How to prepare for the IBO 2018?

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The International Biology Olympiad (IBO) is a yearly Biology 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. For a successful performance interest in biology, inventiveness, creativity and perseverance are necessary. IBO gathers young people from over the world in an open, friendly and peaceful mind. IBO is hosted every year by a different IBO member and takes one week.

IBO 2018 is being organized by the Ministry of Education, Iran in partnership with The Universities of Tarbiat Modares and Tehran. The event will begin on Sunday 15th July with an Opening Ceremony and will end on Sunday 22nd July 2018. Over the week there will be two full days of exams for participants, split into a practical day and a theoretical day. There will be also a number of excursions and activities for both participants and accompanying adults.


How to prepare?


Biochemistry & Molecular biology

Review the following topics:

  • Use of a microtome to make slides
  • Cell Fractionation
  • Microscopy (measurement of objects)
  • Immunostaining
  • Histology
  • Haemocytometer
  • Drawing of preparations
  • Maceration and squash technique
  • Smear method
  • Staining of cells
  • Acid-Base Equilibrium
  • Keq values
  • Spectrophotometry (Beer-Lambert law)
  • Net charges of Amino acids and Peptides
  • Titration curves of Amino acids
  • Chromatography (affinity, ion-exchange, size-exclusion, paper chromatography + Rf values)
  • Colorimetry
  • Enzyme kinetics
  • Enzyme inhibition (Lineweaver-Burk plot, Michaelis-Menten equation)
  • DNA Extraction
  • Serial dilutions, Concentrations
  • Molar solutions, pH and Buffers
  • Henderson Hasselbach equation
  • Pipetting liquids
  • Protein purification
  • Protein quantification
  • Microfiltration/membranes and dialysis
  • Calibration curves
  • Testing for Lipids, Proteins and Carbohydrates (Biuret’s test, Sudan test, Ninhydrin test, Lugol’s solution test, Benedict’s solution test, Fehling reaction,  Tollens’ reagent test, Bradford protein assay, paper bag test)
  • 2D electrophoresis
  • Gel Electrophoresis
  • Isoelectric focusing
  • Western Blot, Northern Blot, Southern Blot, Eastern Blot
  • Hybridization
  • Immunoprecipitation Assay
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), RT-PCR
  • Mapping Genes
  • DNA Fingerprinting
  • Deriving Linkage Distance and Gene Order from Three-Point Crosses
  • Restriction endonucleases,
  • Restriction maps, RFLP
  • FISH
  • G-stain
  • RNA interference
  • CRISPR-Cas9 system.

Plant systematics, anatomy and physiology

Review the following topics

  • Potometry
  • Making sections of plant materials and staining them
  • Identifying plant structures and organs (leaves, stems, roots, flowers, fruits, etc.)
  • Discriminating major plant groups (e.g., algae, mosses, ferns, and spermatophytes)
  • Floral morphology
  • Floral formulas and diagrams
  • Staining (for example lignin) and slide preparation of plant tissues
  • Elementary measurement of photosynthesis
  • Measurement of transpiration.


Virtual plant labs:

Animal systematics, anatomy and physiology

  • Make dissections of an invertebrate (Ph. Annelida, Arthropoda, or Mollusca) and identify the main macroscopic organs,
  • Whole – mount slide preparation of small invertebrates
  • Elementary measurement of respiration.


Evolution, ecology and behavior

  • Identification Keys for various organisms
  • Observe and interpret animal behaviour: (Habituation and sensitisation, Associative learning – classical conditioning, Associative learning – instrumental learning, Social learning, Foraging behaviour, Imprinting, Insight, Latent learning)
  • Construction of simple dichotomous keys
  • Identification of the most common flowering-plant families
  • Identification of insect orders
  • Identification of phyla and classes of other organisms
  • Hardy Weinberg formula
  • Estimation of population density, biomass
  • Chi square
  • Student’s t-test
  • Probability and probability distributions
  • Mean, Median, Percentage, Variance, Standard deviation, Standard error
  • Bayes’ theorem
  • Binomial expansion formula.


There will be two different exams, each of a three-hour duration. The theoretical exams are IT-based and the students will be using tablet/laptop computers to answer the questions.

The exams cover a wide range of biological subjects – using the following percentage distribution:

20% Cell Biology, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

5-07SC Biochemistry from MIT Opencourseware

Review Module I, Module II and Module III

7.06 Cell Biology  

Review ‘Exam‘ and ‘Study Material‘ sections

Cell Biology

Review these topics

Lecture Online Link Essential Cell Biology (3rd edn pages, new page numbering for 4th edn)  
1 Cell Biology Introduction Chapter 1 Introduction to Cells pp1-38  
2 Cells Eukaryotes and Prokaryotes Chapter 1 Introduction to Cells pp1-38  
3 Cell Membranes and Compartments Chapter 11 Membrane Structure pp363-386, Chapter 12 Membrane Transport 387-424, Chapter 15 Intracellular Compartments and Transport 495-530  
4 Cell Nucleus Chapter 5 DNA and Chromosomes pp171-196  
5 Cell Export – Exocytosis Chapter 15 pp514-518  
6 Cell Import – Endocytosis Chapter 15 pp522-529  
7 Cell Mitochondria Chapter 14 Energy Generation in Mitochondria and Chloroplast pp453-492  
8 Cell Junctions Chapter 20 Cellular Communities:Tissues, Stem Cells, and Cancer – Epithelial Sheets and Cell Junctions pp700-705  
9 Cytoskeleton Introduction Chapter 17 Cytoskeleton pp571-608  
10 Cytoskeleton 1 Intermediate Filaments Chapter 17 Cytoskeleton – Intermediate Filaments pp571-576  
11 Cytoskeleton 2 Microtubules Chapter 17 Cytoskeleton – Microtubules pp577-589  
12 Cytoskeleton 3 Microfilaments Chapter 17 Cytoskeleton – Microfilaments pp590-598  
13 Extracellular Matrix 1 Chapter 20 Cellular Communities:Tissues, Stem Cells, and Cancer – Extracellular Matrix and Connective Tissues pp690-699  
14 Extracellular Matrix 2 Chapter 20 Cellular Communities:Tissues, Stem Cells, and Cancer – Extracellular Matrix and Connective Tissues pp690-699  
15 Cell Cycle Chapter 18 The Cell Division Cycle – Overview of the Cell Cycle pp609-624  
16 Cell Division Chapter 18 The Cell Division Cycle – Mitosis pp625-634, Cytokinesis pp634-638  
17 Cell Death 1 Chapter 18 The Cell Division Cycle – Control of Cell Number pp638-647  
18 Cell Death 2 Chapter 18 The Cell Division Cycle – Control of Cell Number pp638-647  
19 Signal 1 Chapter 16 Cell Communication pp531-570  
20 Signal 2 Chapter 16 Cell Communication pp531-570

20% Genetics, Population Genetics and Evolution

7.03 MIT Open Course

Review ‘Lecture notes‘, ‘Assignments‘ (review only solutions as you won’t have time to do problems), and ‘Exams‘ section

Evolution notes


25% Animal Anatomy and Physiology

Human physiology notes

Zoology notes


15% Plant Anatomy and Physiology

Plants revision table

Plant anatomy

Plant reproduction

Floral formulas

Key definitions

Dicots & Monocots

Stem & Root Modifications

Plant anatomy 


Protists 2


10% Ecology

Ecology notes

5% Ethology

Ethology notes

5% Biosystematics

Classification List

Systematics Complete


Insect classification

Organism diversity handout


Only if you have time review problem solutions:


7.013 Spring 2006

7.013 Spring 2013




General notes: Last minute revision notes 

Importantly, review all past IBO papers.



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