National Geographic Bee

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National Geographic Bee
Genre Geography bee
Frequency Annual (late May)
Location(s) Washington, D.C.
Inaugurated 1989
Previous event 29th National Geographic Bee
Next event 30th National Geographic Bee
Participants 2.6 million (as of the 2016 Bee)
Patron(s) National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Bee (called the National Geography Bee until 2000, also referred to as the Nat Geo Bee) is an annual geography contest sponsored by the National Geographic Society. The bee, held every year since 1989, is open to students in the fourth through eighth grades in participating schools from the United States.[1]

The entities represented at the national level come from all fifty States, the Atlantic Territories (Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), the Pacific Territories (Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa), the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Dependents Schools.

The National Geographic Bee Finals was moderated by Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek for its first 25 years (1989-2013). However, at the 2013 National Geographic Bee, Trebek announced that 2013 would be his last year hosting the Finals. Newscaster Soledad O'Brien took his place the following year, moderating the bee in 2014 and 2015. O'Brien was then replaced by Mo Rocca in 2016 and 2017.

The reigning titleholder is Pranay Varada, from DeWitt Perry Middle School in Carrollton, Texas.


School competitions[edit]

The competition begins at the elementary school level (4th grade - 8th grade) and usually commences in November, December, or January. This competition requires at least 6 people to enter. Private, public, and homeschooled students are allowed to enter. Typically, between five and six million students are entered each year (any number of competitors may enter this competition). The two major stages in this competition are called the preliminary and the final stages. Often, the preliminary competition is further split into preliminary rounds and a semi-final. In the event of a tie, a tiebreaker round is held at the end of the preliminary rounds.

In the preliminary rounds, competitors are divided into groups of twenty and each contestant is asked one question from each of the eight themed rounds. Past categories have included:

  • Cultural Geography
  • Economic Geography
  • Across-the-Country, Around-the-World
  • Science
  • Geographic Comparisons
  • Physical Geography
  • Odd-Item-Out (a category where one contestant is given three choices, plus a description. The contestant must determine which of the three choices does not fit.)

Contestants are awarded 1 point per question. At the end of seven rounds, players with the top ten scores advance to the finals. In addition to the game, a player may ask for a repeat of a spelling during these rounds. However, they are restricted to only asking twice in duration of the entire geographic bee.

Quite often there is a tie, in which case a semi-final tiebreaker round is needed. For example, if six players finished the preliminary rounds with eight points and fifteen finished with seven points, the six who finished with eight points automatically advance to the final competition. The fifteen with seven points move into the semi-final round where the top four are determined to fill the remainder of the seats in the finals. This is done by asking every player the same question at the same time and giving each player twelve seconds to write down the answer. Each question is automatically repeated twice. Everyone reveals their answer at the end of the twelve seconds and players are eliminated on a single-elimination basis. If, using the above example of four open seats in the finals, there is a question where eight players are left in the semi-final round and three players get the question right, those three advance to the finals. The other five who got the question wrong will continue with the single-elimination procedure to determine which competitor will take the last open seat in the finals. A player cannot ask judges to spell or repeat words in the semi-final round.

The final competition consists of two parts: the final round and the championship round. Each of the ten finalists starts with a clean slate and is eliminated after two misses. This continues until the number of contestants drops from ten to two and a third-place finisher is determined. A player is not officially eliminated until the end of a series of questions, since if all but one competitor makes their second miss in that round, all the players stay in the competition. Again, a player may ask for a spelling or repeat on any question, but only once per question. Earlier in the round, questions may require oral answers or written answers from all the competitors at one time. Quite often, many of the earlier questions in this round contain visuals as part of the question, such as maps or pictures. Question examples in the past have included pictures of state quarters with the name rubbed off and maps of the US with national forests shown and numbered. Contestants, at the time, were given the name of the national forest and (he or she) must match states with trees. At the national level, competitions may include items such as flags, musical instruments, hats, and even live animals. After a certain round, all questions must require oral answers only.

If there is a tie for the championship round or third place, there will be an elimination round. For example, if four players are left and three make their second mistake, the fourth advances to the championship round and the other three enter the tiebreaker. The moderator will then ask each of the three players, at the same time, to write their answers to the same question. In this special round, questions can be repeated by players but they cannot ask how to spell the given word. As a result, if one of three responses are correct, he or she will rise to the championship round and the other two will move to the tiebreaker round until a third-place winner determined.

In the championship round, both players start with a clean slate again. The moderator asks both contestants the same question at the same time, repeated twice, and both players have fifteen seconds to write their answer. Both players then show their answers and each player who wrote a correct answer receives one point. There are three questions in the championship round. The player with the most points at the end is the champion. If both players are tied at the end, the competition enters the championship tiebreaker round. The rules are the same as for the championship round, except that the last player to answer a question incorrectly is the school champion (single elimination round).

In 2010, National Geographic partnered with mobile development company Concentric Sky to launch a series of official app-based study tools titled Geobee Challenge.[2]

Qualifying Test

The Qualifying Test is the only part of the bee that is entirely written. Every winner from each school takes this test to see if he or she can qualify for the state bee. The test comprises 70 multiple choice questions, which must be completed in 60 minutes. The top 100 scorers in each state or territory advance to the state level competition. As of the 2016 Bee, the Qualifying test is online, and no longer is administered on paper.[3]

State and national competitions[edit]

The winner of each school-level competition takes an online test, and the top 100 in each state or territory qualify for the State Bee. If there is a tie in the State Qualifying Test, all students in the tie get an invitation to the State Bee (i.e. there were 104 State Bee Qualifiers in the 2017 Florida Geographic Bee). The rules at the state level are same as that at the school level, except that there are eight preliminary rounds instead of seven and each player is limited to two repeats or spelling for all eight preliminary rounds. Players are also limited to two repeats or spellings in the final round if they qualify. All the state bees are held on the same date, at the same time (in early April or late March) at all locations. The 2017 National Geographic State Bees will be held on March 31, 2017. State bees originally occurred for the fifty states, five U.S. territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands), Washington, D.C., and the Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS), for a total of 57. The third-place finisher from each state receives $50, the second-place finisher $75, and the winner $100. In 1999 the state competitions for Guam, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands were merged into one state competition known as the Pacific Territories, bringing the number down to 55. In 2009, the Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands competitions were merged into a single competition known as the Atlantic Territories, and since then there have only been 54 state competitions. The 54 state champions receive an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the national competition.

The rules at the national level are the same as those at the state, except that there are ten preliminary rounds instead of eight. The championship round can also consist of five questions instead of three. The competition is held over four days, with the preliminary rounds on the first day and the final rounds on the third. The national finals are held in late May at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C. and are hosted by Mo Rocca. The ten finalists are guaranteed $500. The third-place finisher receives a $10,000 college scholarship, the second-place finisher receives a $25,000 college scholarship, and the National Champion receives a $50,000 college scholarship, as well as a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. From 2009 to 2015, the National Champion also won a trip to the Galápagos Islands. In 2016, National Champion Rishi Nair won a trip to southeast Alaska, including a stop at Glacier Bay National Park. This was because 2016 was the centenary of the U.S. National Park Service. The 2017 National Champion will receive a trip to the Galápagos Islands.

List of Moderators[edit]

Moderator's Name Year(s) Moderated First National Champion Last National Champion
Alex Trebek 1989 - 2013 Jack Staddon Sathwik Karnik
Soledad O'Brien 2014 - 2015 Akhil Rekulapelli Karan Menon
Mo Rocca 2016 - present Rishi Nair TBD

International competition[edit]

There was an international competition, which was also moderated by Alex Trebek, but it was run differently. The top finishers from each country's national competition formed a team representing their country and participated in an Olympics-style event which included a team written competition and a team oral competition. The 2013 competition was held in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The 2015 National Geographic World Championship, originally planned to take place in Stockholm, Sweden, was canceled, and the competition was since put on hiatus.


The selection process of the National Geographic Bee competition is not well designed to reliably promote the most qualified contestants as it leaves significant room for chance. This is due to the small number of questions and the fact that each contestant answers different questions.[4] Particularly, during the preliminary rounds contestants are eliminated with a single mistake if there are more than 9 perfect scores. That a single mistake is not a reliable indicator for a contestant's overall strength was demonstrated during the 2014 National competition. The preliminary rounds resulted in 9 contestants with perfect score who accordingly became finalists. The 10th spot was filled by tie breaker rounds between contestants who made a single mistake during the preliminaries and went to the Virginia champion Akhil Rekulapelli, who then went on to win the finals.


National Champions[edit]

Of the twenty-eight National Geographic Bee champions, twenty-six are male and two are female. Five are from the state of Washington, four are from the state of Michigan, four are from Texas, two are from Kansas, two are from New Jersey, two are from Florida, and various other states have been home to one champion each.

Year Winner's Name State Grade Final Question Answer Notes
1989 Jack Staddon  Kansas Eighth Name the flat intermontane area located at an elevation of about 10,000 feet (3,050 m) in the central Andes. Altiplano First champion

First Kansas champion

1990 Susannah Batko-Yovino  Pennsylvania Sixth Mount Erebus is a volcano on which continent? Antarctica First female champion
1991 David Stillman  Idaho Eighth What type of landform is commonly associated with orographic precipitation? Mountain Had a perfect score in the finals
1992 Lawson Fite  Washington Eighth Many coastal countries have established so-called EEZs—areas extending 200 nautical miles (370 km) from shore over which countries have sovereign rights for resource exploration. What do the initials EEZ stand for? Exclusive Economic Zone First Washington champion

Had a perfect score in the finals

1993 Noel Erinjeri  Michigan Eighth Tagalog is one of the three main native languages of which island country in Asia? The Philippines First Michigan champion

Was in the finals in 1992

1994 Anders Knospe  Montana Eighth The Tagus River roughly divides which European country into two agricultural regions? Portugal
1995 Chris Galeczka  Michigan Eighth Pashtu and Dari are the official languages of which mountainous, landlocked country in southwestern Asia? Afghanistan Second Michigan champion

Was in the finals in 1994

1996 Seyi Fayanju  New Jersey Seventh Name the European co-principality whose heads of state are the President of France and the Bishop of Urgell. Andorra First New Jersey champion

Had a perfect score in the finals; presented an object in the 1994 finals, when he was the New Jersey state champion; was a contestant on the kids game show Figure It Out

1997 Alex Kerchner  Washington Seventh Asia's most densely populated country has about three million people and an area of less than 250 square miles (402 km²). Name this country. Singapore Second Washington champion

Was in the finals in 1996

1998 Petko Peev  Michigan Eighth More than 80 million people live in the European Union's most populous member country. Name this country. Germany Third Michigan champion
1999 David Beihl  South Carolina Eighth (homeschooled) The condition characterized by unusually cold ocean temperature in the equatorial region of the eastern Pacific Ocean is known by what Spanish name? La Niña First home-schooled champion; competed in 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee championship later in the same month
2000 Felix Peng  Connecticut Eighth Name two of the three largest sections of Denmark, which include its mainland peninsula and two largest islands. Jutland, Sjaelland and Fyn Won after 7 tiebreaker questions in the Championship Round, the all-time record. In addition, the 2nd-place finisher that year, George Thampy, ended up winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee that year.
2001 Kyle Haddad-Fonda  Washington Eighth Below the equilibrium line of glaciers there is a region of melting, evaporation, and sublimation. Name this zone. Zone of ablation Third Washington champion

Rhodes Scholar, Harvard graduate; Was in the finals in 1999

2002 Calvin McCarter  Michigan Fifth (homeschooled) Lop Nur, a marshy depression at the east end of the Tarim Basin, is a nuclear test site for which country? China (People's Republic) Fourth Michigan champion

Youngest champion

2003 James Williams  Washington Eighth (homeschooled) Goa, a state in southwestern India, was a possession of which country until 1961? Portugal Fourth Washington champion

Also a competitor in the National Middle School Science Bowl and National Science Olympiad.

2004 Andrew Wojtanik  Kansas Eighth Peshawar, a city in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, has had strategic importance for centuries because of its location near what historic pass? Khyber Pass Second Kansas champion

Wrote Afghanistan to Zimbabwe guide with important information for each country.

2005 Nathan Cornelius  Minnesota Seventh (homeschooled) Lake Gatún, an artificial lake that constitutes part of the Panama Canal system, was created by damming which river? Chagres River
2006 Bonny Jain  Illinois Eighth Name the mountains that extend across much of Wales, from the Irish Sea to the Bristol Channel. Cambrian Mountains Placed 13th in 2006 Scripps National Spelling Bee; was in the finals in 2005
2007 Caitlin Snaring  Washington Eighth (homeschooled) A city that is divided by a river of the same name was the imperial capital of Vietnam for more than a century. Name this city, which is still an important cultural center. Huế Fifth Washington champion

Had a perfect score in the finals; second female champion

2008 Akshay Rajagopal  Nebraska Sixth The urban area of Cochabamba has been in the news recently due to protests over the privatization of the municipal water supply and regional autonomy issues. Cochabamba is the third-largest conurbation in what country? Bolivia Had a perfect score in the finals.

Won the Bee on his first attempt at the school, state, and national level.

2009 Eric Yang  Texas Seventh Timis County shares its name with a tributary of the Danube and is located in the western part of which European country? Romania First Texas champion

Had a perfect score in the finals

2010 Aadith Moorthy  Florida Eighth The largest city in northern Haiti was renamed following Haiti’s independence from France. What is the present-day name of this city? Cap-Haïtien First Florida champion

Won the bee the first year he came to the National Level; became the first person to win the bee after missing his first question in the finals. Achieved a perfect SAT score in 2013.

2011 Tine Valencic  Texas Seventh Thousands of mountain climbers and trekkers rely on Sherpas to aid their ascent of Mount Everest. The southern part of Mount Everest is located in which Nepalese national park? Sagarmatha National Park Second Texas champion

Had a perfect score in the finals

2012 Rahul Nagvekar  Texas Eighth Name the Bavarian city situated on the Danube River that was a legislative seat of the Holy Roman Empire from 1663 to 1806. Regensburg Third Texas champion

First time contender at the National-Level Bee; finished second in the 2011 Texas Geographic Bee, behind Tine Valencic

2013 Sathwik Karnik  Massachusetts Seventh Because Earth bulges at the equator, the point that is farthest from Earth's center is the summit of a peak in Ecuador. Name this peak. Chimborazo First time contender at the National-Level Bee, Brother Karthik Karnik finished 5th in National Finals in 2011, 6th in National Finals in 2012
2014 Akhil Rekulapelli  Virginia Eighth Winning Question: Oyala, a planned city in the rainforest 65 miles east of Bata is being built as a future capital for which country?

Final Question: The discovery of a major shale oil deposit in the Vaca Muerta formation in 2010 has led to an expansion of oil drilling in the Neuquen province in what country?[5]

Equatorial Guinea


First Virginia champion

Akhil finished fourth in 2013

2015 Karan Menon  New Jersey Eighth Winning Question: Mariupol, at the mouth of the Kalmius River, is a port city on which sea, an arm of the Black Sea?

Final Question: If completed, the proposed Grand Inga Dam would become the world’s largest hydropower plant. This dam would be built near Inga Falls on which African river?[6]

Sea of Azov

Congo River

Second New Jersey champion

First time contender in the National Level Bee

Karan challenged a question in the finals and came 2nd in the 2014 New Jersey Geographic Bee

2016 Rishi Nair  Florida Sixth Winning Question: A new marine sanctuary will protect sharks and other wildlife around Isla Wolf in what archipelago in the Pacific Ocean?

Final Question: Which East African lake that drains into the Ruzizi River contains large quantities of dissolved methane gas that could generate electricity for millions of people?

Galapagos Islands

Lake Kivu[7]

Second Florida champion

First sixth-grade National Champion since Akshay Rajagopal in 2008

Won the 2015 Florida Geographic Bee and represented Florida at the National Finals in 2015 and 2016

2017 Pranay Varada  Texas Eighth What large mountain system that stretches more than 1,200 miles separates the Taklimakan Desert from the Tibetan Plateau?[8] Kunlun Mountains Fourth Texas Champion

Was two points from a perfect score in the Finals

First time a tiebreaker was used in the Championship round since 2012

States by National Champions[edit]

State Number of National Champions Last Win
 Washington 5 2007
 Michigan 4 2002
 Texas 4 2017
 Florida 2 2016
 Kansas 2 2004
 New Jersey 2 2015
 Connecticut 1 2000
 Idaho 1 1991
 Illinois 1 2006
 Massachusetts 1 2013
 Minnesota 1 2005
 Montana 1 1994
 Nebraska 1 2008
 Pennsylvania 1 1990
 South Carolina 1 1999
 Virginia 1 2014

2017 State Champions[edit]

On March 31, 2017, the National Geographic State Bees were held across the 50 states, Washington, D.C., the Atlantic Territories, the Pacific Territories, and the Department of Defense. Fifty-four State Champions were determined.[9]

State Name School City/Town Grade Place
 Alabama Jason DiRusso Louis Pizitz Middle School Vestavia Hills 8th
 Alaska Andres Arias Nicholas J Begich Middle School Anchorage 8th
 Arizona Aditya Narayanan Sonoran Sky Elementary School Scottsdale 5th
 Arkansas Denis Carranza Elmwood Middle School Rogers 7th
Puerto Rico United States Virgin Islands Atlantic Territories Matthew Haughton Antilles School St. Thomas, VI 8th
 California Ahilan Eraniyan Diablo Vista Middle School Danville 6th
 Colorado Henry Halgren Liberty Common High School Fort Collins 6th
 Connecticut William Foster Independent Day School Middlefield 8th
 Delaware Rohan Kanchana Newark Charter School Newark 8th
United States Department of Defense Seal.svg Department of Defense Connor Buchheit Wiesbaden Middle School Wiesbaden, Germany 8th
 District of Columbia Max Garon Sidwell Friends Middle School Washington 7th
 Florida Jacob Silver Cypress Lake Middle School Ft. Myers 6th
 Georgia Vishal Sareddy Riverwatch Middle School Suwanee 7th
 Hawaii Logan Kakugawa Hawaii Baptist Academy Honolulu 8th
 Idaho Nicholas Monahan Payette Lakes Middle School McCall 8th
 Illinois Sahan Yalavarthi Twin Groves Middle School Buffalo Grove 7th
 Indiana Dylan Schutte Sunman-Dearborn Middle School Brookville 8th
 Iowa Grant Pederson Cardinal Middle School Eldon 7th
 Kansas Sathvik Kasarabada California Trail Middle School Olathe 7th
 Kentucky Evan Winkler Morton Middle School Lexington 8th
 Louisiana Isaac Jabaley Lusher Charter School New Orleans 6th
 Maine Joseph Luchsinger Berwick Academy South Berwick 7th
 Maryland Nabhoneel Sil Upadhyay Kingsview Middle School Germantown 8th
 Massachusetts Theodore Z. Batty Jenkins Elementary School Scituate 6th
 Michigan Peter Deegan-Krause Ferndale Middle School Ferndale 6th
 Minnesota Lucas Eggers STAR Homeschool Academy Minnetonka 8th
 Mississippi Edmund Doerksen Oxford Middle School Oxford 8th
 Missouri Rohan Rao Gentry Middle School Columbia 7th
 Montana Ian Williams Sussex School Missoula 8th
 Nebraska Brendan Pennington Westside Middle School Omaha 8th
 Nevada Maia Marshall St Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School Las Vegas 8th
 New Hampshire Abhinav Govindaraju Ross A. Lurgio Middle School Bedford 7th
 New Jersey Veda Bhattaram Robert R. Lazar Middle School Montville 7th
 New Mexico Lakshay Sood Albuquerque Academy Albuquerque 6th
 New York Taylor Anderson Nyack Middle School Nyac 8th
 North Carolina Max Dyer Phoenix Academy High Point 6th
  North Dakota Krishna Kamalakannan Discovery Middle School Fargo 7th
 Ohio Saket Pochiraju Orange Middle School Lewis Center 7th
 Oklahoma Antonino Libarnes Oak Hill Episcopal School Ardmore 5th
 Oregon Ashwin Sivakumar Oregon Episcopal School Portland 7th
American Samoa Guam Northern Mariana Islands Pacific Territories Joanah Jimenez Marianas Baptist Academy Saipan, MP 7th
 Pennsylvania Eshan Singh Charles H Boehm Middle School Yardley 7th
 Rhode Island Isaiah Suchman Nathan Bishop Middle School Providence 8th
 South Carolina Connor Fraley Williams Middle School Florence 8th
 South Dakota Owen Fink Bridgewater-Emery School Bridgewater 6th
 Tennessee Simeon Betapudi Evangelical Christian School Cordova 7th
 Texas Pranay Varada DeWitt Perry Middle School Carrollton 8th
 Utah Ankit Garg Bear River Charter School Logan 7th
 Vermont Anshuta Beeram Frederick H Tuttle Middle School South Burlington 6th
 Virginia Anish Susarla Belmont Ridge Middle School Leesburg 6th
 Washington Arjun Nathan Pine Lake Middle School Sammamish 8th
 West Virginia Hunter Midcap St. Michael Parish School Wheeling 8th
 Wisconsin Thomas Wright University School of Milwaukee Milwaukee 8th
 Wyoming Preston Buehler Star Valley Middle School Afton 7th

The top ten finalists were as follows:

Ahilan Eraniyan- from California
Rohan Kanchana- from Delaware
Max Garon- from District of Columbia
Nicholas Monahan- from Idaho
Lucas Eggers- from Minnesota
Abhinav Govindaraju- from New Hampshire
Veda Bhattaram- from New Jersey
Pranay Varada- from Texas
Anish Susarla- from Virginia
Thomas Wright- from Wisconsin


Rishi Nair of Florida, the 2016 National Geographic Bee Champion, received a $50,000 scholarship, a lifetime membership to the National Geographic Society, and a trip for 2 to southeast Alaska, including Glacier Bay National Park. Saketh Jonnalagadda of Massachusetts, the second-place finisher received $25,000. And Kapil Nathan of Alabama, the third-place finisher, received $10,000. Grace Rembert of Montana and Rishi Kumar of Maryland were tied for 4th place. All Top 10 finishers received $500.

Recent competitions[edit]


External links[edit]