„The Singapore Biology Olympiad“


Contact data

Country coordinator

Dr. Beverly Goh

Hosting institution

The Singapore Institute of Biology
c/o Natural Sciences & Science Education, National Institute of Education

1 Nanyang Walk
637616, Singapore


Appointing institution

Ministry of Education, Republic of Singapore

Organization & structure

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. 

Number of students in first round

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 total number of 250 to 350 pupils comprise the best 10% of pupils taking Biology in their respective schools.


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.


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. 

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.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions in 2020 and 2021, no training was conducted for the IBO Challenge 2020 and 2021, respectively. Pupils conducted their own individual practice and training from home.

Study materials

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 (National University of Singapore, and National Institute of Education from the Nanyang Technological University), and the SBO/IBO alumni.

Awards & prizes

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.


Type of students

Top Biology pupils in the 11th year (age 17) from national schools comprising junior colleges and through-train schools (Years 7 - 12) are invited to the SBO

School year

January to November

Biology hours/week

3 to 4 hours per week

Hours of Classes/week

30 - 35 hours

Public Relations


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).

Promotion contact

The education officer in charge of the SBO appointed by the Ministry of Education (HQ)

Statistics over the years
  • 2021: 329 students from 23 schools (100% of eligible schools)
  • 2020: 345 students from 22 schools (100% of eligible schools)
  • 2019: 295 students from 21 schools (100% of eligible schools)

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.

Media coverage

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.