International Chemistry Olympiad

About the International Chemistry Olympiad

The International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) is an annual competition for the world’s most talented chemistry students at the secondary school level. Nations around the world send a team of four students, who are tested on their chemistry knowledge and skills in a five-hour laboratory practical and five-hour written theoretical examination.

IChO began in 1968 with participants from Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary. Other Eastern European countries joined the program soon after. Western European nations entered in 1974. The United States sent its first team in 1984 and hosted the event in 1992 and 2012.

The IChO helps develop and enhance friendly relations among young people around the world. It also promotes international contacts in chemistry and encourages international cooperation and understanding.

U.S. Involvement

The United States is routinely a strong competitor at the International Chemistry Olympiad. During the past several years, the team won three silver medals and one bronze.

In 2002, the four members of the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad team brought home two gold medals, one silver, and a bronze metal. In 1999 and 2000, a member of the American team won the top gold medal. In 2009, the U.S. team won one gold and three silver medals.

U.S. teams are selected from 20 students with top scores on the national exam. The students attend a comprehensive two-week study camp each June at the U.S. Air Force Academy and based on performance, four students are chosen to represent the United States at the International Chemistry Olympiad.

Two mentors accompany the international competitors, translate the language and arbitrate the scoring of the exams. In addition to the competition, students and mentors have opportunities to interact with one another and to experience the host country’s culture through planned educational and social events.