Improving as a geography player?

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Improving as a geography player?

Post by Al Hirt » Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:02 pm

Coming into my first year of Quizbowl last fall, I started out as a history/geo/current events player. My history and current events have become acceptable enough to contend at some local tournaments, but I still find myself waiting longer than I'd like on geo questions. I've never actually studied for quiz bowl until now (just something my team has never really promoted), so I was looking for any good ways to improve my geography knowledge. I've always poured over atlases and maps, but there are probably more efficient and interesting ways. Thanks to all of you in advance.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by High Dependency Unit » Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:38 pm

Geography bee experience is key to becoming a really good geography player, but I'm guessing you don't have that. If you want some reference books on what's important, you can try Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. It gives a fairly good outline, and it has maps in it as well. You could also try doing questions.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Al Hirt » Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:44 pm

geolawyerman wrote:Geography bee experience is key to becoming a really good geography player, but I'm guessing you don't have that. If you want some reference books on what's important, you can try Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. It gives a fairly good outline, and it has maps in it as well. You could also try doing questions.
Actually, I went pretty far in my state for geobee, the problem is more I feel my geo knowledge stagnating while my history knowledge improves. I should probably have stated its not like I'm completely new to geography in any case, I'm just looking to do more than beating up on inexperienced teams. I appreciate the input though.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by High Dependency Unit » Fri Aug 09, 2013 7:27 pm

Honestly, I probably have more knowledge than you (I won CT 3 times), but I'm also unsure about where to go from here.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by AKKOLADE » Fri Aug 09, 2013 7:31 pm

Read about geography more, post about geo bee titles less.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by The Bold Ideas of Bernie Sanders (I-VT) » Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:15 pm

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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Schmidt Sting Pain Index » Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:37 pm

EBAcademicTeam wrote:I've always poured over atlases and maps, but there are probably more efficient and interesting ways.


Actually, I would say atlases are the best way to prepare. Using them with wikipedia should work well to get all the cultural stuff and more obscure physical features that are not present in atlases. In addition to that, I would google "largest cities in" whatever country. I forget the exact website I used, but I would go and memorize lists of the largest cities in each countries. I would memorize like the 10 largest cities in each country as a baseline and then memorize any additional cities with a population of 50,000. Then I would locate these cities using Google Maps. I would say this has worked great. You should be able to get any geography question on the first "actual" geography clue.

Edit: I would also recommend memorizing all the provinces/subdivisions for each country, not just the major ones. That helps a ton on geography on higher level stuff like SCT and ICT. Using purposegames.com for this has worked well for me.
Last edited by Schmidt Sting Pain Index on Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Sniper, No Sniping! » Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:44 pm

If you have a decent grip with current events and history, you're starting off with a better groundwork than someone who doesn't.

You should most definitely read a ton, and if and when possible, watch programs on any educational/interesting broadcast. World geography isn't something you can master overnight. Since the answer space is so huge and there's only a small number of geography questions in a total set, you might hear a tossup on say, the Danube river, only twice a year. And since there's almost always a new, refreshing lead-in, you'd be really wasting your time if you only focused on mastering that Danube river.

There are a few common trends in quiz bowl geography. Some NAQT geography questions can be written almost like a history toss-up, or use tons of clues that are history relevant. Instance, a toss-up on Nigeria may drop the city of Port Harcourt. Now, why would they drop that? Do you know what's in Port Harcourt? Absolutely huge oil refineries, suffice to say Port Harcourt is to Nigeria what Odessa, Texas is to America when it comes to oil. Or... a tossup on Nigeria may mention Biafra. If you know why Biafra is important, then you'd know what country you'd find it. If you know Francisco Franco fought the Rif War in Morrocco, and you know the Atlas Mountains is in that area, if you hear the "Rif Mountains", it could be Morrocco or the Atlas Mountains they're looking for.

American geography in all honesty you used to able to swing by knowing cities in states. More likely than not you'll find those boring geography tossups on a U.S. state that just list off cities, but now you may see a lot more tossups that drop highest peaks, national parks etc as clues. And it's not hard to know where cities are, if you expose yourself to the news a bit.

Another thought; when you hear a lead-in drop "this region", definitely have in your mind it might be asking for a U.S. state, Canadian province, or a constituent of the U.K.

TL;DR - just read a ton and expose yourself to the news. Do that and you're better than 80% of the geography players at any average tournament. Hope you found this insight helpful, coming from a considerably good geography player who actually has played high school quiz bowl before.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Sniper, No Sniping! » Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:54 pm

Also, I'll say this about atlases. They can be pretty great tools if you enjoy them. I don't use an atlas that much, namely because the good ones can get expensive and the not-so-good ones can bore you to tears. If you really want a near-complete knowledge of world geography, supplement what you learn from the atlas with what you learn about those places from news stories, historical events, etc. And be aware of how old some used atlases can be! That may sound stupid, but it still comes as a shock to some people that Montenegro is its own separate country, there's now a country called "South Sudan". You won't learn as much from an atlas published 25 years ago as you would an atlas published one of two years ago.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:11 pm

Mr. Scogan wrote:Also, I'll say this about atlases. They can be pretty great tools if you enjoy them. I don't use an atlas that much, namely because the good ones can get expensive and the not-so-good ones can bore you to tears. If you really want a near-complete knowledge of world geography, supplement what you learn from the atlas with what you learn about those places from news stories, historical events, etc. And be aware of how old some used atlases can be! That may sound stupid, but it still comes as a shock to some people that Montenegro is its own separate country, there's now a country called "South Sudan". You won't learn as much from an atlas published 25 years ago as you would an atlas published one of two years ago.
A few years back at HSNCT, a team got eliminated on a one-question margin because they said the prior name for a country whose name had changed since (e.g. "Zaire" instead of "DR-Congo") and got negged for it. The kid's atlas was printed in the year before the name change took effect.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Important Bird Area » Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:14 pm

NAQT correctness guidelines C.18. wrote:Historical names of countries, cities, and other political entities are generally not acceptable if the question does not involve the time period in which they were in use.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Important Bird Area » Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:16 pm

Mr. Scogan wrote:If you have a decent grip with current events and history, you're starting off with a better groundwork than someone who doesn't.

...

Just read a ton and expose yourself to the news. Do that and you're better than 80% of the geography players at any average tournament.
I just wanted to say that this is good advice (and also much more rewarding than memorizing lists).
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Al Hirt » Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:31 pm

Thanks for the input, I appreciate it.

Varun: Yeah, I've tried to learn provinces before at least for Canada/Australia. That seems like a method worth trying; I would like to think I know basically the primate cities along with a few others for most nations, it's really physical geography I struggle with more. But actually studying using your method would probably be far better. I'll definitely try.

Tom: I've managed to memorize the major peaks in each state (and mountain ranges), so that really helps in American geo. It's more world geography that I would like to really improve on. The history parts I tend to get, but I'm generally terrible compared to most geo specialists at physical geography. So that's probably something that can really help me out. I'm an avid news buff and tend to use all sorts of sources to follow events (hence my relative adequacy in current events), but that hasn't helped me all too much beyond the pre-FTP region in geography. It could simply be something as simple as knowledge retention.

This whole "studying" part of quiz bowl is pretty much foreign to my team, which is probably why we don't do as well as some of the other teams in the state. Hopefully, we can change that. Once again, I welcome any input you guys have.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by vinteuil » Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:42 pm

EBAcademicTeam wrote:Thanks for the input, I appreciate it.

Varun: Yeah, I've tried to learn provinces before at least for Canada/Australia. That seems like a method worth trying; I would like to think I know basically the primate cities along with a few others for most nations, it's really physical geography I struggle with more. But actually studying using your method would probably be far better. I'll definitely try.

Tom: I've managed to memorize the major peaks in each state (and mountain ranges), so that really helps in American geo. It's more world geography that I would like to really improve on. The history parts I tend to get, but I'm generally terrible compared to most geo specialists at physical geography. So that's probably something that can really help me out. I'm an avid news buff and tend to use all sorts of sources to follow events (hence my relative adequacy in current events), but that hasn't helped me all too much beyond the pre-FTP region in geography. It could simply be something as simple as knowledge retention.

This whole "studying" part of quiz bowl is pretty much foreign to my team, which is probably why we don't do as well as some of the other teams in the state. Hopefully, we can change that. Once again, I welcome any input you guys have.
One fun thing that's a marginal improvement on rote list memorization is going through wikipedia's lists of largest deserts/longest rivers etc. in the world/by country and clicking on links and skimming/reading the articles to get some actual information to go with the names—I've gotten a fair amount of mileage out of that.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Tanay » Fri Aug 09, 2013 10:25 pm

Mr. Scogan wrote:If you have a decent grip with current events and history, you're starting off with a better groundwork than someone who doesn't.

You should most definitely read a ton, and if and when possible, watch programs on any educational/interesting broadcast. World geography isn't something you can master overnight. Since the answer space is so huge and there's only a small number of geography questions in a total set, you might hear a tossup on say, the Danube river, only twice a year. And since there's almost always a new, refreshing lead-in, you'd be really wasting your time if you only focused on mastering that Danube river.

There are a few common trends in quiz bowl geography. Some NAQT geography questions can be written almost like a history toss-up, or use tons of clues that are history relevant. Instance, a toss-up on Nigeria may drop the city of Port Harcourt. Now, why would they drop that? Do you know what's in Port Harcourt? Absolutely huge oil refineries, suffice to say Port Harcourt is to Nigeria what Odessa, Texas is to America when it comes to oil. Or... a tossup on Nigeria may mention Biafra. If you know why Biafra is important, then you'd know what country you'd find it. If you know Francisco Franco fought the Rif War in Morrocco, and you know the Atlas Mountains is in that area, if you hear the "Rif Mountains", it could be Morrocco or the Atlas Mountains they're looking for.

American geography in all honesty you used to able to swing by knowing cities in states. More likely than not you'll find those boring geography tossups on a U.S. state that just list off cities, but now you may see a lot more tossups that drop highest peaks, national parks etc as clues. And it's not hard to know where cities are, if you expose yourself to the news a bit.

Another thought; when you hear a lead-in drop "this region", definitely have in your mind it might be asking for a U.S. state, Canadian province, or a constituent of the U.K.

TL;DR - just read a ton and expose yourself to the news. Do that and you're better than 80% of the geography players at any average tournament. Hope you found this insight helpful, coming from a considerably good geography player who actually has played high school quiz bowl before.
This is a great post on the topic. As someone who has far outkicked their coverage on geography questions compared to time spent explicitly studying for the subject, I've found very little utility in memorizing the highest peaks in different states or countries. Knowing the highest peak in Senegal or Peru will help you zero or one times in your quizbowl career (especially as you trend toward college geography questions, which I see using less and less trivia like "highest peaks"--hopefully "second-largest city" is the next geography trend to meet a similar end). Knowing who the Wolof are, or where tourists might find the Huaca del Sol, is much more useful; indeed, knowing these things would have gotten you powers at this year's SCT in categories that are not geography. In addition to reading the news, I've really enjoyed reading tourism-related pages for different areas of the world I've always wanted to visit. Unsurprisingly, these clues will often be among the "interesting" things writers want to include when they're putting together a question about a certain part of the world.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Schmidt Sting Pain Index » Fri Aug 09, 2013 11:20 pm

Similar to what others have said, if you are looking for something more interesting to read, I found reading all the descriptions for World Heritage sites on the UNESCO website to be really interesting, and I have gotten a decent amount of points through it.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Corry » Sat Aug 10, 2013 2:20 am

As somebody who managed to become a sort-of-HSNCT-competitive geography player in less than three months, my general observation has been that memorizing lists of world capitals and tallest peaks and largest whatevers is not only extremely boring, but also pretty useless in most levels of gameplay. It seems like most geography tossups these days are written specifically to avoid rewarding "list knowledge", in that they don't want to just encourage people to memorize long lists of stuff. On that same note, I'm not a huge fan of the "How to win the National Geographic Bee" type of books, because most of them tend to focus exclusively on rote memorization of lists of random junk with no context. While geography is (arguably) more focused on memorization than any other subject in high-school quiz bowl, the straight-out list method of memorization is just mind-numbing.

Personally, I used flash cards. They're not a "recommended" method of studying around these parts (so kill me), but I've always been a visual learner; in fact, that's why I like geography in the first place. Essentially, I just read through about 100 NAQT packets that Arcadia's team had lying around, parsing for interesting clues from previous geography tossups and bonuses. Emphasis on interesting-- for instance, I hate learning about cities, so I hardly paid any attention to those sorts of clues. On the other hand, I've always been interested in the shape of mountain ranges and rivers and bodies of waters. So I attached a relevant image/photo to every flash card I made.

By the time HSNCT came around, I had about 400 flash cards worth of physical geography ranging from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Rio Conchos River. I even had a flash card for some "cultural" geography stuff, including the Wolof people mentioned by Tanay. In retrospect, I think this method worked pretty well-- I was able to convert at least 2/3 of the questions in virtually every geography bonus at nationals, for instance.

This method won't work for everyone. It worked for me because I thought making flash cards was fun. If you would rather blow your brains out than spend 50 hours of your life making flash cards, then perhaps reading an atlas would be more appropriate. Different strokes for different folks.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Corry » Sat Aug 10, 2013 2:26 am

Tanay wrote:Knowing the highest peak in Senegal or Peru will help you zero or one times in your quizbowl career (especially as you trend toward college geography questions, which I see using less and less trivia like "highest peaks"--hopefully "second-largest city" is the next geography trend to meet a similar end).
Seriously, I hate this crap soooo much. Who cares what the third-largest city in BULGARIA is?!?!
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by i never see pigeons in wheeling » Sat Aug 10, 2013 2:48 am

Corry wrote:
Tanay wrote:Knowing the highest peak in Senegal or Peru will help you zero or one times in your quizbowl career (especially as you trend toward college geography questions, which I see using less and less trivia like "highest peaks"--hopefully "second-largest city" is the next geography trend to meet a similar end).
Seriously, I hate this crap soooo much. Who cares what the third-largest city in BULGARIA is?!?!
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity » Sat Aug 10, 2013 12:45 pm

I'll echo spending half an hour every night watching your favorite network's evening world news. Aside from geography, you get some history, ce, and other stuff. Also, King of the Hill. I've gotten probably two tossups on Laos based on the show's mentions of Luang Prabang.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by cchiego » Sat Aug 10, 2013 3:00 pm

Use the highest points not as an end in themselves, but rather as a gateway to a country's geography. The highest point in a country is often in a mountain range, and often in the highest mountain range in that country. Start looking around from there and you'll start to see some interesting sights. For instance, just in Africa you'll run into the fascinating Rwenzoris in Uganda, the volcanic highlands of the Tibesti in Chad, the mountain crocodiles (!) in Mauritania, and the rock art of the Brandberg in Namibia.

I'm personally a big proponent of understanding the geology that got the geography to be that way it is now. It hasn't gotten me many points, but when mentions of specific formations and orogenies do come up it's usually very early in a geography question. This is fun to do with an atlas (or Google Earth) when you can look up a strange-looking set of terrain and try to figure out how it ended up there.

You might also want to look through National Geographic magazines (usually found in bundles in your local library) since those can provide powerful visual cues in photos, interesting stories about geographically significant places, and really fun maps.

The other advice about understanding history and geography together is spot-on as well.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Al Hirt » Sat Aug 10, 2013 3:04 pm

Habitat_Against_Humanity wrote:I'll echo spending half an hour every night watching your favorite network's evening world news. Aside from geography, you get some history, ce, and other stuff. Also, King of the Hill. I've gotten probably two tossups on Laos based on the show's mentions of Luang Prabang.
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My goal is to theoretically get every geo question by the end of the power range in Naqt packets. I can get most questions by FTP and the rest at the giveaway, but that's useles when playing good teams. If I can consistently power geo questions, it'd be a nice addition to my arsenal in a state where my other two strengths seem to be ubiquitous. I used to play protobowl, but it's only good for fun scrimmages when you have limited time. It's a pretty useless source when it comes to actually learning anything aside from giveaways.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Panayot Hitov » Mon Aug 12, 2013 10:38 pm

For US natural geo: Go hiking.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Great Bustard » Sat Aug 17, 2013 3:14 am

For current events (with lots of geo overlap), go with The Economist, The New Yorker, and especially The New York Times. The network news broadcasts are honestly pretty useless these days; 80% of them is either commercials or human interest stories with no relevance to quizbowl. Beyond that, if you haven't yet looked at the USGO Nationals set on hsapq.com, do that.
In terms of capitals, Bobby Dorigo-Jones, Raynell Cooper and I put together a series of notes for the ACE geography classes we taught over the summer. We also broke all the national capitals down into 4 tiers. Tier 1 you know by being an intelligent human. Tier 4 you don't (by and large) need to. Tier 2 and 3 - you need to, if you don't. Email me if you want these - we'll also post them to geographyolympiad.com within the next month.
Beyond that, there's a good amount of geography in NHBB questions (and some history in the USGO set), so playing our tournaments, as well as NAQT is your best bet to get geo experience. The USGO qualifying exams also have 150 interesting things worth knowing about geography (and add another 100 things from our Nationals tests too).
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by The Polebarn Hotel » Mon Aug 19, 2013 10:39 pm

I memorized all of the world's capitals just because I wanted to, and I have to say it has helped in some situations. I recall getting a Brunei tossup on Bandar Seri Begawan (I didn't know anything else about the country though, haha).

I definitely want to learn geography just so I can connect it to my history knowledge. Flash cards work well for me, but I don't really know where to start.
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Re: Improving as a geography player?

Post by Joshua Rutsky » Wed Aug 21, 2013 12:49 pm

"The World", a one hour radio program broadcast by PRI (Public Radio International), was one of my favorite ways to learn about distant and unusual places. I picked up a lot of interesting stuff on my daily commute home that way. It is available on podcast.

Even now, twenty-plus years after I was forced to memorize all the nations of the world, their capitals, and the "major" rivers and mountain ranges that passed through them for an absolutely sadistic one-time-only geography test in my high school history class, I still know most of that material, and can frequently beat my students to geo questions based on that background and on a few travel channel specials.

I agree that geo knowledge, particularly geo bee knowledge, tends to get overwritten by other material in HS, but as others have said, integrating it with knowledge of historical events is a good way to prevent that. Knowing the rivers and mountains where major civil war battles were fought will certainly help you on those toss-ups as well as geo questions, for example. It also helped me to hang a world map on my wall where I would see it every day; my eyes were inevitably drawn to it at least a few times, and you tend to remember what you see over and over again.
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