University of Toronto Biology Olympiad

admin Toronto Biology Competition

General Information 2017

Competition Date

Thursday, April 27

Registration Deadline

Opens Monday, January 23
Closes Friday, March 3


$7 per student
Teachers write for free (extra exam is provided).
There is a minimum registration of 3 students within Canada & USA, and 10 students internationally.


The exam is 75 minutes in length and must begin between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. ET.


At participating schools. The National Biology Competition Office will send the exam materials one week prior to the exam date.


50 multiple-choice questions; prepared and reviewed by faculty members in the departments of Ecology & Evolutionary Biologyand Cell & Systems Biology, University of Toronto. (Competition materials are available only in English.)


Each of the multiple-choice questions will have five answer choices, for which only one choice is the best answer. To correct for haphazard guessing, the score of the examination is based on the number of questions a student answers correctly minus one-third of the number of questions answered incorrectly. No points are deducted or awarded for unanswered questions. Calculators are not permitted.


Any student can participate in the National Biology Competition, and on more than one occasion (e.g., a student can write both the 2016 and 2017 exams). Registered students in attendance at a secondary school are classified as official contestants and are eligible for individual awards and team competition, including students who complete their studies at the end of the first semester. Students in their first year of CEGEP in Quebec are also eligible. Students who do not meet the above requirements are welcome to write the examination as unofficial contestants. Teachers can also write the examination as unofficial contestants.

Canadian Biology Olympiad

The University of Toronto National Biology Competition is used as part of the selection criteria for the Canadian Biology Olympiad.

For more information see:

Exam Content

The exam questions will cover material that a senior high school biology student is likely to have come across in their studies. The content of the exam will reflect the similarities in the secondary school biology curricula among the provinces. The major topics covered on the exam include:

  • General biochemistry

    basic chemical concepts, chemical bonds, biochemical reactions, biologically important organic molecules

  • Cell structure and processes

    cell structure and function, membrane structure, transport across membranes

  • Cell metabolism

    energy in the cell, enzymes, cellular respiration, photosynthesis, mitosis, cell cycle

  • Genetics

    meiosis, sexual and asexual reproduction, Mendelian inheritance, DNA, genes and chromosomes, protein synthesis, mutation, genetic disorders in humans, gene expression and manipulation

  • Evolution

    historical context for evolutionary theory, evidence for evolution, population genetics, evolutionary mechanisms, adaptation, speciation, extinction

  • Biological diversity

    taxonomy, phylogeny, origin of life, microbial, fungal, plant, and animal diversity

  • Plant structure and function

    structure, growth, and reproduction, transport mechanisms, growth regulators

  • Vertebrate structure and function

    digestion, circulation, gas-exchange, reproduction, development, homeostasis, excretion, and nervous, endocrine, and immune systems

  • Ecology

    species interactions, matter exchange and energy flow, population dynamics, human ecology, conservation biology

  • “Hot” biology topics in the news

Team Competition

Schools with at least 5 eligible students will be entered into team competition and ranked on the Top Schools lists. The team scores are calculated by totaling the scores of the top 5 eligible students at each school.

The top three Canadian schools and the top three schools outside of Canada willeach receive a Certificate of Excellence.

Schools entering fewer than 5 eligible students are not eligible for team competition.



  • The Top 5% of students in Canadian schools will receive certificates designating them as National Biology Scholars; the Top 1% as National Biology Scholars with Distinction.
  • The Top 5% of students in schools outside of Canada will receive certificates designating them as International Biology Scholars; the Top 1% asInternational Biology Scholars with Distinction.

Each school with 10 or more participating students will be presented with a Certificate of Achievement to award to its top scorer in the competition. Schools with fewer than 10 participating students will also receive a certificate if the top student in that school scored in the top 30% of all participants.

Admission Scholarships

U of T National Biology Competition Scholarships will be awarded to the top 15 students (of all participants) in the 2016 competition to register in the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto (St. George).

  • The value of each scholarship is $3,000.
  • Receipt of a scholarship is conditional upon a student 1) obtaining a score in the competition above the 95th percentile, demonstrating outstanding academic performance in their final year of secondary school, and 2) registering in the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto (St. George).
  • Award winners who are not in their final year of secondary school can defer the acceptance of their scholarship.
  • A student who competes in the competition more than once can only receive one scholarship.

A National Biology Competition Scholarship may be held along with other awards a student may receive, provided the terms of the other awards permit this. A high score on the exam may increase a student’s chance of obtaining other awards from the University of Toronto, but a low mark will not hinder it.

Competition scores will not be used as a criterion for admission to university studies.

Cash Prizes

The Top 1% of students in Canadian schools and the Top 1% of students in schools oustide of Canada will each receive cash prizes as follows:

  • 1st: $300
  • 2nd: $200
  • 3rd: $100
  • the remaining 1% (beginning with 4th place): $50 each