FAQ about biology olympiads

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Hi guys,

Most of new students do not know much about how to take place in biology olympiad or what to read or etc. Here I will try to answer as many questions as I can and if you do not find anything, just leave a comment bellow. So let’s get started.

What is the IBO?
The International Biology Olympiad (IBO) is a competition for secondary school students, who are winners of their respective National Biology Olympiad.
Their skills in tackling biological problems, and dealing with biological experiments are tested. Interest in biology, inventiveness, creativity and perseverance are necessary.
In bringing together gifted students, the IBO tries to challenge and stimulate these students to expand their talents and to promote their career as scientists.
A very important point is bringing together young people from over the world in an open, friendly and peaceful mind.
Every participating country sends four students, who are the winners of the respective national competitions. They are accompanied by two team leaders who represent the country. To get more click here.

What does the IBO involve? 
There is an official guide concerning the IBO so take a look to see what are the rules and guidelines here.

What tasks can I expect in the IBO?
You should take a look at past problems and also you can find sample questions in the official IBO website. What is more, current IBOs focus not that much on your knowledge but on your critical and analytical thinking, problem solving skills, so do not attempt only to read all books by heart but also try solve problems outlined at the end of each chapter, use practical problems stored in my blog www.biolympiads.blogspot.com and also solve ALL past papers of the IBO.

Where can I find past IBO papers?
You can find them right HERE in the blog or in the official website.

Can I take place in IBO more than once?
According to the official rules, you can take part in this competition only TWICE. Be aware that participation in the IBO is restricted to competitors who:
– are students of a regular secondary school for general education in the country concerned;
– have not obtained a diploma allowing to study at a university or equivalent institution, before the 1st of January of the actual competition year;
– are the winners of the National Biology Olympiad of the current school year in the country they are representing;
– are not trained or instructed within a selected group of 50 or fewer students comprising the IBO team for a period longer than two weeks;
– are born on the 1st of July or later of the actual IBO year minus twenty;
– have not participated already twice in the IBO;
– have not yet started study at university or equivalent institution as regular or full time students.
Competitors have to bring and sign a declaration confirming the points mentioned

Do I need to be fluent in English to attend the IBO?
Not necessarily. When heading for the IBO, you will be accompanied by your local mentors who will take care of you during the competition AND who will be translating the problems into your native language. However, it is useful to understand what invigilators and organizers are telling you during the theoretical and/or practical exam as well as to make new friends so try to enhance your English language skills.

What should I read to get into the IBO?
My suggestion for a book list can be found right here. In addition, check out the Biolympiads book ‘How To Prepare for the Biology Olympiad And Science Competitions‘ on Amazon.

How can I get into the IBO?
Take a look here and search for your country’s official biology olympiad website where you will find directions how to take part in the first round of biology olympiad.

What skills do I need in practical part? What can I expect in the practical exam?
 There is an official syllabus for practical part which can be accessed here. Take a look. Also there are practical exam papers published in the IBO website here, so be sure you understand them and solve them with your tutors at school.  Personally, I would recommend to volunteer in local laboratory and ask for scientists to help you solve some practical IBO exams.

What does the theoretical exam involve?
The syllabus for theory examination can be found here.

What are my chances to get a medal or a merit?

Unlike in sports competition, the IBO awards approximately 30% of students with bronze medals, 20% of students with silver medals and about 10% of students with gold medals. This is calculated as follows:
where n = number of competitors, the maximum number of winners = 0.7n + 2.

Gold medals: w = 0.1n
The last gold medal winner is the one preceding the largest gap out of the three which follow the top w competitors.

Silver medals: x = 0.3n
The last silver medal winner is the one preceding the largest gap out of the three which follow the top x competitors.

Bronze medals: y = 0.6n
The last bronze medal winner is the one preceding the largest gap out of the three which follow the top y competitors.

Certificates of Merit: z = 0.7n
The last Certificate of Merit winner is the one preceding the largest gap out of the three which follow the top z competitors.  

So there is approximately 60-70% of chances that you get something after the competition. 😉

Is it expensive to take part in the IBO?
Actually, no because all flights, accommodation and foods is covered by either your country’s government or organizers of the IBO.