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 United States Geography Olympiad works. If you are still confused about something, please email info@geographyolympiad.com and we’ll not only respond to you, but add your question to the FAQ page if it something that would apply to other participants as well.

Participation & Eligibility
1. Who is the USGO meant for?
Any primary or secondary student with an interest in geography is welcome to compete. Students who have competed in the National Geographic Bee (but perhaps have now moved into high school and are no longer eligible), students on school academic teams, and students enrolled in AP Human Geography classes are especially encouraged to attend, though none of these are prerequisites.

2. Which age divisions can students compete in?
The USGO offers the following age divisions for the 2017-2018 academic year:
-Varsity (solely for students born on or before June 30, 2002)
-Junior Varsity (open to any student born on or after July 1, 2002)
-Middle School (open only to students in 7th or 8th grade, or homeschoolers lacking a formal grade who were born between October 1, 2003 and September 30, 2005) Note: the combined Middle School Division is used in the basis of computing National Median Scores, but at the 2018 USGO Middle School National Championships, 7th and 8th graders will compete in separate classifications. A different National Champion will be named in each classification; there will not be a “combined Middle School champion.”
-Elementary (open only to students in 6th grade and younger, or homeschoolers lacking a formal grade who were born on or after October 1, 2005. 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.) Note: the combined Elementary Division is used in the basis of computing National Median Scores, but at the 2018 USGO Elementary National Championships, 6th and 5th graders will compete in separate classifications, and all students in 4th grade and younger will compete in their own classification too. A different National Champion will be named in each classification; there will not be a “combined Elementary champion.”

These eligibility rules hold true for both the National Qualifying Exam and the National Championships.
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).

3. Regarding residency and citizenship, who is eligible to compete in the USGO?
All primary or secondary students residing in the United States, as well as students residing abroad are welcome to compete. However, only Varsity Division US permanent residents or US citizens living outside the USA are eligible to compete for spots on Team USA. On the highly off chance that a student who is a non-US permanent resident and non-US citizen places in a position at the National Championships which would otherwise qualify them for Team USA inclusion, the place on the National team will devolve to the next highest ranking eligible student. (Note that US citizenship is NOT a prerequisite for a spot on Team USA, but that among non-US citizens, only students who are US permanent residents can compete for Team USA.)

4. Who is eligible to qualify for Team USA that will represent the United States at the 2018 International Geography Olympiad (aka iGeo)?
Students who are American citizens or US permanent residents born between June 30, 1999, and June 30, 2002 may qualify for Team USA. In practice, this means that anyone who competes at the Varsity level is eligible to win a spot on Team USA (except for one student who has competed on Team USA each of the past two years, and by current iGeo rules is ineligible to return for a third time), but anyone competing in another division is ineligible.
Students on Team USA at the 2018 iGeo may not have begun tertiary education (i.e. college) before July 2018. Students who will graduate high school in spring or summer 2018 are eligible under all circumstances.

5. Can homeschoolers compete?
Yes, absolutely! All homeschooled students who are studying a primary or secondary education course of study in the 2017-2018 school year may compete. Since the USGO 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. If homeschoolers are in a set grade-level, then that is used to determine their eligibility (if applicable) for the Middle School and Elementary Divisions. If not, then their birthdate is used. Birthdates are used in all cases to determine Varsity/Junior Varsity eligibility.

6. My school won’t fund me or give its official approval; does this matter?
Not as far as the United States Geography Olympiad 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 info@geographyolympiad.com.

 

Regionals  (National Qualifying Exam) – see also the “Regionals” page

1. Where are the sites for the Varsity and Junior Varsity Division for the National Qualifying Exam for the USGO?
The sites of the National Qualifying Exam for the Varsity and JV Divisions of the USGO are the exact same sites as the Regional and State-level Varsity and JV tournaments of The National History Bee and Bowl . These tournaments are indicated by the dots on the map on the USGO homepage. 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 2017-2018 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 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), along with the time students who are not coming for the History Bee and Bowl but who wish to take the USGO National Qualifying Exam should arrive (usually around 12:30), 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 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
Note that for the United States Geography Olympiad, 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.
The Middle School and Elementary Division Versions of the Exam (i.e. D Set and E Set) are likewise meant to be comparable in length and difficulty.

2. Where are the sites for the Middle School and Elementary Divisions for the National Qualifying Exam for the USGO?
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 25-40 of these; all will take place between January and April 2018. 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”.
Separately, the “E Set” version of the USGO National Qualifying Exam is offered at all National History Bee Regional Finals sites for free for any competing student in the National History Bee at those sites. See this page for a list of these tournament sites and dates.
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 either or both the “D Set” or “E Set” version of the National Qualifying Exam for you. In this case, the National Qualifying Exam costs $20. Please note that people who take the Exam this way are eligible to qualify by finishing above the respective official National Median Scores for any Exam version, or if they score at least a 40 (if in 7th or 8th grade) or 25 (if in 6th grade and younger). These medians will be calculated on April 1, and will be posted to the website within a few days after that.

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 the 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). If students take the E Set version of the NQE at a National History Bee Middle School and Elementary Regional Finals site, it is offered free of charge there (and only there).

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.
-Students taking the E Set NQE at a National History Bee Regional Finals site will receive instructions regarding the exam from Academic Competition Enterprises (ACE) which oversees these events.

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 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. Or, if the student is taking any Exam version, they can qualify outright with a score of 40 or better (if they are in 7th or 8th grade) or 25 or better (if they are in 6th grade or younger).

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 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, 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 USGO National Qualifying Exam?
If taking the Exam at a tournament site, in many cases, the 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 info@geographyolympiad.com 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 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 are posted on this 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 US Geography Olympiad only test knowledge of United States geography?
No, the United States Geography Olympiad is not limited to questions on the geography of the USA. The name refers to the competition’s national scope; the actual questions may reference the geography of the entire world (including, of course, the United States).

Nationals (see also the “Nationals” page for details on the format)
1. Who will qualify for the 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 December 31 (for C Set), January 31 (for B Set), and February 28 (for A Set) and announce the respective National Median Scores within a week of those dates. For the Middle School and Elementary divisions, we will tally the scores that we have as of April 1 for D and E Sets and announce those median scores within the following week. 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. 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.
Students in 7th and 8th grade can also qualify for Middle School Nationals with a score of 40 or higher on any Exam version, and students in 6th grade and younger can also qualify for Middle School Nationals with a score of 25 or higher on any Exam version.

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 USGO National Championships at this link.
Registration for the Middle School and Elementary USGO National Championships will open at this link in early 2018.

3. What is the deadline for registration?
April 20, 2018 for the Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions. May 20, 2018 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 the Varsity and JV Divisions; $80 for the Middle School and Elementary Divisions.

5. When and where will it take place?
For the Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions, the 2018 USGO National Championships will take place on the afternoon and evening of Friday, April 27, 2018 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA. Competing students must arrive by 12:00pm, and are strongly recommended to fly in on the previous night. The competition will last from 12:30 to 3:00pm.

For the Middle School and Elementary Divisions, the site and date for the 2018 USGO National Championships have yet to be determined, but they will be held in conjunction (i.e. on the same weekend and in the same city) as the National Championships for both the National History Bee and Bowl’s Middle School and Elementary Divisions, as well as the National Championships of the US Academic Bee and Bowl.

6. What prizes will be on offer?
We will have trophies and medals for the top students overall, as well as the top students in each portion of the competition for each division. We may have additional prizes based on sponsorships. In the Varsity division, the winners of each portion of the competition, the overall champion, and possibly other overall high finishers will win the right to represent the USA at the 2018 International Geography Olympiad. A portion of the expenses for the trip (likely around $1000 per student) will be covered by prizes at Nationals for these students.

7. When will results be posted?
The top finishers will be announced by Sunday afternoon on each weekend once we have had time to grade the Exams. Full results will be posted online in the week following Nationals.

8. How can I best prepare for the National Championships?
See the exams from past years under the “Nationals” tab. We recommend that students also have a look at an AP Human Geography study guide, if possible.
For examples of past years’ exams from the iGeo, click here to see the Multi-Media (MMT on the site), and Short Answer (WRT on the site). The site also contains information on the fieldwork exercise held at the iGeo (but not the USGO National Championships).


International Geography Olympiad (iGeo) – see also the Internationals page

1. Who will qualify to be a part of Team USA?
The top four Varsity finishers at the National Championships will qualify for Team USA. If a student qualifies, but cannot attend, we will then invite the next highest scoring student who would then be eligible to attend.

2. What if I qualify but can’t afford the cost, or otherwise can’t attend?
If an individual winner of a portion of the competition cannot commit to attending by May 31, we will then invite the next highest ranking Varsity student to attend. We will attempt to find sponsors to help defray the costs of attending the International Geography Olympiad, however.

3. Will there be training sessions for Team USA?
Yes, we will ensure that students on Team USA are adequately prepared for the competition. This may involve an extra day or two of preparation in Quebec, study sessions by Skype, independent study, or other methods at the discretion of the Team USA coaches.

Various
1. Do you have any connection to The National Geographic Society or The National Geographic Bee?
No, we are completely independent. We welcome all students who have competed in the National Geographic Bee, but are no longer eligible. We encourage students who are in 8th grade and younger to give the Junior Varsity  as well as either the  Middle School or Elementary Division of the United States Geography Olympiad a shot, and to compete in the National Geographic Bee as well.

2. Do you have any sponsors?
Currently, we are sponsored by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who has helped to provide support for Team USA to attend the International Geography Olympiad in the past. If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities with the United States Geography Olympiad, please contact info@geographyolympiad.com.

3. Can I bring a USGO National Qualifying Exam site to my school?
For the USGO NQE, if you are also willing to host a National History Bee and Bowl Varsity and Junior Varsity level tournament, or a US Academic Bee and Bowl tournament, then quite possibly, yes. This requires providing at least 8 classrooms at some point during the school year prior to our National Championships. Host schools for National History Bee and Bowl at the Varsity and Junior Varsity level receive free entry for their students in the History Bee and History Bowl portions of the tournament they host (though not the USGO), as well as a discount on registration for the National Championships of The National History Bowl if they qualify. Hosting benefits and options for the US Academic Bee and Bowl are described in detail here.
If you are interested in hosting, please contact info@geographyolympiad.com. Also, please note that if your students are unable to attend a qualifying site, you can administer the National Qualifying Exam for them as well. Please follow the instructions here to learn how to do this at the Varsity/Junior Varsity (i.e. mostly for students in high school) or here for the Middle School and Elementary level.