THE heat is on - and it's glitzier, more fast-paced and more interactive.
At the end of the quarter-finals of The Straits Times-Ministry of Education National Current Affairs Quiz, held yesterday at youth hub *Scape, six teams beat 10 others to emerge victorious.
The teams are Anglo-Chinese Junior College, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), Hwa Chong Institution, River Valley High School, Nanyang Junior College and, last year's champion, Raffles Institution.
They will now move on to the semi-finals of the quiz, which is in its second year.
Organised by The Straits Times and MOE, the event is sponsored by the Singapore Press Holdings Foundation and innovation partner Shell.
Mr Simon Reynolds, the head judge and assistant director of MOE's English Language and Literature branch of its Curriculum Planning and Development Division, said: "People don't realise how much pressure the contestants are under... I like that the teams showed a sense of humour and had fun up on stage."
For instance, in one segment where teams scribbled their answers on tablet computers, Victoria Junior College drew laughs from the judges and audience by adding illustrations to their written answers.
Contestants tackled a broad range of topics, from entertainment to politics, answering questions such as "What was the name of the mascot for the Singapore Kindness Movement?" and "In which country did Coca-Cola open a bottling plant this year after a 60-year absence?"
The answers are Singa and Myanmar, respectively.
One favourite tactic among teams came through: They accumulated as many points as they could in the rounds where penalties were not given for wrong answers.
River Valley High School, which took third place last year, was the highest-scoring team overall, with 170 points.
Team member Ng Jia Win, 17, said: "Once we saw the questions, we hit the buzzer as fast as we could because we were so sure of the answers."
Ms Serene Goh, editor of The Straits Times Schools team and one of the judges, said: "They really meant to raise the bar this time, so there was a lot of tension."
Joel Yew, 17, from Nanyang Junior College, was "absolutely thrilled" that his school made it to the semi-finals for the first time.
The JC 1 student said: "We didn't come in with great expectations, but we were prepared to fight it out and stake our claim."
Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) is the other first-time semi-finalist.
Returning champion Raffles Institution is not letting up on its preparations either.
Jeremy Khoo, 16, from the RI team, said: "We are taking things one step at a time. We won't get complacent."
The six teams will meet again at *Scape next Wednesday. For more information, go to www.straitstimes.com/thebigquiz