Official Rules

Participation and Eligibility

Students who are enrolled in a high school (grades 9-12) are eligible to participate in the Washington University in St. Louis Chemistry Tournament (WUCT). Students must register for WUCT in teams of six students and one coach. High schools will be allowed to send 1 team for every 1500 enrolled students up to a maximum of 2 teams. Students on the same team do not need to be part of the same high school; however, they must reside in the same state. Each team must be accompanied by a coach, either a teacher or parent, who will be at the competition with the students. Additionally, we will need coaches to proctor another team during the team round; further instructions will be provided closer to competition day.

For the 2018 tournament, depending on the level of interest, we may allow individuals without a team to participate. An individual would be placed on a waiting list on a first-come first-serve basis. Once there are six individuals on the waiting list, they will be placed together as a team and will be responsible for having one adult sponsor accompany the team to WUCT. However, we strongly urge you to contact peers and teachers from schools in your state to form a team before resorting to this option as this a full team is the only way we can guarantee a spot in the tournament.

Testing Information

The tournament will consist of one individual round, three topic tests, a team round, and the Broken Bonds round. Every student will take the individual exam alone, work with a teammate as a pair on one of the three topic tests, and then work with all team members on the team round and Broken Bonds round.

Individual Exam

60 minutes are allotted for the individual round. Questions on the individual exam will consist of multiple parts that must each be answered with numerical results or short answers. Only answers written in the given space, or clearly labelled answers on the back of the page, will be graded. Correct answers with reasonable supporting work will receive full credit, while correct answers without work will not receive full credit. If more than one answer is given when only one answer is asked for on the question, that question will be marked as completely incorrect. While team members may be placed together in the same exam room, they are not permitted to communicate with other team members or their coach in any way during the individual rounds. No electronics of any kind can be used during the exam, except for a non-programmable scientific calculator. Cell phones must be turned off, and watches must be removed. The time will be projected and/or announced in the exam rooms. Necessary equations, constants, and a periodic table will be provided.

Topic Tests

60 minutes are allotted for the topic test round. The same rules for the individual exam apply to the topic tests. The main difference is that each team of six students will split themselves into three pairs of two students each. Each pair will work together on one of the three topic tests. There will be three topic tests, each focusing on a different application of chemistry. This year’s topics follow:

Chemistry of Environmental Science

A group of two students will work together on this exam. Introductory chemical principles will be applied to environmental chemical processes impacted by human activities (ex. chemical pollutants, ozone depletion). Prior knowledge of environmental science will not be required to successfully complete this exam.

Chemistry of the Human Body

A group of two students will work together on this exam. Every process in the human body is governed, in some way, by chemical principles. This exam will use novel physiological processes to showcase and test a wide range of introductory chemical concepts. Knowledge of organic chemistry, biochemistry, and anatomy will not be required to successfully complete this exam.

Chemistry of Cooking

A group of two students will work together on this exam. Many cooking techniques rely on chemistry in order to transform basic ingredients into delicious food. This exam will explore the reactions that food undergoes when it is being produced as well as the chemical properties of food itself. While the ability to cook will not be required to successfully complete this exam, we would love to hear any recipes you may have.

Team Round

60 minutes are allotted for the team round. Team members are permitted and encouraged to work together on these questions. The team round will require answers that involve written explanations of students’ thought processes in addition to numerical answers. Only responses written in the provided spaces on the exam will be graded. Clearly labelled answers on the back of each page will also be accepted. Students are not permitted to communicate with their coach in any way during this time, but they are encouraged to collaborate among themselves to work through the problems. As a general strategy, we recommended that the entire team do every question together as time would become an issue. At the end, the team must submit a single copy of each page of the exam to the proctor for grading. P lease be certain that you are submitting every page on the team exam, otherwise the team will lose all points for the page(s) that were not submitted. Submitting multiple copies of a page will also lead to a loss of points. The team number must be written on each page.

Breaking Bonds

This will be a fast-paced, 60-minute round. Each team will choose a packet of 3 questions of a certain level of difficulty (easy, medium, hard). This packet of questions will be completed at the team’s own pace. Upon completion of the questions, the entire packet will be turned in and a new question set can be chosen, at any difficulty level. These questions will be drawn from a broad range of general chemistry topics. The most points will be earned for correct response to the hard packet and least points will be earned for the easy packet. Necessary formulas and information will be given during this round, and no aid may be used except for a non-programmable scientific calculator.

Please note that there will be some modifications made to this round based on the feedback we received for WUCT 2017. Stay tuned for changes to this round.

Possible Concepts to be Tested

The concepts covered will be similar to those covered in the 2016 exams. This year’s topics may include, but are not limited to:

Chemical and Physical Equilibrium

Acid-base models and reactions, relative strengths of acids and conjugate bases (Ka and Kb), Gibbs free energy, enthalpy, entropy, physical properties and their connection to bonding: enthalpies of vaporization, viscosity, boiling point and melting points, vapor pressure, Raoult’s Law, real liquids and ideal liquids, solubility of solids in liquids, Keq, Kc, and Kp.

Chemical Structures and Properties

Rules for electron filling, bonding models, Lewis structures, VSEPR, hybridization, periodic trends and the deviations, properties of gases, stoichiometry.


Arrhenius and Van’t Hoff equation, rate determining steps, concentration vs. time graphs, half-life concepts, zero order, first order, and second order correlations. Electrochemistry topics include Nernst Equations, galvanic (spontaneous) cells, electrolytic (non-spontaneous) cells, and salt bridges, effects of pH and size, and general diagrams. Thermodynamics topics include heat and work concepts, heat calorimeters (constant pressure) and bomb calorimetry (constant volume).

This is not a comprehensive list and is meant to guide preparation.

Appeals Process

At the end of each round of the competition, printed solutions to each exam will be brought to the coaches’ lounge (McMillan Café) for coaches to peruse. If a coach or competitor believes that a question is unclear, or that the given solution is incorrect, the coach of the team can fill out the appeals form found in the coach handbook and registration packet and bring the completed form to the volunteer in Louderman 449 (see attached map or ask a volunteer for directions). This form must be filled out with the student’s name/ID, coach’s name and contact information, high school name/ID, and the grievance that the appeal is being filed for. Appeals for individual rounds and the team round must be submitted by 2:30 PM. Appeals for the relay round can be submitted up until 4:30 PM. The appeal will be evaluated by the joint question-writing/grading committee. The response of the committee will be delivered to the coach in writing, in McMillan café after the relay round. Appeals regarding the relay round will be considered and a response will be delivered to McMillan café before the closing ceremony.

Cheating Policy

This purpose of these examinations is to evaluate the problem-solving and teamwork abilities of each contestant. Attempting to improve one’s own performance or gain an advantage on any examination by dishonest means will be considered cheating. Cheating may include, but is not limited to, utilizing prohibited examination aids (e.g. cheat sheets, programmable calculators, cell phones, etc.), copying off of others’ exams, or unauthorized communications with others. Infractions will be referred to the directors of the tournament. Individuals caught cheating will be disqualified from competing in the rest of the tournament, and any previous scores will be thrown out. Furthermore, the team that the individual was a part of will not be allowed to receive any awards in the tournament. Other individuals on that team will still be eligible for individual round awards.

Computational Aids

Students will be allowed to use a non-programmable calculator for all rounds in the competition, and calculators will be checked at the beginning of the individual exams. A list of some non-programmable calculators can be found here. However, students may not use any other resources of any form, including rulers, protractors, compasses, etc. S tudents are expected to bring only pencils, pens, erasers, and the calculators to the exam. They will be supplied with sufficient scratch paper to complete the exam. The use of any other electronic devices during any of the exams is strictly prohibited and will result in disqualification for the entire team.

Scoring Algorithm

WUCT will no longer be using a post-scoring weighting system. Scores will be based on raw points assigned to each question in the exam. For sweepstakes scores, each round will contribute a certain weight to the cumulative score. To avoid fluctuations in difficulty, topic exams will be normalized. Thus, if one topic exam generally has a lower score than the other two topic exams, it will not carry less weight than the other two topic exams. A detailed description of the scoring system will be posted by January.


Certificates of participation will be awarded to all attending students. Awards, consisting of plaques, trophies, medals, will be given to top-scoring teams and individuals.

Specifically, prizes will be given to:
-The top 10 individuals for the individual round.
-The top 5 pairs for each of the three topic tests.
-The top 5 teams from the team round.
-The top 5 teams from the broken bonds round.
-The top 5 sweepstakes based on cumulative scores for the team from all rounds.