United States History Bee

Varsity & Junior Varsity School Divisions Homepage

2023 National Champions:
Varsity – Ian Lu, Hunter College High School, NY
Junior Varsity – Robert Wang, Livingston High School, NJ

US History Bee
US History Bee

The US History Bee Varsity & Junior Varsity Divisions Overview

US History Bee

The US History Bee is a quiz competition for individual students, testing knowledge of all aspects of American history at a grade-appropriate level. For students competing in the Varsity & Junior Varsity Division, the US History Bee consists of two stages. The first is a 50 question multiple choice National Qualifying Exam. The second stage is the National Championships, which will take place on Friday, April 26, 2024 in Arlington, VA. The National Championships is entirely a buzzer-based quiz competition. Please note that the US History Bee is a distinct competition from the National History Bee. Questions in the US History Bee focus exclusively on the history of the USA, inclusive of the colonial period. Questions in the National History Bee focus on both American history and general world history.

  • Eligibility: Students in 11th and 12th Grade are eligible to compete in the Varsity Division. Students in 10th graders and younger are eligible to compete in the Junior Varsity Division. It is not permitted for younger students to play in the Varsity Division.
  • Competitors:  Individual students. The National Championships require qualification through the National Qualifying Exams.
  • Competition Style: Multiple choice exam for the National Qualifying Exam. Buzzer-based quiz tournament at the National Championships.

Competition Format

For students competing in the Varsity & JV Divisions, the US History Bee is a two-stage competition, consisting of the National Qualifying Exams and the National Championships. Students can also qualify for the International History Olympiad by competing in the US History Bee.

Stage
1

National Qualifying Exam

For the Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions, students first 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 US History 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. For the US History Bee, the questions on all three versions of the National Qualifying Exams follow the National Qualifying Exam Question Distribution.

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 Geography Bee / US Geography Championships, National Political Science Bee, and National Science 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.

  • 1
    Scoring 75 or higher on any version of the National Qualifying Exam.
  • 2
    Scoring among the top 50% of students in one’s age division at an in-person tournament (either a National History Bee and Bowl Regional Tournament or a quiz bowl tournament where the exam is offered). This is inclusive of odd numbers of students and ties for the last qualifying spot. By way of example, if there are 9 students taking the exam, and two students tie for fifth place in the Varsity Division with a score of 63, they would both qualify.
  • 3
    Scoring at or above the official National Median Score in one’s age division for each exam version. The National Median Scores are calculated for each exam version on the following dates: Set C – December 2, 2023, Set B – February 4, 2024, Set A – March 2, 2024. Thereafter, the National Median Scores do not change even though additional students will take each exam version.

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 National Qualifying Exams of the US History Bee, please email hs-info@iacompetitions.com.

Stage
2

National Championships

The second stage of the US History Bee for the Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions is the National Championships, which for the 2023-24 academic year will take place at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA on Friday, April 26, 2024. We expect approximately 200 students to attend from throughout the USA, and we hope that you will be able to join us! All students play four preliminary matches with 35 questions each on Friday morning, with the two playoff rounds taking place on Friday afternoon. The number of students who make the playoffs and who advance from the semifinals into the finals will be a function of the total number of registrants.

On the same weekend that the US History Bee National Championships are held, there are numerous other competitions that take place at other times at the same hotel (e.g. the National History Bee, National History Bowl, National Championship Exams [a number of these have a History focus], National Geography Bee, National Science Bee, and more). These are all held at different times so students can take part in all of them if they are eligible to do so. A full schedule of 2024 Varsity & Junior Varsity National Championships Events is available here.

The cost to compete at the 2024 National Championships is $114 if registration takes place prior to the end of 2023; otherwise it is $119. Registration for the National Championships opens in November and runs through early April on this page.

For all questions on the 2024 Varsity & Junior Varsity National Championships, please email hs-info@iacompetitions.com

Bonus
Stage

International History Olympiad

Students who compete in the Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions of the US History Bee can qualify for the 2025 International History Olympiad which will likely be held in London in July 2025! In addition to the more common methods of qualifying for the Olympiad (by finishing in the top 25% at any 2023-24 or 2024-25 Regional Finals tournament or National History Bowl Regional Tournament, or in the top 50% at the 2024 or 2025 National Championships of the National History Bee or National History Bowl), students can now also qualify for the 2025 International History Olympiad by placing in the top 50% of competitors in their age division at the US History Bee National Championships. The complete methods for qualifying for the Olympiad are explained here.

The International History Olympiad is a week-long event with numerous competitions, field trips, family activities and more. In each event, medals are awarded to the top 3 competing students in each age division. US students compete for their state; students from other countries (or students in the USA who were born abroad or who have foreign citizenship) represent those countries. Two of the most prestigious events at the Olympiad are the International History Bee World Championships and the International History Bowl World Championships; an overall Olympiad Championship title is also awarded in each age division; please view the website at www.historyolympiad.com for further details on all events and to register. We are expecting 300-400 students from around the world to attend the 2025 International History Olympiad!

For all questions on the 2025 International History Olympiad, please email david@iacompetitions.com

US History Bee Practice Resources

Rules & FAQs

Please see the files here that pertain to the US History Bee.

This change was done so that there was enough time in the National Championships schedule to increase the number of preliminary rounds in the National Geography Bee and National Science Bee from 3 to 4. The National History Bee National Championships still has 6 preliminary rounds, and approximately 40% of the questions in the National History Bee (and the National History Bowl) have an American-history theme, so there is still plenty of American history to be played over the course of the full Nationals weekend.
The hotels where we have room blocks, especially the host hotel, provide us with meeting space to hold the competitions and with sleeping accommodations for our staff, which we need to fly in from around the country. They do this in return for a commitment to fulfill a large number of sleeping room bookings over the course of Nationals weekend. For students who live near the Nationals host site for whom it would make sense to attend Nationals as a day trip and go back to their home each night, this rule does not apply.
Yes! They are actively encouraged to do so, and if they do so, they would play in the Junior Varsity Division which includes students in the 9th and 10th grade. Students cannot transfer qualification in the National Championships at the Junior Varsity level to the Middle or Elementary School level National Championships. For more information on how the US History Bee works for students in 8th grade and younger, please visit the US History Bee Middle & Elementary School Divisions Homepage.

Past National Champions

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Year Division National Champion School City State
2023 Varsity Ian Lu Hunter College High School New York City NY  NY
2023 Junior Varsity Robert Wang Livingston High School Livingston NJ  NY
2022 Varsity Javier Kumar Ransom Everglades School Miami FL  FL
2022 Junior Varsity Arin Parsa North Star Academy Redwood City CA  CA
2021 Varsity Kapil Nathan Hoover High School Hoover AL  AL
2021 Junior Varsity Tanuj Chandekar East Brunswick High School East Brunswick NJ  NJ
2020 Varsity Walker Combs George Washington High School Charleston WV  WV
2020 Junior Varsity Andrew Zeng Hunter College High School New York City NY  NY
2019 Varsity Fred Zhang Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology Alexandria VA  VA
2019 Junior Varsity Pedro Juan Orduz Hunter College High School New York City NY  NY
2018 Varsity Fred Zhang Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology Alexandria VA  VA
2018 Junior Varsity Govind Prabhakar Adlai Stevenson High School Lincolnshire IL   IL
2017 Varsity Jonathan Tran Westview High School Portland OR   OR
2017 Junior Varsity William Golden James E. Taylor High School Katy TX  TX
2016 Varsity Cole Timmerwilke Auburn High School Rockford IL   IL
2016 Junior Varsity Jaya Alagar Alagar Homeschool Pittsburgh PA  PA
2015 Varsity Bruce Lou Saratoga High School Saratoga CA  CA
2015 Junior Varsity John Connor Eastern Washington Homeschool Spokane WA  WA
2014 Varsity Bruce Lou Saratoga High School Saratoga CA  CA