This page will be updated as the USGC process is updated and finalized for this year.

Qualifying for USGC at Elementary/Middle School Nationals

To qualify for the USGC at EMS Nationals, a student only needs to pass the Geography ORQE that is offered at the beginning of the year. Please note that if a student wants to participate in our buzzer-based Geography event at Nationals, the National Geography Bee, they will need to pass the Geography ORQE as well as qualify at a subsequent Regional Final event.

Qualifying for USGC at Varsity/JV Nationals

Information on the qualifying exam for Varsity/JV Nationals, including how and when to take it, can be found here.

Format and Schedule of USGC at both EMS and V/JV Nationals

For the 2024 Elementary and Middle School National Championships, the USGC exams will undergo some significant changes. Starting this year, the USGC competition will be divided into two parts – a Multiple Choice Examination and a Free-Response Examination.

PART I – Multiple Choice Examination
45 minutes
100 points total
25% of overall championship ranking
Supplies needed – pencil and eraser

The Multiple Choice Examination will consist of 50 questions covering multiple aspects of geography. 30 of the 50 questions will be in sets devoted to varying topics and may or may not refer to a text-based stimulus, chart, or graph. The remaining 20 questions will be based on visual stimuli in a similar format to the questions on the Multimedia Test (MMT) at the International Geography Olympiad.

Students will have 45 minutes to complete this section of the examination, and there will be a five-minute break between this section and the free-response section. The Multiple Choice Examination will be scored on the standard IAC scoring system of two points for a correct answer, no points for questions left blank, and negative one point for incorrect answers.

PART 2 – Free-Response Examination
75 minutes
100 points total
75% of overall championship ranking
Supplies needed – pen or pencil
Optional supplies – colored pencils, ruler, eraser

The Free-Response Examination will consist of 7 questions, each of which will have multiple parts. Topics for the free-response exam will be a mix of human and physical geography, with at least 2 questions devoted to human geography topics, at least 2 devoted to physical geography topics, and the remaining questions containing a mixture of both. A roughly equal number of points on the exam will be devoted to human and physical geography. Topics for the examination will be drawn from the following list –

-Landforms and landscapes
-Hazards and hazard management
-Urban geography and urban planning
-Historical geography (concentrating on the development of the United States)
-Cultural geography
-Economic and developmental geography
-Population geography
-Agriculture, resources, and environmental geography
-Climate geography

In addition to written responses, at least three questions will ask students to produce one or more of the following –

-a mathematical calculation
-a chart or graph based on provided data
-a map
-a diagram of a geographic or geological process

Questions on the Free-Response Examination will be similar in format and content to questions on the Written and Cartographic examinations at past USGC competitions, as well as past questions on the Written and Fieldwork examinations at past International Geography Olympiad competitions.


Scoring the USGC

For the overall USGC rank, placements will be determined on a points system using the following formula –

Multiple Choice Exam points x .25 + Free-Response Exam points x .75 = overall score (out of 100)

Overall scores will be calculated to 3 decimal places and students will be ranked based on their overall scores. If there is a tie for any of the top ten positions in the overall rankings, ties will be broken using the following criteria (in respective order) –

1. Points earned on the Free-Response Exam.

2. Points earned on questions 31-50 of the Multiple Choice Exam.

If students are still tied following these two tiebreakers, an additional five question multiple choice exam will be administered, with the student earning the most points on this exam taking the higher placement. This process may be repeated as needed until the tie is broken.

The exams will be scored as soon as possible after the competition is finished. Results will be available at our results page.

For further questions, please contact