IOL rules and guidelines for contestants


Rules for the individual competition

The following are rules and guidelines for contestants in the individual round. They will be presented (in English) at the opening ceremony. All language versions of these rules have equal validity.

  1. Working language
    • Each contestant chooses their working language from among those offered when registering for the Olympiad. This choice cannot normally be changed less than two weeks before the Olympiad begins.
    • You should choose the language in which you are most comfortable. Contrary to popular opinion, there is absolutely no advantage to be gained from using any particular language: all working languages have equal status in IOL.
    • You will receive a single copy of the problem set in your working language. If the set that you receive is not in the language you requested, you must let the invigilator know immediately, before the contest starts.
    • You must write your solutions in the same working language. There is no advantage to be gained by doing otherwise, and you risk introducing mistakes and losing marks.
  2. The problem set
    • The problem set consists of five separate problems which you may solve in any order. No contestant may receive more than one copy of the problem set during the contest, so please do not request one.
    • The contest lasts six hours.
    • You may keep your copy of the problems afterwards, but you must hand in all paperwork that you want the jury to mark (grade). You should put all of this in the envelope provided. You may keep drafts or other paperwork that you don’t want the jury to see.
    • The problems have all been very carefully checked to avoid mistakes, but if you suspect that there is an error, put up your hand and ask an invigilator. However, you should understand that it may take some time to contact the jury and get an answer in your language, so work on something else in the meantime.
    • You may request an explanation of an unfamiliar word. The Jury may fulfill such a request at their discretion. The Jury will not fulfill such a request if doing so would give you an unfair advantage. The Jury will not normally provide a translation of an unfamiliar word into another language.
    • All questions should be in writing. The invigilators will provide you with paper on which you should write your question(s) in your working language. Questions relating to different problems, if any, should be submitted separately, as they are likely to be dealt with by different Jury members (usually the Jury chair or problem author). You will receive the answer to your question(s) in writing in your working language.
    • When asking a question, on the top of the sheet you receive from the invigilator, indicate your name, seat number, problem number, and then write your question. The name and the seat number information helps to avoid mistakes with the distribution of answers.
  3. Your answer sheets
    • Do not copy the statements of the problems.
    • Write down your solution to each problem on a separate sheet or sheets: each problem is marked (graded) by a different team of jury members, so your answer sheets will be separated and you should not therefore answer different problems on the same sheet.
    • On each sheet attach a sticker which should show your name and seat number. On the sticker indicate the number of the problem, and the page sequence of that sheet within the problem, e.g. problem 3 sheet 1/4, problem 3 sheet 2/4, etc. (meaning first sheet of four, etc.). If you run out of stickers, simply write this information on the top of the sheet: name, seat number, problem number, sheet number within the problem.
    • You may use both sides of the paper if you wish, but only if both sides refer to the same problem.
    • Your answers must be well supported by explanation, unless the question explicitly instructs you otherwise. Even a perfectly correct answer will be given a lower score if not accompanied by an explanation.
    • This explanation should be a detailed and systematic summary of the facts that you have discovered, NOT a description of how you discovered them. Do not give alternative answers (to test items) hoping that one of them will be correct (unless of course the question asks for multiple answers): you will not receive any marks for multiple answers, even if one of them is right. If you offer alternative conflicting explanations, you will also lose marks, so take care to delete (erase or cross-out) anything you do not want to include in your answer.
    • At the end, place your answer sheets in the envelope provided.
  4. What you should bring
    • Something to write with: pen is preferred to pencil, but not obligatory. Use of different colours can help clarify your presentation, but you should avoid the use of red, traditionally reserved for the jury members.
    • Paper will be provided. If you need more paper, signal to the invigilator by putting up your hand.
    • Some spare pens will be available: if you need one, put up your hand to request one.
  5. What you may bring
    • You may bring food and drink, although a packed lunch will be provided for you during the competition.
    • If you bring your own food, please bring only food that can be eaten quietly and neatly and does not have a strong smell, so as not to disturb other contestants.
    • You may bring with you any medication that you may need during the contest. If you have any special needs, your team leader should notify the organizers beforehand.
    • You may bring a watch or other time-keeping device as long as it (a) is quiet and (b) does not enable contact with the outside world. There will be a large clock in the room, so you should not need your own watch.
  6. What you MUST NOT bring
    • You must not bring any printed matter (e.g. dictionary).
    • You are NOT allowed to bring your own paper (even blank) to the contest.
    • You must not bring any music or other entertainment device, even if equipped with headphones.
    • Smoking, including e-cigarettes, is not permitted.
    • You must not bring any laptop, tablet, mobile phone, smart watch or any other device which would enable you to contact the outside world or the internet. Any contestant found with any such item in their possession during the contest will be immediately disqualified.
  7. Entering and leaving the room
    • Your seat will be assigned to you, and you must sit in this seat.
    • If you are more than 30 minutes late, you will not be allowed to enter the room.
    • Should you need to leave the room temporarily, put up your hand. You will be accompanied by an invigilator. Try to avoid disturbing other contestants.
    • You may submit your solutions and leave the contest at any time after the first 30 minutes, but once you do so you will not be allowed to return.
  8. Questionnaire
    • As well as the problem set, you will receive a questionnaire, which you are asked to fill in at some point during the contest.
    • The questionnaire asks you about the problems you worked on. This information is used to help the problem committee judge the suitability of the problems.
    • The questionnaire also asks you to vote for your favourite problem.
    • Your responses to the questionnaire will not affect your score.
    • The questionnaire will be collected separately.

Rules for the team competition

The following are additional rules and guidelines for contestants in the team competition.

  1. Working language
    • Your team will receive the problem in only one language.
    • You must use the team working language for your solution. One or more of the team members may have requested a different working language in the individual contest, but for the team contest you must all work in the same language.
  2. The problem
    • The team competition involves a single problem.
    • Each team member will receive their own copy of the problem, but the team should submit a single solution.
    • The length of time available, normally 4 hours, will be clearly indicated. Your invigilator will record the starting time and finishing time for your team. Unlike in the individual competition, no food will be provided; you may bring your own.
  3. Collaboration
    • You are free to talk together while solving the team problem.
    • However, the same restrictions on material and devices as in the individual contest also apply to the team competition.
    • Your team will be allocated its own room for the team competition, but you should be aware that teams in nearby rooms may be able to hear your discussion and/or could be disturbed if you are too noisy, especially if windows are open.
  4. Leaving the room during the competition
    • Should you need to leave the room temporarily, ask your invigilator. You may have to wait while a helper is found to accompany you or replace the invigilator.
  5. Finishing up
    • Place your answer sheets in the envelope. Your invigilator will seal it and deliver it to the Jury as arranged.
    • Remember that the team next door may have started later than you, so they may still be working. Please be quiet as you leave your room.

Approved by Milena Veneva, 17 November 2022.