for preparing for the
By Neeraj Sirdeshmukh
2nd place winner in 2006 National Geo Bee
TIP # 1: LOCATIONS
Learning geography starts with the
basic tool, the atlas. Familiarize
yourself with the major cities,
countries, provinces/territories, and
other physical and political divisions
of our planet.
A good atlas is Geographica.
Another one is National Geographic
Family Atlas of the World.
A free world atlas can be found online at
Go to www.geography.about.com to find blank
maps of every county.
Identify what location is represented by each symbol on the blank map:
This port city was founded in 1177 when a castle over the Lagan River was built.
ANSWER: Belfast, United Kingdom
What river is this?
ANSWER: Rhine River
This is the second largest city in Germany and is located on the Elbe River.
ANSWER: Hamburg, Germany
This is the southernmost point of mainland Europe. What is it called?
ANSWER: Point Tarifa, Spain
The best way to
is to practice filling
in blank maps.
TIP # 2: CURRENT EVENTS
• Keep up with world news every day to know what’s
happening around the world.
• All current events questions ask about events that
happened up to 1 year before the national bee.
• Global news is more important than
United States news for the Bee. Most current events
questions will have a geographic clue. Others might not.
For example, a question might look like:
On January 2, 2009, the army of which country announced
that it had captured Kilinochchi, the capital city of the
Tamil Tiger rebels?
ANSWER: SRI LANKA
• One of the best websites for global news
coverage is www.bbcnews.com. www.myGeoTrivia.com
TIP # 3: CAPITAL CITIES
• Memorize the capital of every country in the world. Making
flash cards is a great way to do this.
• Lets see how much you already know. Here is a short quiz:
What is the capital of:
ARGENTINA? Buenos Aires
S IERRA LEONE? Freetown
MALDIVES ? Male
MALAYS IA? Kuala Lumpur
BURKINA FAS O? Ouagadougou
TIP # 4: PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY
Learn physical geography terms through a good reference
book or encyclopedia. I used the National Geographic
Desk Reference. Again, making flash cards is a good
way to memorize terms.
Physical geography questions ask
mostly about key terms, such as
barchan, cirque, moraine, abyssal
plain, tarn, and esker.
These terms relate to mostly the
following topics: world climates, soils,
wind and ocean current patterns,
glaciers, dunes, rocks and minerals,
the ocean floor, rivers, lakes, etc.….
These types of questions pop up
CLIMATE GRAPHS occasionally and require you to analyze a
climate graph, a chart that shows
temperature and precipitation patterns for
a particular location. You are given a few
cities and asked to find the one that best
fits the graph.
For example, look at this graph. The red
line represents the temperature in
degrees Celsius. You can tell that it is hot
year round- around 28 degrees C. There
are no extremes in temperature. This
should immediately tell you that this city
is close to the equator. The blue bars
represent precipitation. It is very wet. The
highest amount of precipitation occurs
from November-January. If you know that
What city matches this the northeast monsoon winds blow during
climagraph? this period, you can tell that this city is
located somewhere in southern Asia. SO
WHAT CITY IS IT ????
A) Rio de Janeiro B) Stockholm C) Washington, D.C. D) Singapore E) Sydney
TIP # 5: STUDY REGULARLY
Don’t forget to study
regularly. Utilize any free
time you have. Use your
free time and vacations
It’s up to you to decide
how much you should
TIP # 6: GEOGRAPHY IS A BROAD SUBJECT. SO WHAT DO YOU
REALLY NEED TO KNOW?
To give you an idea of how big geography really is, here are some of
the different parts of geography:
3) Political geography
4) Physical geography
5) Economic geography
6) Historical geography
7) Cultural (human) geography
There are many other parts.. But for the Bee, these six are the ones
you should be familiar with…..
What do you need to know about each part of geography?
• POLITICAL: Countries, capitals, major cities, autonomous regions,
overseas territories/dependencies, bordering countries, international
organizations (like OPEC, NATO), flags of major countries
• PHYSICAL: other than what we discussed earlier, physical geo also
includes where physical features, such as rivers, lakes, mountains,
deserts, plateaus, basins, bays, seas, gulfs, etc….. are located.
• ECONOMIC: major exports, currencies, natural resources, mining
and industrial regions (like the Donets Basin in Ukraine)
• HISTORICAL: former names of countries and territories,
independence, ancient civilizations and their geographic extent,
empires (like the Ottoman, Roman, and Mongol empires)
• CULTURAL(HUMAN): Religions, languages, and ethnic groups of
each country. Also population pyramids.
• TRAVEL: major and (a few) minor attractions, like the Iguazu Falls,
Santorini, Hagia Sophia, Harbour Bridge, Guilin, Valley of the Kings,
• Learn to interpret climate graphs, population pyramids, and contour
maps. For help with climate graphs, look at the climate graphs slide.
Population pyramids show the population distribution of a country
according to gender and age groups. Contour maps have contour
lines on them that connect points of equal elevation.
• For odd man out, the most common questions deal with locations
and physical geography. For example, you may be asked, “What is
the odd man out?” and given these choices: Angola, Cape Verde,
Sao Tome and Principe, Namibia, and Guinea Bissau. The answer
is Namibia because it is the only country that did not achieve
independence from Portugal out of the five countries. Namibia got
its independence from South Africa.
1. POLITICAL: Abkhazia, Ajaria, and South Ossetia are
three autonomous republics that have been seeking
independence from which country?
2. PHYSICAL: What is the term for a volcanic crack in the
ground through which steam and gases escape?
3. ECONOMIC: The Darling Downs is a farming region
centered around the city of Toowoomba, in which
4. HISTORICAL: Which city was once known as Petrograd
and later as Leningrad?
ANSWER: Saint Petersburg, Russia
5. CULTURAL(HUMAN): Which country has more Muslims
than any other country in the world?
6. TRAVEL/TOURISM: The Buddhas of Bamiyan, now a
UNESCO World Heritage Site, were destroyed by the
Taliban in 2001. This event occurred in which country?
TIP # 7: EARTH’S EXTREMES
Know Earth’s extremes- its highest, lowest, deepest, largest,
smallest, most populous, least populous, longest, shortest,
hottest, coldest, wettest, most visited, tallest, etc… physical and/
or political features. Making flash cards is again a great way to
Questions on Earth’s extremes and odd man out:
3) What is the deepest lake in the world?
ANSWER: Lake Baikal, Russia
2) Where was the hottest temperature on Earth ever recorded?
ANSWER: El Azizia, Libya
3) Odd man out: abyssal plain, continental shelf, alluvial fan, trench,
ANSWER: Alluvial fan (it is a river feature, not an ocean floor one)
TIP # 8: CREATE YOUR OWN CHART
When I was studying, I created my own chart, filled with all the facts I needed to
know about every country.
Using a chart to memorize is much easier than just reading a book with facts.
I made columns for the following: country name, capital, major cities, highest
points, physical features, independence, religions, languages, ethnic groups,
maps, bordering countries, currencies, major exports, and facts.
My table looked like this:
Country Capital Major Highest Physical Independence Religion Languages Ethnic Bordering Currency Major
cities points features groups countries exports/
TIP # 9: PLAY QUIZZES TO TEST YOUR
Playing quizzes is a great way to prepare, especially if you
have limited time to study.
www.mygeotrivia.com- thousands of questions
(you can also view a sample of the chart I created here)
www.geography.about.com- go to “Test your Knowledge”
www.nationalgeographic.com/geobee/- new Geo Bee
Challenge every day
www.epals.com – go to Geography Central
www.hillmanwonders.com- top 100 wonders of the world
TIP # 10: PARTICIPATE IN GEOGRAPHY DISCUSSION
One great discussion forum is
www.geobeecentral.com , where you can keep in
touch with many other geography bee contestants
and fans like you…..
There are also quiz questions, more advice on how
to prepare, and other tips.
Another one is www.epals.com. There is a blog
called Geography Central.
GOOD LUCK !
If you have any questions or comments,
please email them to: