USESO Training Camp

Eligibility & Selection Process

All participants of the Training Camp must meet the following requirements:

  • Attended 9-12th grade in the spring prior to Camp.
  • Fluent in English. The official language of the International Earth Science Olympiad (IESO) is English.
  • Permanent resident of the United States (i.e. U.S. citizen or Green Card holder). Students do not need to have a U.S. Passport to participate in USESO programs or the IESO.

For the full statutes of age eligibility for the IESO, please visit the IESO site.


The USESO Training Camp is for high school students of all grades, and generally runs in late June/early July. See the Calendar page for this year’s exact dates. Only students from this program are eligible to represent the USA at the international level. To enter, students must be selected from a qualifying exam covering the Geosphere, Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, and Astronomy related to the Solar System.

National Open Exam

Participants for the USESO Training Camp are chosen from students achieving the top scores on a national open exam designed to assess general Earth science content knowledge. Students from any high school may take the Open Exam. Younger students may also take the exam, but do not qualify for selection to the Training Camp.

The top scoring 40 students will be accepted under the following limitations: 

  • Only the top two students from any high school may attend the summer program.
  • Regional limits apply so that no more than ten students may come from the same state each year. 

We limit the number of students who are accepted to our programs so as to promote student diversity and to run a national program that better represents our country at the international level.

ยป To register for the USESO 2020 open exam, please submit the relevant forms. Current exam details are outlined in this document.

Past national open exams are available here.

Training Camp

  • 40 qualifying students from the National Open Exam

Students from other countries come to the international event after several years of study. Thus, students are expected to come to the USESO Training Camp with a solid foundation in Earth science. Throughout the program, students will go on field trips, conduct field investigations, attend lectures from guest presenters, and conduct research using both collected data and online resources. Students will be placed on teams and given projects similar to the challenges at the IESO. Further, students will be administered daily exams to assess the breadth and depth of Earth science knowledge and skills gained both prior to and during the summer program.

Upon conclusion of the USESO Training Camp, test score totals will be considered along with team investigation scores to select the students for the U.S. Earth Science Team.

U.S. Earth Science Team, IESO

  • Main Team: 4 qualifying students from the Training Camp
  • Guest Team: 4 additional students from the Training Camp

Each year, the top four qualifying students from the Training Camp are selected for the International Team. In many years, up to four additional guest students may travel with the team. Guests cannot qualify for individual medals, but may participate and win awards in the International Team events. These events give students from up to ten countries the opportunity to collaborate on projects examining real-world issues. The USESO recognizes the International Team events as the most important aspect of the IESO for representing global work in the field of Earth science.

Students and mentors of the U.S. Earth Science Team at the 10th International Earth Science Olympiad in Japan.

Eligibility for the international program is as follows:

“Participants should not have been born before July 1, X-19, where X is the year of the Olympiad. The participants must not be university/college students. They can only be students of secondary/high school. If they have already graduated before the competition, the organizer must be informed about the date of their graduation. A student who has already participated in an IESO, and who wants to participate in a subsequent IESO may do so only as a guest student and not as a member of a national team. This means that the student will not be eligible for any medals at the second or subsequent IESO.”

– IESO Statutes


Students at the USESO Training Camp taking exams that will later determine the students for the U.S. Earth Science Team.
Analyzing a shale outcrop in Vermont for later use in an analysis of the Lake Champlain basin in a mock ITFI.
Examining an anticline for use in team research projects.
Collecting data at a local stream in Vermont for later analysis of water quality and historical flood patterns.