Qualifying for the HSNCT

Automatic Qualification

There are two ways in which a school may qualify for the NAQT High School National Championship Tournament (HSNCT):

  1. Finishing in the top 15% of the field at a high school varsity tournament that uses NAQT questions and includes teams from at least three schools. A list of upcoming events is available on the NAQT website. This computation “rounds up,” so a tournament with 15 teams results in three (2.25 rounded up) invitations. This includes traditional one-day tournaments, leagues, televised tournaments, and all other events that use questions provided by NAQT (regardless of whether they use NAQT’s official format and rules). In general, every team tied for a spot in the top 15% receives an invitation, though NAQT reserves the right to break ties reported by the host at its own discretion (and so award fewer berths). NAQT also reserves the right to declare individual tournaments as “non-qualifiers” if they have eligibility policies designed to exclude teams or players on the basis of ability.

  2. Winning any class or division of an official state championship with rules and questions similar to those of NAQT.

NAQT reserves the right to adjust rankings submitted by hosts to better conform to game results. In such cases, if the host requests it, we will post both the original ranking and NAQT’s ranking (but qualification to the HSNCT will be based on NAQT’s ranking).

Skill-Based Divisions

If a high school tournament divides its field into varsity and junior varsity divisions (or similar divisions based on skill) that don’t compete against each other, then the number that qualify will be equal to 15% of the total field from both divisions, but all teams in an upper division will be ranked above those in a lower division (regardless of record or statistics). For instance, if there are 10 varsity and 10 junior varsity teams, then a total of 3 teams will qualify ((10 + 10) × 15% = 3), but they will all come from the varsity division. Winners of junior varsity divisions are encouraged to apply for wildcards.

School-based Divisions

If a tournament divides its field into divisions based on school size and/or school type (e.g., public versus private) that don’t compete against each other, then each division will be considered a separate tournament for the sake of qualification. If 10 “class A” schools and 16 “class B” schools attend, then two (10 × (15%) = 1.5, rounds to 2) “class A” schools and three (16 × (15%) = 2.4, rounds to 3) “class B” schools will qualify for the HSNCT.

Qualifying Multiple Teams

In order to qualify multiple teams from the same school for the HSNCT, they must attend the same tournament and qualify independently. Teams that qualify at different tournaments—even if composed of entirely different students—do not provide their school with more than one berth at the HSNCT. Wildcard consideration will be given to additional teams from the same school that have demonstrated a high quality of play throughout the year.

Invitations Are Not Guaranteed Spots

Qualifying for the High School National Championship (that is, receiving an invitation) does not guarantee a team a spot in the field: The tournament has a limited field size, and it is likely that the field will fill and some qualifiers that wish to attend may not be able to. Teams are encouraged to register as soon as they know they have earned a berth (and have secured funding). It is registering for the championship, not qualifying, that guarantees a spot. A limited number of tournaments (mostly State Championships/Qualifiers) may have national championship berths reserved for their winners.

Other Events

NAQT reserves the right to designate additional tournaments as qualifiers for the HSNCT.

Wildcard Qualification

NAQT accepts wildcard applications from schools that did not qualify by the above criteria but whose teams have demonstrated a high quality of play in academic competition throughout the year. Particular consideration will be given to schools that, for geographical reasons, had difficulty attending NAQT tournaments.

NAQT reserves the right to accept wildcard applications at any time after they have been submitted; that is, NAQT may accept particularly strong applications immediately but may postpone making a decision on others until further tournaments have completed or it has a better idea how many HSNCT spots will be taken by automatic qualifiers. Teams may inquire as to the status of their request at any time. NAQT understands that wildcard teams need to know whether or not they can attend the tournament as soon as possible and will make every effort to contact teams as soon as a final decision has been made about their request.

Due to MSHSAA rules, teams from Missouri that are members of MSHSAA are ineligible to receive wildcard berths.

Small School National Championship Tournament

High school events using NAQT questions are also qualifiers for the Small School National Championship Tournament which has its own qualification rules. Even if a (small school) team’s performance doesn’t qualify it for the HSNCT, it may qualify it for the SSNCT.


Tournament directors may allow teams composed of students from different schools to compete (and possibly even win) their events, but such mixed teams are ineligible to receive HSNCT bids and will not be counted to determine the size of the event’s field.

Standby Teams

Teams located near the tournament site may be interested in attending on a standby basis. Standby teams are not guaranteed a spot in the field, but if there is a last-minute cancellation, they’ll replace the missing team without paying a registration fee.

Due to MSHSAA rules, teams from Missouri that are members of MSHSAA are ineligible to register for the standby list unless they have qualified for the main field.

Special Rulings

NAQT has made a number of special rulings regarding unusual qualification situations.


Questions, comments, or suggestions may be directed to NAQT at hsnct@naqt.com.