American Chemical Society Education and International Activities Division



The U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad (USNCOl, a program of the American Chemical Society (ACS) since 1984, encourages thousands of high school students to achieve excellence in chemistry. Each year, more than 10,000 chemistry students take part in a series of qualifying events to determine who will represent the United State s at th e I nte mati ona I Chemistry Olympiad (lChO). United States participation at the IChO began in 1984. The United States teams have forged international friendships, earned national acclaim, and won gold, silver, and bronze medals for their outstanding performances.


ACS Local Sections are vital to the success of the Chemistry Olympiad program.

The number of participating sections has grown since 1984. The process begins in the fall when local sections are notified ofthe event. Sections choose their nominees for the national exam by various means: the USNCO-prepared exam, a locally prepared exam, laboratory practicals, teacher recommendations, or regional events with competitive activities among school teams. Local screening usually takes place in March. From the local section screening process, eight students and one additional student for every 350 section members above an initial 1000, are nominated to take the national exam in April. To promote widespread participation, no more than two students from a given school may take the national exam.


Two task forces of the ACS Chemistry Olympiad Subcommittee design the national exam. The test is administered in April by participating ACS local sections at one or more sites. The national examination consists of three sections. Part I is a 90-minute, 60-item. multiple-choice test covering a broad range of chemical topics. Part II, 105 minutes long. requires written responses explaining the meaning and/or use of chemical models and theories in eight problems. Part III is a 90-minute laboratory practical that seeks to better identify students' problem-solving and laboratory skills. The total time for the exam is four hours and forty-five minutes. Approximately 1000 students sit for the national exam annually; 20 are selected to attend the study camp.



The study camp is held in June each year at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. The 20 students selected from the national exam work under the tutelage of three mentors, selected by the ACS Chemistry Olympiad Subcommittee, and staff of the U.S. Air Force Academy Department of Chemistry. The study camp curriculum is based on preparatory problems, which the IChO host nation distributes. These problems indicate which chemistry topics will be covered in the international competition. Typically, the IChO examinations cover the areas of inorganic, organic, physical, analytical chemistry, and biochemistry. Most topics are covered at a second- or thirdyear college level.

The students undergo rigorous academic training at the study camp. The students begin with morning lectures. The afternoons are spent learning and refining laboratory techniques through hands-on experiments and problems. The rest of the day is filled with problemsolving sessions in small groups and a great deal of independent study. Tests and quizzes are administered throughoutthe camp and are used as guides for the mentors to select the "final four." Four students and two mentors represent the United States atthe IChO in JUly.



The International Chemistry Olympiad originated in 1968 with participants from Czechoslovakia. Poland. and Hungary. Other Eastern European nations soon joined the program. Western European nations entered in 1974; the United States first sent a team in 1984 and hosted the event in 1992.

Each nation sends a team of its four brightest chemistry students who complete a five-hour la boratory pra ctlcal and a five-hour theoretical examination. Students are accompa nied by two adult mentors who tra nslate and grade exams. The program schedule. set by the host nation, usually begins with a grand opening ceremony. The lab practical exam is administered first, and the theoretical exam later in the week. The mentors grade the exams and arbitrate points on their students' behalf with the test committee of the host nation. The final grading


is completed a few days later, and the students are ranked for awards. During the closing ceremony, gold medals are presented to the students who score approximately in the top 12 percent, silver medals to the next 22 percent, and bronze medals to the following 30 percent Between test days and grading of the exams, the students and mentors interact and experience the culture of the host country through planned educational and social events.

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1. If you are a student who would like to participate, call your local section chair for Olympiad program information in your area, or check with your chemistry teacher. (Call ACS Olympiad office for local coordinator contact information.)

2. If you are a teacher with students who are interested in the USNCO program, contact you USNCO local section chemistry Olympiad coordinator or ACS local section chair and indicate that you have student{s) interested in participating. (Call ACS Olympiad office for local coordinator contact information.)

3. If you are a member of a local section or an ACS local section chair, call the ACS Olympiad office and request a Participation Response Form. After you complete the form and send it in, a local section coordinator will be designated. This person will receive the USNCO Coordinator Handbook with detailed information on administering the USNCO program. If you are interested in becoming the USNCO coordinator for your section, please contact your local. section chair.

4. Parents of home schoolers should contact their USNCO local coordinator for registration. (Call ACS Olympiad office tor local coordinator contact information.)

American Chemical Society Office of High School Chemistry

1155 Sixteenth Street, NW. Washington, DC 20036 Ph: 202-872-6328 Fax: 202-833-7732

e-mail: education@acs.org

Web site: www.chemistry.org/education/olympiad.html


The ACS Division of Chemical Education Examinations Institute, located at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, prints and distributes both the local section and the national USNCO exams. Orders for local section exams and local competition certificates (for recognition) should be received by the Exams Institute by late January or early Februa ry. National exam answer materials are returned to the Institute and must be received by the deadline in late April. Materials received after this date cannot be graded. The Institute also produces and markets a variety of chemistry exams for the high school and college level. Inquiries about the USNCO exams and other products can be directed to:

ACS DivCHED Examinations Institute University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Chemistry Department

PO Box 413 Milwaukee, WI 53201 voice: 414-229-5680 fax: 414-229-4335 e-mail: chmexams@uwm.edu

Web site:/Iwww.uwm.edu/Dept/chemexams!

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