The International History Bee is a buzzer-based history quiz competition for individual students. Please see below for a comprehensive account of how the Bee works. If you have any further questions, please email our European Director, Mr. Emilio Ergueta
In order to compete in the History Bee, you must be 19 years or younger at the time of your Regional Bee. You must also be enrolled in a primary or secondary school at the time of your regional tournament (or have graduated within the past two months, and not yet have started university studies).
For 2020-2021, in order to compete in the Varsity division of the History Bee, a student must have been born before September 2004 but not be over the age of 19. To qualify for the Junior Varsity Division, a student much be born between September 2004 and September 2006. If a student wishes to compete in the Middle School Division, a student must have been born in September 2006 or more recently. There is no younger age limit – a brilliant and well-behaved 8 year-old is welcome to compete. Likewise, there is no limit on types of schools – local, international, public, private, religious, schools abroad following a home country curriculum, and homeschoolers are all welcome.
Students do not have to compete in the country their school is in; they can compete at up to two regional sites each year, as long as the two sites use different sets of questions.
At all History Bees, in the Junior Varsity and Varsity divisions, there are three preliminary rounds of 30 questions each. In the middle school division these rounds have 25 questions. In each round, you’ll be in a room with 5-10 students. Usually, it’s 6 or 7. Depending on how many students are competing, the 2, 5, or 10 highest scorers from the combined preliminary rounds in each division then compete in the final rounds. The three divisions are kept entirely separate – there is no crossover, including in the final rounds. Each round takes about 20-30 minutes to complete, including the finals.
Students each have a buzzer and attempt to be the first student to ring in and answer correctly. Students may ring in at any point in the question – they are encouraged to interrupt the moderator to do so. After they ring in, they give their answer. If they are correct, they get a point. If incorrect, they cannot buzz again on the question. Three incorrect answers given will end the question, at which point the moderator reveals the answer. They do not normally lose a point if they are incorrect except if they are the third student to answer incorrectly before the end of the question, in which case, they do lose a point (so it is possible, conceivably to have a negative score). If the question has been read to completion, three incorrect answers will still end the question, but no penalty will be assessed.
Once a student has reached 8 points, that student is done for that round. But, students receive bonus points based on how early they reach 8 points. The following table summarizes the bonus structure:
Reaching 8 pts on or before question… Results in this many bonus pts… And thus this many total pts…
Eight Seven Fifteen
Ten Six Fourteen
Twelve Five Thirteen
Fifteen Four Twelve
Twenty Three Eleven
Twenty-Five Two Ten
Thirty One Nine
Since there are 30 or 25 questions in a round, it is thus impossible to finish the round with a score of eight points exactly.
Students are grouped into different groups for each of the three rounds. After all three rounds, the scores from all rounds are added up, and the top students advance to the finals.
Final Round Structure
In the final round, the top students in each division compete against the other top students from their division. The structure of the finals varies from tournament to tournament based on the time available for its completion and how many students are competing.
In the History Bowl, there are a number of different question styles. In the History Bee, by contrast, all questions are “pyramidal” tossups, where we start with more obscure information and move to more familiar information. Questions cover the history of the arts, sciences, religion, philosophy, languages, historical geography, recent history and the history of sports and entertainment in addition to the usual social, political, and military history. In the final rounds, the questions are, on average, slightly longer and more difficult.
Resources for Training
The Official Study Guide for both high school and middle school students is available here for download. This contains both a list of topics that can be referenced in our tournaments and some strategies for preparation. Please note that the study guide is meant to be a starting point for study and not meant to be all-encompassing – topics will be referenced in our tournaments that are not explicitly mentioned in the study guide.
Past questions used at our tournaments in Europe are quite possibly your best resource for practicing. We use new questions each year, but the people, places, and events in history that are referenced in questions from one year to the next are usually quite similar.
Additional Sample Questions
A sample High School Bee packet (both Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions use the same questions) for our European tournaments can be downloaded here. A sample middle school packet is also available here.
Please also see www.quizbowlpackets.com (though this has a heavy American emphasis and references all subjects) and our past high school questions from the USA. Please note that the questions you’ll find here have more American history content than the questions we use in Europe.