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    I watched a programme on television yesterday about the International Mathematical Olympiad. 6 students per country enter per year.

    Anywhos, the questions are apparently derived from things you study in secondary school (ie GCSE, A-level, IB) and the competition is closed to anyone over 20 or anyone whos studied at uni.

    Having only learnt of this competition yesterday I decided to look for some past questions...and &^%£% me! They're bloody difficult. Absolutely awfully hard. I don't understand how people coming from a secondary school background can do these questions. There is stuff there that IS NOT taught at secondary school.

    Are IMO questions similar to what gets set at university level? Because if so, how the hell do these kids manage them? Sure fine practically all of them have autism, but they must have been specially trained from a very young age because there is so much stuff in the IMO questions that just isn't on an A-level syllabus. My dad has been doing maths for years, did it at uni, is a principal examiner for AQA, was an engineer, and he couldn't do the ones we looked at.

    Anyone else a bit dumbfounded by the questions and also by what, effectively, the questions are being based on?
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    Have you ever looked at BMO or FIST questions before? If not, you want to start there. IMO questions are similar in style to BMO questions but requiring a few extra leaps, and yes, they are very difficult. In practice I solved one when I was at school, but I took the full 4 hours to do it. It was the "easy" question of the paper too. The other wrinkle is that they are set for international candidates so there are a few questions that are set in a style which perhaps non-UK candidates find more accessible, although the setters do try and make the questions region neutral.
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    No only a few have autism, its just that the documentry largely focused on those who were. The maths in the IMO are things such as Euclidean geometry, number theory and inequalities and there are books published by the UKMT which help prepare for the olympiads. Most people will not be able to answer the questions, they're supposed to be hard.
    I went to an IMO squad training camp a little while ago. For couple of days I wondered what on earth I was doing there, and after the week I still couldn't answer a single IMO question fully
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    (Original post by Gamaya)
    Having only learnt of this competition yesterday I decided to look for some past questions...and &^%£% me! They're bloody difficult. Absolutely awfully hard. I don't understand how people coming from a secondary school background can do these questions. There is stuff there that IS NOT taught at secondary school.
    You can't. By "secondary school" level they just mean pre-Calculus, so that can include geometry / inequalities / algebra, and so on. Most people who do very well on the IMO go to special Science schools for exceptionally gifted children, or are put through a rigorous training process with numerous taxing selection exams. (It is said that the final selection test that Chinese students take is comparable to, if not harder than, the IMO itself!)

    Are IMO questions similar to what gets set at university level?
    Short answer: No.
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    IMO is school maths taken 1000 miles.
    University is lots and lots of new ideas taken 10 centimetres.

    Huge difference in style.
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    Anyone, post any past questions...

    (Original post by SsEe)
    IMO is school maths taken 1000 miles.
    University is lots and lots of new ideas taken 10 centimetres.

    Huge difference in style.
    What do you mean by the '1000 miles' statement?
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    (Original post by edward_wells90)
    What do you mean by the '1000 miles' statement?
    I presume he means that, although the IMO is based on simple-ish school maths, you have to go into huge amounts of depth into that simple maths, whereas at uni you don't go into ridiculous amounts of depth, you just learn lots.
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    do the IMO questions get that much easier if you have studied at uni?
    else why is it banned for uni students??
    so if i were to take a gap year i could enter again?? (not that i would)
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    Well, I was looking at a Part III (Cambridge) combinatronics problem sheet yesterday and the first few questions were IMO questions, so maybe you'll be expected to cope with those (especially since the first few questions are the easier ones) by some point in your university career (depending on what courses you take and to a certain extent where). Whether that's down to new knowledge, better insight, or a combination of both, I don't know.

    But the olympiad is a youth competition, so it makes sense to ban university students whether they are better staged to answer IMO questions or not.
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    having know some participants of the imo personally, the imo syllabus actually do contain a lot of university maths, or at least a lot of stuff way beyond the normal school curriculum. although the main feature is still the level of ingenuity required.
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    (Original post by Gamaya)
    Sure fine practically all of them have autism
    uhuh.

    Anyone else a bit dumbfounded by the questions and also by what, effectively, the questions are being based on?
    yeah, it's crazy innit. people being able to solve difficult problems. blows ma mind. when they said that only secondary school knowledge was required, i thought that an international maths competition involving the best young mathematicians in the world would be all about taking a really big GCSE maths paper.
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    but i'm sure there's stuff in there that you don't do in secondary school.
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    not all countries have the same curriculum, which is the difficulty when making IMO questions.
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    I think one thing that is reassuring about the IMO is that the question do have solutions - a luxury that isn't presented in research. That said, I've only ever done a few IMO problems; if you want to try a relatively easy one, try IMO 2006 Q4:

    "Determine all pairs (x, y) of integers such that:

    1 + 2^x + 2^{2x + 1} = y^2"

    Note that I said relatively easy. It's still a difficult problem!

    Gamaya: If you find the IMO questions impossibly difficult I'd suggest you try mastering BMO1/BMO2 first. You can find those questions here:

    http://www.bmoc.maths.org.uk/home/bmo.shtml
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    (Original post by Gamaya)
    I Sure fine practically all of them have autism
    dont forget da govenment wants more poor kids to be gd at maths so we can beat the chinese and the koreans and stuff, to do this they must hv more kids wiv da autism, so dat is why they is injecting all dem small kids wiv da MMR, innit?
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    (Original post by chavvo)
    dont forget da govenment wants more poor kids to be gd at maths so we can beat the chinese and the koreans and stuff, to do this they must hv more kids wiv da autism, so dat is why they is injecting all dem small kids wiv da MMR, innit?
    i like you.

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