If you have a question about The International History Bee and Bowl, see if you can find an answer to it listed below. If you don’t see what you are looking for here, or elsewhere on this website, please contact us using the methods outlined under the “Contact Us” link. We’ll be happy to respond quickly to your inquiry.

Q. How did The International History Bee and Bowl begin?

A. The International History Bee and Bowl were founded in the USA in June 2010, as “The National History Bee and Bowl.” The division of IHBB operating in the USA still uses this name. IHBB was founded by David Madden, who at the time was studying to become a history teacher. He had organized a history quiz tournament in the spring of 2010 in New Jersey, USA, which was attended by 150 students who had a great time. After this original tournament, instead of becoming a history teacher, David established a series of history quiz tournaments which have since expanded around the world.

Q. How does a History Bee work?

A. With the exception of the elementary and middle school divisions in the USA, History Bees always feature a similar format. Students are split into different groups for each of up to 3 preliminary rounds. In each round, they accumulate a point for each correct answer, and bonus points, if they reach a certain number of correct answers. After the rounds are done, the points for all the rounds are added, and the top students make the playoffs. In the playoffs, students progress through 1-4 stages (depending on how many students are competing) to determine the champion.

For all History Bee rounds, students ring in on a buzzer system to signal they know the correct answer. If a student rings in, then other students are locked out from ringing until the reader resets the system after the student has answered. History Bee questions are structured as short paragraphs with the more obscure information at the start, and more familiar information towards the end. A student can ring in at any time while the question is being read, or for up to 3 seconds after it is over. Since questions progress toward easier information, students who know more about a topic are rewarded by being able to ring in more quickly. This emphasizes a deeper understanding of topics and concepts in history in our competitions.

Q. How does a History Bowl work?

A. In the History Bowl, teams play a series of preliminary matches against other teams. Teams must be composed of students from the same school, and can have up to six students. Up to 4 students play at any one time on a team; if there are more students on a team, they can switch be substituted in during breaks. There is never a limit to the number of teams a school can enter into a tournament.

Like the History Bee, History Bowl competitions feature students using a buzzer system to ring in and answer questions. Each student on a team will have their own buzzer, and on buzzer questions, team members cannot talk to each other. Unlike in the History Bee, for certain questions in the History Bowl, students on a team can talk to each other and come up with an answer for their team.

After the preliminary rounds are finished, the top-ranked teams then compete in a series of playoff rounds to determine the champion.

Q. Do I have to compete with a school team, or can I compete in an IHBB tournament on my own?

A. IHBB tournaments typically consist of a Bee for individual students and a Bowl for teams. These are held at different times so that any student who wants to compete in both can do so. To compete in the Bee, it is not at all necessary to be a part of a school team. History Bowls are typically team events (up to 4 students can always play at a time). However, students are always permitted to compete on their own in a History Bowl, if they are willing to challenge themselves. Typically, discounts are offered for History Bowl teams that consist solely of 1 or 2 students. Contact the IHBB staff in charge of a tournament if this applies to you.

Q. I’m in college / elementary school / an adult interested in history. Can I compete in IHBB?

A. IHBB organizes one tournament a year for college teams in the USA (typically held in Chicago in the spring), at which foreign college teams are welcome to compete. Please contact director@historybowl.com for more information. Eventually, we expect to add more tournaments for college students.
Elementary school students are welcome at all events (there is no younger age limit), but should be advised that they will be competing against older students, and should be aware of the level of difficulty in the questions.
Adults can sometimes compete in special events, often held in conjunction with IHBB regional championship tournaments, but there is no separate division of IHBB for adults.

Q. Do you offer tournaments in languages other than English?

A. For now, all IHBB competitions are in English. We anticipate adding foreign language competitions by 2016 or 2017.

Q. Are the questions well-suited for students in different parts of the world?

A. Yes. We are very aware that students in different parts of the world are more familiar with the histories of their respective countries and regions, and our questions reflect this. Our goal is to challenge students, not to frustrate them. At the same time, students who have studied for the tournaments in advance are likely to be able to answer more questions and enjoy competing more.

Q. How can we prepare for competitions?

There are links to sample questions on the websites of the homepages for the Asian, European, and USA divisions. Study these and similar topics. Also, we recommend that schools purchase a buzzer system so that they can practice in simulated competition with teammates prior to tournaments. We currently recommend the 10 person Tabletop Officiator Buzzer System made by www.andersonbuzzersystems.com. The system costs approximately $225 US. Shipping (which costs extra) can be done throughout the world.

Q. What are your future plans?

A. IHBB will continue expanding to new regions, countries, and schools for years to come. We’re also excited to be expanding the International History Olympiad. Since our founding, IHBB has been the fastest growing academic competition organization in the world, and we look forward to adding new tournaments around the world to serve a growing number of students and schools. Please click on the different regional pages on this site (accessible under the “Locations” tab in the menu bar) to learn more about our plans for each region of the world.