The National 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 International Director, Mrs. Nolwenn Léon Madden
In order to compete in the History Bee, you must be 18 years or younger at the time of your Regional Bee. If you turn 19 before the National Championships, that’s okay. You must also be enrolled in a high school or younger school or a comparable secondary school that corresponds to an American high school in terms of the age range served (i.e. no schools that are comparable to universities).
In order to compete in the Junior Varsity Division of the History Bee, you must be 16 years or younger at the time of the Regional Bee. If you are in an American high school, or an institution that follows a comparable age division, you cannot be in the upper two years (i.e. above tenth grade) even if you are 16 or younger. If in doubt, ask the Tournament Coordinator or Tournament Director for your tournament, or better yet, contact the Tournament Coordinator in advance.
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, American schools abroad, etc. are all welcome. Students from the 50 US states may compete if they have not competed yet this year, but then forfeit their eligibility for any other tournaments in the USA.
Students are only allowed to compete at one Regional Bee in Asia this year.
At all History Bees, there are three preliminary rounds of 30 questions each. 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 (see below under “Final Round Structure” for a full explanation) the 2, 5, or 10 highest scorers from the preliminary rounds in both the Varsity division and the Junior Varsity division, then compete in the final rounds. The Junior Varsity and Varsity 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.
In a History Bee round, we feature thirty tossup questions. 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…
Twelve Five Thirteen
Fifteen Four Twelve
Twenty Three Eleven
Twenty-Five Two Ten
Thirty One Nine
Since there are 30 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. For the 2012-2013 school year, questions can reference all eras and places in history throughout each round. 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 two, five or ten students in both the Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions all compete at once. If starting with ten, they seek to then be among the first five students to reach three points. Then, the scores reset to zero, and the five remaining students seek to be among the first two students to reach four points. Finally, the scores reset to zero again, and the remaining two students seek to be the first to reach five points. Whether we take two, five, or ten students into the finals will be announced at the start of the Bee – it depends on how many teams attend, and how many students compete in each division. A field needs at least 12 students to take the top five into the final, and a field needs at least 25 students to take the top 10 into the final. If both the Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions have over 25 competing students, we will take ten from the Varsity division and five from the Junior Varsity.
In the History Bowl, there are a number of different question styles. In the 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. Here are a few examples of preliminary and finals questions:
Sample Preliminary Questions
The northern tip of this island was home to this nation’s Jaffna kingdom, which ruled at the same time as other empires on this modern country like the Kotte Kingdom and the Kandy Kingdom. For the point, name this Asian island nation, the site of the Tamil Tigers separatist movement, which was once known as Ceylon.
ANSWER: Sri Lanka [or Ceylon before mentioned]
It was announced in a graduation speech given at Harvard University and designed in part by William Clayton, George Kennan, and a Secretary of State. For the point, name this American economic plan that intended to halt the spread of Communism by providing financial support to European nations, which was conducted under Harry S. Truman.
ANSWER: Marshall Plan or European Recovery Plan or ERP
Sample Finals Questions
This leader’s accomplishments include putting down Nayan’s rebellion and installing Wonjong as the ruler of the Goryeo dynasty of Korea. Three times, he attempted to invade Vietnam along with his brother Mongke, and his two attempts to invade Japan were both cut short by severe typhoons known as kamikaze. He employed Marco Polo and his father as ambassadors. For 10 points, name this founder of the Yuan Dynasty, a grandson of Genghis Khan.
ANSWER: Kublai Khan
This navy sent an expedition to Mexico on the San Buena Ventura, a ship built by William Adams. This navy was instructed to only allow passage to ships abiding by the Red Seal system. This navy was crushed by Admiral Yi Sun-sin and his turtle ships during an abortive invasion of Korea. For 10 points, name this navy that was led by Admiral Yamamoto during World War II.
ANSWER: Japanese Navy [accept Tokogawa navy until "Yamamoto"]
Resources for Training
Our complete resources guide and study guide for our Asian Division will be posted here by late October. In the meantime, email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like copies sent to you when it is ready.
Please also see NAQT’s (National Academic Quiz Tournaments) “You gotta know” pages and the ACE Quiz Bowl Camps study guides, as well as the History Channel’s Ultimate History Quiz.
A sample Bee packet for our Asian tournaments can be downloaded here Please also see www.quizbowlpackets.com (though this has a heavy American emphasis and references all subjects) and our National Championship questions from 2011 in the USA. Please note that the questions you’ll find here are considerably more difficult and American history-focused than the questions we intend on using in Asia.