Each PenOhio writing tournament is formatted in the same way, although Regional and State Tournaments differ in the amount of competition and judging that takes place.
At Regional PenOhio Tournaments, student writers compete in 3 rounds of impromptu writing in rounds lasting 40 minutes. In each round, the students write to open-ended prompts they do not know in advance. There are only 3 prompts for JV competition at each tournament; 3 for Varsity. There are 10 minutes between rounds in order for students to take a break, and change seats.
In each round, students compete against up to 5 other writers from other schools. At the conclusion of the round, these (up to) 6 papers are judged by a teacher/coach assigned to that round/section. The judge must assess each submission and provide 3 evaluations: a Rank Score (1 to 6, with 1 being best); a Quality Score (1 to 100, with 100 being perfect); and a rich and constructive comment on the written work.
No writer may compete against another writer twice at a tournament. No writer may compete against a writer from their own school. No student may be judged by a teacher/coach from their own school.
All points are tallied with Rank and Quality Scores given about equal measure. Individual and Team winners are determined by aggregate totals with Quality scores breaking ties in most cases. Other tie-break scenarios are detailed in the Official Scoring Manual.
The tournament day itself is designed to take about the equivalent of a school day. Students arrive about 8 a.m. for registration. After a welcome ceremony and instructions, writing begins by 10 a.m.. Rounds finish around 12:30 and writers grab a late lunch. Afterwards, a program and speaker are provided. While the students enjoy the program, results are tallied. By 3 p.m. (or so), the awards ceremony gets underway. Typically, this involves the award of trophies and scholarships. Take-home packets with real-time results are also made available to team coaches.
At PenOhio's State Tournament, all of the above basics of a tournament still apply. However, two important differences exist: First, two judges--rather than just one judge--are required to preside over every round/section. And second, a fourth "Power Round" takes place after the lunch hour for the top finalists who have scored best in the preceding 3 rounds of competition. This assures that the very best writers are named tops in Ohio and PenOhio champions.