interrupt while a student is speaking. Speakers may use notes. Students should not read their speeches in their entirety.

Students may speak for up to four minutes. There is no penalty for speaking up to four minutes. The judge will signal (usually with one knock), when the student has just one minute left to speak. At four minutes, the judge will signal (usually with two knocks) and the student may finish his or her sentence, but then must stop speaking and sit down. A two member team may still debate, with one member speaking twice. A student who speaks twice will be scored only for his or her first speech.

Between speakers, teams will have 60 seconds to prepare before the next speaker is called. At the end of the debate, the judge (or panel of judges) will announce a winning team. The winning team will then proceed to a designated room and the non-winning team to a different designated room, where each will face another team with the same number of wins and non-wins.[2] An important point to note is that at the 2012 Tournament of Champions Round at Yale, Points of Information were added. The 2013 Tournament of Champions at Yale followed the above standard debate event format.

The Scholar's Bowl[edit]

The Scholar's Bowl is a team event usually held in a theater. Team members work together to answer multiple choice questions that are displayed on a large screen.

In order to answer the questions, each team of students is given a "clicker" that connects to a scoring computer on stage. Students then choose their answer by pressing A, B, C, D, or E on their clicker. Once the question has been read aloud by the bowl master (usually Alpaca-In-Chief Daniel Berdichevsky), students are given 15–30 seconds, depending on the difficulty of the question, to submit their answer. There are usually rapid fire questions which have to be answered in 3 seconds (5 such questions will be present and each question will usually carry 100 points)

The Scholar's Bowl implements many types of questions, including those based on multimedia examples. The questions tend to include references to pop culture, and often include the names of participants, coaches, and staff members. The tournament mascot, the alpaca, often also makes an appearance, however all questions related to alpacas do not carry points or they are used as practice questions.

Questions from each area of the curriculum are featured in the Scholar's Bowl. At the Global Round in 2010, a new scoring system for the Scholar's Bowl was introduced, making each question worth more points than the last as the questions get more difficult. After all bowl rounds have finished, there is a bonus round that includes question with points starting from 1000, all the way up to 2000 per question, as the difficulty level increases.

One of the main aims of The Scholar's Bowl is to allow the team of students to work together, using both logic skills and knowledge, to answer each question. Participants discuss the questions among their team, pulling together the different aspects of their knowledge in the pursuit of success. The Scholar's Bowl is often the last educational event of the competition before the awards ceremony.

Other Events[edit]

The Scholar's Scavenge[edit]

The Scholar's Scavenge occurs each year at the Global Round, and first took place in 2009 in Singapore. Students are teamed up with those from other countries and given a list of tasks. At least one person in the team has a camera, and the tasks are completed by taking photos and videos. The tasks may relate to the curriculum (such as "create a city out of things you find in the park"), teamwork (such as "create a human pyramid"), organizers (such as "take a video of Daniel speaking Spanish"), or just silly (such as "take a video of your team singing an annoying song"). Each task is worth a certain number of points depending upon the difficulty. At the end of the scavenge, chaperons collect the memory cards of the student taking the pictures and score them. These scores do not count toward the scores in the competition as a whole, but are only used for this event.

The 2009 Scholar's Scavenge was held in the Clarke Quay area of Singapore. Tasks included finding lion statues, riding a bus, and incorporating strangers in scenes from the film of the year, Serenity.

At the 2010 Global Round in Shanghai, China, students were taken to the World Expo 2010 to perform tasks that included gaining information on countries by speaking to staff members, interacting with the unique exhibits in countries' pavilions, and miming scientific experiments from the curriculum.

In 2011, the Scholar's Scavenge took place at a park in Shah Alam, Malaysia. Students were challenged to, among other things, persuade staff members to do push-ups, dance like Elvis, and act like pirates.

During the 2012 Global Round in Bangkok, Thailand, the Scavenge took place in CentralWorld shopping mall and surrounding areas. Students were to find Thai versions of the selected fiction works and take pictures of certain stores in the shopping malls.

In the 2013 Global Round in Dubai, U.A.E, the Scavenge took place in Dubai Mall the largest shopping mall in the world. Students were to create the letters 'W','S','C' together as a team, have a flash mob on the song Gangnam Style, sing She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain and find the most expensive object in the mall.

The Debate Showcase[edit]

Another additional event is the Debate Showcase. The regional round's top 6 junior and senior debaters take part in this event. At some rounds there are two Debate Showcases (one for juniors and one for the seniors). At other rounds there is only one Debate Showcase with both juniors and seniors taking part. Regardless, six students debate in each Showcase.

The format mirrors the main event's format, but the students instead debate on stage in front of the rest of the participants. Each student speaks once for up to four minutes. When all six speakers have gone, the host of the Showcase invites volunteers from the audience and debaters from the showcase to step forward and share their general thoughts on the topic that was debated.

Additionally, top-scoring round debate participants (or runner-ups) are the adjudicators for the Showcase. When the Debate Showcase ends, the adjudicators announce the winners.

Points of Information were allowed for the Debate Showcase at the 2012 Yale round of the tournament, however presently, regional rounds discourage POIs (points of information), but it is encouraged in the global and ToC (Yale) rounds of the debate.

The Scholar's Ball[edit]

The Scholar's Ball was first added to the tournament in 2011 at the Global Round in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The idea spawned from a conversation about the competition where one party misheard "Scholar's Bowl" as "Scholar's Ball".

The Scholar's Show encourages mingling, dancing, and the chance to "look sharp". Students are required to come in formal wear. Some students refer to it as a "pseudo-prom".

The Scholar's Show[edit]

Two students perform in The Scholar's Show.

The first Scholar's Show occurred in 2010 at the regional round held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Its origins are spontaneous—it is the result of students' response to Queen's "We Will Rock You" playing during an intermission. Students began stomping their feet and clapping along, and one of the organizers encouraged them to sing along. When the song was over, Daniel Berdichevsky invited any student wanting to showcase their talent to come forward, and The Scholar's Show was born.

Since its inception, The Scholar's Show has grown from a spontaneous talent show to a showcase of students' ambition, skill, and bravery. Student performances range from vocal and instrumental performances to beat boxing, dancing, and magic tricks. The Scholar's Show is meant to bring students together by introducing them to mutual talents and interests. The Scholar's Show is held at most two-day rounds, and at each Global Round.

Notable performances include a boy, named Amritz Ansara, who bowled the fastest slower ball on an Gabba pitch (2014 Regional Round), a boy standing on stage seriously to the video cover of the song HEYYEYAAEYAAAEYAEYAA (2012 Global Round), three girls singing a self-written song about Alpacas, to the melody of John Lennon's "Imagine" (2012 Beijing Round), and Daniel Berdichevsky himself doing a rap on Alpacas (2011 Global Round).

World Scholar's Camp[edit]

In 2012, the World Scholar's Camp was created, and will take place in Singapore starting December 2012. It will include seminars and outings to various locations in Singapore.[3]


The World Scholar's Cup curriculum has six subjects that relate to a larger theme. Each year the theme changes, and with it so does the Special Area. The curriculum is designed to help students understand the overarching themes of the subjects and how they relate to one another. Students are often given questions that require critical thinking skills as well as their basic knowledge to come to a conclusion rather than focusing on memorization. For instance, instead of asking on which date an experiment was performed, the question would ask, "Which artist would be most likely to oppose this experiment?"

The subjects of the curriculum are:

  • Science
  • Literature
  • The Arts
    • Art
    • Music
  • Special Area
  • History
  • Social Studies

In 2014, Current Affairs topics were integrated across all the above subjects.

Until 2009, mathematics up to trigonometry was included in the curriculum. However, in 2010 it was eliminated in order to better address the goals of the competition. The tournament's decision to eliminate math stemmed from the subject's inflexibility and its difficulty to debate, though the World Scholar's Cup does not deny the importance of math in life and education. In 2008, the World Scholar's Cup added a "film" category to its visual arts section, and in 2010 added a "music" category to its art section.

Until 2012, there was an Economics section which was only for the senior division.

Until 2013, the World Scholar's Cup released curriculum guides each year—one for each subject. The guides were available free-of-charge on its official website. Starting in 2013, topic outlines and theme-relevant material was made freely available to students through their website. The World Scholar's Cup recommends connecting each section of the outline to the given theme and how they connect or impact society.[4]


In 2014, during the Global Round, Director of Social Stuff Burch Wang revealed that he felt that the competition needed a song to capture the never-ending feeling of the event. Just after the opening ceremony, he played his song, "Endless", for the first time. It was an instant hit with the scholars, as it was constantly asked to be sung by Burch during the course of the Global Round.


A ubiquitous symbol of the World Scholar's Cup is that of the alpaca. The alpaca appears on most all literature released by the program, as well as in its official logo. At competitions, students receive their own alpacas from staff members. These alpacas may come in the form of finger puppets, stuffed toys, and sometimes dolls made with real alpaca fur. Different types of alpacas are showcased in the World Scholar's Cup. They range from the Japanese alpaca, Totoro, to several collector versions.

During the 2011 season in honor of biotechnology being the focus of the science subject, Daniel Berdichevsky introduced to the competition a new hybrid mascot known as the "Alpabear". These half-alpaca-half-bears "possess many of the same characteristics as normal alpacas." The founder also introduced the result of a science "fraught with peril"—a bright blue, giant alpabear known by the name "Blue Bear".

The Election[edit]

The alpaca was elected the mascot of DemiDec and the World Scholar's Cup in 2006. Students nominated potential mascots online, and from that pool came the final three: The alpaca, the emu, and the penguin. At the end of the vote, the alpaca was victorious. Theorists speculate that the reason the alpaca won is due to a split among bird-lovers.

However, in 2011, Berdichevsky hinted that the results of the election may be apocryphal. During the Scholar's Bowl, in lieu of a history section, the founder of World Scholar's Cup presented a historical analysis, he hinting that the election results may be mythical. Evidence of this has never been found, but Berdichevsky admits that he "may have had a pre-existing relationship with alpacas," and poses the question that perhaps he "was the one tallying the votes."


Another common occurrence during World Scholar's Cup tournaments is the echoing of the word "Pwaa". "Pwaa," explains Berdichevsky, "is the sound that a happy alpaca makes."

Often used as an interjection or a response to a statement, this onomatopoeia has become a sensation among World Scholar's Cup participants. It may also be used in a call-and-response format, as demonstrated by staff members at many competitions. Often, staff members will call out the word and find themselves echoed by hundreds of students. The word has also made appearances in Facebook statuses, and at the 2011 Global Round in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Deputy Prime Minister of Higher Education in Malaysia Dr. Hou Kok Chung Saifuddin Abdullah used it during his closing remarks. The word "Pwaa" is used as a pun in various places during the contest. Examples of usage: Pwaasome (Awesome), Pwaala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur), Singapwaa (Singapore), or just "Pwaa".

Students admit to using the word in an attempt to communicate with animals, and many claim positive responses.

Through the Years[edit]

Subjects in italics are subjects only for the Senior division.

2007 - The Ancient World
Global Round in the English Village in Seoul, South Korea.
Science Anatomy
Special Area History of the Ancient World
Literature (Poetry) Poetry of England
Literature (Novel) Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Mathematics General Mathematics
Economics Fundamentals

The 2007 Global Round was the first world round for the World Scholar's Cup. Teams from Australia, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States participated.

2008 - The Frontier
Global Round in the YBM English Village in Korea on May 30 - June 1, 2008.
Science Astronomy
History Exploration
Literature (Poetry) Short Selections
Literature (Novel) Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Literature (Film) 2001: A Space Odyssey
Art Art on the Edge of the Possible
Mathematics Mathematical Scenarios
Economics Fundamentals
2009 - The Fall of Empires
Global Round took place in Singapore at Nanyang Girls' School on June 13–14, 2009.
Science Sustainable Development
Special Area The Fall of Empires
Literature (Poetry) Poetry of the Fall
Literature (Novel) Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Visual Arts (Art) The Art of Decline and Decadence
Visual Arts (Film) The Last Emperor and Serenity
Mathematics The Essentials of Standardized Assessment
Economics Fundamentals of Economics, The Economics of Spectacular Collapse
History Empires at the Brink
2010 - A World Divided
Global Round took place in Shanghai, China at Concordia International School Shanghai.
Science Great Conflicts in Science
Special Area The Psychology of War
Literature (Poetry) Poetry of a World Divided
Literature (Novel) The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
Literature (Film) The Motorcycle Diaries
Art (Visual Arts) Art of Separation and Difference
Art (Music) Music of Separation and Difference
Economics Fundamentals of Economics, The Economics of Wealth and Poverty
History When the World Breaks

Mathematics was removed from the curriculum starting from 2010.

2011 - A World Transformed
Global Round took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the Universiti Teknologi Mara.
Science Biotechnology
Special Area The Modern Metropolis
Literature (Poetry) Changing Lives, Changing Worlds
Literature (Short Stories) The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World by Gabriel García Márquez, Nightfall and The Last Question by Isaac Asimov, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, Julian: A Christmas Story by Robert Charles Wilson, and There Will Come Short Rains by Ray Bradbury
Literature (Film) Forrest Gump
Art (Visual Arts) A World in Flux
Art (Music) Musicals
Economics Fundamentals of Economics

The Music and History resources were not released.

2012 - A World in Flux
Global Round took place in Bangkok, Thailand at Centara Grand and Bangkok Convention Centre and the Bangkok Patana School.
Tournament of Champions took place in Yale University.
Science Biotechnology and Nanomedicine
Special Area The Postmodern Metropolis
Literature (Fiction) Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Nightfall by Isaac Asimov, and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Literature (Film) Wall-E and Life is Beautiful
The Arts New Media in Art and Music
History Technology and Social Change
Current Affairs The Global Economic Crisis

The Science and Special Area resources were updated versions of their 2011 counterparts. Economics was replaced by Current Affairs in 2012 - for both divisions.

2013 - A World in Motion
Global Round took place in Dubai, UAE.
Tournament of Champions took place at Yale University.
Science The Science of Transportation
Special Area The Turbulent Earth
Literature Movement in Poetry, Film, and Prose
Art Movement in Art, Music, and Dance
History The Great Migrations
Current Affairs Globalization

In 2013, emphasis was placed on topic outlines instead of the introductory guides.

2014 - The World Within
Global Round took place in Singapore, Singapore.
Tournament of Champions took place at Yale University.
Science Thoughtful Brain, Troubled Mind
Special Area The Science of Decision-Making
Literature Voices from the Inside
Art & Music Echoes of the Interior
History The History of Espionage
Social Studies Worlds Within Walls

In 2014, Current Affairs topics were integrated across all the above subjects.

2015 - The World Unbound
Global Round will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Mini Global Round will take place in Maynooth, Ireland.
Science Liberating Technologies
Special Area Heroes and Superheroes
Literature Voices of the Unbound
Art & Music Peering Over the Edge
History Movements Towards Freedom
Social Studies Worlds Held Together, Worlds Torn Apart


  1. ^ "World Scholar's Cup". Retrieved 2013-03-16. 
  2. ^ "Debate Guidelines 2011" (PDF). [dead link]
  3. ^ "2012 Viewbook" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-03-16.  (Download)
  4. ^ "Subject Introduction". Retrieved 2013-03-16. 

External links[edit]

  • World Scholar's Cup - The official website of the World Scholar's Cup
  • Scores - Detailed Scores for Scholar's Cup competitions
  • Discussion - Discussion regarding the World Scholar's Cup