USNCO Rules & Eligibility

  • Students must be U.S. citizens or legal, permanent residents of the United States (green card holders) to take the National Exam.

  • High school (9-12th grade) students who will graduate no earlier than the first of May of the year in which they participate in the competition are eligible.

  • Students must be under the 20 years of age on the first of July of the year of the competition.

  • No more than two students per high school per local section may be nominated to take the National Exam. In the case of magnet programs, split enrollment, or cyber students, a student’s school is defined as the high school from which the student will receive his or her diploma. Read more about the number of nominees allowed.

  • Eligible students who have previously attended the study camp automatically qualify for the National Exam and do not count against the limit on the number of eligible students from their local section or school.

  • Winners of gold medals at the International Chemistry Olympiad are not eligible to participate in subsequent National Exams, Study Camps, or International Chemistry Olympiad competitions.

  • Students who have taken advanced placement courses in chemistry are eligible.

  • A student may participate only in the competition of the section in which the student's high school is located. In the case of a cyber-student, the student shall participate in the local section where he or she is geographically located, regardless of where the cyber school is located. Cyber schools can nominate no more than two students.

  • A student who participates in the Physics Olympiad study camp, the Mathematics Olympiad study camp, or the Biology Olympiad study camp is not eligible to participate in the Chemistry Olympiad study camp during the same summer.

  • Only non-programmable calculators are to be used on the National Exam and on the ACS Local Section exam, if used.  The use of a programmable calculator, cell phone, or any other device that can access the internet or make copies or photographs during the exam is grounds for disqualification.


The American Chemical Society provides a basic excess accident insurance coverage for all activities scheduled and supervised by ACS during the administration of the Chemistry Olympiad program. To ensure proper coverage, the coordinators must submit a list of all lab practical sites and names of all participants to the USNCO office.

Students Who Are U.S. Citizens Living Abroad

  • A local and national competition must be organized by an ACS International Chemical Sciences Chapter.

  • Eligible high school (9-12th grade) students must be U.S. citizens or legal, permanent residents of the United States (green card holders), presently enrolled in an American school* for at least one year, and under the age of 20.

*American school is defined as a school accredited by either the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSACS), the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges (NCASC), or the Northwest Association of College and Schools (NACS).

For more information, contact us at

Students With Disabilities

The USNCO is a contest. However, the USNCO will consider providing competitors with disabilities with accommodation to enable them to compete within the rules of the USNCO to which all competitors are subject. Accommodations that fundamentally alter the highly competitive nature of the USNCO contest and/or create undue hardship cannot be granted.  For example, in nearly all cases time extensions cannot be accommodated because they fundamentally alter the competitive nature of the exam and create an undue hardship on volunteers. Competitors must request accommodation as soon as possible to enable the USNCO to consider the request.  

Competitors requesting accommodation must submit documentation from a school official establishing that the accommodation the competitor has requested is being provided by the secondary school.  USNCO cannot proceed with considering a competitor’s request until he or she provides this documentation.  Upon reviewing the documentation, a designated representative of the USNCO will contact the competitor and/or his or her parent(s) or legal guardian to discuss the need for the accommodation, its impact on the uniformly applied rules of competition for the USNCO and any alternative, effective accommodations.  The USNCO may require the competitor to provide additional medical information and/or to authorize his or her health care provider to share relevant information with representatives of USNCO in connection with a request for accommodation.

All medical information received by the USNCO will be maintained as a confidential medical record and will only be shared with USNCO officials and representatives who need to know this information because they are, for example, addressing and/or implementing the competitor’s request for accommodation.

If you have questions, email us at

Translating to Other Languages

You may translate the Local Section examinations from English into other languages to encourage participation by non-English speaking students. If you do so, please email a copy to the USNCO national office:

The National Exam must be administered only in English.

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  1. Rules and eligibility information on this page apply to the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad exam only.
  2. All high school (9-12th grade) students in the U.S. are eligible to participate in local competitions.
  3. Local sections are encouraged to develop their own procedures for identifying outstanding students and choosing national exam candidates.

Contact Us

U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad
ACS Office of Science Outreach