Contestants had to choose categories from a large board featuring seven subjects (or topics one might discuss in a subject) and seven grade levels (elementary and 7th through 12th). Obviously the higher the grade, the more difficult the question. Sample selections might be "Math - 8th grade" or "Current Events - 12th grade". Getting a question right earned that square on the board, and lit up the corresponding subject and grade level on the "score card" on that player's desk. The object of the game was to be the first to have one each of all subjects and grade levels. A player who did so, or the player who had the most spaces lit on their score card when time expired, won the game and advanced to the "Honors Round", where s/he could win more money (and later, a trip).
This wasn't as straightforward as it seems, though. A few "wild cards" lurked behind some of the squares which could change the game drastically; the most notable being the "Fire Drill". If a Fire Drill was uncovered, all three players had to leave their desks (and their score cards) and race each other in a physical stunt (such as throwing sandwiches into lunch boxes). Winning the Fire Drill got first pick of the desks, while second place got second pick and third place received whatever was left. As the game was scored by color and not person sitting at the desk, the first place player in the Fire Drill inevitably inherited the desk with the highest score. This was particularly nasty if one player had nearly filled in his entire card, only to have a worse player beat him in a Fire Drill near the end of the game; even worse, the outcome of some of the Fire Drills was determined completely at random.
Game Show Tropes in use:
- All or Nothing: The University Round, which used a money tree of $50-$100-$200-$500-$1,000. The player could stop after any correct answer. (All previous winnings were safe, though.)
- Bonus Round: The Honors Round. The winner had 45 seconds to answer one question in each of seven "subjects" within a given category; doing so initially won the player $1,000 cash (later $600 and a trip to Universal Studios Florida). A second bonus round, the "University Round", was played at the end of a few episodes that ended early, giving the day's winner an opportunity to earn even more money.
- Bonus Space: "Free (Square)", where the contestant received the square for that subject and grade level for free, and "Take (a Square)", where the contestant got to steal a square from an opponent.
- Confetti Drop: Confetti was dropped on Honors Round winners during the Morris era.
- Consolation Prize
- Golden Snitch: The Fire Drills, especially if one was hit near the end of a game.
- Promotional Consideration
- Whammy: "Lose (a Square)", where the player had to forfeit one of his previously earned squares. Averted if the player had a square available that was a duplicate of both a subject and a grade level he had earned (for example, getting rid of 8th grade Art while still having 8th grade Science and 10th grade Art).
This show provides examples of:
- Catchphrase: "HI, LEW!" after Schneider greeted the contestants at the beginning of the show; continued with "HI, ROBB!" after Morris took over.
- Right before the credits began, Robb closed the show out by saying "Cowabunga, dudes and dudettes!"
- "You guys ready out there?" Robb to the audience, during his tenure on the show.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The desk and scored square colors; subverted in that the players often change desk colors after a Fire Drill.
- Game-Breaking Bug: The Fire Drills, which in at least one episode allowed a player who hadn't answered a single question all game take someone else's desk, answer one question, and win the game (and most likely stink up the Honors Round afterward).
- Luck-Based Mission: Some of the Fire Drills, and a major flaw of the show. One in particular, the Tricky Tri-Tube Toss, had all three players throwing balls into a common funnel, which would randomly distribute them into one of three tubes, one for each player. Conceivably, this could result in one person making all of the shots and another player winning because of where the balls landed.
- Opening Narration: One of the questions from that day's game was asked, followed by "If you can answer this and a bunch of other questions, maybe you've got what it takes to... MAKE! THE! GRADE!"
- Rule of Three: Three contestants.
- Shout-Out: Possibly- the set, with the big arches and cloud background, heavily resembled the mid-1960s set of You Don't Say!.