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chemistry olympiad study guide

n00bpwnern00bpwner Posts: 30Registered User Junior Member
Hey folks. Is there by any chance a guide for the olympiads? besides past papers obviously?
Posted in this thread cause I thought it'd be the best place.
thanks in advance
Post edited by n00bpwner on

Replies to: chemistry olympiad study guide

  • collegealum314collegealum314 Posts: 6,218Registered User Senior Member
    The tests should be on-line. Just check the US chem olympics website. I never took the test, but a good general chemistry college textbook should suffice. If it's more advanced, I would check out a physical chem or organic chem book. But I'm sure not much more than thermo or basic organic chem would be on it.

    It's much more straightforward than the math olympiad in terms of preparation.
  • schrodingerscatschrodingerscat Posts: 230Registered User Junior Member

    That's the IChO syllabus, and I presume that any form of national qualifying exam wouldn't extend beyond it at all. However, you'd be much better off practising problem solving exercises rather than simply churning through routine questions - I'm not sure about the American selection processes, but the olympiad exams usually tend to be exceptionally difficult- you can afford to not understand the entire breadth of content if you can answer a few areas perfectly.
  • rxhu123rxhu123 Posts: 58Registered User Junior Member
    my son made the final in 2008. But he did not attend the training camp. There are two tests held in some local college. The first one is just multiple choice questions. The best way to prepare is to go to chemistry olympiad websit to download the old problem set. Study the questions and make sure you understand the realted field. Then you should be no problem. The second test has 4 parts. The experiment section will depend on your quick wit. I found Chemistry olympiad is the eaiest to prepare in all the olympiads.
  • schrodingerscatschrodingerscat Posts: 230Registered User Junior Member
    In terms of the easiest olympiad to prepare for, I'd say it's biology. Easily. The biology course requires a lot of memorisation - I know of someone who came 4th in IBO, and apparently he thought it was largely how hard you work. I can't vouch for sure about what he said though, because I wasn't in the biology training camp (I don't do any form of biology!).
  • rxhu123rxhu123 Posts: 58Registered User Junior Member
    my son went to biology training camp in 2008 when he is senior after three tries. (He got into final in chemistry in 2007, I get it wrong). Biology topics is wide and keeps having new stuff. You either know or you don't know. Chemistry olympiad's questions are always the same number of fields. redox reaction, thermodynamic etc. If you know how to do one year's problem, then you can do next year problem.
  • viewfromviewfrom Posts: 39Registered User Junior Member
    What score is considered good? I mean for local test. The score that is good enough for next level.

  • JashperJashper Posts: 219Registered User Junior Member
    It all depends on how competitive your region is. Each local section can only allow a certain amount of students based on the section's population to take the national exam. For example if your section can have 20 students take it, the top 20 scorers will take it. To give you an idea of the limits, when I took it a few years ago for my local section (Northeastern MA including Boston, and parts of NH) we were allowed to send 23 or so I believe. About 120 students including myself took it. Your local section can also decide to make their own local exam instead of using the one provided by the ACS, but they must use the same national exam. Because my section is extremely competitive, they use their own exam, which is/was more difficult. You can look at some of our past exams at NESACS - The Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society on the right hand side of that page.
  • JashperJashper Posts: 219Registered User Junior Member
    Generally if you can score above a 50 on the ACS format of the local exam, you will be in pretty good shape. For more competitive regions like NJ you need to shoot for 55+. However these are not definite ranges. I know of some regions where getting above a 45 will qualify you.
  • viewfromviewfrom Posts: 39Registered User Junior Member
    Jashper, thanks a lot for the information and link for your section. I have taken a couple local ones for previous years. I can get around 45. What's the good way, book or resource to study for this besides the past exams?
  • JashperJashper Posts: 219Registered User Junior Member
    Try reading Chemical Principles: The Quest for Insight by Peter Atkins; I used it for my olympiad prep and for my chem course at MIT (5.112). Both the 3rd and 4th editions are essentially the same, so if you want to save some money get the 3rd. There is a lot of good info in there to refine your understanding of chemical principles and phenomena. You can afford to skim chapters 14, 15, the 1st half of chapter 16, and 17, but try to read all of the other chapters. Once you master that, go through all of the past national and regional exams, and when you feel confident that you can make the study camp you can move on to some basic/advanced organic chem. Bonne chance!
  • viewfromviewfrom Posts: 39Registered User Junior Member
    i wish that i talked with you earlier. now, i don't know i have time to read the book for this year's local, but I will try. It will be useful for next year for sure.

    thanks a lot.
  • moodragonxmoodragonx Posts: 422Registered User Member
    I managed to get second place in the local exam this year with a 48/60. I did the 2009 exam online before I took this exam and thought it was quite easy but the exam this year seemed harder to me, but the material covered was different and I was less confident with that. What probably hurt the most was that about 30 - 40% of the questions involved calculations and... I forgot my calculator. So I ate through 2 pages of scratch paper and still had trouble finding the pH from hydronium concentration (I'm not quite capable to doing logs without a calculator) so I barely finished all the question with 3 minutes to spare.

    In any case, my area can let 10 people through and someone else at my school made the eight spot with a 38/60 so my region isn't quite that competitive.

    But looking at the national level exams they're much more difficult. But they seem to vary far more than I'd expect. I mean I did one years and I could confidently answer about 5 of the first 30 questions. But then I picked up another one and found it to be significantly easier so I can't say I know what to expect for the national exam. Overall though it seems the nationals should be noticeably more difficult.
  • caviliercavilier Posts: 415Registered User Member
    I got 58 out of 60 on the local exam in 2009. I took the national exam and got high honors but didn't make the finals.

    I studied for the multiple choice by doing the old multiple choice tests. There will be one or two questions on crystal geometry, so study that.

    For the free response portion, my chemistry teacher took a bunch of old tests and rearranged the questions by subject matter (redox, chemical kinetics, thermochem, etc) so I could practice one subject at a time. There may be a questions on organic chemistry, so make sure you study that too.

    To prepare for the lab portion, you have to actually do the labs. Beg your chemistry teacher to set-up the experiments for you. Even if you are confident you know how to do it in your head, you WILL run into problems when you actually do it. For example, when I took the 2009 lab portion, I tried to identify the sodium bisulfite using smell, since all the solutions to previous lab questions lead me to believe I would be able to identify sulfite by smell. I couldn't. I knew sulfite would react with acid to produce sulfur dioxide which is suppose to have a distinct smell, but when I added acid to each sample, I couldn't smell anything. I couldn't separate the sulfite from the phosphates so I couldn't determine which phosphate was which by titration.

    As I was walking away from the testing center, I remembered seeing something strange. A sample that I had titrated at the beginning which was bright red had turned faint orange (the indicator was methyl orange) over the course of the hour. Just then I suddenly realized that that sample was the sulfite. Sulfite's reaction with acid is slow, so it will gradually change pH over a long period of time. If I had made this realization 10 minutes earlier, I would not have tanked the second lab question.

    This is why it is helpful to do practice labs. Some things don't work as you think they will, and it's easier to make mess around and make important realizations when there is no test pressure and no time limit. You also need experience with the chemicals. For example, methyl orange had a pretty continuous color gradient that made it difficult to know when to stop titrating.
  • milkweedmilkweed Posts: 477Registered User Member
    How did you learn material that had not been covered in your high school classes? Did you use any specific book to study for the national exam? For example, where did you find information on crystal geometry? It seems sort of overwhelming if you don't have a teacher or a mentor to guide you.
  • caviliercavilier Posts: 415Registered User Member
    I had an excellent and very helpful high school chemistry teacher. That probably helped. The crystal geometry questions that they ask are usually pretty general, so just reading your high school chemistry book's chapter on crystal geometry is adequate. There are only 1-2 questions on crystal geometry so if you have an weak areas in general chemistry, it would probably be wiser to focus on those first.
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