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USA Biology Olympiad

2002   (in English)

Outreach is conducted in association with organizations such as the National Association of Biology Teachers, and state and county science coordinators throughout the U.S. The opening of the USABO registration is announced through an e-card mailing to teachers nationwide and on local, state, and national science education websites, listservs, and e-blasts.

The Center for Excellence in Education organizes the USABO.

There are four rounds of competition that are open to all US citizens and legal permanent residents.

Round 1: Open Exam conducted nationally from February 2 to 12, 2016.

Round 2: Semifinal Exam conducted March 14 to 18, 2016.

Round 3: National Exam conducted June 2016 at TBD.

Round 4: International Biology Olympiad  in Hanoi, Viet Nam from July 17 to 24, 2016.


The USA Biology Olympiad (USABO) is a four-tiered competition open to all U.S. high school students. Tests are constructed under the guidance of the Center for Excellence in Education.

Round One: USABO Open Exam

The competition begins each February with a multiple-choice exam administered nationwide in class to all interested U.S. high school students nominated by their teachers. Students do not need to be currently enrolled in a biology class, nor have taken AP Biology, in order to participate in the USABO Open Exam.

Round Two: USABO Semifinals

The top 10% or the top 500 Open Exam participants are eligible to take the Semifinal Exam. The exam is two hours long, consisting of multiple-choice and short-answer questions and is administered in class.

Certificates are given to all Semifinalist participants. The USABO encourages recognition of the Semifinalists, their teachers, and their schools through local award ceremonies where student achievements are acknowledged.

Round Three: USABO National Finals

The top 20 Semifinalist participants are invited to attend the USABO National Finals at Purdue University. The top 10% of Semifinalists receive a "Recognition of Academic Excellence" certificate recognizing that these participants scored in the to 10% on the Semifinal Exam.

The National Finals consists of two weeks of intensive theoretical and practical tutorials, where the students work with leading biologists from across the United States. At the conclusion of the tutorials, the students take two exams - a six-hour practical and a three-hour theoretical - to compete for one of the four places on Team USA.

Round 4: International Biology Olympiad

The top four medalists attended the 2015 IBO in Aarhaus, Denmark.

The 2016 International Biology Olympiad will be held in Hanoi, Vietnam from July 17 to 24.


Training and conducting practice tests and sessions varies by school district throughout the US. The Center for Excellence in Education has a Teachers' Resource Center (TRC) on the USABO website that has links to resources, previous exams, frequently asked questions and other useful information to prepare for the exams. There is also a Student Resource Center section with study guides, useful links from USABO Finalists, and information on how to organize a USABO Club.

Training for the International Biology Olympiad is conducted over a two-week period with extensive practice in theoretical knowledge and lab practices finalized with a theoretical exam and a lab practical.

Biology (8th Edition) by Neil A. Campbell; Jane B. Reece; Lisa A. Urry; Michael L. Cain; Steven A. Wasserman; Peter V. Minorsky; Robert B. Jackson

  • Publisher: Benjamin Cummings
  • Copyright Year: 2008
  • Publishing Date: 2007/11/27
  • eText ISBN-10: 0-321-54844-2 eText ISBN-13: 978-0-321-54844-3
  • Print ISBN-10: 0-321-54325-4 Print ISBN-13: 978-0-321-54325-7
  • Course: Introductory Biology
  • Pages: 1393


Certificates are given to all Semifinalist participants. In addition, students who scored in the the top 10% are given additional recognition with a Certificate of Recognition of Academic Excellence. The USABO encourages recognition of the Semifinalists, their teachers, and their schools through local award ceremonies where achievements are acknowledged.


Certificates are awarded to all participants. Each student receives a copy of Biology by Reece and Campbell, Hayden-McNeil Laboratory notebook, and lab coat from Psychemedics. Silver and bronze medals are awarded to the runners-up and gold medals are awarded to the four students who represent the USABO as Team USA at the International Biology Olympiad.

Press releases are sent through the Center for Excellence in Education to local and national news media.

The USABO is sponsored with funding and in-kind support by the following organizations:
  • Arnold and Kay Clejan Charitable Foundation
  • Biogen Idec Foundation
  • Gilead
  • Hayden McNeil
  • Kenneth & Myra Monfort Chartiable Foundation Inc.
  • National Association of Biology Teachers
  • Psychemedics Corporation
  • Texas Instruments
  • Vanguard Research
  • Vernier Software and Technology
  • VWR Foundation
  • Yu's Elite Education


USABO 2016 Rules & Regulations

Documentation for Open and Semi-final Exam Security

  • USABO requires that all students sign and date their exam to certify their identity, acknowledge their participation in the USABO, and pledge that they have followed the rules of the competition.
  • A teacher will document that s/he administered the exam according to the rules of the completion and has verified the identity of those students taking the exam.
  • Without the documentation and signatures, the exams will not be scored.
  • Students must be a citizen or legal permanent resident of the U.S.
  • All students in each school must take the exam on the same day and at the same time. Students are given only one opportunity to take the exam.
  • The exam may be given on any day and time during the designated exam period (one of the ten exam dates). An alternative exam date may be arranged with the prior approval of CEE.


Identification and Security

  • USABO assigns each registered school a unique ID number.
  • All teachers within the same school use the same school ID number.
  • USABO assigns each registered student a unique ID number.Students are not allowed to take the exam(s) without registering.
  • Prior to the USABO Open Exam instructions are emailed to registered teachers. The email provides the  password to the Open Exam. Teachers access the exam with their unique ID number and password.
  • Semifinalist teachers receive a new password for the Semifinal Exam and can access the Semifinal Exam with their unique ID number and password.
  • Teachers can view results only for their school.
  • Students may review their own individual scores.



Selection to the USABO National Finals is based upon the Semifinal Exam score. The top 20 are selected without regard to race, ethnicity, gender or religious affiliation. If a top 20 participant is unable to attend the National Finals, the next highest scoring student will be contacted and become a National Finalist.


National Finalists must affirm

  • Attendance at the International Biology Olympiad if a gold medalist.
  • No participation in any other 2016  International Olympiad or summer program that would conflict with National Finals or the International Biology Olympiad.
  • Adherence to all the rules and regulations governing the USABO and the International Biology Olympiad.
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residency (green card).


International Biology Olympiad

Rules and regulations are found at The USA Biology Olympiad is in full conformity with International regulations.

If a gold medal winner fails to follow the rules affirmed above s/he will forfeit the gold medal. In the event that a National Finalist wins a gold medal and is unable to attend the International Biology Olympiad because of circumstances beyond the control of the medalist, the gold medal will be retained. In either instance the highest scoring silver medalist will become a member of team USA at the International Biology Olympiad.


~ 70% male and 30% female


~ 85% public and 15% private


Asian (could identify as Chinese or Korean) 68.52%

White                                                       18.52%

Cuban-American                                         1.85%

Native American                                         3.70%

Other                                                        7.41%

IBO Awards

38 Gold Medals

  8 Silver Medals

  2 Bronze Medals


from September to June.
minimum 2 hours with 40 minutes each, maximum 4 hours with 40 minutes each.

Kathy Frame

Center for Excellence in Education 8201 Greensboro Drive, Suite 215 McLean, VA 22102
Center for Excellence in Education 8201 Greensboro Drive, Suie 215 McLean, VA 22102

Images and files:

Brochure and postcard are used to disseminate information about USABO at conferences and electronic mail.

Image for the logo PNG image — 39 KB
by Kathy Frame last modified Jul 08, 2015 05:55 PM