Certamen, the Latin word for 'contest', is perhaps the most popular competition of the Junior Classical League. The Junior Classical League is the second largest youth organization in the United States, smaller only than the Boy Scouts of America. At their national convention every year, which celebrates the language, literature, and arts of the Romans and Greeks, competitive certamen is one of the main foci.
Certamen is a Knowledge Bowl-style academic competition, usually consisting of three rounds of fifteen or twenty questions each. The questions cover categories of Latin grammar, Latin derivatives, Roman history, Roman daily life, ancient geography, and mythology.
In each round, three teams of four students participate. Each student has a buzzer for answering toss-up questions asked by the moderator. If a student buzzes in first for a toss-up, she is expected to answer immediately. If she answers correctly, her team is awarded two bonus questions, on which they are allowed to confer. Both questions may be answered, even if the first is answered incorrectly.
A team wins a round by gathering the most points of the three teams. Ten points are awarded for a toss-up question and five points are awarded for each bonus. Depending on the tournament, certamen may be played as a round robin with one final round of the top three teams, or as an elimination tournament, where the final round is played with the remaining teams.
Certamen is taken quite seriously on both the state and national levels. Teams practice for months on buzzer speed, category specialization, and team dynamics. In the end, the practice results in success or disappointment, all over just a little, Latin 'contest'.