The Regional level of the USA Division of The International Geography Bee consists of the National Qualifying Exam. For all age divisions, the rules are the same. However, the Varsity and Junior Varsity Division Exams (A Set, B Set, and C Set – the same Exams are used for both of these divisions) are more difficult than the Middle School and Elementary Division Exams (D-H Sets – these are again the same for both the Middle School and Elementary Divisions).
Each Exam has 50 multiple-choice questions with 4 possible answers to each question, and students always have 20 minutes to compete. The same Exams are also used to qualify students for the National Championships of the US Geography Olympiad – this does not cost extra. Students receive 2 points for a correct answer, 0 points for an answer left blank, and -1 point for an incorrect response.
The NQE is always offered at tournament sites for the National History Bee and Bowl’s Varsity and Junior Varsity level tournaments, a list of which is available here. The version of the NQE on offer at each site (either A, B, or C) corresponds to the question set being used there. The NQE is also offered at the tournament sites for the US Academic Bee and Bowl (always D Set), a list of which is available here. Students may also take any version of the NQE at their place of study with either a homeschool instructor or teacher proctoring it (either D or E Set). The NQE costs $20 if taken in school or with a homeschool proctor; the NQE costs $10 if taken at a Varsity or JV NHBB or USABB tournament site. The NQE is free when offered in conjunction with a National History Bee Middle School and Elementary Regional Finals site, where F-H Set Exams are offered – these sites are open to students not competing in the National History Bee as well.
Teachers can also sign up an entire class for any one version of 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note that students qualify for the National Championships by finishing in the top half of students in their age division who take the NQE at any given tournament site. If there is an odd number of students, or if two students tie for the last spot, we “round up” so that 4 students out of 7 would qualify, for example, unless there was a tie for 4th place, in which case 5 (or more, if more than two students tied for 4th) would qualify. Students can also qualify by finishing in the top half nationally among all students who take the NQE within their age division for any given exam. These national median scores are calculated for C Set on January 1, for B Set on February 1, and for A Set on March 1. For D and E Sets (Middle School and Elementary) they are calculated on March 1.
For the Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions, regardless of the National Median Scores, students can also qualify by posting a score of 60 or higher on either the A, B, or C Set versions of the National Qualifying Exam. For the Middle School and Elementary Divisions, regardless of the National Median Scores, students can also qualify by posting a score of 40 or higher on any version of the D-H Set Exams if they are in 7th or 8th grade, or by posting a score of 25 or higher if they are in 6th grade or younger.
To register to take the NQE at a tournament site, please use the registration form here for the Varsity and Junior Varsity Division and the registration form here for the Middle School and Elementary Divisions. Registration is recommended (since that way we can pass along information regarding where to report at the tournament site), but it is not required (i.e. it is permitted to just show up at the tournament site and take the NQE without prior registration.
To take the NQE at a student’s school or with a homeschool instructor, please follow these instructions:
1. Send a check for $20 per Exam version per student made out to “US Geography Olympiad” (please do NOT make checks payable to “International Geography Bee”!) to the following address:
IGB c/o Enrico Contolini
14073 W. Amherst Court
Lakewood, CO 80228
2. 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).
3. 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 the end of February (for Varsity and Junior Varsity Division students) or March (for Middle School and Elementary Division students) once the initial qualifying period is over.
4. If the student does not qualify on the Exam Version they took, then they can take the other Exam Versions they are eligible to take that they haven’t yet taken. The process would work the same way.
Students who take an exam at their school or with a homeschool proctor may only qualify on the basis of finishing in the top half nationally on that version of the Exam (students who take the Exam at a tournament site can also qualify as mentioned, by being in the top half of students in their age division on an Exam at that site).
Past examples of the NQE and their answer keys to practice with, as well as a distribution guide that shows what types of questions are asked about and in what frequencies, can be found on the US Geography Olympiad website here.