Academic WorldQuest team wins competition

National competition awaits them in Washington, D.C. this April


Photo submitted by: Craig Bares

Academic Worldquest team members freshman Raffi Toghramadjian and juniors Thomas Toghramadjian, Shaan Bijwadia, and Jack Labovitz are congratulated for their performance at Minnesota’s Academic Worldquest competition. “I looked at Shaan and both of us totally thought we did awful, and then they announced that we won,” Labovitz said.

Do you know the ramifications of the asymmetric nature of cyberattacks? What about the first president to pledge the goal of energy independence? Or the number of free trade agreements Mexico has? While most people have no idea what the answers to any of these questions might be, there are a few who do: St. Paul Academy and Summit School’s Academic WorldQuest team.

The team, composed of freshman Raffi Toghramadjian and juniors Thomas Toghramadjian, Shaan Bijwadia, and Jack Labovitz, took first place in Minnesota’s Academic WorldQuest competition on Feb. 5, taking on 132 students from 19 schools.

Jack Labovitz joined the team this year. “I’m really interested in history and geography and current events so it was a good opportunity to learn more about that and get better at note-taking.”

Thomas Toghramadjian was the only returning member from last year’s team, which also included his older brother, Hagop (’13), so he faced the task of rebuilding the team.

“[Tommy] asked me if I was interested in ‘going on a quest’ with him and he told me more about it. It sounded interesting because we’re both interested in politics and history and current events,” Labovitz said.

The Academic WorldQuest competition consists of 11 sections of five questions each, ten of which came with documents to study. These sections range in topics from Cybersecurity to U.S. Education to Global Environmental Issues. Using the study guide given, the team took the documents and put them into study packets.

“We split up the sections so we each got two study packets. Then we went through those, taking notes as well as side research to learn more about what was in the study packets. I put them onto [Microsoft] Word documents and then later on to Quizlet to study; that was really helpful,” Labovitz said. “I had to memorize all the things pretty quickly.”

The questions themselves are multiple choice, with four possible answers given. “They’re really specific, and that’s why they gave us those documents to study from. I wasn’t sure what the questions would be, so I was kind of surprised by how specific they were when I saw the first question,” Labovitz said.

However, the team caught on quickly and at the end of the first round, they were in fourth place.

“We wanted to get at least into the top three, so we were a little worried there. In the second round we did a lot better and we felt really great about it,” he said.

Despite their first-place finish, the team hadn’t expected to do so well.

“I looked at Shaan and both of us totally thought we did awful, and then they announced that we won. That was definitely my proudest moment,” Labovitz said.

The team won in 2011 and 2012 as well, and had a close second-place finish in 2013. Bijwadia, Labovitz, and the Toghramadjians will go on to represent Minnesota at the National Competition in Washington, D.C. in April.