Make the Grade
Created byMichael Klinghoffer
Developed by
Presented by
Narrated byMaria Milito
ComposerEdd Kalehoff
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes160[1]
Executive producers
Production locations
Running time23–24 minutes
Original release
ReleaseOctober 2, 1989 (1989-10-02) –
September 14, 1990 (1990-09-14)[2]

Make the Grade is a children's game show that aired from October 2, 1989, to September 14, 1990, on Nickelodeon.

Broadcast history

Make the Grade premiered on Nickelodeon on October 2, 1989, with three seasons worth of first-run episodes airing weekdays. Reruns then aired until December 29, 1991. Reruns later aired on Nick GAS from January 2, 2000, to April 5, 2004.

The first two seasons were hosted by Lew Schneider and taped in a small New York studio with no live audience and pre-recorded crowd noise. For the third season, the show moved to the newly opened Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, this time with a studio audience, and Robb Edward Morris taking Schneider's place as host. New York-based disc jockey Maria Milito was the announcer for the entire run.


Main Game

Three contestants – each seated at either a red, green, or blue desk – competed to answer trivia questions and acquire squares on a 7x7 split-flap game board. Seven grade levels, covering elementary school and grades 7 through 12, ran along the top of the board; six categories plus a "special elective" ran down the left. The contestants' goal was to answer enough questions to light every category and grade level on the desk.

In the first season, each episode had a different set of seven categories. In the second and third seasons, one category was always a "Special Elective," represented by a checkmark.


Most squares contained questions, which were played as toss-ups and were open to all three contestants. If a contestant answered correctly, they won that square and control of the board, and the category and grade level lit up on their desk. An incorrect response allowed either of the other two contestants a chance to buzz-in once the host had re-read the question. If no one answered correctly, the square turned black and could not be selected again.

Several squares contained other items that altered the outcome of the game:

The first contestant to light all 14 squares on their desk, or the contestant who had lit the most squares at the end of two rounds if no one had all 14, won $500 and advanced to the Honors Round. In the event of a tie for most lights at the end of the game, the contestant who had claimed the most squares in their current color on the category board won the game. The other two contestants received $50 and two or three consolation prizes. All contestants received a pair of British Knights sneakers.

Fire Drills

Like other Nickelodeon game shows, Make the Grade allowed contestants to participate in (sometimes messy) challenge stunts called "Fire Drills." When a contestant uncovered a "Fire" square on the category board, all three participated in this challenge. The first contestant to complete the Fire Drill earned the right to claim any one of the three desks as their own; the second-place finisher selected one of the remaining two, and the third-place finisher took the last desk by default.

Lit categories and grade levels corresponded to the desk at which they had been earned, not to any particular contestant; the same was true for squares marked on the category board. Because of this rule, a contestant could do well in answering questions but lose their lead if they failed to win a Fire Drill.

Honors Round

The day's champion had a chance to win cash and/or prizes by answering seven questions in 45 seconds. Three categories were offered, each containing questions from all subjects used in the main game, and the champion selected one at the beginning of the round.

First season

Each subject contained only one question. Missing or passing a question moved the champion on to the next subject. A miss put the current subject out of play, but a pass allowed the champion to redo the subject (with the same question) after attempting all seven subjects if time permitted. The first six correct answers awarded $100 each, while the seventh increased the bonus round total to $1,000.

Second and third seasons

Passed or missed questions kept the current subject in play, but the host still moved on to the next one. After playing through all seven subjects, the champion could return to any they had passed or missed, receiving a new question in each. The first six correct answers were still worth $100 each, but the prize for the seventh was a trip to Universal Studios Florida rather than a cash bonus.

Time-filling segments/University Round

In the first season, where the game finished early and there was additional time to fill in the program, it was filled with clips of host Schneider going to malls and asking questions, and during the third season, studio audience members were asked questions to win T-shirts and other small prizes. On a few episodes, a contestant won the game so early that another game got started with a second set of contestants, playing the second game in abbreviated time. On one occasion where the game ended early, the contestants played what would have been that rounds Fire Drill stunt prior to the Honors Round, where the winner earned another $50 towards their winnings.

In second-season episodes, a University Round would occasionally be played, in which the day's winning contestant took part in. A series of five questions were asked, for $50, $100, $200, $500, and $1,000, respectively. The contestant could stop and take the money at any time. Any cash and prizes won in the earlier rounds was safe and never risked, so any cash won in the University Round was added to the winnings from the earlier rounds.


  1. ^ The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows: 1946-Present by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh
  2. ^ "Television". Bennington Banner. September 14, 1990. p. 14. Archived from the original on December 31, 2021 – via access icon