Every Winning Question from the National Geographic GeoBee
Since 1989, the annual National Geographic GeoBee challenges kids in grades four through eight to answer tough questions about history, earth science, culture, and geography. Here are the winning questions and answers from the last 30 years. See if you can get one right!
Jack Staddon, of Great Bend, Kansas was the first champion of the National Geographic GeoBee. Since 1989 more than 120 million students from the United States and the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific territories have participated in this challenging academic competition.
Susannah Batko-Yovino from Altoona, Pennsylvania was just 11 years old when she became champion in 1990. This year’s National Champion will receive a $25,000 college scholarship, $1,000 in cash, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and an all-expenses-paid Lindblad expedition to the Galápagos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavour ll. Not bad for beating out the other 2.5 million students who participated this year.
The answer may seem simple, but you’d have to know that “orographic precipitation” is “caused by the lifting of moist air over a mountain barrier.” W. David Stillman of Craigmont, Idaho got this winning answer to become champion as an eighth grader. Still in the mood for a challenge? Check out these 30 geography facts people keep getting wrong.
The National Geographic GeoBee started in order to draw attention to geography as a subject in U.S. schools and to combat the idea that young people don’t know geography. Champion Lawson Fite of Vancouver, Washington, and all the other top competitors throughout the years prove that kids know plenty about geography and related facts!
The National Geographic Society has written over 29,000 questions for the GeoBee since it started. Noel Erinjeri of Swartz Creek, Michigan answered this winning question in 1993. The other two official languages, are English and Filipino, but the country also has an additional 21 regional spoken languages.
The GeoBee starts in schools, then champions take a written test to qualify for state competitions. Those winners from 54 states and territories meet for the national competition that takes place each May at the society’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Various rounds finally narrow the field to three finalists for the championship round. Anders Knospe of Bozeman, Montana was the winner in 1994.
GeoBee contestants have to be between fourth and eighth grade and they can’t be older than 15. So, how do they get so smart? The National Geographic Society provides a ton of different study tips on a huge range of topics, that are divided into subtopics. You’ll find study guides on Oceans and Biodiversity and Ecosystems, in addition to major world regions. It’s intense. Christopher Galeczka of Sterling Heights, Michigan was champion in 1995.
Petko Peev of Grand Rapids, Michigan got this winning answer right in 1998. The answer’s still correct today, though now the estimated is 82 million. Malta, with a population of just 500,000 is the least populated, and also the smallest EU member state. See how many U.S. states you can identify on a blank map.
You may also remember the weather term “El Niño.” La Niña is considered its opposite or cold phase. According to the National Ocean Service, the “El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle . . . is a scientific term that describes the fluctuations in temperature between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific (approximately between the International Date Line and 120 degrees West).” If you’re just learning this, keep in mind David Beihl of Saluda, South Carolina got this answer right when he became GeoBee champ in eighth grade.
This question gives you an idea of just how skilled champions have to be in the precise details of every country. Denmark shares a land-locked boundary with Germany—42 miles long, while its other borders are along the ocean. It makes up part of Scandinavia with Norway and Sweden. Congrats to Felix Peng, of Guilford, Connecticut who was able to name Denmark’s largest regions.
This question gets intense with glacier-related vocabulary. Ablation basically means melting, and that makes sense, but there’s a whole science called glaciology. Congrats to Kyle Haddad-Fonda of Bellevue, Washington for knowing the specifics.
Calvin McCarter of Jenison, Michigan was the youngest winner when he answered this question correctly and became Champion as a fifth grader at age ten.
You can learn more about world geography in the National Geographic Education Resource Library, available online. James Williams of Vancouver, Washington was an eighth-grader when he won in 2003. Check out these 23 U.S. geography facts you probably didn’t learn in school.
It may seem like the word “pass” might make this question easier. How many important passes are there in world geography? In fact, there are major ones all over. Andrew Wojtanik of Overland Park, Kansas knew this important pass between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It’s not enough to feel your brain synapses spark at the mention of Lake Gatún of the Panama Canal. You’ve also got to come up with the river that was dammed to create it. Nathan Cornelius of Cottonwood, Minnesota knew the correct answer.
Apparently the term “Cambrian Mountains,” used to refer to anywhere “Upland Wales,” before becoming much more specific. Bonnie Jain of Moline, Illinois must have known that’s now the name for the “Mid Wales uplands of Pumlumon, Elenydd, and Mynydd Mallaen,” or that they just extend across much of Wales as the question states.
Here’s a hint: The city is known for its gorgeous historical architecture and is filled with ornate temples, sculptures, and artistry. It was home to the Nguyen dynasty for centuries before occupation and war brought severe upheaval. During the 1968 Tet Offensive, many of its important landmarks were destroyed, but have since been restored. Caitlin Snaring of Redmond, Washington was GeoBee Champ in 2007 with this winning question.
This winning question is tricky. You don’t really need to know the definition of “conurbation,” “an aggregation or continuous network of urban communities” to answer correctly. Nor do you need precise details about protests over water supply and autonomy. Those may have been clues for Akshay Rajagapol of Lincoln, Nebraska, who did know the answer.
The Danube river originates in Germany and flows southeast through or along the border of nine European countries. But the question isn’t really asking about those countries—it’s offshooting over to one tributary. Eric Yang of The Colony, Texas had to know the regional details of the area to answer this winning question correctly.
If you want to watch the National Geographic GeoBee, you can follow it in May of each year at NatGeoBee.org. Today, the championships are hosted by Mo Rocca, they were previously hosted by journalist Soledad O’Brien in 2014 and 2015. Before that Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek moderated for 25 years starting in 1989. He would’ve been there to ask Aadith Moorthy of Palm Harbor, Florida the winning question in 2010.
This site is a major tourist attraction that’s considered both sacred and scenic. It’s a challenge to get close by plane and then requires a hiking trek in on a rugged trail. Once reached, this park boasts stunning natural sights including breathtaking flora and fauna. Tine Valencic of Colleyville, Texas knew the answer to become GeoBee champ in 2011.
Some of the questions ask about geography in relation to recent events and new technologies. But contestants can’t be sure what will turn up. Some questions, like this one, ask for a comprehensive knowledge of history. Check out the many layers of knowledge needed to answer the winning question posed to Champion Rahul Nagvekar of Sugar Land, Texas.
So, you might not have known that Earth “bulges” at the Equator. It does, though! Sathwik Karnik of Plainville, Massachusetts was able to name the peak that actually has a “height advantage” over Mt. Everest due to Earth being an “oblate spheroid.” Science!
This question is a challenge because it asks for more than repeating rote facts. Akhil Rekulapelli of Dulles, Virginia answered correctly by knowing not only the name of the country and its provinces and geography but what was going on there with regard to oil discoveries and drilling.
The GeoBee questions are such a challenge because they’re not just checking for facts, but complex knowledge around those facts—such as in this question that asks about energy solutions in addition to the name of a lake. Rishi Nair of Seffner, Florida won the GeoBee at age 12 with the answer to this toughie.
Need a hint? It has peaks that reach over 20,000 feet and “encompasses several types of natural habitats,” such as steppes, desert, forest, and plains. Pranay Varada of Irving, Texas became GeoBee Champ as an eighth grader.
Paraguay. Think you’ve got what it takes to compete? Try these 15 sample questions from the GeoBee that will definitely challenge you.