Frequently Asked Questions

Question not answered here? Feel free to reach out using our contact information below. 

[email protected]

General inquiries, financial assistance, and registration-related matters

[email protected]

Questions about assessments, preparation, and resources

Any middle or high school may take the exam, although only high school students that permanently reside in the US will be eligible to attend the Training Camp (see Eligibility under Training Camp). Students register for the exam from our website in the spring. On the day of the Open Exam, examinees test online with a teacher proctoring.

The date and time of the National Open Exam will be announced when registration opens around January – February.

Alternate test dates are granted on a case-by-case basis. Email us before the registration deadline at [email protected]

To begin, read the syllabus and unofficial guide under Preparation for some recommended texts/info. Taking past IESO exams is also recommended.

Samples of questions in both the National Open Exam and Training Camp exams can be found at Past Exams. Please note that their style has changed recently; future exams will most likely resemble those from 2021. Contact us at [email protected] for questions and clarifications.

Not really. In general, the USESO is more conceptual.

Camp is held each year at the University of Vermont. Its location provides access to numerous outcrops of rock formations and sites for lake/stream studies.

Year-specific camp information is sent to students through email.

Didn’t get an email that you should have? Check in with [email protected]

Less than 40 students in the USESO Training Camp. Less than 26 students in the Junior Program. Our staff to student ratio is normally about 1:6.

In our selection of the 40 students for Training Camp, we will consider the National Open Exam Score, the National Open Exam Registration Form, and the [OPTIONAL] Supplementary Essay. The highest scoring 16 students on the Open Exam will be invited to the USESO Training Camp. The remaining 24 students and waitlist will be selected based on a holistic review of all submitted materials conducted by a selection committee consisting of USESO’s volunteer staff and board.

For many students, one of the highlights of USESO is connecting with each other both over a common interest in Earth science and the opportunity to meet peers from across the country. Campers are placed into small teams to collaborate on projects that take them into the field and in front of the presentation screen. Outside of team work, team members often dine together, help each other with camp activities, and leave camp having forged new friendships.

Training Camp: Students can attend the Training Camp as many times as they would like, as long as they meet eligibility requirements and are selected from the National Open Exam the year of camp.

IESO: Those that travel to IESO, which includes main and guest competitors, may only attend once to both camp and IESO. 

Exception: Due to cancellation or a virtual format, the members of the 2020 and 2021 U.S. Earth Science Teams have the choice of returning to camp if eligible.

As of September 2021, the USESO is not sponsored by a larger organization like many other olympiads (e.g. USABO, USAMO, etc.).

8 total: 4 on the officially competing team and 4 guest competitors if the host country allows. The officially competing team is primarily merit-based, while the guests are chosen largely based on their ability to work well with others, as the team competition (International Team Field Investigation/Earth Systems Project) is where they will be competing.

Guests cannot receive medals in the individual competition even though they still sit for it. However, they CAN receive medals in the team competition.

Thank you so much! We can certainly use your help. Feel free to shoot a message or email to Ben Choi ([email protected]).