Do’s and Don’ts for International Math Olympiad Participants

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The International Math Olympiad is considered to be one of the, if not the most difficult olympiads conducted by the Science Olympiad Foundation (SOF). While most students are able to score decent marks in it, in order to secure a spot in the top rankings, students need to be more aware of how they approach the olympiad and study for it.

Do dedicate additional time for preparation

Students often tend to think that no additional preparation is required for the International Math Olympiad. They are confident that only the topics they have learned in school will appear in the question paper. This is only partially true, as the SOF designs the syllabi for its olympiads by looking at the curricula of various educational boards. As a result, students who walk into the exam hall unprepared may find themselves at a loss when they see questions on topics they are not familiar with. The best way to overcome this issue is by going through IMO Sample Papers, as these will provide students with an accurate idea of what they will be asked in the exam. Setting aside some time to go through such resources, learn new topics, and solve questions is crucial in terms of exam preparation.

Don’t settle for losing marks

Most of the questions in the exam have a weightage of one mark, with the exception of questions in the Achievers Section, which are worth three marks. Due to this design, students may find it easy to dismiss the loss of a few marks. These students are not particularly bothered if they are unable to answer certain questions, as they think that losing out on just a mark or two won’t really affect their overall score. However, students should remember that if they hope to see their name in the school, zonal, or international level ranks, they need to give their all while attempting each and every question. In order to succeed despite tough competition, students cannot afford to give away even one or two marks.

Do talk to other participants

Since numerous students from each school participate in the International Math Olympiad, it is quite easy for them to establish contacts and talk to each other about the exam. This can help students exchange tips and tricks among themselves, as well as get an idea of what their next olympiad could look like. For example, a Class 6 student who speaks with Class 7 and Class 8 students regarding their experiences of the International Math Olympiad would benefit greatly, as they can learn from the older students’ mistakes and keep them in mind while preparing for their own olympiad attempts in Classes 7 and 8.

Don’t lose focus

While the International Math Olympiad is highly competitive in terms of rankings and awards, some students tend to think of it as having no real stakes. Older students, especially those studying in  Classes 10 and 12, are simultaneously studying for other competitive exams that will have a hand in deciding their future academic and career paths. As a result, such students often start losing interest in the exam and abandon studying for it. In such a scenario, it is important to remember that the International Math Olympiad is a rare opportunity, as it is one of the few exams that can provide students with global recognition. An excellent rank in the olympiad is a plus point in any student’s favour, and they should therefore work hard towards that goal.

Do talk to teachers

Teachers can act as a good resource while studying for the International Math Olympiad. Even though they may not be directly affiliated with the SOF, teachers tend to have insight into what kind of paper is set for the olympiad, and can therefore provide advice and recommendations to students who are genuinely interested in performing well in the olympiad.

Don’t be overconfident

This is something that students who already excel at Math struggle with. These students are confident that they can pass any Math exam with flying colours, without putting much effort into it. However, the International Math Olympiad has a different pattern from many other Math exams, and students may find it difficult to adapt to it. Additionally, the olympiad also tests students’ logical and analytical skills, which may be unfamiliar to students who focus only on the theoretical aspects of Math. Therefore, students studying for the International Math Olympiad should do so with an open mind, which will allow them to learn and grow to become better students.

Do make an attempt every year

All students are eligible to appear for the International Math Olympiad every year, provided that they are not in the same class they were in at the time of their last attempt. Students should take full advantage of this, and register themselves for the olympiad every year. As they attempt the exam multiple times over the years, they will find that they are more comfortable and familiar with the format of the paper, the types of questions asked, etc. This familiarity is sure to improve their chances of scoring better marks in the olympiad, as they will be able to focus more on the academic aspect of the exam, rather than the procedural one.

Don’t ignore exam instructions

This is something students must keep in mind as they sit in the exam hall, just before attempting the exam. Students appearing for the International Math Olympiad are given a question paper and an answer sheet. On the latter, there are detailed instructions regarding how students should properly mark their answers on the OMR sheet. Many students are in a rush to begin solving the paper, and as a result, they choose to forgo reading those instructions. Students must understand that if they do not read and follow these instructions carefully, their paper might not be checked. The instructions talk about the correct way to fill in the answer circles, the right kind of stationery tools to be used for the same, the appropriate ways of handling the answer sheet, etc. These instructions are extremely important because the answer sheets are only electronically, and can be checked only if the given instructions are followed.

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