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Everything You Need to Know to Get Started in Hydrology


Michelle Li

ScioVirtual Instructor



ScioVirtual Instructor



ScioVirtual Instructor

This guide is made for any student looking to compete and excel in hydrology. I’ll unpack my top tips for this event, from studying to making resources to the competition itself!

So, what is hydrology?

Dynamic Planet is a Division B and C Science Olympiad event where students study processes that change the Earth. It is a study event where you compete with a partner. Our topic of focus this season is hydrology – the study of Earth’s freshwater systems. 

What topics does hydrology include?

The best way to know which topics to study for any event is to refer to the Science Olympiad Rules Manual – Dynamic Planet is on page 23. You’ll notice that certain topics are marked as Division C only; I would learn these topics even if you are in Division B, as higher-level tests will likely include them.

The topics covered for Dynamic Planet in the Rules Manual.

In the image above, I have highlighted the topics I believe are most important to study, based mainly on how frequently I’ve seen them on tests this season. Not that you should wait until the last minute to study, but if you did, I would focus on these topics to ensure you at least know the majority of content on a given test.

Now that I know WHAT to study, HOW should I study for success?

The first step is just to research everything that’s on the rules. This can be accomplished through a Google search. The main goal is just to make sure you’re using reliable sources, such as:

  • Government organizations like NOAA and NASA
  • Academic institutions ending in .edu
  • Wikipedia can have good, niche information – just make sure you cross reference anything you find there with other sources to ensure accuracy

I recommend reading anywhere from two to five sources per topic – however many it takes to have a firm understanding of the entire topic. As you are reading, make sure to take notes, as these notes will become your binder. 

The main key to success in a study event like Dynamic Planet is the ability to make a good binder. This process is outlined further in our article on making binders, but here’s a quick summary:

  • Create a different document for each separate number on the rules – i, ii, iii, etc.
  • Each document should have a title that summarizes what is on the document, and subheadings for subtopics
  • Bullet point your information; it’ll be much easier to read than large paragraphs
  • Highlight, bold, or italicize text that you want to emphasize – key words, important points, etc. should be easy to find
  • Add a plethora of images
  • Put every page into a sheet protector to make flipping through the binder faster
  • Add binder tabs to quickly locate the pages you are looking for

When you’ve finished researching everything on the rules is when the real work begins. Now, you want to dive into miscellaneous topics that are not explicitly stated in the rules, but are closely related and could still show up on tests. But how do you know which miscellaneous topics to research? Consider the following:

  • When you were reading your sources to research the topics on the rules, were there any extraneous concepts mentioned that you could research deeper? 
  • Were there any other related articles available on that website or from that source?
  • What miscellaneous topics have you seen most often on practice tests?

To aid you in your search for miscellaneous topics to research, here are some that I’ve seen often on tests:

  • Biogeochemical cycles
  • Wells and the cone of depression
  • Classification of lakes – by salinity, mixing, amount of organic matter, etc.
  • Notable lakes, rivers, and aquifers

And here are some public test sets to get practice tests from:

After every practice test you take, make sure to grade yourself; then, write down all the topics or questions you missed so you can research them later.

How should I approach the test on competition day?

As with most study events, success on a Dynamic Planet test comes down to two factors – speed and accuracy. Here are some tips to master both:

  • Be prepared – have your binder printed and arrive at the location of your test well before the time at which the test begins
  • Divide and conquer – Dynamic Planet tests are long and you likely will not finish unless you divide the work with your partner
  • Know going in how you plan to divide the test between two people, whether it be multiple choice and short answer or top and bottom; remember to play to your strengths
  • Don’t dwell on a single question for too long; if you don’t know it, guess and move on
  • Don’t freak out; you are prepared and you can do this!

There you have it! My complete guide to approaching Dynamic Planet. Obviously, these are just my methods – take the time to find what works for you. And if you have any questions, feel free to email me at

Hello! I'm Michelle and I'm a junior at Mason High School. I've competed in Dynamic Planet for four years now and served as Mason’s Dynamic Planet Event Captain for two. In my free time, I enjoy playing the flute, drinking bubble tea, and binging Modern Family.

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