Students will have opportunities to compete in several exam-based competitions, including the following multiple-choice exams. Note that the Battery Exam is required for all students, while all other multiple-choice exams listed below are optional.
All Olympiad multiple-choice exams are scored the same way: 2 points per correct response, 0 points for no response, and -1 point per incorrect response. The Battery consists of a total of 400 questions; all other exams listed herein consist of 75 questions.
The Battery Exam is a required individual event at the Olympiad. For all age divisions, it counts towards one-third of the individual Olympiad Championship. The Battery, however, is also an event in its own right, with 400 multiple-choice questions on all aspects, eras, and places in history. Note that in 2023, the Battery will be used to determine seedings in the International History Bee World Championships. The preliminary round results of the International History Bee World Championships will then determine the composition of teams for the International History Bowl World Championships and the Hextathlon.
Normally, the top three students from a country or state will form the A Team for that country or 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 with students from a different country and/or state in their same division. Solo teams will not be permitted.
In 2023, there will be two separate versions of the Battery Exam. The Middle School and Elementary Division will consist of questions that primarily deal with direct knowledge of topics in history (i.e. shorter questions focusing more on specific facts). The Varsity and Junior Varsity Division will consist of questions that primarily deal with applied knowledge of topics in history and historical analysis (somewhat similar to Advanced Placement exam questions). For the Varsity and Junior Varsity Division Battery Exam, direct knowledge of historical topics will still be important, but for most questions, greater insight than just recalling facts in and of themselves will be required. For example, “Which Mongol conqueror was born with the name Temujin?” would be an appropriate Middle School and Elementary level question. “Which of these was a consequence of the period in history referred to as the Pax Mongolica?” would be an appropriate Varsity and Junior Varsity Division question. Note that question difficulty on both versions of the exam will vary widely within the 400 questions; these sample questions are not meant to reflect the difficulty of all or most questions on the Exam (and of course, on the actual exam, four possible answer choices will be provided too).
2023 International History Olympiad Battery Exam Question Distribution Specifications:
30 USA (including colonial period)
50 Europe (until 1648)
50 Europe (since 1648)
40 Other Americas (Canada, Latin America, Caribbean)
50 Africa (including Ancient Egypt, Carthage, etc.)
20 Australia / New Zealand / Oceania
40 South Asia (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan)
30 East Asia / Southeast Asia
30 Middle East (including ancient) / Central Asia
20 Any / Mixed / Other
Speed is of the essence; students have roughly 20 seconds per question; the Varsity and Junior Varsity Division Battery Exam is expected to take 130 minutes, and the Middle School and Elementary Division Battery Exam is expected to take 120 minutes. There will be one bathroom break in the middle of the exam; the second part of the exam will only be distributed after this, and students will not be able to go back and fix answers from the first part of the exam after the first part is over.
South Asian History Exam
The questions on the South Asian History Exam may be either more in line with the simpler approach featured in the questions on the Middle School and Elementary version of the Battery Exam or the more analytical approach featured in the questions on the Varsity and Junior Varsity version of the Battery Exam. Note that for syllabus purposes, this exam will cover a region including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and the Chagos Archipelago. A more specific distribution of eras in history and locations in South Asia will be forthcoming in advance of the Olympiad.
Latin American & Caribbean History Exam
The 2023 Olympiad will see the debut of the Latin American and Caribbean History Exam, covering the history of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. More information about this exam, including a syllabus, will be posted in advance of the Olympiad.
Middle Eastern & African History Exam
The 2023 International History Olympiad will feature an exam on the history of the countries and peoples of Africa and the Middle East. It will feature questions on African history spanning from Mesopotamia and the Great Rift Valley to twentieth-century decolonization efforts and the modern era. The questions on this exam may also include questions regarding interactions between the Middle East, Africa, and European powers; while the exam does not cover current events, there will be questions on recent history included. More information about this exam, including a syllabus, will be posted in advance of the Olympiad.
East Asian History Exam
In buzzer-based competitions at the International History Olympiad, Western history comprises the majority of the questions. To give more emphasis to the history of East Asia, home to roughly a third of the world’s population, we will be again offering the East Asian History Exam at the 2023 Olympiad.
The questions on the East Asian History Exam may be either more in line with the simpler approach featured in the questions on the Middle School and Elementary version of the Battery Exam or the more analytical approach featured in the questions on the Varsity and Junior Varsity version of the Battery Exam. Note that for syllabus purposes, this exam will cover both East Asia and Southeast Asia (i.e. any country shaded in yellow or red in the map shown on this page). A more specific distribution of eras in history and locations in East Asia will be forthcoming in advance of the Olympiad.
Modern European History Exam
The 2023 Olympiad will see the debut of the Modern European History Exam, covering the history of Europe from the French Revolution through the beginning of the twenty-first century. More information about this exam, including a syllabus, will be posted in advance of the Olympiad.