Option A: National Qualifying Exam
For the Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions, most students compete in the Qualifying Stage through the National Qualifying Exam. The National Qualifying Exam is a 50 question multiple choice exam. All questions have 4 possible answer choices. The National Qualifying Exams are scored on the basis of 2 points for a correct answer, 0 for a question left unanswered, and -1 point for an incorrect answer. This scoring system rewards partial knowledge but not random lucky guesses. Students who have no clue about a particular question should thus leave it unanswered, but if they can narrow down the answer choices, they should likely then take their best guess even if they are not 100% sure.
Students may take the National Geography Bee National Qualifying Exam online, at all Varsity / JV National History Bee and Bowl in-person Regional Tournaments during the lunch break, or during the lunch break at select all-subject quiz bowl tournaments that are not run by International Academic Competitions. There are three versions of the National Qualifying Exam, which are known as Set A, Set B, and Set C. For National Qualifying Exams that are offered at Varsity/JV National History Bee and Bowl tournaments, the Exam Set corresponds to the question set that the tournament is using. The questions on the B and C Set versions of the National Qualifying Exams follow the National Qualifying Exam distribution for the National Geography Bee. The questions on the A Set version mirror the distribution found in the multiple choice section of the AP Human Geography Exam.
If taking the Exam online or at an in-person tournament, students typically have a 20 minute time limit. When taking the exam at an in-person tournament, students may also take the National Qualifying Exams for the National Political Science Bee, National Science Bee, and US History Bee. If a student takes just one exam, they have 20 minutes. If a student takes two exams, they have 40 minutes, but if they take three or four exams, they still only have 40 minutes (as time is typically limited during the lunch break of a tournament).
Students qualify for Nationals through the National Qualifying Exams in one of three ways.
Students need only to qualify on any one version of the National Qualifying Exam in any given academic year to be able to compete at the National Championships. If a student qualifies on one version of the Exam, and then takes a different version of the exam but does not qualify on that version, they remain qualified.
The cost is $15 per Exam Version per student. For all questions on the 2023-24 National Geography Bee Varsity / Junior Varsity National Qualifying Exams, please email email@example.com.
Option B: Online National Qualifying Tournament
The second option for competing in the Qualifying Stage is to compete in an Online National Qualifying Tournament. This tournament will take place in early 2024 but it is only open to students in 9th-12th grade. Middle and elementary schoolers who wish to compete in the Junior Varsity Division of the National Geography Bee must do so first through the National Qualifying Exam. In the Online National Qualifying Tournament, students compete in 3 preliminary rounds with 30 questions each. The top students advance to the final round, which will likewise have 30 questions, though these on average, will be somewhat more challenging.
All National Geography Bee Online National Qualifying Tournament questions are played with a buzzer system. Students are read paragraph-length questions out loud with the clues arranged in decreasing order of difficulty. Students buzz in when they believe they know the answer; if they are correct, they score the point for that question, otherwise they cannot ring in again. Please see the rules files posted here for further details on how the competition works.
Students qualify for the National Championships if their cumulative score is in the top 50% of their age division at the end of the three preliminary rounds. This is inclusive of ties for the last spot and odd numbers of students (just like on the National Qualifying Exams). The cost is $35 per student.
For all questions on the 2023-24 National Geography Bee Varsity / Junior Varsity Online National Qualifying Tournament, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.