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How to Prepare for International Maths Olympiad (IMO)?


 IMO stands for International Mathematical Olympiad. It is meant for high school students and is known as the world championship mathematics competition. It takes place every year, just like any other competitive exam. You can prepare for IMO once you know all the concepts and solutions to every problem. After you have prepared the mathematical concepts and solutions, take the mock tests, and solve as many sample papers as possible. Practice as many previous years’ question papers, as possible. Stay updated on the changes that occur every year in the syllabus of the examination. Make the best use of your mobile phones, internet services, and facilities that are provided to you by the parents and the school.

 Some steps to keep in mind while preparing for IMO.

  1. Stay updated with the syllabus using google facility and understand the seriousness of the competition. Trust only the official sites in such matters.
  2. Make the internet a friend to your success and not an enemy.
  3. Always remember that Time never waits for anyone. Make a timetable or schedule before starting with the preparation. Honesty with learning is the key to thrive in this exam. REMEMBER- “Practice as you’ve never won and performed as you’ve never lost.”

Here is a checklist that will help you through preparing for the Olympiad.

Get a head start

An early start is an absolute must for not just this but any competitive Maths exam of this intensity. We are not just talking about waking up early in the morning but to start studying atleast two months in advance. This will allow you to create a time table that is not crammed with just back to back studying the whole day. You will be able to fit in a good amount of breaks and reserve a large portion of time for revisions and mock tests. Remember that the Maths Olympiad Exam is taken by millions of students from around the world. This is an indicator that the questions are going to be trickier than what you are used to. So you will need enough time to delve into every concept.

Gather your materials

Go through the IMO syllabus several times and get all the materials required for your preparation. Call some friends who are taking the same test to ensure that you have not overlooked any key aspects of the syllabus. There are also reliable online sources that can do the required research and present you with the entire syllabus in an easy format for you to grasp.

Find the right tutor

As your tutor will play a key role in your learning process, ensure that you select someone who is good and at par with your comfort level. If you are unable to find a good IMO tutor near your house, sign up for online tutoring. It not only gives you easy access to a wider pool of well-established tutors, it also reduces the stress of travelling.

Check your progress

Revision is an extremely important part of studying for the Maths Olympiad. As you study, take notes or create cue cards for yourself. When you commence with revision, the pointers in your notes will help you refresh your memory of all that you have learned. The cue cards are another way of revising what you have studied. They need not be as elaborate as the notes but should have enough points to help you recall topics in case you get stuck somewhere. But always remember that these revisions are indicators of your progress. If there are certain topics that need you to go back to the notes too often, then go back to the books and focus on those topics a little longer. Also watch out for common mistakes that you are making including usage of positive/negative signs, brackets, moving decimal points etc. Even the greatest of mathematicians tend to make these mistakes that change the course of the sums. Just be extra careful with these tiny symbols.

Study Smart

As part of your schedule, set aside time to go through sample papers and attempt those questions. Also, line up mock tests that will help you assess your progress. Practice, practice and more practice will only perfect you. But smart studying is just as important as studying hard. Spot patterns in the sample papers and use that to your best advantage. Also, try to find easier ways to solve problems rather than take the real long path leading to several pages of calculations.

 Love thy enemy

It is important to identify your strengths and weaknesses. If you find certain topics more difficult, then spend more time on those topics. Very often students tend to get scared of topics that they are not comfortable with and treat it with aversion. The best methodology to embrace here is – love thy enemy.

Pick the right spot

Pick a quiet spot to study so you are not distracted by the daily happenings of the household. Transform that space in to the perfect den with good lighting, good ventilation and all the required study materials. You can also decorate the space with quotes and posters of people who inspire you to go forward. Inspire yourself silly because it can lift you from the deepest pits.

Relax and Rest

It is essential to also walk away from your den frequently and take a break from studying. This is extremely important as it is easy to burn out. While from your external appearance it may not show, internal burnout is quite expected from such situations. A routine of good exercise, healthy food and occasional breaks will not just reduce the risk of burning out, it will also help you concentrate and focus better. During your breaks avoid talking to friends who are also preparing for the test and avoid addictive recreation like video games, TV series marathons etc. It is natural to get carried away with these fun activities and hence, breaking away from the set schedule. Push yourself because no one is going to do that for you.

Build that attitude

The most important part is to not just be prepared academically but to also be prepared with the right attitude. An optimistic approach will build that fire in you to win. But it is equally important to keep that fire contained within a thin layer of realistic behavior. Solving problems at the IMO level needs a different mindset. Give yourself time and work up that killer attitude.

 Don’t stress out

The day before the Maths Olympiad will be the toughest as the built up tension will surface. Accept that you are tense but do not stress out. There are two reasons why your stress needs to be controlled. Firstly, the stress will make you forget what you have studied. Secondly, the stress can result in a break down. Do not let your fear destroy all the awesome work you have done. So do what it takes to control yourself and do not cram anymore studying into the last 24 hours. Use your cue cards to just revise key topics that you know will appear in the IMO.


The whole process of preparing for the International Math’s Olympiad is an experience rather than an outcome. Acceptance of this as an experience and a dash of realistic behavior will reduce the intensity of the outcome. Some of the greatest leaders we look up to today did not need a certificate to be a winner. Winners were born from the experience of learning. Study hard, have an optimistic attitude and believe that you have what it takes to be a winner, no matter what


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