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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 6 Age Divisions, defined as follows for the 2018-2019 school year:
-Varsity (solely for students born on or before June 30, 2003)
-Junior Varsity (open to any student born on or after July 1, 2003)
-8th grade (open only to students in 8th grade, or homeschoolers lacking a formal grade who were born between October 1, 2004 and September 30, 2005)
-7th grade (open only to students in 7th grade, or homeschoolers lacking a formal grade who were born between October 1, 2005 and September 30, 2006)
-6th grade (open only to students in 6th grade, or homeschoolers lacking a formal grade who were born between October 1, 2006 and September 30, 2007)
-Elementary School (open only to students in 5th grade and younger)
These eligibility rules hold true for both the National Qualifying Exam and the National Championships. In the Regional Quiz Tournaments, students in 7th and 8th grade compete together, and students in 6th grade and younger compete together (though students can still qualify on the basis of finishing in the top 50% of their standard age division for the NQE and Nationals)
To clarify, students who are in 8th grade and younger MAY compete in BOTH the Junior Varsity Division AND their younger age division. If they qualify at the Junior Varsity level for the National Championships they can attend BOTH the Junior Varsity National Championships and the Middle School or Elementary School National Championships for their specific age division within those years.
Please note, however, that when students from the USA attend the 2020 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 2019-20 school year. Those are:
Junior Varsity: Born from Sep. 1, 2003 – Aug. 31, 2005
Middle School: Born on Sep. 1, 2005 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 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 email@example.com.
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 2018-2019 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-H Sets).
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 which feature an Academic Bowl component. These will take place between January and May 2019. 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”.
The USGO National Qualifying Exam is also offered at all National History Bee Middle School and Elementary School Regional Finals tournaments; the version offered here is the “E Set.”
The USGO National Qualifying Exam is also offered at all National Science Bee Regional Finals tournaments; the version offered here is the “F Set.”
The USGO National Qualifying Exam is also offered in an online version through students’ sponsors for the National History Bee or National Science Bee; this version is the “G Set.”
The USGO National Qualifying Exam is also offered at all National History Bowl tournaments with a Middle School Division; the version offered here is the “H 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 School National Qualifying Exam, a teacher at your school or an instructor who advises homeschoolers can separately administer any of the D, E, F, or H Set versions of the National Qualifying Exam for you. In this case, the National Qualifying Exam costs $20 per exam version taken.
3. What is the cost?
The cost is $10 to take the any version of the Varsity or JV National Qualifying Exam at a scheduled site (i.e. National History Bee and Bowl tournaments for Varsity and Junior Varsity).
The cost is also $10 to take the D Set version of the National Qualifying Exam for the Middle School and Elementary School Divisions at a scheduled US Academic Bee and Bowl tournament site.
The cost is also $10 to take the H Set version of the National Qualifying Exam for the Middle School and Elementary School Divisions at a scheduled Middle School National History Bowl tournament site.
The E and F Set versions of the Middle School and Elementary School National Qualifying Exams are offered free of charge to participating students at National History Bee (E Set) and National Science Bee Middle School & Elementary School Regional Finals Sites.
The G Set version of the Middle School and Elementary School National Qualifying Exam is offered free of charge to students competing in the Online Regional Qualifying Exam prior to their Regional Finals for the National History Bee or National Science Bee through their sponsor.
If students take the Exam through a proctor at their school or with a homeschool instructor, it costs $20 (for all age divisions; note that the G Set Exam cannot be taken this way).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
-You can also use this registration page to sign up for the H Set Version of the Exam for students taking it at a Middle School National History Bowl tournament (all such tournaments also have Varsity and JV components) – you do not need to specify you want the H Set Version when signing up.
-To sign up for the D Set Exam in the Middle School and Elementary School Divisions 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.
-Competing students in the National History Bee and National Science Bee Regional Finals do not need to sign up for the US Geography Olympiad Exam (E Set and F Set respectively) offered there.
-Students who want to take the G Set Exam for free must also be competing in the National History Bee or National Science Bee Online Regional Qualifying Exam (ORQE). Taking the ORQE is free of charge! Click here for how to register for the National History Bee and here to register for the National Science Bee.
Please email email@example.com for questions and more information.
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:
IGB c/o Enrico Contolini
14073 W. Amherst Court
Lakewood, CO 80228
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. For the A-C Set Exams used in the Varsity and JV Division, if the score 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-mid January for C Set Exams, early-mid February for B Set Exams, and early-mid March for A Set Exams.
8th graders qualify with a score of 50 or higher on the D, E, F, and H Exams. 7th graders qualify with a score of 45 or higher on these exams; 6th graders qualify with a score of 40 or higher on these exams, and 5th graders and younger qualify with a score of 35 or higher on these exams
D. If the student does not qualify on the Exam Version they took, then they can take the other Exam Versions they haven’t yet taken that they are eligible to take. 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. 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 USGO will surely also be interested in competing in the other events too. The Varsity and Junior Varsity National Championships of The National History Bee and Bowl will be held on the same weekend as the Varsity and Junior Varsity National Championships of the USGO.
For elementary and middle school-aged students, the Elementary Division and Middle School Division National Championships of the USGO will take place on the same weekend as the National Championships of The US Academic Bee and Bowl, as well as the Elementary Division and Middle School Division National Championships of The National History Bee and Bowl.
For more information on The National History Bee and Bowl at the Varsity and Junior Varsity levels, click here.
For more information on The National History Bee and Bowl at the Middle School and Elementary School levels, click here.
For more information on The US Academic 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?
Varsity and Junior Varsity
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 December 31 (for C Set), January 31 (for B Set), and February 28 (for A Set) and announce the respective National Median Scores within 7-10 days of those dates.
Students who had scored at or higher than the National Median Score for their division on their version of the Qualifying Exam will then 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.
Middle School and Elementary School
Middle School and Elementary School Students taking the D-H Set Exams do not qualify on the basis of median scores but simply qualify for Middle School or Elementary School Nationals with the following scores per age level on any of the D-H Set Exams:
8th Grade: 50
7th Grade: 45
6th Grade: 40
5th Grade and Younger: 35
If any Middle School or Elementary School students qualified for JV Nationals on the A-C Set Exams, they qualify automatically for their age group (i.e. 8th Grade, 7th Grade, 6th Grade, or Elementary School) at Middle School or Elementary School Nationals too.
2. How do I register? Is advanced registration required?
Advanced online registration is required for the National Championships!
Registration will open for the Varsity and Junior Varsity IGB National Championships in late 2018 at this link.
Registration for the Middle School and Elementary IGB National Championships will open at this link in early 2019.
3. What is the deadline for registration?
April 20, 2019 for the Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions. May 20, 2019 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?
$85 for students in the Varsity and JV divisions, $80 for students in the Elementary and Middle School divisions.
5. When and where will it take place?
For the Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions, the 2019 IGB National Championships will take place on the afternoon and evening of Friday, April 26, 2019 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA. Competing students must arrive by 4:00pm, and are strongly recommended to fly in on the previous night. The competition will last from 5:00 to 10:00pm, 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 26.
For the Middle School and Elementary Divisions, the 2019 IGB National Championships will take place on June 7-8 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, Illinois (next to Chicago). There is a free shuttle from O’Hare to the hotel that operates around the clock. For Middle School and Elementary School IGB Nationals, staying at the official hotel(s) is required for all students and families coming from outside a 3 hour driving radius per Google Maps. If our block fills up, we will secure additional blocks at nearby hotels. Room rates are $145 for a king bed room and $155 for a room with two double beds, plus applicable taxes. Rooms must be booked through a secure link that will be posted to this website by mid-January 2019, otherwise, it is not valid, so please do not make bookings via any other method (i.e. calling the hotel, hotels.com, etc.) before the hotel reservation link is posted here!
6. Will there be prizes?
Yes, though for 2019 these are yet to be determined (aside from the usual plaques, trophies, medals, etc. that are given to top finishers).
7. How can I best prepare for the US National Championships
The best resources are the quiz bowl questions that have been used at the National Championships of the US Geography Olympiad from 2013 to 2016 which are available on the USGO website here as well as the past IGB US National Championships questions on the IGB USA Resources page here.
1. How do I qualify for the next IGB World Championships?
Students in the USA can qualify for the 2020 IGB World Championships in either of the following two ways:
A. Students qualify who finish in the top 50% of students competing at the USA National Championships of the International Geography Bee for any age division or classification either in 2019 or 2020.
B. Students qualify who obtain a score of at least 75 on any version of the IGB National Qualifying Exam during either the 2018-2019 academic year or the 2019-2020 academic year.
2. What events will the International Geography Bee World Championships consist of?
Note: These pages will first be updated by late 2019.
Please see the IGB World Championships page here for a draft schedule of events, this page for descriptions of competitions, and this page for other events that are part of the 2020 IGB World Championships.
3. When and where will the World Championships take place?
July 2020 in North America. Further details will be posted here when available.
4. What will the cost be?
Costs have yet to be determined.
1. Do you have any connection to The National Geographic Society or The National Geographic Bee or the International Geography Olympiad (aka iGeo)?
No, we are completely independent. For students in 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.