What Parents Need to Know About the Singapore Mathematical Olympiad

What Parents Need to Know About the Singapore Mathematical Olympiad
October 26, 2021

The Maths Olympiad is a common term tossed around throughout math tuition in Singapore, but did you know there are two kinds of Maths Olympiads? While there is an International Maths Olympiad, there is also one tailored specially for students in Singapore – the Singapore Mathematical Olympiad. It is this prestigious competition that many students vie for a chance to participate in.

What is the Singapore Mathematical Olympiad?

Founded by the Singapore Mathematical Society, the Singapore Mathematical Olympiad is an annual competition where students compete in different divisions to test their Secondary and Primary Maths ability. There are three different sections of the Olympiad, divided by age. Each section comprises two rounds, the first of which is usually held in late May or early June, and the second in late June or early July.

Junior Section

The junior section is geared at lower Secondary Maths students. The first round consists of five multiple-choice questions, each with five options, and twenty open-ended questions. Questions may come from topics in the lower Secondary syllabus, such as algebra, number theory, geometry, pattern recognition, and simple combinatorics. The second round is three hours long and consists of six essay questions. Students have to come up with detailed proof and formulae for each question, explaining their working process and findings.

Senior Section

The senior section is open to upper Secondary Maths students. Similar to the junior section, the first round of the senior section consists of five multiple-choice questions with five options each, and twenty open-ended questions. However, the scope of the topics tested is different, based on the upper syllabus. Students are expected to have a firm knowledge of probability, algebra, number theory, geometry, and combinatorics. Only the top scorers of the first round are invited to continue to the second round, which consists of a four-hour-long paper including five questions of varying difficulty. Since the participants are narrowed down in the second round, one can expect the competition to be much fiercer.

Open Section

The open section is meant for pre-university students. Unlike the junior and senior sections, the open section does not have any multiple-choice questions. Instead, the first round is made up of 25 open-ended questions, testing the topics of probability, algebra, number theory, geometry, combinatorics, and also occasional calculus. While the topics are similar to those in the senior section, the difficulty level is considerably higher. Just like the senior section, only the top scorers of the first round are invited to continue to the second round, where they will have to take a 4.5-hour-long paper of five essay questions. The six top scorers of the second round will then be selected to represent Singapore in the International Mathematical Olympiad.

How Can My Child Prepare For the Singapore Mathematical Olympiad?

The Singapore Mathematical Olympiad is not your regular exam. While a child may be doing well in their A-maths tuition in Singapore, they may not necessarily possess the skills required to do well in the Maths Olympiad. Usually, each school selects a number of top students to represent the school in the Singapore Mathematical Olympiad, providing them the training and material to master the problem-solving and answering skills required for the Olympiad. However, many students and parents alike worry if this is ample preparation for one of the fiercest mathematical competitions.

It can be difficult to prepare for the Maths Olympiad as there are no textbook answers like in the regular O-levels. That said, there are resources and past-year papers from the Olympiad that can help your child familiarise themselves with the answering format and required concepts. It is important to consider that if your child is in Secondary 1 or Secondary 3, they will be competing against students who are one level higher than them and thus have studied the syllabus for an additional year. As such, going through the school syllabus, even the topics they have not learnt yet, can help to put your child on par with their seniors.

Time management should also be a concern. In the Singapore Mathematical Olympiad, mastering the different types of questions is not enough – your child must also be capable of completing each paper within the time constraints. This makes it all the more important to practice so that your child will know each question like the back of their hand.

Does Math Tuition in Singapore Help My Child Score in Maths Olympiad?

Has your child been selected to represent their school in the Maths Olympiad? Congratulations! You may be wondering if it is necessary to start on A-math tuition in Singapore in preparation for this rigorous challenge.

Since the Olympiad syllabus and question format differs from the regular school syllabus, mastering the regular questions in Secondary and Primary Maths tuition may not be sufficient to prepare one for the Olympiad. While there are some tuition classes geared toward preparing students for the Maths Olympiad, we believe it is possible to achieve top scores as long as your child focuses on drilling themselves for the competition. Remember that the Singapore Mathematical Olympiad is intended to be difficult and challenging, so it is important not to get discouraged if a question proves too daunting. Hard work and perseverance is the key to success!

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