IChO regulations

Regulations of the International Chemistry Olympiad

(July 1994)

1. Aims of the competition

The International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) is a competition for students with the aim of promoting international contacts in chemistry at secondary school level. It is intended to stimulate the activities of students interested in chemistry by way of independent and creative solving of chemical problems. The IChO competitions help to enhance friendly relations among young people from different countries; they encourage cooperation and international understanding.

2. Organization and Invitation

The IChO is organized every year at the beginning of July in one of the participating countries by the Education Ministry or another appropriate institution of the organizing country (hereafter referred to as the organizer). The organizer is obliged to ensure equal participation of all the delegations, and to invite all countries participating in previous IChO competitions. Additionally, it has the right to invite other countries on agreement with the organizers of two forthcoming IChOs. A country must send observers to two consecutive Olympiads before it can participate in an IChO. The invitation to participate in the forthcoming IChO should be sent to countries by the November preceeding the competition and must contain information concerning the place and dates of the competition. The invited countries must confirm their participation in the IChO by the end of the following January.

3. Delegations

Each participating country's delegation consists of four competitors and two accompanying persons (also known as mentors). The competitors must be students of secondary school age, who have not specialized in chemistry. The competitors must be passport holders of the country they represent or they took part in the educational system of this country for more than one academic year. All participating students in the competition must be under the age of 20 at the 1. July in the year of the competition.

Training or any other special instruction, that is carried out for a selected group, of 50 or fewer, containing the IChO team must be no longer than two weeks.

The mentors act as members of the International Jury (see section 4). One mentor is designated as the head of delegation. Mentors must be capable of translating the text of competition tasks from English into the mother tongue of the students and be able to judge the set of tasks and correct the work of their students.

At the discretion of the organizers, countries may include one observer in their delegation. Countries that are invited by the organizer, and intend to take part in future Olympiads, may send one observer.

4. International Jury

The International Jury consists of the Chair, the Secretary of the IChO and the two mentors from the individual delegations. The Chair is nominated by the organizer. The Chair calls and chairs the meeting of the International Jury. Resolutions are passed by the International Jury when they are agreed by a single majority of votes in the presence of at least 75% of the Jury members. Each participating country has one vote. The Chair has a casting vote in the event of a tie. The decisions of the International Jury are binding.

The long term work involved in organizing the Olympiads is coordinated by the Secretariat of the International Chemistry Olympiad, which is headed by the Secretary of the IChO. The Secretariat reports to the International Jury and has no right to make any decisions. The seat of the Secretariat is in the country where the Secretary is resident until decided otherwise by the International Jury.

The International Jury elects members of the Steering Committee of the IChO. The Steering Committee provides organizational oversight for the IChO and proposes items for consideration at the jury sessions. The Steering Committee has no right to make any decisions about the IChO.

There are three ex- officio members of the Steering Committee: Chair of the current IChO; Chair of the immediate past IChO; Chair of the immediate future IChO.

The Committee consists of following elected members: The IChO secretary (to serve for a three year term); representatives of variety of geographical areas to serve a two year term (3 from Europe, 1 from Americas, 1 from Pacific Rim); and 1 - 3 members to be selected by the Steering Committee for their particular expertise for periods of one year. Members are elected (for no more than two consecutive terms) by full jury vote. The Steering Committee elects its own Chair.

The International Jury may form working groups to solve specific chemistry related problems of the IChO. This working group should draw its membership from IChO participating countries and those interested in IChO competitions. The working groups meet for working sessions and submit the results of the deliberations to the Steering Committee.

There is an Information Office of IChO, gathering and providing (when necessary) all the documentation of the IChOs from the very beginning of the Olympiad to the present. The seat of the Office is in Bratislava, Slovakia.

5. Responsibilities of the International Jury

The International Jury:

  1. is in charge of the actual competition and its supervision according to the regulations;
  2. discusses in advance the competition tasks presented by the organizer, their solutions and the marking guidelines, gives comments and decides in case of changes. The members of the International Jury are obliged to maintain a professional discretion about any relevant information they receive during the IChO and must not assist any participant;
  3. supervises the marking of the examination papers and guarantees that all participants are judged by equal criteria. The members of the International Jury keep the marking and results secret until proclaimed by the Jury;
  4. determines the winners and decides on prizes and documents for the competitors;
  5. monitors the competition and suggests changes to the regulations, organization and contents for future IChOs.

6. Competition

The competition consists of two parts. Part one, the practical (experimental) competition takes place before part two, the theoretical competition. A working time of four to five hours is allotted for each part. There is at least one day of rest between the two parts. Competitors receive all the relevant information written in the language of their choice and are allowed to write the solutions in that language. Only non- programmable pocket calculators may be used for the solution of the tasks.

The safety regulations announced by the organizer are binding for all participants (see section 13).

7. Official Language

The working language of the International Jury is English.

8. Tasks

The organizer is responsible for the preparation of competition tasks by competent experts/authors, who constitute the Scientific Board of the IChO. They propose the methods of solution and the marking scheme. The tasks, their solutions and the marking schemes are submitted to the International Jury for consideration and approval. The authors of the tasks should be present during the discussion. The Chair of the International Jury may put the Chair of the Scientific Board in charge of the proceedings when the tasks are considered.

One year in advance of the competition the organizer distributes to all participating countries a set of about 50 preparatory tasks written in English. The preparatory tasks must be devised so that students can get a good idea of the type and difficulty of the competition tasks, including safety aspects (see section 13 and appendix "B"). According to appendix "C" topics of group 3 must be covered in the preparatory problems. SI units must be used throughout the tasks.

9. Correcting and Marking

A maximum of 60 points is allocated to the theoretical tasks and 40 points to the practical tasks, making a total of 100 points. Consequential marking should be used when correcting the tasks so that students are not punished twice for the same error. The competition tasks are corrected independently by the authors and by the mentors. The international Jury discusses the results and decides on the final scores. The organizer retains the original marked manuscripts.

10. Results and Prizes

Official results of the competition and the number of medals awarded are decided by the International Jury. The number of gold medals awarded is in the range of 8% to 12%, silver 18% to 22%, and bronze medals 28% to 32% of the total number of competitors. The exact number of medals is decided by the International Jury on the basis of an anonymous review of the results.

In addition to the medals other prizes may be awarded. Each participant receives a certificate of participation. No team classification takes place. In the awarding ceremony, the non medallists are called in alphabetical order of the countries.

A "Honourable mention" is awarded to students who do not receive a medal, but gain full marks for any one problem.

The organizer must provide a complete list of results as a part of the final report.

11. Obligations of the Organizer

The organizer provides:

  1. the itinerary of the IChO;
  2. the organisation of the competition following the regulations;
  3. the medals, certificates and prizes, which are presented at the official closing ceremony;
  4. translation and interpreting facilities;
  5. arrangement for the observance of the safety regulations;
  6. accident insurance for all participants in connection with the organized programme;
  7. the opportunity for the International Jury to inspect the working room and practical apparatus to be used for the practical tasks before the competition takes place;
  8. a printed report on the competition to be distributed not later than six months after the competition;
  9. transportation from/to an airport decided by the host country on the day of arrival and departure.

12. Financing

The participating country covers the return travel costs of the students and the accompanying persons to the designed airport or to the place at which the competition is held. All other costs in connection with the organized programme, including the costs of accommodation and pocket money for all competitors and members of the International Jury, are covered by the organizer. The organizer of the next Olympiad may send two observers to the current IChO with their expenses covered by the host.

13. Safety

During the experimental part, the competitors must wear laboratory coats and eye protection. The competitors are expected to bring their own laboratory coats. Other means of protection for laboratory work are provided by the organizer. Pipetting by mouth is strictly forbidden. When handling liquids, each student must be provided with a pipette ball or filler.

The use of very toxic substances (designation T+) is strictly forbidden. The use of toxic substances (designation T) is not recommended, but may be allowed if special precautions are taken. Substances belonging to the categories R 45, R 46, R 47 must not be used under any circumstances. (See appendix "B" for definitions of these categories.)

The organizer shall provide a list of chemicals from which the chemicals used in practical preparatory and competition tasks will be drawn. The list of chemicals must include information of the maximum amounts of materials needed or in the case of solutions their maximum concentrations. Any hazardous materials on the list must be accompanied by detailed instructions for safe handling. The list must be provided - together with the preparatory tasks (see section 8) - one year in advance.

Each participating country has three months to file a substantiated dissent concerning the use of a special chemical. Silence indicates acceptance. The organizer should try to revise the list in order to satisfy any objections. The final revision of the list will be distributed to the delegation leaders at the start of the Olympiad.

Detailed recommendations involving students' safety and the handling and disposal of chemicals can be found in

Appendix A 1: "Safety Rules for Students in the laboratory" and

Appendix A 2: "Safety Rules and Recommendations for the Host Country of the IChO".

Appendix B contains:

14. Final Regulations

Those who take part in the competition acknowledge these regulations through their very participation.

Changes in these regulations can only be made by the International Jury and require a qualified majority (two thirds of the votes).

These regulations of the IChO were approved by the International Jury in Oslo (Norway) on July 7, 1994.

Appendix A

A 1: Safety Rules for Students in the Laboratory

"Paracelsus (a middle European medical scientist) recognized as long ago as the l5th century that all materials are toxic at some level. Only dosage separates the medicament from the poison (except for sensitization and allergic reactions). Indeed, practically any substance can be harmful, so there are also degrees of being safe. A complex relationship exists between a material and its biological effect in humans that involves considerations of dose (the amount of a substance to which one is exposed), the length of time of the exposure, the route of exposure (inhalation, ingestion, absorption through the skin), and myriad other factors such as sex, stage in the reproductive cycle, age, race, and even lifestyle. Because of the many factors influencing toxicity, all chemicals should be handled with respect for their known or potential hazards."

The above passage is quoted from the 1985 version of the booklet entitled Safety in Academic Laboratories, published by the American Chemical Society. It is the nature of the profession that chemists must deal with chemicals. All students of chemistry must recognize that hazardous materials cannot be completely avoided. Chemists must learn to handle all materials in an appropriate fashion. While it is not expected that all students participating in the International Chemistry Olympiad know the hazards of every chemical, the organizers of the competition will assume that all participating students know the basic safety procedures (as an example of such a safety procedure, the organizers will assume that students know never to eat, drink or smoke in the laboratory or taste a chemical).

In addition to the common- sense safety considerations to which students should have been previously exposed, some specific rules, listed below, must also be followed during the Olympiad. If any question arises concerning safety procedures during the practical exam, the student should not hesitate to ask the nearest supervisor for direction.

Rules regarding personal protection

  1. Eye protection must be worn in the laboratories at all times. If the student wears contact lenses, full protection goggles must also be worn. Eye protection will be provided by the host country.
  2. A laboratory coat is required. Each student will supply this item for himself/herself.
  3. Long pants and closed- toed shoes are recommended for individual safety. Long hair and loose clothing should be confined.
  4. Pipetting by mouth is strictly forbidden. Each student must be provided with a pipette bulb or pipette filler.

Rules for Handling Materials

  1. Specific instructions for handling hazardous materials will be included by the host country in the procedures of the practical exam. All potentially dangerous materials will be labelled using the international symbols below. Each student is responsible for recognizing these symbols and knowing their meaning (see Appendix B 1, B 2 and B 3).
  2. Do not indiscriminately dispose chemicals in the sink. Follow all disposal rules provided by the host country.

A 2: Safety Rules and Recommendations for the Host Country of the IChO

Certainly it can be assumed that all students participating in the IChO have at least modest experience with laboratory safety procedures. However it is the responsibility of the International Jury and the organizing country to be sure that the welfare of the students is carefully considered. Reference to the Safety Rules for Students in the Laboratory will show that the students carry some of the burden for their own safety. Other safety matters will vary from year to year, depending on practical tasks. The organizers of these tasks for the host country are therefore assigned responsibility in the areas listed below. The organizers are advised to carefully test the practical tasks in advance to ensure the safety of the experiments. This can best be accomplished by having students of ability similar to that of IChO participants carry out the testing.

Rules for the Host Country (see also A 1):

  1. Emergency first- aid treatment should be available during the practical examination.
  2. Students must be informed about the proper methods of handling hazardous materials.
    1. Specific techniques for handling each hazardous substance should be included in the written instructions of the practical examination.
    2. All bottles (containers) containing hazardous substances must be appropriately labelled using international symbols (see Appendix B 1).
  3. Chemical disposal instructions should be provided to the students within the written instructions of the practical examination. Waste collection containers should be used for the chemicals considered dangerous to the environment.
  4. The practical tasks should be designed for appropriate (in other words, minimum) quantities of materials.
  5. The laboratory facilities should be chosen with the following in mind:
    1. Each student should not only have adequate space in which to work, but should be in safe distance from other students.
    2. There should be adequate ventilation in the rooms and a sufficient number of hoods when needed.
    3. There should be more than one emergency exit for each room.
    4. Fire extinguishers should be near by.
    5. Electrical equipment should be situated in an appropriate spot and be of a safe nature.
    6. There should be appropriate equipment available for spill clean- up.
  6. It is recommended that one supervisor be available for every four students in the laboratory to adequately ensure safe conditions.
  7. The organizers should follow international guidelines for the use of toxic, hazardous or carcinogenic substances in the IChO.

Appendix B

B 1 : Hazard warning symbols and hazard designations

E O Explosive Oxidising F+ F Highly flammable Easily flammable T+ T Xn Highly toxic Toxic Harmful C Xi Corrosive Irritant

Explanation of danger symbols see Appendix B 3

B 2 : R-Ratings and S-Provisions

Nature of special risks (R)

Safety advice (S)

B 3: Explanation of Danger Symbols (for Chemicals in Schools)

(see B 1)

1. Explosive substances /E/

These are substances which can be caused to explode by exposure to a flame or which are more sensitive to impact or friction than 1,3- Dinitrobenzene (e.g. picrates, organic peroxides). In particular they include substances with R- ratings R I - R 3 (see B 2), designation E.

When using and storing these substances, the S- provisions (S 15 - S 17) must be observed (see B 2).

2. Fire- inducing substances, Oxidizing /O/

These are substances which can have a strong exothermic reaction on coming into contact with other, particularly flammable substances or organic peroxides. They include in particular substances R 7 to R 9, designation O.

3. Highly flammable, easily flammable and flammable substances /F+, F/

In liquid form, highly flammable substances have an ignition point below 0deg.C and a boiling point of 35deg.C maximum. They are to be designated by the danger symbol F+ and the rating R 12.

Substances are easily flammable if they

  1. can heat up and ignite at normal air temperature without energy supply,
  2. are easily ignited in solid state by short exposure to a source of flammation and continue to burn or glow after removal of the latter,
  3. ignite below 21deg.C in liquid state,
  4. ignite in gaseous state if mixed with air at 1013 hPa and 20deg.C,
  5. develop easily flammable gases in dangerous quantities when in contact with water or damp air,
  6. ignite if brought into contact with air when in dustlike state. These substances are to be designated with the danger symbol F and the rating R 11.

Flammable substances have in liquid form an ignition point of 21deg.C to 55deg.C and are to designated with the rating R 10, no danger symbol.

When dealing with highly flammable, easily flammable and flammable liquids, these may only be heated using sealed electrical heating equipment which is not in itself a source of flammation. All substances must be heated in such a way that the dangerous vapours liberated by heating cannot escape into the atmosphere. This does not apply to fire- hazardous substances in small quantities for fire demonstrations.

The regulations laid down by the state fire authorities must be observed.

4. Toxic substances /T+, T, Xn/

Legislation applying to chemicals distinguishes three categories of toxicants:

Highly toxic substances are those which can cause grave acute or chronic health damage or death almost immediately if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin in small amounts.

Toxic substances are those which can cause considerable acute or chronic health damage or death if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin in small amounts.

Less toxic substances (noxious substances) are those which can cause restricted health damage if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin.

If highly toxic or toxic substances are produced in the course of an experiment (e.g. chlorine, hydrogen sulfide), these may only be produced in the quantities necessary for the experiment. In the case of volatile substances, the experiment must be conducted under a hood where the gas can be drawn off. Residue must be appropriately disposed of after the experiment and may on no account be stored. If the facilities for disposal are not available, the experiment may not be conducted.

Less toxic substances and preparations may be obtained without a permit. Less toxic substances are also those which contain a highly toxic or toxic substance at a level of concentration below that determined by law as the maximum for classification as noxious. Chlorine water, bromine water and hydrogen sulfide solution in a concentration of up to 1% may therefore be used in instruction.

5. Corrosives and irritants /C, Xi/

Caustic or corrosive substances (R 34, R 35), designation C, are those which can destroy living materials by their action upon it. Substances are classed as irritants (R 36 - R 38), designation Xi, if they cause inflammation - without being corrosive - on direct, prolonged or repeated contact with the skin or mucous membranes. The relevant safety recommendations (S 22 - S 28) should be observed.

6. Carcinogenic, genotype or embryo- damaging, chronically harmful substances

Substances may not be used for instruction if they have a proven carcinogenic effect (R 45), if they cause hereditary damage (R 46) or embryo damage (R 47), or if they are chronically damaging (R 48), particularly those substances classed as unmistakably carcinogenic. Such substances must be removed from all school stocks. Storage is not permitted under any circumstances.

Further, substances for which there is a well- founded suspicion of carcinogenic potential (R 40) may only be used if corresponding safety precautions are taken and only in such cases where they cannot be replaced by less dangerous chemicals.

B 4: Basic list of chemicals

Acetic acid                               Hydrochloric acid                              
Acetic acid anhydride                     Hydrogen peroxide (aq)                         
Aluminium                                 Hydroxylamine                                  
Aluminium chloride                        2-Hydroxy-naphthalene                          
Aluminium nitrate                         Iodine                                         
Aluminium oxide                           Iron                                           
Aluminium sulfate                         Iron(II,III) oxide                             
Amino acids (natural)                     Iron(II) ammonium sulfate                      
4-Aminobenzoic acid                       Iron(II) sulfate                               
1-Amino-naphthalene                       Iron(III) chloride                             
Ammonia (aq)                              Iron(III) oxide                                
Ammonium carbonate                        Lead chloride                                  
Ammonium chloride                         Lead dioxide                                   
Ammonium nitrate                          Lead monoxide                                  
Ammonium oxalate                          Lead nitrate (aq)                              
Ammonium sulfate                          Lead oxide (red)                               
Ammonium thiocyanate                      Magnesium                                      
Barium chloride                           Magnesium chloride                             
Barium hydroxide (aq)                     Magnesium nitrate                              
Barium nitrate                            Magnesium sulfate                              
Benzaldehyde                              Manganese dioxide                              
Benzoic acid                              Manganese(II) nitrate                          
Benzophenone                              Manganese(II) sulfate                          
Bismuth trichloride                       Methanal                                       
Bromine (aq)                              Methanol                                       
Bromocresol green                         Methyl orange                                  
Bromothymol blue                          Methyl-2-propanol                              
Butanone                                  N,N-Dimethyl formamide                         
Calcium                                   Naphthalene                                    
Calcium carbonate                         Natural fatty acids                            
Calcium chloride                          Nickel chloride                                
Calcium hydroxide (aq)                    Nickel sulfate                                 
Calcium nitrate                           Nitric acid                                    
Calcium sulfate                           Oxalic acid                                    
Carbon (activated)                        Phenol                                         
Chromium(III) chloride (aq)               Phenolphthalein                                
Chromium(III) nitrate (aq)                Phosphorous pentoxide                          
Cobalt chloride                           Phosphoric acid                                
Copper(I) chloride                        Phthalic acid anhydride                        
Copper(I) oxide                           Potassium aluminium sulfate                    
Copper(II) chloride                       Potassium bromate                              
Copper(II) oxide                          Potassium chloride                             
Copper(II) sulfate                        Potassium chromate (aq)                        
Cyclohexane                               Potassium cyanoferrate(II)                     
Cyclohexanol                              Potassium cyanoferrate(III)                    
Cyclohexanone                             Potassium dichromate (aq)                      
Cyclohexene                               Potassium hydrogensulfate                      
Diethylether                              Potassium hydroxide                            
1,2-Dihydroxybenzene                      Potassium iodate                               
1,3-Dihydroxybenzene                      Potassium iodide                               
1,4-Dihydroxybenzene                      Potassium nitrate                              
2,4-Dinitrophenyl-hydrazine               Potassium orthophosphate                       
Ethanal                                   Potassium permanganate                         
1,2-Ethanediol                            Potassium sodium tartrate                      
Ethanol                                   Potassium sulfate                              
Ethyl acetate                             Potassium sulfite                              
EDTA (+ indicators)                       Potassium thiocyanate                          
Formic acid                               Propanetriol                                   
Fructose                                  l-Propanol                                     
Glucose                                   2-Propanol                                     
Propanone                                 Sodium sulfide                                 
Salicylic acid                            Sodium sulfite                                 
Silver nitrate                            Sodium tetraborate decahydrate (Borax)         
Silver sulfate                            Sodium thiosulfate                             
Sodium acetate                            Starch                                         
Sodium bromate                            Strontium nitrate                              
Sodium bromide                            Sucrose                                        
Sodium carbonate                          Sulfur                                         
Sodium chlorate                           Sulfuric acid                                  
Sodium chlorate(I) (aq)                   Tartaric acid                                  
Sodium chloride                           1,1,2,2-Tetrachloro-ethane                     
Sodium fluoride                           Tin                                            
Sodium hydrogencarbonate                  Tin(II) chloride                               
Sodium hydrogensulfite                    Toluene                                        
Sodium iodide                             1,1,1-Trichloroethane                          
Sodium nitrate                            Urea                                           
Sodium nitrite                            Xylene                                         
Sodium orthophosphate                     Zinc                                           
Sodium orthophosphate mono-H              Zinc chloride                                  
Sodium orthophosphate di-H                Zinc oxide                                     
Sodium oxalate                            Zinc sulfate                                   
Sodium sulfate                                                                           

Appendix C

Classification of the chemical topics

Group 1:
These topics are included in the overwhelming majority of secondary school chemistry programs.
Group 2:
These topics are included in a substantial number of secondary school programs; however, if not covered, it would be expected that the Olympiad level students from every country would have been introduced to these topics.
Group 3:
These topics are not included in the majority of secondary school programs.

For a host nation it is no longer necessary to have preparatory problems on Group 1 and Group 2 topics, although, in the latter case, a listing of the specific topics of that Group which might be part of the Olympiad Examination is to be given by the host nation. Any topics in Group 3 which might appear on the Olympiad Examination must be covered in the preparatory problems.