Within the USA, the International Geography Bee is split into four age divisions: Varsity, Junior Varsity, Middle School, and Elementary. For the 2020-2021 academic year, the Varsity Division is for students born before July 1, 2005 (regardless of their grade in school). All younger students, again, regardless of their grade, are welcome to compete in the Junior Varsity Division – they can also compete separately in the 8th, 7th, 6th Grade, or Elementary School Division (for 5th graders and younger) depending on their year in school or corresponding birthdate if homeschooled and not formally enrolled in a grade.
The Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions use identical questions at all stages of the competition. The first stage is the National Qualifying Exam (NQE) which is also used to qualify students for the US Geography Championships, which functions the exact same way in terms of its age divisions. It does not cost extra if a student wishes to also then use the NQE as a way to qualify for the National Championships of the US Geography Championships. The NQE has three separate versions: A, B, and C at the Varsity and Junior Varsity levels. Each is meant to be comparable in difficulty, and students need to only qualify on any one version for the National Championships. The NQE is always administered at the National History Bee and Bowl‘s Varsity and JV level state and regional tournaments; the version of the NQE given at each tournament corresponds to the question set that NHBB uses at each event (also called A, B, and C).
To take the NQE at an NHBB site, the cost is $10, however, students can also elect to take the exam online. To take the NQE online, students interested in taking any or all versions of the Varsity and JV NQE should follow the instructions on the Regionals Page here. Students who finish in the top half of students taking the NQE at their Exam Site or students who finish in the top 60% of all students across the USA on any given version of the NQE once the National Median Scores are calculated then qualify for the National Championships. The National Median Scores are calculated for all scores that have been reported as of February 28 for C Set, March 31 for B Set, and April 16 for the A Set versions of the National Qualifying Exam. However, students wishing to compete in the US Geography Championships on April 23 must complete the Geography NQE by April 16.
The 2021 US National Championships of the International Geography Bee will take place during Labor Day weekend. The Elementary, Middle School, and Junior Varsity division events will be held exclusively in person in Arlington, Virginia, while the Varsity division events will be held exclusively online.
To best prepare for the IGB National Championships, students should review the past questions from IGB Nationals as well as those used in the US Geography Olympiad’s Quiz Bowl Tournament from 2013-2016 (these are available here) as the IGB National Championships in the USA are run along identical lines as the USGC Quiz Bowl Tournaments were.
Students who finish in the top half at the IGB US National Championships within their age division, or who score 75 or higher on any version of the National Qualifying Exam in the 2018-2019 or the 2019-2020 academic years qualify for the International Geography Championships in August 2-9, 2022. Qualification is valid for two years; thus students who qualify at US Nationals in either 2019 or 2020 may attend the World Championships.
The top three students in each age division at the 2021 US National Championships receive discounted admission to compete at IGB Worlds in 2022.
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