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International Science Olympiad Frequently Asked Questions

What are the International Science Olympiads?

The International Science Olympiads are regarded as the Olympic Games for science students. Team members compete with students from about 80 different countries to win a gold, silver or bronze medal, or an honourable mention.

When was the first International Science Olympiad?

The first International Science Olympiad was held in Physics in 1967. The first Australian team competed in 1987 (physics), followed in 1988 (chemistry) and 1992 (biology).

Where are the International Science Olympiads held?

The International Science Olympiads are held in a different country each year.

How many Australians have competed and how many medals have we won?

Each year Australia enters a team in the Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science and Physics Olympiads. See the honour roll for more details.

Who runs the Science Olympiads in Australia?

Australian Science Innovations selects, trains and coordinates the Australian teams. As a non-profit organisation based in Canberra, Australian Science Innovations is supported by the Department of Industry, Innovations and Science and the Australian National University to deliver the program. The international competitions are run by separate international committees for biology, Earth science, chemistry and physics.

What sort of experiences will I gain from becoming a Science Olympian?

The main advantage for all Olympians is a huge head start in launching a career in science. You will compete overseas against the best students of your age in the world, in both theory and experimental exams, as well as experiencing the culture of the host country through trips and events.

What is it like competing in the International Science Olympiads?

Olympians are treated as VIPs by the host countries and often meet senior members of government and Heads of State. They will meet students from other countries who are also passionate about science. When teams return to Australia, members often find themselves targeted for prestigious university courses, prizes and scholarships.

How do students compete against each other at the International Science Olympiads?

There are slight variations between biology, Earth and environmental science, chemistry and physics, but generally students sit two 4-6 hour exams, one in theory and one experimental. The top ten per cent win gold medals with the next 40 percent winning silver or bronze.

How do I get selected for the International Science Olympiad teams?

The first step is to register for the Australian Science Olympiad Exams. Students who do exceptionally well in these exams are invited to attend the Australian Science Olympiad Summer School held in January each year at the Australian National University.  The very best of the Australian Science Olympiad Summer School students are selected to represent Australia at the International Science Olympiads for Biology, Chemistry, Earth science or Physics.

How do I register for the Australian Science Olympiad Exams?

Schools must register students in the Australian Science Olympiad Exams. More information about the exams.

How many are in each Science Olympiad team?

The biology, Earth science and chemistry teams have four members and the physics team has five.

What training do the teams do once they are selected?

Teams come together for a pre-competition training session in April. This is organised by Australian Science Innovations’ program directors and their staff. There is another shorter training session just before the International Science Olympiad competitions in July. This may be in Australia, or it may be in the country hosting the Olympiads that year.

Do I have to pay to attend the International Science Olympiads if I am selected in the team?

Yes. Australian Science Innovations meets most of the costs of your domestic and international travel, registration, meals, accommodation and general expenses, but we still ask that each team member contributes $2,500 to help with these costs.

How are the International Science Olympiad Teams formally announced?

The teams are formally announced in June at a special ceremony held at Parliament House in Canberra. The Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science is invited to present teams with their team blazer and parents and teachers are also welcome to attend.

What is the Asian Physics Olympiad?

The Asian Physics Olympiads began in 2000 and is an annual physics competition for high school students from Asia and the Oceana region. It is held two months before the International Physics Olympiad and can be seen as additional training for the teams.