Updated for the 2020-2021 Academic Year!
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 Championships works. If you are still confused about something, please email info@iacompetitions.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 USGC 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 USGC offers the following age divisions for the 2020-2021 academic year:
-Varsity (solely for students born on or before June 30, 2005)
-Junior Varsity (open to any student born on or after July 1, 2005, including middle & elementary schoolers)
-8th grade (open only to students in 8th grade, or homeschoolers lacking a formal grade who were born between October 1, 2006 and September 30, 2007)
-7th grade (open only to students in 7th grade, or homeschoolers lacking a formal grade who were born between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008)
-6th grade (open only to students in 6th grade, or homeschoolers lacking a formal grade who were born between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009)
-Elementary School (open only to students in 5th grade and younger, or homeschoolers lacking a formal grade who were born after September 30, 2009)

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

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.

3. Regarding residency and citizenship, who is eligible to compete in the USGC?
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 2020 International Geography Olympiad (aka iGeo)?
Varsity students (JV students are ineligible), the top six overall students this year will advance to a final competition in May 2021 to determine the students who will attend the 2021 International Geography Olympiad (assuming it is held). The top six Varsity students from the 2021 International Geography Olympiad National Championships (to be held in April 2021) will also be invited. If the same student(s) qualify in both years, no further students will be taken. Students who graduated high school in 2020 who are now in their first year of college or otherwise occupied are eligible to compete in the 2020 US Geography Championships, but are not eligible to compete for a spot at the final competition to try out for Team USA. Thus the final competition will have at least 6 and at most 12 competing students. From this pool of students, the top four (in a selection process to be determined) will then be chosen to represent the USA at the 2021 International Geography Olympiad. If a student finishes in the top 6 in either year, but chooses not to participate in the May 2021 final competition, additional students will not be invited (unless there are fewer than 4 overall competing students, in which case the 7th ranking Varsity student from the April 2021 Nationals, followed by the 7th ranking Varsity student from the November 2020 Nationals (if eligible), followed by the 8th ranking Varsity student from the April 2021 Nationals, etc. until all 4 spots are filled.
Again, only Varsity students in the 2020-2021 academic year (i.e. students born before July 1, 2005) who are enrolled in a high school in the 2020-2021 academic year are eligible to qualify for Team USA for the 2021 iGeo, in accordance with iGeo’s eligibility rules.

5. Can homeschoolers compete?
Yes, absolutely! All homeschooled students who are studying a primary or secondary education course of study in the 2020-2021 academic year may compete. Since the USGC 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 School 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 Championships 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@iacompetitions.com.

 

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

1. How do students take the Qualifying Exam?
All qualifying exams for the US Geography Championships and the International Geography Bee are being held online until further notice.
 Please contact info@iacompetitions.com to arrange an exam.
Students may take the Varsity / JV National Qualifying Exam up to three times, as there are three different versions. The “B Set” and “C Set” versions of the Qualifying Exam are not meant to vary in length or difficulty. The A Set version usually produces lower scores, as it is based off the AP Human Geography curriculum. Still, qualification on the A Set is based on being in the top 60% percentage of competing students, so it is not harder to qualify off of in terms of percentages. Students looking to take the A Set exam should practice as if for the AP Human Geography Multiple Choice questions.
The three Middle School and Elementary School versions of the Qualifying Exam (i.e. D-F Sets) are meant to be comparable in length and difficulty.
For 2020-2021, students need to finish in the top 60% of each version of each exam in their age group to qualify for Nationals. These minimum qualifying scores will be determined on January 1 for C and F sets, February 1 for B and E sets, and March 1 for A and D sets.

2. What is the cost?
The cost is $10 (plus a small credit card charge) to take any version of the Varsity or JV National Qualifying Exam. If you cannot pay by credit card, and wish to pay by check instead, please send a check for $10 per Exam version per student made out to “International Academic Competitions” to the following address:

IAC
15 Lafayette Place
Burlington, VT 05401

Along with the check, include a piece of paper with the student’s name and school (or indicate if 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 Set are Varsity and JV Division Exams and are open to all students. D, E, and F Set are Middle School and Elementary School Division Exams and are only open to students in those divisions (and thus cannot qualify students for the Varsity or JV National Championships). In the 2020-2021 academic year, Middle School and Elementary School students must score in the top 60% of all JV students (not just Middle School or Elementary School students) who take the A, B, or C Set Exam to qualify if they wish to qualify this way for the Middle School or Elementary School National Championships. As the A-C Set exams are considerably more difficult than the D-F Set Exams, it will typically be much easier for eligible students to qualify for Middle and Elementary School Nationals off of the D-F Set Exams.
Once we receive the check or the credit card payment, we will schedule a time for the student to take the exam. If the score falls above the National Minimum Qualifying 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 and F Set Exams, early-mid February for B and D Set Exams, and early-mid March for A and D Set Exams.

Note that the F 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. The D Set is open free of charge to students competing in the National History Bee regional finals, and the E Set is open free of charge to students competing in the National Science Bee regional finals. If students are not competing in these events, then they must pay the $10 fee per Exam version.

3. When and how will I receive my score on the USGC Qualifying Exam?
Students taking the Exam online will be notified immediately what their score is, but they will only learn their qualification status for the National Championships later.
Students taking the Exam with an IAC-provided proctor can request their score from the proctor once the Exam has been graded.

4. What should I study to prepare for the USGC 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 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 Qualifying Exams will reference comparable material.

5. Does the US Geography Championships only test knowledge of United States geography?
No, the United States Geography Championships is not limited to questions on the geography of the USA. The name refers to the competition’s national scope; the actual questions 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 2021 National Championships?
For 2020-2021, students need to finish in the top 60% of each version of each exam in their age group to qualify for Nationals. These minimum qualifying scores will be determined on January 1 for C and F sets, February 1 for B and E sets, and March 1 for A and D sets. 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.
Students who qualified for the 2020 US Geography Championships National Championships will be notified by email if they do so. If you wish to inquire if a student has qualified for the 2020 USGC National Championships, please email info@iacompetitions.com.

2. How do I register? Is advanced registration required?
Advanced online registration is required for the National Championships!

Registration will open for the 2020 USGC National Championships by October 10, 2020 for all age divisions.
Registration will open for the 2021 USGC National Championships by early 2021 for all age divisions.

3. What is the deadline for registration?
For the 2020 USGC Varsity and Junior Varsity National Championships, the deadline is November 17, 2020.
For the 2020 USGC Middle & Elementary School National Championships, the deadline is November 10, 2020.
The registration deadline for the 2021 USGC National Championships (all age divisions) has not been announced yet.

4. What does it cost?
For the 2020 National Championships, $75 for the Varsity and JV Divisions and $75 for the Middle School and Elementary Divisions. Costs for the 2021 National Championships will be posted online in early 2021.

5. When and where will it take place?
The 2020 US Geography Championships Varsity and Junior Varsity National Championships will take place online on Friday, November 20, 2020 from 7:00pm-9:30pm EST.
The 2020 US Geography Championships Middle & Elementary School National Championships will take place online on Friday, November 13, 2020 from 6:30pm-8:30pm EST.

The dates and times of the 2021 National Championships have yet to be determined; once available, they will be posted on this website.

6. What prizes will be on offer?
We will have plaques and medals for the top students. In the Varsity division, the top finishers will win the right to represent the USA at the 2021 International Geography Olympiad. A portion of the expenses for the trip will be covered by prizes at Nationals for these students. See here for further details.

7. When will results be announced and posted?
The results of the 2020 USGC National Championships will be announced within a few days of their completion. Students who participate will be given at least 24 hours notice and a link to the live feed on which results will be announced.
The results of the 2021 USGC National Championships will be announced shortly after their completion; we do not yet know whether the 2021 Nationals will be held in person or online; once this is clear, students will learn how scores will be announced.

8. How can I best prepare for the National Championships?
See the exams from past years under the “Nationals” tab. We also 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?
For Varsity students (JV students are ineligible), the top six overall students this year will advance to a final competition in May 2021 to determine the students who will attend the 2021 International Geography Olympiad (assuming it is held). The top six Varsity students from the 2021 International Geography Olympiad National Championships (to be held in April 2021) will also be invited. If the same student(s) qualify in both years, no further students will be taken. Students who graduated high school in 2020 who are now in their first year of college or otherwise occupied are eligible to compete in the 2020 US Geography Championships, but are not eligible to compete for a spot at the final competition to try out for Team USA. Thus the final competition will have at most 12 competing students. From this pool of students, the top four (in a selection process to be determined) will then be chosen to represent the USA at the 2021 International Geography Olympiad. If a student finishes in the top 6 in either year, but chooses not to participate in the May 2021 final competition, additional students will not be invited (unless there are fewer than 4 overall competing students, in which case the 7th ranking Varsity student from the April 2021 Nationals, followed by the 7th ranking Varsity student from the November 2020 Nationals (if eligible), followed by the 8th ranking Varsity student from the April 2021 Nationals, etc. until all 4 spots are filled. We will attempt to find financial aid (beyond the $1250 provided by IAC to each participating student) if students who qualify for Team USA have financial difficulty in funding their way to iGeo.
Again, only Varsity students in the 2020-2021 academic year (i.e. students born before July 1, 2005) who are enrolled in a high school in the 2020-2021 academic year are eligible to qualify for Team USA for the 2021 iGeo, in accordance with iGeo’s eligibility rules.

2. Will there be training sessions for Team USA?
Yes, we will ensure that students on Team USA are adequately prepared for the competition. This will involve 2-3 extra days of preparation in Istanbul, study sessions by Skype/Zoom, 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 typically compete or have competed in the National Geographic Bee (though it has been cancelled for the 2020-2021 academic year), 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 School Division of the United States Geography Championships a shot, and to compete in the National Geographic Bee as well (if it runs again).

2. Do you have any sponsors?
Not at present. If you are interested in sponsorship opportunities with the United States Geography Championships, please contact info@iacompetitions.com