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. High schools will be allowed to send 1 team for every 1500 enrolled students with a maximum of 2 teams. Students 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 an adult, who will be at the competition with the students. For the 2017 tournament, we will not allow incomplete teams to participate.

Testing Information

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

  • Individual Exams

    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 credit. The ID number of each student must be written on each page.

    If more than one answer is given when only one answer is asked for on the question, that question will be marked as incorrect. While team members will be placed together in the same 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 are allowed to be used during the exam, with the exception of a non-programmable scientific calculator. Cell phones must be turned off, and watches must be removed. A clock will be projected in the exam room. Necessary equations and constants, and a periodic table can be found at the end of the exam.

  • Topic Tests

    60 minutes are allotted for the topic test. There will be three topic tests, each focusing on a different application or area of chemistry. Each team of six students will be split into three groups of two students, and each two-student group will work together on a different topic test. Procedure will be similar to that of the individual round. This year’s topics follow:

    1. Chemistry of Life: Basic chemical principles will be applied to the study of biomolecules (proteins, lipids, nuclei acids, and carbohydrates). Knowledge of organic chemistry or biochemistry will not be required because we will focus on concepts from introductory chemistry in the context of biological systems.

    2. Chemistry in Industry: Popular processes in chemical engineering and industrial chemistry will be examined, including but not limited to synthetic processes (e.g. Haber-Bosch Cycle) and processes associated with energy generation (e.g. cracking of hydrocarbons to create fuel).

    3. Chemistry of Coffee: Everyone knows coffee is one of the most important tools of a functional chemist. This exam will test basic chemical principles as they relate to the drink itself and the process of growing, processing, or brewing coffee.

  • Team Round

    60 minutes are allotted for the team round exam. Team members are expected to work together on these questions. The team round will require answers that involve written explanations of students’ thought processes. 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. Four blank copies of the exam will be given to each team, and teams may work on any number of these copies. It is not recommended, however, 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. Please make absolutely sure 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 and high school must be written on each page.

    No electronics of any kind are allowed to be used during the exam, with the exception of a non-programmable scientific calculator. Cell phones must be turned off, and watches must be removed. The proctor will announce the time remaining in the exam. Necessary equations and constants, and a periodic table can be found at the end of the exam.

  • Broken Bonds Round:

    In place of the relay round from the previous year, WUCT 2017 will be implementing the Broken Bonds Round. This will be a fast-paced, 60 minute round. Each team will receive a packet of 3 questions, of their chosen level of difficulty (easy, medium, hard). This question set will be completed at the team’s own pace and organization. Upon completion of the questions, the entire packet will be turned in and a new question set can be chosen, at the same or different difficulty. These questions will be drawn from a broad range of general chemistry topics.

    Necessary formulas and information will be given during this round, and no aid may be used with the exception of a non-programmable scientific calculator.

  • 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:

    1. - Chemical Structures and Properties: Rules for electron filling, bonding models, Lewis structures, VSEPR, hybridization, periodic trends and the deviations, properties of gases, stoichiometry.

    2. - 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.

    3. - Kinetics/Electrochemistry/Thermodynamics: 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).

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

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. However, students may not use any other resources of any form, including rulers, protractors, compasses, etc. Students 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

The scoring for this tournament will be done by a post-weighting system. The relative weighting for each question and each part of a question will be approximately based on the number of contestants who have correctly answered that question. Each exam will have the exact same questions, but their order will be randomized, so if a contestant cannot answer a question, it is to their advantage to attempt each problem in the exam.

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.


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

Specifically, prizes will be given to:
The top 10 individuals for the individual round.
The top 10 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 teams based on composite score (individual, topic, team, and broken bonds round).