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The International Mathematics Olympiad is one of the most popular and widely attempted high school competitions which is held annually by the Science Olympiad Foundation (SOF). Students of grades 1-12 can sit for this exam and can compete with students at school, zonal and international levels. The main aim of this competition is to provide a platform where they can assess their mathematical skills and compete with their peers in a bid to secure various cash prizes and trophies which are awarded to top performers at each level. Securing top ranks in this exam will not only boost students’ confidence to work better in the subject but will also motivate them to take up a career in this discipline. Parents and teachers should motivate students from an early age to prepare for IMOs. In addition to enhancing their competitive streak, IMOs are the best medium to encourage students to look beyond the prescribed curriculum for their respective grades and aim for excellence.

IMO is conducted in two levels, Students of grade 9 are provided with a final Students’ Performance Report (SPR) after successful completion of Level 2 which details their overall performance in relation to their peers at school, zonal and international level. Level 1 is open for all students of classes 1-12. It is done to ensure maximum participation in IMOs. However, Level 2 is only open to a selected number of students who fulfil the minimum performance in Level 1 criteria as established by SOF. Interested candidates can contact their respective schools or visit SOF’s official website to have detailed information regarding the same. The paper consists of four sections that test the logical, mathematical, reasoning and advanced application skills in the subject, all in the form of multiple-choice questions with English as the only medium. 

Students can apply for the IMO via their respective schools and Level 1 is tentatively organised in December-January and the next level is organised in February-March. Generally, the Olympiad follows the syllabus of the respective grade but the questions asked are not as simple and direct as they are asked in school level examinations. A more in-depth strategy and determination are required to ace this exam. In order to make it easy for candidates, this article here discusses how students should prepare for the exam. Incorporating these tips will definitely fetch better scores in IMO.

Understand the syllabus and paper pattern thoroughly

Level 1 of the exam consists of almost 70% syllabus from the previous grade. However, even though the syllabus followed is in accordance with the curriculum prescribed by several national and state education boards, students must keep in mind that since this is an international level competition, it is not advisable to limit themselves to the topics and books followed in schools. The official SOF website can be referred to for a detailed syllabus and the paper pattern. To understand the paper pattern and the difficulty level of questions asked, students, can refer to the Previous Year Paper for IMO Class 9 Maths 2013 that can be easily accessed on the internet or from any paper compilation available in the market.

After going through both these things carefully, students can decide the further course of the preparation. 

Deciding on a quality resource list

Textbooks are undoubtedly an indispensable part of any preparation, especially when the exam is as demanding and challenging as IMO. NCERTs are the best material to start with as it helps in creating the core foundation of the subject. After going through them, students can move on to advanced books that include challenging questions and worksheets. Students must keep the list of resources limited but make sure to practice all the questions given in them. The best way to effectively solve them is to brainstorm the best and quickest solution for each problem. IMO aims to primarily test the application skills of students in this subject and hence, books with lots and lots of questions are best suited.

Advance your skills with the help of online study material

There are quite a number of short-term courses offered by universities across the world via platforms like edx, Coursera, etc. that are extremely helpful in imparting knowledge that is otherwise not available in textbooks and schools. Any topic which students think is hard to comprehend is made simpler in these innovative and engaging courses. In addition, free lectures and explainer series posted by youtube channels and questions posted by websites can aid your preparation. 

Begin at the earliest

The exam requires a bit of a different approach from regular school level examinations and thus a separate schedule should be decided for its preparation. Keep aside at least 3-4 hours per day especially for studying for IMO and this schedule should be followed 3-4 months before the final exam. This will ensure that students have enough time to revise everything and attempt a few mock tests beforehand. It is absolutely impossible to cover the whole syllabus in less time than this without compromising the quality of the preparation. 

Practice is the key

In a subject like mathematics without practice, nothing can be achieved. There is no end to the possibility of framing questions from a given topic in this subject and thus, students must solve as many questions as they can to instil confidence in themselves at problem-solving. After learning every new formula or theorem, go through past years’ questions and sample questions without fail. With practice, accuracy and the ability to devise better and quicker solutions will also come, enhancing the logical and critical thinking of the candidate. The best way to practice is solving questions in a limited time frame as it will increase speed and time management skills.

Some last-minute tips

  • Revise all the important formulas a day before with the help of very short notes that you have made previously during preparation.
  • Take proper sleep a day before appearing for the exam.
  • Begin with those questions first that you are confident in solving without panicking at difficult questions.
  • Read each question carefully and give yourself a few minutes to think of the best possible way to solve it.
  • Focus on staying calm and composed throughout the exam.