International Geography Olympiad

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For the competition run by National Geographic previously called the "International Geography Olympiad", see National Geographic World Championship.

The International Geography Olympiad (iGeo) is an annual competition for 16- to 19-year-old geography students from all over the world. Students chosen to represent their countries are some of the best, chosen from thousands of students who participate enthusiastically in their own National Geography Olympiads. iGeo tests the abilities of every participants in spatial patterns and processes. The iGeo consists of three parts: a written test, a multimedia test and a substantial fieldwork exercise requiring observation, leading to cartographic representation and geographical analysis. The programme also includes poster presentations by teams, cultural exchanges, and time for students to get to know their fellow students and explore the host city.

The International Geography Olympiad is organised by the International Geographical Union (IGU) Olympiad Task Force, who produce tests with reference to the local organisers and the international board.

After the first iGeo in 1996, it was recommended that the competition was held biennially. Due to the competition growing in popularity, since 2012 the competition has been held annually, rather than biennially, as is the case with the other large International Science Olympiads.

History of competition and national success[edit]

Group photo at the 12th International Geography Olympiad in Russia in August 2015.
Written Response Test at the 11th International Geography Olympiad in Poland in August 2014.

During the 1994 Congress of the International Geographical Union (IGU) in Prague, people from Poland and the Netherlands launched the idea of an International Geography Competition (iGeo) or Olympiad for students between 15 and 19 years of age. The first one was held in 1996 in The Hague, Netherlands, with five participating countries. The participant count grew to 24 countries with the 2008 competition in Carthage, Tunisia.

At the most recent iGeo, held in Beijing, China in August 2016, there were 45 participating countries. In addition, representatives from Canada and Kyrgyzstan were present as official observers, with an aim to participate in future Olympiads.

The next Olympiad is the 2017 iGeo, which will be held in Belgrade, Serbia in August 2017.

Best nations by podium finishes (All time)[edit]

Place National Team 1st, 2nd, 3rd Years Champions (Teams Participating) Years Runners Up (Teams) Years 3rd Place (Teams)
1st  Poland 6, 1, 1 1996 (5), 1998 (5), 2000 (13), 2004 (12), 2006 (23), 2015 (40) 2002 (12) 2012 (31)
2nd  Romania 3, 2, 2 2002 (12), 2008 (24), 2013 (32) 2012 (31), 2015 (40) 2006 (23), 2014 (36)
3rd  Singapore 3, 1, 1 2010 (27), 2012 (31), 2014 (36) 2016 (45) 2013 (32)
4th  Australia 1, 2, 1 2016 (45) 2010 (27), 2014 (36) 2008 (24)
5th  Estonia 0, 3, 0 - 2004 (12), 2006 (23), 2008 (24) -
=6th  Croatia 0, 1, 0 - 2013 (32) -
=6th  Netherlands 0, 1, 0 - 2000 (13) -
=6th  Slovenia 0, 1, 0 - 1996 (5) -
=9th  Thailand 0, 0, 1 - - 2016 (45)
=9th  Chinese Taipei 0, 0, 1 - - 2015 (40)
=9th  Belarus 0, 0, 1 - - 2002 (12)
=9th  South Korea 0, 0, 1 - - 2000 (13)
=9th  Belgium 0, 0, 1 - - 1996 (5)

Most national individual victories (All time)[edit]

Place Nation Wins World Champions Produced (Year)
1st  Poland 4 Jacek Próchniak (2006), Maciej Hermanowicz (2004), Adam Biliski (2000), Katarzyna Kwiecińska (1998)
2nd  Romania 3 Barbu Ion Alexandru (2010, 2008), Florin Olteanu (2002)
3rd  Singapore 2 Daniel Wong (2013), Samuel Chua (2012)
=4th  Thailand 1 Wuttipat Kiratipaisarl (2016)
=4th  Chinese Taipei 1 Chang-Chin Wang (2015)
=4th  USA 1 James Mullen (2014)
=4th  Belgium 1 Steven Pattheeuws (1996)


Aims of the International Geography Olympiad:

  • To promote geography.
  • To stimulate understanding between young people.
  • To stimulate a higher quality of school geography worldwide.


iGeo is a competition between students. Every country or region that participates in iGeo should send a team composed of 4 students.

Contestants must be secondary school students, or has not yet begun higher education. Their ages must be under 20 before June 30 in the same year.

In addition to the students, there must be two adult representatives, one of whom is the team leader and the other is responsible for special tasks such as translation.

English is the official language of the Olympiad. All participants must present their answers in English. Participants whose first language is not English are provided with a printed multi-lingual dictionary minus geographical terms.


iGeo assessment consists of 3 parts. A written response test (40%), a fieldwork and decision making exercise (40%), and a multimedia test (20%). The champion has the highest combined total score from all tests. As iGeo participants are part of their own national teams, each nation will also have a combined score of their 4 team members. Both ranking tables from these categories are usually released on the webpages of the specific iGeo following the event's conclusion.

Geographical Analysis Component of the Fieldwork Exercise at 11th International Geography Olympiad in Poland in August 2014.
Cartographic Representation Component of the Fieldwork Exercise at 12th International Geography Olympiad in Russia in August 2015.

Topics tested[edit]

The tests are based around these 12 pre-defined topics:

  1. Climate & climate change
  2. Hazards & hazard management
  3. Resources & resource management
  4. Environmental geography & sustainable development
  5. Landforms, landscapes & land use
  6. Agricultural geography & food problems
  7. Population & population change
  8. Economic geography & globalisation
  9. Development geography & spatial inequality
  10. Urban geography, urban renewal & urban planning
  11. Tourism & tourism management
  12. Cultural geography & regional identities

Written response test (40%)[edit]

The written response test consists of 6 chosen topics from the defined 12 topics (students spend approx. 20 - 25 min. per topic in the exam), with issues that are geographically and socially relevant, that require topical and applied geographical knowledge and geographical skills and deal with physical and human geography, preferably integrated. Each topic has several resource materials such as maps, photos, graphs, statistics. Each topic consists of several questions which are based on the resource materials and range in length from short answer to paragraph length. They may involve completion of a matrix or a table, or the manipulation of data (eg from tabular to graphic form). The choice of the 6 topics from the list of 12 is made by the committee that designs the test. There is a balance between physical and human geography in the test.

Fieldwork exercise test (40%)[edit]

For the fieldwork exercise students are presented with a spatial problem situated in the area near to where the Olympiad is taking place. Students produce accurate cartography in an initial mapping exercise and then, on the basis of the mapping exercise and the analysis of all the information about the case, the participants have to design a spatial plan (in appropriately annotated cartographic form) that tackles the problem presented, and give an explanation of the choices they have made to solve the problem that was presented.

Multimedia test (20%)[edit]

The Multimedia test is a digital multiple choice test containing 40 items, which tests all 12 defined topics of iGeo. Each item is a piece of multimedia, so consists of a map and/or digital photo, film or graph and a short question with 4 options. The test includes questions that require basic geographical thinking skills, where the contestants analyse information in maps, diagrams or photographs. Perhaps unlike other sections of the Olympiad, the Multimedia test is not intended to test the ability of the contestants to reproduce geographical facts but to test their skills in geographical analysis.

Awarding medals[edit]

Awarding of an International Geography Olympiad Gold Medal at the Opening Ceremony of the International Geographical Union Conference in Moscow, Russia, in August 2015.
Gold Medal Winners from the 12th International Geography Olympiad at the Opening Ceremony of the International Geographical Union Conference in Moscow, Russia, in August 2015.

Participants qualify for the finals of the Olympiad by winning a place on their national team through their country's national geography olympiad, but the focus of the international competition is on individual performances, even though national team performances are calculated and ranked officially. Therefore, medals are awarded to individuals and not to teams.

There are no official honours for outstanding performances in individual tests, although competitors are made known of the breakdown of the scores so can see where they placed in each test.

Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals are awarded to successful students at iGeo, with the number of medals awarded growing proportionately to the number of participants. In 2014, 12 Gold, 24 Silver, and 36 Bronze medals were awarded, although this increased in 2015 to 13 Golds, 27 Silvers, and 40 Bronzes.

In 2016 the lowest score for the medal winners was ~54/100, and the highest 75.2/100.

Host countries and champions[edit]

Year No. Host country Host city Individual Olympiad Champion Best National Team 2nd National Team 3rd National Team Nations Participants
2020 XVII  Turkey Istanbul - - - - - -
2019 XVI  Indonesia or  Hong Kong TBD - - - - - -
2018 XV  Canada Quebec City - - - - - -
2017 XIV  Serbia Belgrade - - - - - -
2016 XIII  China Beijing  Thailand

Wuttipat Kiratipaisarl

 Australia  Singapore  Thailand 45 173
2015 XII  Russia Tver  Chinese Taipei

Chang-Chin Wang

 Poland  Romania  Chinese Taipei 40 159
2014 XI  Poland Kraków  USA

James Mullen

 Singapore  Australia  Romania 36 144
2013 X  Japan Kyoto  Singapore

Daniel Wong

 Romania  Croatia  Singapore 32 128
2012 IX  Germany Cologne  Singapore

Samuel Chua

 Singapore  Romania  Poland 31 124
2010 VIII  Taiwan Taipei  Romania

Barbu Ion Alexandru

 Singapore  Australia (Unknown) 27 108
2008 VII  Tunisia Carthage  Romania

Barbu Ion Alexandru

 Romania  Estonia  Australia 24 96
2006 VI  Australia Brisbane  Poland

Jacek Próchniak

 Poland  Estonia  Romania 23 92
2004 V  Poland Gdańsk  Poland

Maciej Hermanowicz

 Poland  Estonia (Unknown) 16 64
2002 IV  South Africa Durban  Romania

Florin Olteanu

 Romania  Poland  Belarus 12 48
2000 III  South Korea Seoul  Poland

Adam Biliski

 Poland  Netherlands  South Korea 13 52
1998 II  Portugal Lisbon  Poland

Katarzyna Kwiecińska

 Poland (Unknown) (Unknown) 5 20
1996 I  Netherlands The Hague  Belgium

Steven Pattheeuws

 Poland  Slovenia  Belgium 5 20