Regulations Pertaining to the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO)

Provided in February 1997 by:

Dr. Walter E. Mientka,
Secretary of the IMO Advisory Board
University of Nebraska, Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics
Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-0658, U.S.A.

Regulations for an International Mathematical Olympiad

A. The aims of the IMO are:

B1. Participation in an IMO is by invitation. Each invited country is entitled to send a team consisting of a leader, a deputy leader and no more than six contestants.

B2. Contestants should not have been formally enrolled and commenced their studies at a university or at any equivalent post-secondary institution. A contestant's 20th birthday must be after the day of the second examination paper.

B3. The host country covers all official expenses for the teams, leaders and deputy leaders, including meals and accommodations for the period of the official program. Any country whose team, leader or deputy spends extra days in the host country must meet the full cost of such extra days.

B4. Observers and family members may accompany a leader or deputy leader. Such observers or family members are responsible for all their own expenses. The host country may, if necessary, restrict the number of such 'extra' persons.

B5. Each invited country wishing to participate in an IMO must send an official acceptance to be received by the organizers by the closing date stated.

B6. Each participating country must send to the organizers information as requested by the dates specified.

C1. Each participating country is expected to submit problems, with solutions, for consideration by the host country. The problems should, if possible, cover various fields of pre-university mathematics and be of different degrees of difficulty. Problems and solutions may be submitted in English, French, German, Russian or Spanish.

C2. The organizers shall not distribute short listed problems to the participating students.

D1. The contest will take place on two days. On each day 4 1/2 hours will be allotted for the examination paper and each day the paper will contain three problems, each worth 7 points.

D2. The problems will be given to each contestant in her/his own language.

D3. Each contestant is to work independently and submit solutions in her/his own language. Students writing should finish when all others do except for exceptional circumstance which will be brought to the Jury as soon as possible.

D4. The only instruments permitted in the contest are writing and drawing instruments. In particular, books, papers, tables, calculators and computers may not be brought into the examination room.

D5. Each contestant's solutions are first assessed by her/his leader and deputy leader.

D6. The final scores, unless disputed and referred to the Jury by the leaders, are decided by the coordinators appointed by the organizers. The score for each problem for each contestant, agreed by the team leader and the coordinators, is recorded and signed by the team leader and one of the coordinators for that problem.

D7. For each problem the coordination of solutions by contestants in the team from the host country shall be verified by the team leader of the country which submitted the problem.

D8. The numbers of first, second and third prizes will be approximately in the ratio 1:2:3. The total number of these prizes will not be more than half of the number of contestants.

D9. Special prizes may be awarded for solutions considered outstanding by the Jury.

D10. Each contestant who has not received any one of the first, second or third prizes will receive a certificate of Honorable Mention if she/he has scored full points (7) for at least one problem.

D11. Each contestant shall receive a Certificate of Participation.

E1. The Jury consists of all team leaders and a chair and a deputy chair appointed by the organizers. A leader may be replaced by her/his deputy. Observers may attend meetings of the Jury only with the permission of the chair, but are not entitled to speak or to vote. Deputy leaders may attend meetings of the Jury after the contest, but shall have no right to speak nor to vote.

E2. The chair and each leader have one vote. A motion shall be carried by a simple majority of votes. In the event of a tie, the chair shall have a casting vote.

E3. The Jury may appoint sub-committees to consider specific matters.

E4. The meetings of the Jury will be conducted principally in English. Whenever requested, and, in particular, before any vote, interpretations will be given in French, German, Russian, and any other language that the host country deems to be desirable.

E5. When a problem has been selected for the contest the Jury shall first approve an English language version. Final versions in English, French, German, Russian and Spanish shall be approved by the Jury.

E6. Before the contest, the Jury:

E7. The Jury considers any written questions raised by any contestant during the first half hour of each of the two examinations, and decides on the replies to be given.

E8. After the contest, the Jury:

Information and Recommendations for IMO Hosts

The IMO Jury commends the following points to IMO host countries.
  1. It is the accepted custom to invite to an IMO a team from each country that has participated in any of the three previous IMOs.
  2. Where a country has participated in none of the three previous IMOs, a host country may write to determine if an invitation would be welcome.
  3. Where two countries that have each participated in past IMOs unite to form one country (as happened with the two Germanys) one team from the united country should be invited.
  4. Where a country that has participated in past IMOs breaks up to become a number of separate countries, each of the new countries should be invited to send a team to the IMO, but no invitation should be sent to the former country that has now been divided; there should not be 'double representation'. However, it is realized that financial and accommodation constraints may make it difficult for a host country to follow this guideline.
  5. A 'new' country that wishes to participate in future IMOs should apply to the Secretary of the IMOAB. (Any inquiries received by Leaders or others should be directed to the Secretary of the IMOAB.) The usual procedure will be for a 'new' country to first send an Observer to the next IMO, paying in full all charges for the Observer's transport, accommodation, food, etc., and to enter a team for the subsequent IMO. Thus, when the Secretary receives an application, he will contact the hosts of at least the next two IMOs to ensure that they can meet the above program. The next host must be able to accept the Observer and the second host must be able to accept and accommodate the team. All other formally accepted host countries will be informed of the application at the same time.
  6. If a host finds itself uncertain of the countries or territories that should be invited to send teams to the IMO the IMOAB should be asked for advice.
  7. A country's delegation normally consists of a Leader and Deputy and the team, usually consisting of 6 pupils.
  8. Official invitations should be sent to members of the IMOAB. Host countries should meet all expenses (apart from travel to the IMO) of IMOAB members who are not team leaders or deputies.
  9. It is accepted custom that the IMOAB meets on at least two occasions during the IMO. The first meeting should be held on the day before leaders arrive for the IMO.
  10. The host country must ensure that the working conditions for the students when they are writing the solutions to the problems are satisfactory, with adequate heating and ventilation. In addition it is essential that the arrangements are such that the students are not encouraged to cheat. In general there should be no more than one student from each country in any examination room.
  11. As more countries take part in IMOs the range of languages and scripts used increases. Organizers are advised to seek an interpreter/coordinator for each language used in the IMO who is competent to check that the translation of the problems is accurate and that the students' scripts are being fairly assessed.
  12. At least half a day's free time should be allowed for leaders before the first Jury meeting at which the selection of problems is discussed.
  13. When issuing an official invitation a potential host country should make certain that sufficient funds are available to meet the costs of the IMO.
  14. Host countries are advised to consider accident and health insurance for participants and to inform participating countries before the IMO of actions taken.
  15. It is helpful if the host country informs participating countries of the arrangements for accommodation of teams and deputies. If possible the deputy should be housed near to her/his team.
  16. At the conclusion of an IMO leaders should be provided with a full set of scores for all contestants and countries and a full set of addresses of leaders and deputy leaders.
  17. It is very helpful if a host country prepares a report on its IMO, noting any difficulties or problems encountered, and sends this report to the IMOAB and to the next year's host.
  18. It is essential that, before they leave home for the IMO, leaders are informed of a telephone number for use in emergency.

Responsibilities for IMO Leaders

The leader should be sufficiently involved in mathematics to carry out the following responsibilities.
  1. Inform the participants, the deputy and other persons involved, of the regulations for the Olympiad. In particular the leader has to inform the participants that the use of notebooks, mathematical tables, calculators, computers, etc. is not allowed.
  2. Ensure that her/his country submits problems to the Problem Selection Committee of the host country. If possible each problem should be accompanied by a description of its creation. Ensure that the proposed problems and their solutions are kept secret.
  3. Submit to the Problem Selection Committee of the IMO an English version of all the problems used in contests (national or regional) arranged by her/his country and held after the previous IMO.
  4. Attend all the meetings of the Jury of the IMO and take part in its work.
  5. Inform the jury of any short listed problem is already known to her/him, her/his team or other people involved in the preparation of the team.
  6. Ensure the preparation of an accurate translation of the chosen problems into the contestants' own language for the use of her/his team.
  7. Ensure that the deadlines set by the host country are met.
  8. During the IMO supply the representative of the next host country with up to date addresses of institutions and contact persons to whom documents and invitations should be sent.
  9. Inform her/his national committee of decisions taken by the Jury during the IMO.

Responsibilities for IMO Deputy Leaders

  1. The Deputy Leader should be sufficiently involved in mathematics to help the Leader, and in case of an emergency to replace the Leader. In particular, the Deputy Leader should:
Additional responsibilities include:
  1. Inform the participants of the regulations pertaining to the examination.
  2. Supervise the conduct and welfare of the team during the activities of the IMO.

Regulations & Responsibilities of the IMO Advisory Board (IMOAB)

General Principles

  1. The Advisory Board is a committee whose members are nominated by the Jury of the IMO and appointed by ICMI. Members of the IMOAB have, or have had a role directly linked to the IMOs, such as Leader, Deputy, or organizer of an IMO.
  2. The IMOAB is an advisory body in which propositions concerning the functioning of IMOs are discussed. The IMOAB has no power to make decisions; all decisions are made by the IMO Jury. Between IMOs the IMOAB acts on behalf of the Jury, and reports any decisions taken to the Jury at the next IMO.
  3. The IMOAB also has the responsibility of maintaining relations between IMOs and other international organizations with the object of promoting the popularization of IMOs.
  4. The IMOAB is responsible to the Jury for all its actions and each year, during the IMO, shall report to the Jury on actions it has taken.

Constitution and Meetings

  1. The membership of the IMOAB consists of a Chair, a Secretary, three other members nominated by the Jury and appointed by ICMI; and representatives of the host countries for the last, the present and the two following IMOs.
  2. The period of service for appointed members is four years. The 'appointment year' is from the end of one IMO to the end of the next. Nominations for membership of the IMOAB must be given to the Secretary at the end of an IMO; the Jury votes to select new members during the next IMO.
    In making appointments it is desirable that the Chair and Secretary should not give up their posts in the same year.
    If possible the Chair and Secretary should have been members of the IMOAB before taking up their offices.
  3. The IMOAB shall meet at least twice during each IMO (the first meeting being at the beginning of the IMO), and at other times if necessary.
  4. The Chair and the Secretary of the IMOAB may attend meetings of the IMO Jury, but, unless they are leaders, shall not be entitled to vote.


Concerning the functioning of IMOs
  1. The IMOAB must ensure that an IMO is held each year. It must seek invitations from countries to host IMOs and liaise with countries offering such invitations.
  2. The IMOAB shall report to the Jury offers to host IMOs that it has received. The Jury decides the offers to be accepted. The Chair of the IMOAB is responsible for informing countries concerned of the Jury's decisions.
  3. The IMOAB will respond to questions and requests for advice or assistance from host countries as they prepare to hold the IMO.
  4. The IMOAB will present to the Jury proposals designed to improve the organization and running of IMOs.
  5. The IMOAB will inform the Jury of impending changes in the membership of the IMOAB that will require new appointments.
  6. The IMOAB will record decisions of the Jury on any matters arising from the above items.

Concerning relations with other bodies

  1. The IMOAB may establish links with other national or international organizations whose activities may relate to IMOs (e.g. UNESCO, ICME, Olympiads of other subjects, ...). Such links will have as their objectives:

Jury empowered items

  1. The Jury empowered the IMOAB to investigate the establishment of an IMOAB Trust Fund.

Operation pronouncements to the Jury

  1. Prohibit individuals from appearing before the jury to propagate entities not related to the functions of the Jury.
  2. Establish an IMO World Wide Web page.

IMOAB operating procedure

  1. The IMOAB Chair and Secretary were designated to meet with any leader who has a concern about the rules and regulations associated with the IMO. Host country representatives will at all times be present at the meetings, associated with this concern.

Rules Associated with the Election of Members to the IMO Advisory Board

  1. Only members of the jury are allowed to vote.
  2. The voting will take place by secret ballot.
  3. One can vote for at most the number of candidates to be elected. Ballots with more than this number will be considered invalid.
  4. Each candidate shall give a short presentation of themselves.
  5. Members of the jury shall be given an opportunity to express their view(s) about the candidates.
  6. The chair shall have the casting vote in case of a tie vote which has an effect on the number to be elected. If the Chair chooses to abstain, then a vote run-off shall be conducted with only those in the relevant tie position listed on the ballot.
  7. The host country shall provide two people to count the votes.

The IMO Trust Fund

On July 17, 1995 the Jury of the 36th IMO approved the establishment of an IMO Trust Fund. This Fund is to be used to:

Application for Trust Funds will be sent to the IMOAB Secretary. Award decisions will be made by the IMOAB. Proposals for the attainment of funds for this Trust will be presented to the Jury.

Several countries have contributed to this Trust Fund. Donations are solicited and should be sent to the Secretary of the IMOAB.