Below we’ve listed some Frequently Asked Questions, grouped under five major headings. Hopefully, the information below, as well as on the other pages of this website will answer most of your questions about how the International Geography Bee works. If you are still confused about something, please email email@example.com and we’ll not only respond to you, but add your question to the FAQ page if it’s something that would apply to other participants as well.
Participation & Eligibility
1. Who is the International Geography Bee’s US Division meant for?
Any primary or secondary student with an interest in geography is welcome to compete. Students must be enrolled in a primary or secondary school and not have already graduated high school at the time they take the Qualifying Exam. Students who graduate between the time they take the Exam and the next IGB US National championships may still compete at the next Regional Championships, as well as at the subsequent IGB World Championships.
2. Which age divisions can students compete in?
Within the USA, the International Geography Bee consists of 4 Age Divisions, defined as follows for the 2016-17 school year:
-Varsity (solely for students born on or before June 30, 2001)
-Junior Varsity (open to any student born on or after July 1, 2001)
-Middle School (open only to students in 7th or 8th grade, or homeschoolers lacking a formal grade who were born between October 1, 2002 and September 30, 2004)
-Elementary (open only to students in 6th grade and younger, or homeschoolers lacking a formal grade who were born on or after October 1, 2004. Students in middle school, but who are in 6th grade compete in the Elementary Division. There is no younger age limit, though students should look over the sample National Qualifying Exams and the samples of the portions of the competition at the National Championships to see if the difficulty level is appropriate for them.)
To clarify, students who are eligible MAY compete in BOTH the Junior Varsity Division and EITHER the Middle School or the Elementary Division. If they qualify at the Junior Varsity level for the National Championships they can attend BOTH the Junior Varsity National Championships and EITHER the Middle School or the Elementary Division National Championships (depending on what grade they are in or when their birthday is if they are homeschooled).
Please note, however, that when students from the USA attend the IGB World Championships, they must compete in the age division that their birth date falls into based on the standard IGB divisions outside the USA during the 2017-18 school year. Those are:
Junior Varsity: Born from Sep. 1, 2001 – Aug. 31, 2003
Middle School: Born on Sep. 1, 2003 or later
3. If I am a citizen of a country where I do not live or attend school, can I compete in the division that corresponds to the country of my citizenship? Can I compete in multiple divisions?
Students may only compete in one division in any given school year. If they have citizenship of a country outside the division where they attend school, then they may compete in either the one division or the other, but not both. Within the USA, since the same National Qualifying Exam is used both for the US Geography Olympiad and the USA Division of the International Geography Bee, if anyone takes the NQE in the USA, even if only to compete in the US Geography Olympiad, they are then ineligible to compete in other divisions of the International Geography Bee for that school year, even if their residency status would otherwise allow them to do so.
4. Can homeschooled students compete?
Yes, absolutely! All homeschooled students who are studying a primary or secondary education course of study in the 2016-2017 school year may compete. Since the International Geography Bee is a competition for individual students, it doesn’t matter if you are homeschooled or attend a school, nor does it matter if other students from your homeschool association (or school for that matter) compete or not.
5. My school won’t fund me or give its official approval; does this matter?
Not as far as the International Geography Bee is concerned. As long as you, a parent, or someone else pays for your entry fee, and you appear on time for your competition, you can compete. If you prefer that your name is not listed on the website in order to prevent a hassle at your school, we can do this too – just let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Regionals (known as the National Qualifying Exam in the USA)
1. Where are the sites for the Varsity and Junior Varsity Division for the National Qualifying Exam for the International Geography Bee?
The sites of the Varsity and JV Qualifying Exams for the US Division of the IGB are the exact same sites as the Regional and State-level tournaments of The National History Bee and Bowl at the Varsity and JV level. These tournaments are indicated by the dots on the map on the US Geography Olympiad homepage. The same exam is used to qualify students for the National Championships of the US Geography Olympiad as well as the International Geography Bee. There is no added cost for this at the regional or state level. A green dot indicates a tournament that has been scheduled. A blue dot indicates a tournament that will definitely take place but has not been scheduled yet. A yellow dot indicates a tournament that may or may not take place while a red dot indicates a tournament that has already taken place. Note that the map will be updated on an ongoing basis throughout the 2016-17 school year as new tournament sites are scheduled and tournaments take place.
Also, not only are the sites identical with the Regional and State-level tournaments of The National History Bee and Bowl at the high school level, but the dates are too. The IGB/USGO Qualifying Exam will almost always be offered during the lunch break of the tournament; for some tournaments, it may be offered at slightly different times. The start time of this (usually around 12:45-1pm, but double check and be sure to arrive a bit early), is indicated on each tournament page (accessed by clicking on the respective dot on the map). The Exam will have 50 multiple-choice questions and a 20 minute time limit for completion.
Students may take the IGB/USGO National Qualifying Exam up to three times, though it must, of course, be a different version each time. A different version of the Exam is offered at tournaments listed as “A Set”, “B Set”, and “C Set” – you can check which set a tournament uses by clicking on the dots on the map. Students only need to qualify once for Nationals on any one Exam Version, though they can take as many as they like. If a student qualifies on one Exam Version, and thereafter takes a different version and receives a non-qualifying score, that does not “unqualify” them from Nationals. Students who are eligible to compete in the Middle School or Elementary Divisions who take a JV Exam and qualify for JV Nationals are automatically eligible for Middle School or the Elementary Division Nationals as well without having to take a specific Middle School or Elementary level exam (i.e. D or E Set).
Note that the three separate versions of the JV and Varsity National Qualifying Exam offered at “A Set”, “B Set”, and “C Set” tournaments respectively are not meant to vary in length or difficulty. It is also possible to take any of the Exam versions with a teacher or homeschool instructor proctoring (see below for instructions) if unable to reach an official Exam site.
2. Where are the sites for the Middle School and Elementary Divisions for the National Qualifying Exam for the US Division of the International Geography Bee?
These sites will be held in conjunction with the regional sites for the US Academic Bee and Bowl’s (USABB) Regional tournaments. There will be approximately 20 of these; all will take place between February and early May 2017. See www.usacademicbowl.com (then scroll down the page) to see a full list of sites and dates once they are added. The version of the Exam offered at all of these events is called “D Set”.
Also, just like in the Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions, if you are unable to make it to a site, or if you wish to have a second chance at qualifying on a Middle School or Elementary Division National Qualifying Exam, a teacher at your school or an instructor who advises homeschoolers can separately administer the “E Set” version of the National Qualifying Exam for you (or you can also take the “D Set” version this way too if unable to attend a USABB Regional tournament site). In this case, the National Qualifying Exam costs $20. Please note that people who take the Exam this way are only eligible to qualify by finishing above the respective official National Median Scores for D or E Set, which will be posted for all divisions as of April 1.
The Middle School and Elementary Division Versions of the Exam (i.e. D Set and E Set) are meant to be comparable in length and difficulty.
3. What is the cost?
The cost is $10 to take the any version of the National Qualifying Exam at a scheduled site (i.e. National History Bee and Bowl tournaments for Varsity and Junior Varsity and US Academic Bee and Bowl tournaments for Middle School and Elementary). If students take different versions of the Exam, it’s $10 for each Exam taken. If you take the Exam through a proctor at your school or with a homeschool instructor, it costs $20 (for all divisions).
Teachers can also sign up an entire class for the National Qualifying Exam which costs $75 for one class of students. For the entire school, it costs $150. If you are interested in either of these options, please email email@example.com.
4. How do I sign up for the National Qualifying Exam at a tournament site? Do I need to register in advance?
For the National Qualifying Exam (for all divisions), signing up in advance is recommended (so that you can receive information on where to report at the tournament, and if you need to get an invoice for your school) but it is not required.
-To sign up for the Varsity and Junior Varsity Division at a National History Bee and Bowl Varsity & JV regional or state tournament site, please visit the registration page on the website of the National History Bee and Bowl’s Varsity and Junior Varsity Division.
-To sign up for the Middle School and Elementary Division at a US Academic Bee and Bowl regional tournament site, please visit the registration page on the website of the US Academic Bee and Bowl.
5. How do I sign up to have the National Qualifying Exam proctored by a teacher or homeschool instructor?
A. Send a check for $20 per Exam version per student made out to “US Geography Olympiad” to the following address:
NHBB / USGO
PO Box 875
Tenafly, NJ 07670
B. Along with the check, include a piece of paper with the student’s name and school (or indicate they are homeschooled), their birthdate and grade (to determine their division), a contact email for the student or their parent(s), and the name and email of the proctor. If you have multiple students who wish to take the Exam, please supply this information for each student.
Please also indicate which Exam Version(s) is/are requested – note that A, B, and C are Varsity and JV Division Exams and are open to all students. D and E are Middle School and Elementary Division Exams and are only open to students in those divisions (and thus cannot qualify students for the Varsity or JV National Championships).
Once we receive the check, we will forward the proctor the requested Exam Version(s) and the answer key(s).
C. The proctor will then report the score for each Exam Version to us, and if it falls above the National Median Score for the division the student is in on the version of the Exam they take, then they will qualify for Nationals, and we will let you know that by early March (for Varsity and Junior Varsity Division students) or early April (for Middle School and Elementary Division students) once the initial qualifying period is over.
D. If the student does not qualify on the Exam Version they took, then they can take the other Versions they haven’t yet taken. The process would work the same way.
6. Do I have to be competing in The National History Bee or The National History Bowl / US Academic Bee and Bowl to take the IGB/USGO Qualifying Exam at a tournament site?
No, though, you are certainly welcome to compete in these. The National History Bee and the US Academic Bee do not require a team, and some questions (as well as in the History Bowl and Academic Bowl) reference geography, so many students interested in the International Geography Bee will surely also be interested in competing in the other events too. The Varsity and Junior Varsity US National Championships of The National History Bee and Bowl will be held on the same weekend as the Varsity and Junior Varsity US National Championships of the International Geography Bee.
For elementary and middle school-aged students, the Elementary Division and Middle School Division US National Championships of the USGO will take place on the same weekend as the National Championships of The US Academic Bee and Bowl, which for 2017 is May 26-29, 2017 (Memorial Day weekend).
For more information on The National History Bee and Bowl at the Varsity and Junior Varsity levels, see www.historybowl.com.
For more information on The National History Bee and Bowl at the Middle School and Elementary levels, see www.historybee.com.
For more information on The US Academic History Bee and Bowl see www.usacademicbowl.com
7. When and how will I receive my score on the IGB/USGO National Qualifying Exam?
If taking the Exam at a tournament site, in many cases, the IGB/USGO Exams will be graded immediately after the students are finished. In other cases, students will learn their scores later that afternoon, or by email within a few days of the tournament. Students may email firstname.lastname@example.org from 10 days after they take the Exam, if they haven’t yet received their results. However, students who take the Exam who finish in the top half of their Division at the site they take it, will also have their scores posted online on the Results page. All of these students will have qualified for the National Championships.
Students taking the Exam with a proctor can request their score from the proctor once the Exam has been graded.
8. What should I study to prepare for the IGB/USGO National Qualifying Exam?
Questions on the National Qualifying Exams for all divisions will reference both geographical facts (e.g. capitals, landforms, linguistic distribution, etc.) and a knowledge of geographical concepts (e.g. patterns of population distribution, effects of geography on weather, continental drift, etc.). The questions will not require computation or detailed analysis of maps or diagrams; given the limited time to complete the Exam (20 minutes), questions should not take more than 20 seconds to answer.
Please also “like” us on Facebook and sign up for our Twitter feed to get study tips, sample questions, and the latest information!
Sample National Qualifying Exams for the International Geography Bee are posted on the US Geography Olympiad website (see the “Regionals” tab on the menu bar). Students can use these as a basis of their preparation, as questions on the National Qualifying Exams will reference comparable material.
9. Does the International Geography Bee’s US Division only test knowledge of United States geography?
No, the International Geography Bee is not limited to questions on the geography of the USA. Questions on the geography of the USA form about 20-30% of the questions we ask for the IGB in the USA.
US National Championships
1. Who will qualify for the US National Championships?
Students who finish in the top half of their division, inclusive of ties, at the site where they take the National Qualifying Exam will qualify for the National Championships. Likewise, we will tally all of the scores from every Varsity and Junior Varsity student across the country as of February 25, 2017, and announce the National Median Scores by March 1. For the Middle School and Elementary divisions, we will tally the scores that we have as of March 25, 2017 and announce the National Median Scores by April 1.
Students who had scored at or higher than the National Median Score for their division on their version of the Qualifying Exam will also qualify for the National Championships. For each version of the National Qualifying Exam and for each age division it encompasses, there will be a separate National Median Score. Note that Middle School and Elementary Division students who take the Junior Varsity Exams do not have a separate Division for those, but instead have their scores included with all other Junior Varsity scores for purposes of determining the Medians and seeing if they qualify for Nationals.
2. How do I register? Is advanced registration required?
Advanced online registration is required for the National Championships!
Registration is open for the Varsity and Junior Varsity IGB National Championships at this link.
Registration for the Middle School and Elementary IGB National Championships will open at this link in early 2017.
3. What is the deadline for registration?
April 10, 2017 for the Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions. May 20, 2017 for the Elementary and Middle School Divisions. Students may be allowed to register on a space-available basis up to the date of the National Championships, but they should not assume this will be possible.
4. What does it cost?
$75 for each student, regardless of age division.
5. When and where will it take place?
For the Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions, the 2017 IGB National Championships will take place on the afternoon and evening of Friday, April 21, 2017 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA. Competing students must arrive by 2:00pm, and are strongly recommended to fly in on the previous night. The competition will last from 3:00 to 9:30pm, with a break in between the preliminaries and final rounds. Students may compete in both the US Geography Olympiad and International Geography Bee US National Championships, as they will run at different times on April 21.
For the Middle School and Elementary Divisions, the 2017 USGO National Championships will take place on Sunday, May 28, 2017 and Monday, May 29, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, IL just outside Chicago. Competing students must arrive by 9:00am, and are strongly recommended to fly in on the previous night (or earlier). The competition will last from 3:30 to 6:30pm on May 28 with the final rounds on May 29 from 12:30 to 1:45.
6. Will there be prizes?
Yes, the winning students at the 2017 and 2018 US National Championships will receive free flights to Berlin to compete, though they must still pay the entry fees. Students who finish in second place in their age division receive free entry into the competition; students who finish in third place receive free entry if they are also competing in the International History Olympiad; otherwise they receive a 50% discount. If students finish in the top 3 positions in both 2017 and 2018, then they are entitled to the more valuable of the two prizes, but not both on a cumulative basis.
7. How can I best prepare for the US National Championships?
The best resource is the quiz bowl questions that have been used at the National Championships of the US Geography Olympiad from 2013 to 2016. These are available on the USGO website here.
1. How do I qualify for the World Championships?
Students qualify for the World Championships by finishing in the top half of their age division at the US National Championships of the International Geography Bee in either 2017 or 2018. Elementary and Middle School students who finish in the top half of the Junior Varsity Division are qualified as well.
2. What events will the International Geography Bee World Championships consist of?
The World Championships of the International Geography Bee will consist of 5 preliminary rounds of buzzer-based play, plus 1-3 rounds of finals depending on turnout. Students who compete at the International Geography Bee World Championships will also be able to compete in the Historical Geography Bee of the 2018 International History Olympiad, even if they are not otherwise enrolled in the International History Olympiad. Participants will also take part in various field trips and excursions in and around Berlin, and possibly other competitions, though these would be informal and not form part of the official IGB World Championships or the International History Olympiad.
3. When and where will the World Championships take place?
The International Geography Bee World Championships will take place in Berlin in July 2018 in conjunction with the 2018 International History Olympiad. Students will be able to participate in both competitions, if they have qualified for both. The exact dates and location of the competition will be made available later in 2017. After 2018, the International Geography Bee will take place every two years (always in July).
4. What will the cost be?
The cost of the IGB World Championships has yet to be determined, but will be approximately $150 if students are already competing in the International History Olympiad (as in this case, accommodations, meals, and field trips are included) and $500 if they are not (this will include approximately 3 days of meals and lodging, 1.5 days of competition and 1.5 days of field trips).
1. Do you have any connection to The National Geographic Society or The National Geographic Bee of the International Geography Olympiad (aka iGeo)?
No, we are completely independent. Within the USA, our sister competition, the US Geography Olympiad, provides a way for US students to qualify for the International Geography Olympiad. Please see www.geographyolympiad.com for further details.
2. Do you have any sponsors?
Currently, we are sponsored by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the world’s leading textbook publisher. If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities with the International Geography Bee, please contact email@example.com.