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Singapore Biology Olympiad


There are no posters, brochures, etc., to promote participation in the SBO.  Email is the only means of communication. Calls for participation and promotion of the Singapore Biology Olympiad is undertaken by the Ministry of Education HQ to all junior colleges and through-train schools (Secondary to Pre-University, i.e. year 7 - 12).


Schools are informed by the Ministry of Education, Headquarters (MOE, HQ) via email in October each year.  The information is sent by the HQ officer-in-charge of the Singapore Biology Olympiad (SBO).

The Singapore Institute of Biology (SIBiol), which is the professional society for biologists and biology educators, is the main organizer of the Singapore Biology Olympiad (SBO).  The SBO is co-organized with the Singapore Ministry of Education.  The organisation, training and selection of team members to represent Singapore in the IBO is led by representatives of SIBiol, undertaken in close cooperation with the Ministry of Education.

There are two rounds involved in the SBO: Theory Tests and Practical Tests.  Each year during November, national schools comprising junior colleges and through-train schools (Years 7 - 12) are invited to send their top Biology pupils (totaling 250 - 350 pupils in the 11th year or age 17) for the SBO. The first round comprises the Theory Tests.  There are two Theory tests: A and B, each with 40 multiple choice questions. Pupils are given 1.5h to complete Part A, followed by a short break of about 30 mins. Pupils are then given another 1.5h to answer the 40 questions of Part B. The distribution of topics in the questions follow the recommended percentages in the IBO syllabus.

The top scoring pupils (approximately 10%) who sat for the Theory tests will be selected for the next round of the SBO, which comprise the Practical Tests.  The format of the Practical Tests follow that of the IBO with a total of 32- 44 pupils divided into 4 groups.  These groups are rotated to different labs to complete four Practical tests, each of a 1h duration.  The Practical test round usually lasts the entire day.  The academics who set the practical tasks administer the tasks and observe the pupils while they are doing the tasks and administer the tasks.

At the end of the Practical test, pupils are debriefed by the task-setters. The debrief consists of identification of common mistakes made, advice on strategies to solve the more difficult tasks, and pupils reflecting on their own performances.  This process enhances the learning process, and facilitates pupil engagement through self and peer reflections.   

Details of the tests have already been given in the section above.  Academics from both the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University (NIE, NTU) as well as from the National University of Singapore (NUS) are responsible for setting the test questions.  Pupils sit for their theory and practical tests at the NIE.  

The top scorers in the SBO are shortlisted for an interview to gauge their potential and attitude to represent the country.  Usually about 6 to 10 pupils are shortlisted for Team Singapore training.  These pupils are then asked to read up Campbell to prepare themselves for the theory component of the IBO tests.

In April and May, Team Singapore training members undergo once-a-week group discussion sessions with academics from NUS and NIE/NTU on various theory topics. Each weekly session may last up to 2.5h.

At the end of May or beginning of June (during the Singapore school holidays), Team Singapore members attend a 5-day residential training camp at NIE,  where they are given hands-on training in biological techniques as well as taught dissection skills, etc.  During this week, the pupils are observed and assessed on their practical skills, attitude and EQ. 

The final team of four pupils to represent Singapore (plus one reserve) is announced at the end of the 5-day camp. This constitutes the end of official IBO training for Team Singapore.  The selected pupils are then advised to do intensive self study on their own using Campbell and IBO sample questions from the official IBO Center Website.  The pupils from the Team Singapore training team who are not selected are usually counselled and encouraged to continue to pursue their interests in biology. 

Strong bonds are forged during the 1-week training camp, and Team Singapore training members usually keep in close contact.  All Team Singapore training members become Singapore Biology Olympiad/IBO alumni. 

Beginning around 2005, SIBiol began involving SBO/IBO alumni to assist in the training and mentorship of the Singapore team, during the 5-day residential camp. This network of alumni members has grown from year to year, and dedicated members regularly return from their University and postgraduate studies in May/June to mentor Team Singapore members. 

No special teaching resources are developed for pupils.  During the 5-day residential camp, the pupils are given the opportunity to dissect invertebrates, examine and section plants, etc., to practice their skills in anatomy and systematics.  Similarly, they are given opportunities to learn the concepts and techniques of genetics, microbiology, molecular and cell biology, animal behaviour, ecology, etc., with simple laboratory tasks that are normally associated with the respective fields of biology.  E.g., the examination of fruit fly characteristics during genetics practical; the study of ethograms for animal behaviour labs.  These training sessions are mentored by academics from the two universities and the SBO/IBO alumni.

The SBO organising committee comprising representatives from the Singapore Institute of Biology (SIBiol), and MOE determines the final tally of medals and certificates of participation.  Medals are awarded to the top 5 - 10% of the total number of SBO participants while all participants receive Certificates of participation endorsed by the President of the Singapore Institute of Biology and the Chairperson of the SBO organising committee.  Participants do not receive any other form of incentives or prizes.


The results of the IBO are released officially to the press by the Singapore MOE after all International Science Olympiads have concluded for the year.  Sometimes, schools from which medal winners originate will inform or contact the press on their own.

The Singapore MOE is the main sponsor of all training expenses and participation costs.  The Singapore Institute of Biology contributes funds to support additional observers as well as purchase of medals and certificates.  Academics from the two main universities (NIE, NTU and NUS) volunteer their services to train the pupils during the 5-day residential camp as well as their time and expertise to set questions the Theory and Practical Tests of the SBO, and are not paid.

Besides funding all training and participation expenses, MOE HQ officers are the main liaison with schools for sourcing participants for the SBO.  No award ceremony is organized.

Singapore follows all the IBO rules and regulations with respect to selection of participants for the SBO.

Dr Beverly GOH

Natural Sciences & Science Education National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University 1 Nanyang Walk, Singapore 637616 Republic of Singapore

Ministry of Education, Republic of Singapore

The invitation to participate in the SBO is sent out by the Singapore MOE HQ to all national junior colleges and through-train schools every year.  The number of schools that respond and send participants varies from year to year.  On average, about 10 to 12 % of the total cohort of Biology pupils participate in the first selection round (Theory tests) of the SBO.

Statistics for the past two years:

SBO 2015: Nov/Dec 2015

Theory Test (14 Nov 2015): 285 participants from 21 Schools

Practical Test (2 Dec 2015): 38 participants from nine Schools

Final result: 7 Gold medals, 7 Silver medals, 6 Bronze medals and 17 Certificates of Merit

IBO 2016 selection: 9 Team Singapore Training members


SBO 2016: Nov/Dec 2016

Theory Test (19 Nov 2016): 261 participants from 24 Schools

Practical Test (7 Dec 2016): 34 participants from six Schools

Final result: 5 Gold medals, 11 Silver medals, 12 Bronze medals and 6 Certificates of Merit 

IBO 2017 selection: 8 Team Singapore Training members 



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by SG_limshi last modified Jul 17, 2017 10:16 AM