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The final round of the 2012 National Geographic Bee takes place Thursday, with students between the fourth and eighth grades testing their knowledge of countries, canals and lava lakes. Of the 54 contestants who came to the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., for the bee, only 10 remain.
Three of those finalists — Gopi Ramanathan, 14, of Minnesota; Neelam Sandhu, 13, of New Hampshire; and Anthony Stoner, 14, of Louisiana — spoke with Morning Edition on Wednesday, as they awaited the finals.
The geography bee questions "can be very easy or very tough," Ramanathan says. "Like, for instance, in the preliminary rounds — and for this one, you have to remember that I'm a Sri Lankan Tamil that's a Hindu — the question was, 'Hindus make up the majority of the Tamil minority in what island country?' And the answer was Sri Lanka."
Correct answers can also be found by deduction. For instance, one question asked what country disputes France's claim to Europa Island, which lies off the coast of Africa.
"I remember looking at a map and seeing the island of Europa, and it was pretty much right next to Madagascar," Sandu says. "So I figured if it was right next to it, they're most likely going to dispute it with that country. So I just used my best guess, and I got it right."
Asked how long he has been studying geography, Stoner says, "Since I was like 3 or 4, I guess. I'm kind of in a family of nerds, so there are a bunch of maps and atlases and stuff around the house. I kind of just looked at them in my free time."
Thursday's finals will be televised on the National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo WILD at 8 p.m. ET/PT. The competition also airs later this month on public TV (find a station). If you'd like to get warmed up for the bee, you can see how you do on questions from earlier this week.
A list of the contestants who will compete in the final:
To learn more about the competitors — and the states that they hail from — you can check out the contest's YouTube page, where each contestant gives a video tour of his or her home state.
The winner will take away a college scholarship worth $25,000, along with a trip to the Galapagos Islands and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. The second- and third-place winners will receive scholarships worth $15,000 and $10,000, respectively.