Frequently Asked Questions

Question not answered here? Feel free to reach out to [email protected]

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 is announced when registration opens in January.

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 onwards. Contact us at [email protected] for questions and clarifications.

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

Camp is held at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. Its location provides access to numerous outcrops of rock formations and proximity to the National Weather Center in Oklahoma City.

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

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

Up to 40 students in the USESO Training Camp. Up 26 students in the LEES Program. Our staff to student ratio is normally about 1:4.

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 Questions. 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 2023, the USESO is not sponsored by a larger organization like many other olympiads (e.g. USABO, USAMO, etc.).

Students selected from the Training Camp for the next U.S. Earth Science Team cohort are recognized for their demonstrations of knowledge and problem-solving from exams, ability to conduct and present a rigorous investigation into Earth science topics, and teamspersonship throughout the camp.

8 total. Traditionally, 4 are on the officially competing team and 4 are “guest competitors.” During virtual IESO years, these two groups were not distinguished.

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

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