International Olympiads in Science and Mathematics are the world championships for school students held every year in a different country.
The Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education is the nodal centre of the country for this programme. The programme aims at promoting excellence in science and mathematics among pre-university students. National Olympiads are conducted to identify the best students who can represent India at the international level.
Among the sciences, the Olympiad programme in Astronomy (junior and senior level), Biology, Chemistry, Junior Science and Physics is a five stage process for each subject separately. The first stage for each subject is organized by the Indian Association of Physics Teachers (IAPT) in collaboration with teacher associations in other subjects. All the remaining stages are organized by Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE).
The mathematical olympiad programme is a six stage process conducted under the aegis of National Board for Higher Mathematics (NBHM) of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Government of India. The first stage PRMO is conducted by the Mathematics Teachers’ Association (India). The website for PRMO is http://www.mtai.org.in/prmo . All the remaining stages are organized by Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE).
Stages of Science Olympiad
The first stage examination, the National Standard Examination (NSE) is the organisational responsibility of the Indian Association of Physics Teachers (IAPT). The academic responsibility for Chemistry and Biology rests with the Association of Chemistry Teachers (ACT) and the Association of Teachers in Biological Sciences (ATBS) respectively, while Physics, Astronomy and Junior Science are handled by IAPT itself. The NSEs are tests with objective type questions and are offered in English and Hindi, with additional languages also available in Physics. The syllabus is broadly equivalent to up to Class XII (for Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry and Physics) and Class X (for Junior Science) of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). However, the questions in all levels of Olympiads (including NSEs) may be expected to be of a higher difficulty level than the board examinations. These examinations are held close to the end of November every year at nearly 1400 centres across the nation. Students can register for this preliminary stage at their own schools. The registration fee is Rs 100, which is the only fee that the student has to pay in the entire process up to the International Olympiads.
The best-performing students from the NSEs (approximately 300 in each subject) qualify for the second stage — the Indian National Olympiads (INOs). The responsibility of the programme from this stage onwards lies with HBCSE. The INOs are held in late January at around 18 centres across the country. The syllabus is same as that of the NSEs. The tests consist of objective as well as long questions.
The top students from the INOs (approximately 35 in each subject) are invited for the third stage, the Orientation-cum-Selection Camps (OCSCs) held at HBCSE during April to June. At these camps orientation is provided to students for Olympiad level of theoretical, experimental and observational (for astronomy) tasks. Emphasis is laid on developing conceptual foundations and problem-solving skills. Students are exposed to innovative experiments with focus on conceptual and procedural understanding in experimental science. In astronomy, students are trained in basic notions in astrophysics, astronomical data analysis and night sky observations. Several theoretical and experimental/observational tests are held during the camp. On the basis of performance in these tests, few students (numbers specified below) are selected to represent India at the international Olympiads.
The selected Indian teams undergo a rigorous training programme at HBCSE in theory and experiment and in case of astronomy, observational astronomy prior to their departure for the international Olympiads. Special laboratories have been developed in HBCSE for this purpose. Resource persons from different institutions across the country are invited to the training camps.
The Olympiad programme culminates with the participation of the Indian students (4-6 in each subject) in the International Olympiads. The students are accompanied by 2-4 teachers or mentors. Almost every Indian student who has participated in the Science and Astronomy Olympiads has returned with a medal.
Stages of Mathematical Olympiad
The first stage examination, the pre-Regional Mathematical Olympiad (PRMO) is a two and half hour examination with 30 questions. The answer to each question is either a single digit number or a two digit number and will need to be marked on a machine readable OMR response sheet. The PRMO question paper will be in English and Hindi.
The second stage examination, the Regional Mathematical Olympiad (RMO) is a three hour examination with six problems. The RMOs are offered in English, Hindi and other regional languages as deemed appropriate by the respective Regional Coordinators. The problems under each topic involve high level of difficulty and sophistication.
The best-performing students from the RMO (approximately 900) qualify for the third stage – the Indian National Mathematical Olympiad (INMO). The INMO is held on the third Sunday of January at 28 centres across the country.
The top students from the INMO (approximately 35) are invited for the fourth stage, the International Mathematical Olympiad Training Camp (IMOTC) held at HBCSE during April to May. At this camp orientation is provided to students for the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO). Emphasis is laid on developing conceptual foundations and problem-solving skills. Several selection tests are held during this camp. On the basis of performance in these tests six students are selected to represent India at the IMO. Resource persons from different institutions across the country are invited to the training camps.
The selected team undergoes a rigorous training programme for about 8-10 days at HBCSE prior to its departure for the IMO.
The Olympiad programme culminates with the participation of the students in the IMO. The students are accompanied by 4 teachers or mentors.