International Physics Olympiad

International Physics Olympiad

The International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) is an annual physics competition for high school students. It is one of the international science olympiads. The first IPhO was held in Warsaw, Poland in 1967.

Each national delegation is made up of five student competitors plus two leaders, selected on a national level. Observers may also accompany a national team. The students compete as individuals, and must sit for intensive theoretical and laboratory examinations. For their efforts the students can be awarded gold, silver, or bronze medals or an honourable mention.

The theoretical examination lasts 5 hours and consists of three questions. Usually these questions involve more than one part. The practical examination may consist of one laboratory examination of five hours, or two, which together take up the full five hours.

The 35th IPhO was held in Pohang, South Korea from July 15th to 23rd, 2004; the 36th from July 3rd to 12th, 2005, in Salamanca, Spain; the 37th, was held in Singapore from July 8th to 17th, 2006; the 38th IPhO, from July 13th to 22nd, 2007 was held in Isfahan, Iran.


Several months before the first IPhO took place, invitations were sent to all the Central European countries. The invitations were accepted by Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania (five countries including Poland, the organiser of the competition). Each team consisted of three secondary school students accompanied by one supervisor. The competition was arranged along the lines of the final stage of the Polish Physics Olympiad: one day for theoretical problems and one day for carrying out an experiment. One obvious difference was that the participants had to wait for the scripts to be marked. During the waiting period the organisers arranged two excursions by plane to Krak and to Gdansk. At the first IPhO the students had to solve four theoretical problems and one experimental problem.

The second Olympiad was organised by Prof. Rezső Kunfalvi in Budapest, Hungary, in 1968. Eight countries took part in that competition. The German Democratic Republic, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia joined the participating countries. Again, each country was represented by three secondary school students and one supervisor. Some time before the second IPhO a preliminary version of the Statutes and the Syllabus were produced. Later these documents were officially accepted by the International Board consisting of the supervisors of the teams that participated in the competition. This took place during a special meeting organised in Brno, Czechoslovakia, several months after the second IPhO.

The third IPhO was arranged by Prof. Rostislav Kostial in Brno, Czechoslovakia, in 1969. On that occasion each team consisted of five students and two supervisors. The competition in Brno was organised according to the official Statutes accepted earlier.

The next Olympiad took place in Moscow, Soviet Union, in 1970. Each country was represented by six students and two supervisors. During that Olympiad several small changes were introduced into the Statutes.

Since the fifth IPhO, held in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1971, each team has consisted of five pupils and two supervisors. In 1978 and 1980, the IPhO was not organized. This was due to the accession of the Western countries. The first capitalist country to participate was the Federal Republic of Germany. At first, the few Western countries participating declined to accept the principle that the IPhO be organized every second year in a Western and Eastern block country. Thus the Eastern block countries declined from organising the 1978 and 1980 olympiads. From 1982 onwards, the yearly competition was resumed as there were enough participating Western countries to share the load. At present, the venue of the olympiad is decided for years ahead. After accession into IPhO, every country must notify the others within three years about its willingness to host the IPhO. After this, the country is placed on a waiting list which as of 2006 stretches well into 2050s. The failure to organize the IPhO on turn will lead to temporary expulsion from the IPhO. This happened to France in 2000.

Structure of the Competition

The competition lasts for two days. One day is devoted to theoretical problems (three problems involving at least four areas of physics taught in secondary schools, total number of marks is 30). Another day is devoted to experimental problems (one or two problems, total number of marks 20). These two days are separated by at least one day of rest. On both occasions the time allotted for solving the problems is five hours. Each team consists of students from general or technical secondary schools (not colleges or universities). Typically each team consists of five students (pupils) and two supervisors.

The minimal scores required for Olympic Medals and Honourable Mentions are chosen by the organizers according to the following rules [ [ Statutes of the International Physics Olympiads] ] : A Gold Medal should be awarded to the top 6% of the participants. A Silver Medal or better should be awarded to the top 18%. A Bronze Medal or better should be awarded to the top 36%. An Honourable Mention or better should be awarded to the top 60%. All other participants receive certificates of participation. The participant with the highest score (Absolute Winner) receives a special prize, in addition to a Gold Medal.

List of venues

* 2013 Denmark
* 2012 Estonia
* 2011 Belgium
* 2010 Croatia
* 2009 Mérida, Mexico
* 2008 Hanoi, Vietnam
* 2007 Isfahan, Iran
* 2006 Singapore
* 2005 Salamanca, Spain
* 2004 Pohang, South Korea
* 2003 Taipei, Taiwan
* 2002 Bali, Indonesia
* 2001 Antalya, Turkey
* 2000 Leicester, Great Britain
* 1999 Padova, Italy
* 1998 Reykjavík, Iceland
* 1997 Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
* 1996 Oslo, Norway
* 1995 Canberra, Australia
* 1994 Beijing, China
* 1993 Williamsburg, USA
* 1992 Helsinki, Finland
* 1991 Havana, Cuba
* 1990 Groningen, The Netherlands
* 1989 Warsaw, Poland
* 1988 Bad Ischl, Austria
* 1987 Jena, GDR
* 1986 London-Harrow, United Kingdom
* 1985 Portorož, SFR Yugoslavia
* 1984 Sigtuna, Sweden
* 1983 Bucharest, Romania
* 1982 Malente, West Germany
* 1981 Varna, Bulgaria
* 1979 Moscow, Soviet Union
* 1977 Hradec Kralove, Czechoslovakia
* 1976 Budapest, Hungary
* 1975 Guestrow, East Germany
* 1974 Warsaw, Poland
* 1972 Bucharest, Romania
* 1971 Sofia, Bulgaria
* 1970 Moscow, Soviet Union
* 1969 Brno, Czechoslovakia
* 1968 Budapest, Hungary
* 1967 Warsaw, Poland


External links

* [ Homepage of the International Physics Olympiad]
* [ Website of the 1998 IPhO]
* [ Website of the 1999 IPhO]
* [ Website of the 2000 IPhO]
* [ Website of the 2002 IPhO]
* [ Website of the 2003 IPhO]
* [ Website of the 2004 IPhO]
* [ Website of the 2005 IPhO]
* [ Website of the 2006 IPhO]
* [ Website of the 2007 IPhO]
* [ Website of the 2008 IPhO]

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