Tips for Preparing International Biology Olympiad (IBO) by Global 9th Place Gold Medal Winner Part.1 Taiwan National Preliminary

Tips for Preparing International Biology Olympiad (IBO) by Global 9th Place Gold Medal Winner Part.1 Taiwan National Preliminary


By TE-WEI TSENG, NTU Department of Medicine


Some high school students with the interest in participating science competitions have asked me how I prepared for IBO. To succeed in IBO, the first thing is to know it.


There are two ways to be selected in a national team to join IBO.  The first one is a national science competition. The competition consists of two rounds, regional exam and national exam. Top 10 can join the national biology Olympiad semi-final. Second way is the National Biology Olympiad, which I chose. National Biology Olympiad consists of four rounds of tests, preliminary exam(top 200 advance), intermediate round(top 30 advance), semi-final together with the 10 winners of national science competition. Semifinal is a one-week camp, consisting of theoretical and experiemental tests. Top 8 students advance to final, and top 4 will become national team to participate in IBO. 


This article is mainly for preliminary. Others I will share on another day.


Before put yourself into this competition, it should be awarded that do not take the competition as the only way to apply for college. Only winning gold medal (global top 25)can ensure yourself admitted to almost any department of any university, and department of medicine of some universities are still excluded. So don’t spend all your time on this competition. Take it as an self-challenge and a  experience to broaden your horizon. For a third grade high school student, preparing for the entrance exam is always the top priority.


Reference books for National preliminary I chose <Campbell Biology(Chinese ver.)>,<初探生奧>,<再探生奧>

The questions in preliminary have various degree of difficulty. Some of the answers can be found in high school biology textbook, but some of them are in college level. So here is some strategies 


1. Basically, Campbell is the essential textbook for IBO. If time allows, study this book three hours a day and go through all chapters as same as I did. The book contains much more knowledge than high school textbooks so it is somehow difficult for a high school students to understand and memorize. To me, after finishing reading one chapter, I would take notes for the main ideas, classifying different knowledge and summarizing. It help me bear the knowledge in mind. Also, you must improve your reading speed and to reread as many times as you can. 

2. If no enough time and have difficulty to study college textbooks, study the high school textbook thoroughly, especially the old version because old one contains more additional information. However, the knowledge sufficiency still can’t compete with Campbell.

3. Previous exams are always important even for IBO. So after studying textbook, test 5-10 years previous exams to get the focus of the tests. Previous exams and the answers are available on website of the National Biology Olympiad.


Biology contains lots and diverse knowledge. Sometimes we have to learn it by rote. Studying without tips and direction makes the information easily forgotten. I recommend making classification, making groups and further subgroups. For example, the cell receptors can be grouped into membranous and intracellular. Each of them has their own subgroups with different physical function. Make information layer by layer and review as many times as you can. By this way, the knowledge in the textbooks will be imprinted in your brain.





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