What are the Olympiads?
International Olympiads in Science and Mathematics are the world championships for school students held every year in a different country.
The most famous Olympiads are The International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), The International Physics Olympiad (IPhO), The International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO), The International Biology Olympiad (IBO), The International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) and The International Astronomy Olympiad (IAO).
Countries send a delegation of students and leaders to participate at the International level. India conducts National Olympiads to identify the best students who can represent India at the international level.
For the purpose of the Olympiad contests, the country has been divided in about 25 regions. The selection process for participation in the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) consists of the following stages:
Stage 1: Regional Mathematical Olympiad (RMO): RMO is currently held on the first Sunday of October each year in each of the regions in the country. All school students from Class XI are eligible to appear in RMO. Students from Class XII may also appear in RMO, but the number of students selected from Class XII is at most 6. Exceptionally brilliant students from lower standards may also appear for RMO subject to the approval of the Regional Coordinator. RMO is a 3-hour written test containing 6 or 7 problems. On the basis of the performance in RMO, students are selected for the second stage. The Regional Coordinators may charge a nominal fee to meet the expenses of organizing the contest.
Stage 2: Indian National Mathematical Olympiad (INMO): INMO is currently held on the third Sunday of January each year at the regional centres in all regions. Only those students who are selected in RMO are eligible to appear in INMO. This contest is a 4-hour written test. The evaluation of these papers is centralised. The top 75 contestants in INMO receive Merit Certificates.
Stage 3: International Mathematical Olympiad Training Camp (IMOTC): The top 30-35 INMO certificate awardees are invited to a month long training camp in May/June each year. The number of students from Class XII who are selected for IMOTC is at most 6. In addition to these 35 students, a certain number of INMO awardees of previous year(s) who have satisfactorily undergone postal tuition over the year are also invited to a second round of training.
A team of six students is selected from the combined pool of junior and senior batch participants, based on a number of selection tests conducted during the camp, to represent India in the International Mathematical Olympiad.
Stage 4: International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO): The six member team selected at the end of IMOTC, accompanied by a leader and a deputy leader represent India at IMO that is normally held in July each year in a chosen country. IMO consists of two 4- and-a-half hour tests held on two consecutive days. The students of the Indian team who win gold, silver and bronze medals at IMO receive cash prizes of ` 5000/-, ` 4000/- and ` 3000/- respectively (prizes for 2008). The six students representing India at IMO automatically qualify for Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana (KVPY) Fellowship.
Syllabus for Mathematical Olympiad (Regional, National and International): Pre-degree college Mathematics. The difficulty level increases from RMO to INMO to IMO.
Nurture Programme : The INMO awardees who choose Mathematics as one of the subjects in their undergraduate studies are eligible for a scholarship by NBHM (which is at present ` 1500/- per month) throughout their undergraduate studies. If they further pursue their studies to Masters, they continue to get scholarship (enhanced). Even the students who do not pursue Mathematics in their undergraduate studies are eligible for certain benefits under a novel programme instituted by NBHM, called Nurture Programme. Under this programme, each batch of students (selected from among the INMO awardees through their responses to a few sets of postal problems) is assigned to an institution. The coordinator in that institution gives out some reading material that the students can go through during their leisure time while pursuing their undergraduate studies. At the end of each year, during summer, they are invited to that institution for a contact programme with working Mathematicians. Based on their performance, they may be recommended to a scholarship given by NBHM. This programme continues for four years. Thus, even those who pursue under-graduate studies in some other discipline can still get training in Mathematics and use it in their further pursuit of knowledge.
Physics, Chemistry and Astronomy Olympiads
Stage I – National Standard Examination (NSE) in Physics and Chemistry
Physics and Chemistry: Every student aspiring to go through successive stages of the Olympiad programme must enroll for NSE. NSEs are held at a large number of centres in the country usually in the last week of November. All students of Class XII or below (science stream) are eligible to appear for NSEs. A student may appear for more than one Olympiad as per the examination schedule. Students who have passed Class XII are not eligible.
Astronomy: For the Junior level, students should be in Class IX. For the Senior level, students should be in Class X or Class XI. NSE emphasizes comprehension of the subject, not rote memory.
Stage II – Indian National Olympiad Examinations
For Indian National Olympiad Examinations, the national top 200-250 students selected from NSEP, NSEC and NSEA each are eligible to appear for Indian National Physics Olympiad (INPhO), Indian National Chemistry Olympiad (INChO) and Indian National Astronomy Olympiad (INAO) respectively.
Indian National Olympiads are held sometime in the last week of January or early February. These examinations are held at about 15 Centres in the country.
Questions and problems in National Olympiads are usually non-conventional and of high difficulty level, comparable to the International Olympiads. On the basis of performance in the National Olympiads (theory) about 50 students are short-listed in each subject.
Stage III – Orientation cum Selection Camp (OCSC)
Physics and Chemistry
The short-listed groups of about 35 students in each subject are invited to the Orientation cum Selection camps at HBCSE. On the basis of their performance in OCSC, the best 20 students in each subject qualify for merit awards, consisting of a merit certificate and a set of complimentary books. The top 5 students in Physics and top 4 in Chemistry are declared to be special merit awardees. These special merit awardees are given a prize of ` 5000/- each in the form of books and cash. In addition there are special prizes in each subject to recognize meritorious performance in theory and experiments.
The special merit awardees in Physics constitute the 5-member student team to represent India at the International Physics Olympiad. The special merit awardees in Chemistry constitute the 4-member student team to represent India at the International Chemistry Olympiad.
The short-listed groups of about 25 students each for junior and senior levels are invited together to the Orientation cum Selection camp.
At the end of the camp, 20 meritorious students from camp participants get a Certificate of Merit and complimentary books. The best 2 students from seniors and 3 students from juniors are selected for special merit awards of ` 5000/- each in the form of books and gifts. These five students represent India at the International Astronomy Olympiad.
Stage IV – Training of Indian Teams for International Olympiads
The selected Indian teams undergo a rigorous training program at HBCSE in theory and experiment.
Stage V – Participation in International Olympiads
The 5-member student team, 2 teacher leaders and one scientific observer constitute the delegation to represent India at the International Physics Olympiad (IPhO)
The 4-member student team, 2 teacher leaders and one scientific observer constitute the delegation to represent India at the International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO)
The 5-member student team, 2 teacher leaders and one scientific observer constitute the delegation to represent India at the International Astronomy Olympiad (IAO).
Olympiad in Informatics
The Indian Computing Olympiad is used to select the team of four students to represent India at the International Olympiad for Informatics (IOI). The competition is held in three stages: the Zonal Informatics Olympiad, the Indian National Olympiad in Informatics, and the International Olympiad in Informatics Training Camp.
Stage I: The Zonal Informatics Olympiad (ZIO) is a written round. Most of the questions can be solved with the use of algorithmic techniques, although logic is usually enough.
Stage II:The Indian National Olympiad in Informatics (INOI) – In this students have to write programs on a computer. The INOI is a programming competition round. Students are expected to solve two algorithmic problems in 3 hours in either C, C++ or Pascal. Questions in this round are similar to those in the IOI and other national computing Olympiads.
About thirty top-performing students in the INOI are selected for the International Olympiad in Informatics Training Camp (IOITC).
Stage III: The International Olympiad in Informatics Training Camp (IOITC) is a one fortnight long annual training camp held in India to select and train students to represent India at the International Olympiad in Informatics.
At the completion of the camp, 4 students are selected to represent India at the International Olympiad in Informatics.
When and how should I start preparing for the Olympiads?
The Olympiads are the most prestigious school competitions in the world. Students have to go through a rigorous process to be selected for the Indian team. Students selected to represent the country get an opportunity to compete and win prizes at an International level.
Students who represent India in the International Olympiads in Physics / Chemistry /Mathematics / Informatics and Astronomy automatically qualify for KVPY Fellowship. Organisations like Infoysys, Sasken, NASSCOM etc. also give prizes to the participants and winners of the International Olympaids.
Usually students appear for the Olympiads in Class XI but brilliant students can appear for the stage I exam even in lower classes and increase their number of attempts and even their medal tally as they can participate in the International Olympiads till they reach Class XII.