The International 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 Executive Director, Mrs. Nolwenn Léon Madden

> Sample Questions for our Australian Tournaments & Other Resources


In order to compete in the History Bee, you must be 19 years or younger at the time of your Regional Bee. You must also be enrolled in a primary or secondary school at the time of your regional tournament (or have graduated within the past two months, and not yet have started university studies). Students in Year 11 or 12 compete in the Varsity Division. In order to compete in the Junior Varsity division of the History Bee, a student must be in Year 9 or 10 (9th or 10th grade at international schools). If a student wishes to compete in the Middle School division, a student must be in Year 8 or younger (8th grade at international schools). 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, and schools abroad following a home country curriculum are all welcome.

Students are only allowed to compete at one Regional Bee in Australia this year, but they do not have to compete in the state or territory their school is in; there is no geographic limit in that sense. For the Bee, students have to play in the division they are eligible for, they are not allowed to play up.

Tournament Format

In the 2015 school year in Australia, most, if not all of our tournaments will be held on weekdays. These will each feature two preliminary rounds for the Bee. At all History Bees, in the Junior Varsity and Varsity divisions, a round has 30 questions each. In the middle school division these rounds have 25 questions.  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, the 2, 5, or 10 highest scorers from the combined preliminary rounds in each division then compete in the final rounds. The three 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.

Game Format

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…
Eight                                                       Seven                                           Fifteen
Ten                                                          Six                                                Fourteen
Twelve                                                    Five                                              Thirteen
Fifteen                                                    Four                                              Twelve
Twenty                                                   Three                                             Eleven
Twenty-Five                                           Two                                               Ten
Thirty                                                      One                                               Nine

Since there are 30 or 25 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. After the preliminary rounds, the scores from the 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 each division all compete at once (i.e. against the other top students from their division). 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.

Question Styles

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.

Resources for Training

The IHBB Australia Study Guide contains both a list of topics that can be referenced in our tournaments and some strategies for preparation.

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.

Additional Sample Questions

A sample High School Bee packet (both Varsity and Junior Varsity Divisions use the same questions) for our Australian tournaments can be downloaded on our resources page, along with a sample middle school packet. On that page, you can also find the questions that we used at our Australian tournaments in 2014.

Please also see (though this has a heavy American emphasis and references all subjects) and our past high school questions from the USA. Please note that the questions you’ll find here are considerably more difficult and American history-focused than the questions we are using in Australia.