Fed Challenge Presentations
Each three to five member team makes a 15-minute presentation before a panel of judges, as though the team is either briefing, or playing the roles of, the Federal Open Market Committee, the Federal Reserve's monetary policy arm. Presentations include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Analysis of current economic conditions as of the day of the competition;
- Projections about economic, financial and international conditions in the near term that would be of special significance for the development of monetary policy, such as inflation, unemployment, real GDP and other economic policy indicators;
- Explanation of issues that should receive special attention in formulating current monetary policy; and
- Recommendations to the Federal Reserve to maintain or alter (and to what degree) the current course of monetary policy.
Following the presentation, the judges ask questions. Some regional competitions have 10-minute question-and-answer (Q &A) sessions; some have a 15-minute Q&A sessions. The national final's Q&A session is 15 minutes long. The judges' questions include issues raised in the team's presentation and student interpretation of recent economic events.
Questions and Answers
The following sample questions were derived from previous competitions:
- There have been bills proposed in Congress to make the Reserve Bank presidents political appointees. What impact would this have on monetary policy?
- Should the Fed worry about trade deficits?
- Does the Fed have any control over employment?
- Is deflation worse than inflation?
- What should the main objective of the FOMC be when it sets monetary policy?
- Is there a difference between short-term and long-term interest rates? Does the Fed affect both?
In your own words, explain the Phillips Curve. What is it, and what does it show? Why do some economists question the validity of the Phillips Curve? Is there any justification to question its validity?
- If the Fed could achieve 0.5% less unemployment by accepting another 1% of inflation, would that be a good thing?
- The Fed does not have a mandate from Congress for a specific inflation rate target. Would you be for or against such a mandate and why?
- On the fiscal policy side, do you think balancing the federal budget is an important goal?
- What did you learn from participating in the Fed Challenge?
Listed below are some important considerations when preparing and answering the judges' questions.
- Know how all of your indicators are measured, exactly what they tell you, why they are important, why you chose them, and how accurate they are.
- Be able to make distinctions among the various indicators.
- Be ready to show your knowledge of relevant economic topics not included in your presentation.
- Be able to explain what effect you hope your policy will have on the economy, how any change will be implemented, when and how you will see results, and how you can evaluate the policy’s success or failure.
- Be aware of long-term trends in major sectors of the U.S. economy and previous Fed actions.
- Keep in mind the goals of the Federal Reserve System.
- Remember that the more comfortable you are with the material, the better you can explain your analysis.
- Brainstorm possible questions and develop answers that are specific, accurate, and in your own words.
- Know that you won’t have every answer. The judges probe with difficult questions to discover the limits of your knowledge.
Judging and Scoring
While comparing Fed Challenge teams, judges seek to answer the following question:
Which team most convincingly demonstrates its understanding of United States monetary policy?
Components of this understanding include how and why the Federal Reserve establishes and implements monetary policy, how this policy affects the overall economy, and which issues are driving present-day policy debates.
Answering this question involves a considerable degree of subjective evaluation. In the above question, "understanding" is a key to victory, but so is "convincingly demonstrates."
To understand the criteria that judges use, participants should become familiar with the judges' scoring rubric. The rubric requires our judges to compare teams using the following five evaluative criteria:
- Knowledge of monetary policy and the functions of the Federal Reserve;
- Responses to the judges' questions;
- Quality of the presentation;
- Quality of the research and analysis; and
- Evidence of teamwork and coordination.
The primary focus of Fed Challenge is economics. Judges, therefore, tend to place the greatest evaluative weight on knowledge of monetary policy and the Fed's role. At the same time, public speaking skill is important. Teams that reach the higher levels of the competition tend to be strong on all five criteria. Judges, however, generally place the greatest weight on a team's performance in the Q&A period because Q&A is the activity most likely to reveal analytical weaknesses and/or strengths. Q&A performance, though, is not enough to carry the day if the team's presentation is weak or analytically flawed, the team members fail to demonstrate a cooperative spirit, or their research is lacking. In the end, our judges evaluate all five criteria to the best of their abilities to identify the winning team.
All rounds of the Fed Challenge - from preliminary District competitions to the national championship -- use the same scoring rubric and adhere to the following rules:
- Students may refer to but not read from notes or scripts;
- Each team member must make a substantial contribution during the presentation;
- More than one team member may answer a judge's question; and
- While huddling to formulate a response to a judge's question is permitted, teams are cautioned that lengthy and excessive huddling will result in points being deducted to the extent that it may significantly limit the number of questions posed.
For a more complete breakdown of the scoring, one should consult the Teachers Guide at http://www.newyorkfed.org/education/fedchall.pdf.