If you are wondering how to prepare for the biology practical exam, this article is for you. No matter whether you are preparing for the USA Biology Olympiad (USABO), International Biology Olympiad (IBO), British Biology Olympiad (BBO) or any other competition, the practical part of the competition might be a killer so read on and you will find some tips on how to prepare for the practical part of the competition!
It’s quite obvious that good laboratory skills will help you score better in the olympiad. Guess what? The IBO practical examination concentrates on the evaluation of competitors for their ability to solve biological problems. In fact, in the IBO 50% of your final score depends on 4 practical exams completed in 6 hrs. Over the years of my own preparation for the biology olympiad and while tutoring others, I compiled a list of key lab techniques that you need to know for the biology olympiad which you can find here.
Now, you have the list, what’s next? It’s time to roll up your sleeves and crack on with finding a summer placement in the lab. From my personal experience, I can say that getting a place in a research lab at the university might be quite daunting. You usually have to apply for 100 programs (just kidding!) and only one or two might email you back (usually saying no).
If you are under 16, there might be some limitations as to where you can work and if you can be in the research facilities at all. As you get older, things get easier (don’t get me wrong, this applies only to certain things like applications to the internship ;-> ). Apart from your age, another obstacle is that you, as an intern, will most likely be a tremendous time sink. You will eat up tons of your supervisor’s time to be trained and familiarized with the rules in the lab, key techniques, and experiment protocols. Professors, post docs, researchers and the like are very busy people (but who isn’t?) and you may find it very difficult to convince them to allow you to conduct research even for a few days.
But…be persistent! Write an impeccable personal statement, don’t forget to mention your scores from any biology olympiad you took part in or any grades from school. Now, it is time to dive into the Google ocean and search for any universities, research labs in your area, summer programs and camps that will accept high schoolers for a research project. A good place to start is here.
For example, if you want to spend your summer in Harvard, check out the Kunes Camp which will enable you to hone your research intuition and creative problem-solving skills by “reliving” key biology research breakthroughs. You will work with state-of-the-art equipment in the Harvard University laboratory both individually and in group, meaning that you will develop those essential practical skills for USABO and IBO. Combined with intensive laboratory work, original research project design, and an intimate community of like-minded peers, the 2018 Kunes Camp offers a fully-immersive, transformative experience for anyone interested in biological research. If you have a really strong desire to develop your skillset and conquer the biology olympiad, check out their website.
Don’t give up if you receive a ton of rejections – it is perfectly normal! Just keep looking and applying and you will get your dream place in the lab!