Thank you for your interest in the 2020 International History Olympiad! We’re excited to bring together the top history students from around the world and hope this page and the rest of the site can help you learn more about how the Olympiad works and how you can take part. Here are some FAQs that you might be interested in:

Booking / Costs
Q: Can we just go ahead and pay for our own room directly with Carnival?
A: No! Even though the prices that IAC has for the cabins are the same as the prices listed online on Carnival’s website, if you are registering a competing student, or anyone in a room who is participating in the Olympiad through the Parents, Family, and Friends program, then you must also pay your cabin fees to IAC (and we in turn will pay Carnival). The reason for this is the need to keep track of who is in affiliated with our group, as we are receiving space to hold our events in exchange for bringing a large amount of participants on board. We also need to do this for certain logistical reasons (e.g. so that we can assign rooms to students regarding roommate preferences) as well.
Note that parents, family members, family friends, and coaches should book through IAC in the Olympiad’s room block with Carnival even if you are not paying the $250 official Olympiad Participation Fees for any of the three reasons listed in the next question.

Q: Must all parents, family members, and family friends pay the $250 Olympiad Participation Fees on top of their cabin fees and other fees that are part of the cruise?
A: Typically, yes, though there are 3 exceptions:
1. Children under 10 are exempt from the fee, however, they cannot participate in competitions open to family and friends in the Family Division.
2. The cruise is open to whoever books with Carnival of course. However, only those with a wristband denoting their participation in the Family and Friends program of the Olympiad will be permitted to watch, participate, and spectate at Olympiad events (including the Opening and Closing Ceremonies).
3. You can request that this fee be waived in exchange for helping out with select Olympiad events as an adjunct staff member. This will be limited to either reading or scorekeeping for the History Bee and Bowl prelims on Barbados, and in addition staffing at most 2-4 other events that we would request of you together with full-time Olympiad staff. If you request this, please note the following:
-You must be a native English speaker or be able to read clear English with a minimal accent. Prior experience in reading at IAC events is greatly preferred.
-All adjunct staff must be at least 19 years old as of July 1, 2020.
-Under no circumstances would you read a match or proctor an exam where your child / student is playing or for anyone in their age division.
-IAC retains the right to not accept any request for a parent / family member / friend to have their fees waived in exchange for helping at any point until we have granted the request.
-IAC retains the right to put a cap on the number of such adjunct staff.

Q: What are the valid methods for submitting payment?
A: Fees can be paid in one of three ways for participants attending from the USA (and other locations that use the US dollar as their currency) and one of four ways for other participants. Specific payment instructions will be submitted via an invoice received upon registration.
For Everyone
1. US dollar denominated check on a US bank account (no further fee is calculated).
2. With a credit card via Paypal (an additional 5% fee applies, as Paypal charges fees to IAC for processing credit cards).
3. Via a direct wire transfer (a flat $30 USD applies regardless of amount per transfer, as our bank charges IAC processing fees for this).
For Those Outside the USA or Areas that Use the US Dollar
4. You can use Flywire, a service that lets you pay in your own currency, and then select a further payment method. Flywire will calculate the amount due in your currency and then you can pay via credit card, wire transfer, or mobile payment app (note that available payment options via Flywire may vary from country to country). Different fees may apply here per method selected, and a currency conversion rate also applies. However, for those outside the USA (Flywire can only be used to submit payments that are not being submitted in US dollars), this is likely a good option, and is very likely cheaper than a credit card payment through Paypal. For further information, please see

Who can compete

Q: How do I qualify for the Olympiad?
A: Qualification is conducted through participation in International History Bee and Bowl events, the National Championships of the National History Bee and Bowl in the USA, regional and state National History Bee and Bowl tournaments, and a qualifying exam for students in countries lacking IHBB events or located at least 200 kilometers from the nearest one. You can learn more about how to qualify here.

Q: Which types of students can compete?
A: Any student who qualified and was born in 2010 or earlier can compete. Students born in 2009 and 2010 (or students who will have only finished the equivalent of 4th or 5th grade in the USA by July 2020) are welcome to come if they have qualified but they must come with a parent or guardian.  If you have already qualified but are too young to take part in 2020, you may defer your registration until you are old enough to compete. The Olympiad is open to students attending local schools, international schools, American schools, British schools, public schools, private schools, religious schools, homeschools…

Q: Is there a maximum number of students who can represent a country or compete?
A: Unlike other Olympiads, we don’t limit the number of students who can attend per country. However, for 2020, please note that there will be a hard cap on the number of overall students who can participate. Namely, once all the cabins on the ship have sold, we will not be able to take any further students. We thus encourage students and families to register as soon as possible once registration opens!

Q: Is there a maximum age to attend the Olympiad?
No, there is no maximum age, as long as you qualified this year or last year for the Olympiad, you can attend, provided you were enrolled in secondary school or a homeschool equivalent during the 2019-2020 academic year. For students at schools which operate on a calendar year schedule (i.e. the academic year begins in January-March), if you attended such a school at any point in 2019, you may attend the 2020 Olympiad, even if you graduated in August-December 2019 or in the early months of 2020.

Q: I qualified last year for the Olympiad, but this year (i.e. in the 2019-2020 academic year) I am a freshman/in my first year at University. Can I still attend?
A: Unfortunately, for the 2020 Olympiad, we are no longer allowing this. Students in this position, however, are encouraged to contact to inquire into possible staff positions for next summer or with IAC in general.

Q: Do I have to attend with my school team?
A: No, you don’t, and a lot of students will be coming on their own, too. And you won’t feel alone for long, as you will make friends from all around the world, who share the same passion for history!

Q: Do I need to compete in certain events? Can I/my school team come just for the History Bowl?
A: The only competition events that are mandatory are the Battery Exam, and the two team events: the History Bowl and the Hextathlon – aside from this, all student participants participate in the tours of Old San Juan, Saint Martin, and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
Note that while you are welcome to come with other players from your school (assuming you all have qualified), at the Olympiad, you will be assigned (on the basis of your country/state affiliation, Battery Exam results, age division, and other criteria) to a 2 or 3 student team. This may or may not be with other school team members, but in any case, please do not come expecting that you will definitely be competing together with your school teammates. It is not permitted to come just for the History Bowl (or any other event, for that matter). 

Q. What if my school only gets out on July 18 or 19 (or starts again on July 25-July 27)? Or if I have some other pressing event that precludes me from being at the Olympiad during the entire time?
A. While only a few events are mandatory, you cannot specifically just come for a portion of the Olympiad unless you gain special dispensation from Olympiad staff due to school attendance requirements or some comparable family event / religious holiday / other suitable reason. Please note that while we will try and be flexible to the extent possible, this is going to be particularly difficult in 2020 given the nature of the Olympiad taking place on board a cruise ship that will be in different locations each day. We are also not able to grant partial discounts, and we cannot guarantee partial stays until we have reviewed your situation and seen if it is feasible for a student to attend. If you are interested in a partial stay at the Olympiad, please email and explain your situation.


Q: How do I sign up?
A: Once you have qualified, you can register here. After filling out the first registration form, please also fill out the accommodation form found on that same page.  We’ll then send you a list of release forms to sign, the Terms and Conditions of Participation, and invoice, and instructions for how to submit payment if you chose to pay by US check or wire transfer. If you chose to pay by credit card or Paypal, you can submit your payment here.

Arrival and Departure / Passport and Visa

Q: When should I plan on arriving and leaving?
A: You must arrive in San Juan on July 18 (unless you are participating in the International Geography Bee World Championships as well, in which case, you need to arrive in San Juan on July 11). Of course, you are welcome and encouraged, if traveling with family members, to arrive prior to that date if you wish to have more time to explore Puerto Rico and/or recover from jet lag.
We strongly advise you to pick an itinerary that lands in San Juan before 8pm on July 18 if at all possible. The Olympiad will end by 9am on July 26 once the ship arrives back in San Juan; please do not book flights out before 11am that day. We can provide an extra night’s lodging on July 26 for a fee.
Olympiad staff will be unable to chaperone or pick up students prior to 6am on July 18. If students are not traveling with family or guardians, please do not book flights that arrive prior to July 18 unless you accept that students will be unaccompanied upon arrival until 6am on July 18.

Q: What about accommodations on July 18 when we will be in Puerto Rico but not on board the ship?
A: We are in the process of designating official accommodations on the night of July 18. These accommodations will be located within a few miles of the San Juan International Airport (and thus within a 20-30 minute drive of Old San Juan). Accommodations on the night of July 18 will be included in the cost of the Olympiad for competing students only.

Q: Do US citizens need a passport to enter Puerto Rico / come on the cruise?
A: US citizens do not need a passport to enter Puerto Rico; a government issued photo ID and a copy of a birth certificate is fine. Likewise, cruise passengers do not pass through customs / passport control on any island during the cruise, except when returning to Puerto Rico. However… it is a 2020 Intl. History Olympiad rule that all US students who are coming DO need a passport since in an emergency, if you had to return home from one of the islands we will be visiting, you would need a passport to fly out and enter the USA. We will need to see a copy of a valid passport from all students in advance of the Olympiad (i.e. in spring 2020), however, this is not needed at the time of registration and payment.
Please also be sure to view this page on Carnival’s website for further details on travel documentation for US citizens.

Q: Do non-US citizens need a passport or visa to enter Puerto Rico / come on the cruise?
A: Yes, all non-US citizens will need a passport. Visa requirements will vary from country to country for entering the USA and Puerto Rico, but in general, a multiple entry visa to the USA will often be needed unless your country participates in the visa waiver program. You will also need an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). International Academic Competitions can provide written letters confirming participation for those who need a visa, but it is ultimately up to participants to make sure that all visas and passports are valid and taken care of as needed.
Please also see this page on Carnival’s website for further details on travel documentation if you are from Canada and this website if you are neither a US or Canadian citizen.


Q: How do I and those traveling with me sign up for accommodations?

A: Once you have filled out the registration form, you should also fill out the accommodation form that can be found on this page.  Based on this information, we will book your cabins.

Q: Do I have to stay on the Carnival Fascination to compete at the 2020 International History Olympiad?
A: Yes. Even if you have a private yacht that is capable of shadowing the cruise ship, there are no exceptions to the rule that all participants in the 2020 Olympiad must also sail on the Carnival Fascination.

Q: Can I share a room with my friends?
A: We will try to accommodate rooming preferences as much as possible but cannot make any guarantees. Please indicate rooming preferences when you register.

Q: Who will take care of the students?
A: A team composed of IAC staff members and teachers will staff the Olympiad and take care of the students.


Q: Do students need to come with a coach or parent?
No, they don’t. We will provide chaperones. The exception to this is students born in 2009 who must come with a parent or legal guardian.

Q: Can coaches attend?
Coaches are welcome to attend but they will need to register and pay registration fees.

Q: Can parents, family members, and family friends attend?
Unlike other academic Olympiads which don’t allow parents, family members, and family friends, they are welcome at the International History Olympiad, in fact, we have a whole program of events for them! Parents attending the Olympiad who wish to watch any events must register and follow the protocols outlined here.


Q: What language is the International History Olympiad held in?
A: The Olympiad’s official language is English. If English is not your mother tongue, we can provide you with a bilingual dictionary that you can use for all the non-buzzer-based events.

Q: What are the age divisions offered at the Olympiad?
A: For the 2020 International History Olympiad, we will offer three divisions at the Olympiad: Varsity, Junior Varsity and Middle School. At the 2020 Olympiad students have the option to select which age division they compete will compete in. Students may select one of two options:

The birthdate divisions cut offs are: Varsity (born August 2003 or earlier), Junior Varsity (born September 2003-August 2005), Middle School (born September 2005-December 2009).

The grade-based division cut offs are:
Varsity – Final 2 years of schooling per normal alignment (if a student is planning on skipping a year, this is not taken into account) in a student’s school in the 2019-2020 school year (Northern Hemisphere or academic year schools [i.e. July-October 2019 through May-August 2020]) or 2019 school year (South Asia, Southern Hemisphere, and calendar year schools).
Junior Varsity – The 2 years of schooling prior to Varsity eligibility per the above criteria.
Middle School – The 2 years of school prior to Junior Varsity eligibility (born September 2005-August 2007)
Elementary Division – The 3 years of school prior to Middle School eligibility (born September 2007-December 2010)

In the vast majority of cases, a student’s age division would be the same by either the birthdate or grade-based criteria. By these criteria, any student in the USA, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand will also be able to play in the division that they were eligible to compete in at the most recent tournaments held in their countries.

Note that if a student qualified in the middle school division in the 2018-2019 academic year but is now JV eligible (or qualified in Junior Varsity, but is now Varsity eligible), then they do NOT need to requalify for the Olympiad in the 2019-2020 academic year, but they MUST compete only in the age division that they are eligible for. Thus unless a student is still birthdate eligible in the Middle School division, a student who competed in 8th grade in North America in 2018-2019, and who is in 9th grade in 2019-2020 must compete in the Junior Varsity division at the Olympiad. If a student in such a case is birthdate eligible to still compete in the Middle School division, then they may do that if they choose, or they can compete in the Junior Varsity division instead.

Q: Which country or US state can I represent?
At the Olympiad, each student will have a specific affiliation (i.e. country or US State). You are eligible to compete for a country or US State if any of these methods apply to you:  1) you have citizenship of that country  (or for India, are an Overseas Citizen of India)  2) you were born in that country or US state  3) you reside in that country or state for the majority of the 2019-2020 academic year (August 2019-June 2020)  4) you attended a school (but not university) in that country or state at the time you qualified for the Olympiad. You can only select one affiliation. This can be adjusted later if needed until July 1, 2020.
Students from Hong Kong and Macau or with passports from those locations may play for either for them or for the People’s Republic of China. Students from North Korea will play on a unified Korea team. Students from subnational territories should contact Olympiad staff for a ruling on representation eligibility.

Q: How many medals will be awarded?
A: Numerous events will be held, but only one gold, one silver, and one bronze medal will be distributed per event, per division (though for team events, all team members will receive medals).

Q: What are the buzzer-based quiz events?
A: These are the events which are played with a buzzer system. These are sometimes called quiz bowl events, though note that they are all individual, not team-based, except for the International History Bowl World Championships.

Q: What’s the difference between the Bee and the Bowl?
A: Real simple here – the Bee is for individual students; the Bowl is for teams.

Q: How are teams formed?
At the Olympiad, citizens and residents of the USA will represent their state, while citizens and residents of the rest of the world will represent their country. The first 100 questions of the Battery (not the entire exam in 2020!) will be used to determine the composition of National and State teams for the team events at the Olympiad. Note that the first 100 questions will include questions of varying difficulties on the history of all eras and regions of the world. Normally, the top three students from a country or state will form the A Team for that country of state, the next top three scoring students will form Team B and so on per age group. However, some teams may consist of just two students due to the need for rounding, while solo students will be paired up either with a higher age division within one’s country or state or with students from a different country or state. Solo teams will not be permitted.

Q: Is there going to be an Olympiad “Champion”?
A: For each division, there will be an individual champion (the combined highest position in the History Bee, Battery, and Written Exam). There will also be a champion country or state based on the highest position in the medals count (this is for all divisions combined).
If there are ties, ties will be broken on the rank points principle through a final tiebreaker consisting of 5 quiz bowl style buzzer questions, 1 short answer prompt (6 sentences maximum), and 5 multiple choice questions, with all parts having equal weight. If, for example, 2 students each score the same on the multiple choice, this tie will only be broken if needed (through additional multiple choice questions as necessary) to determine the medal positions (i.e. if two students tie on multiple choice, but then one other students wins both the other parts, then the tie isn’t broken).
Ties will be broken for the top 3 overall spots.

If you have any other questions, just drop us an email at