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The International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) is a chemistry competition for students at secondary school level with the aim of promoting international contacts in chemistry. It is intended to stimulate the activities of students interested in chemistry by way of the independent and creative solution of chemical problems. The IChO competitions help to facilitate cordial relations between young adults of different nationalities; they encourage cooperation and international understanding.
Newly invited countries must send an observer to two consecutive Olympiads before its pupils can participate in the IChO. The observer participates in Jury meetings and all Olympiad procedures as a non-voting member in order to learn about the content and procedure of the competition.
a) act as members of the International Jury (see § 6). One of the mentors is designated as the head of delegation (head mentor).
b) must guarantee the fulfillment of those conditions specified in section 2 of this paragraph,
c) must be capable of translating the text of the competition tasks from English into the language used by their students and be able to judge the set of tasks and correct the work of the students.
d) have the right to enter a protest which should be addressed to the Chair of the Steering Committee and, when necessary, ask for a resolution of the problem at the next meeting of the International Jury.
The organizer provides:
a) the itinerary of the IChO,
b) transportation from/to an airport/station (which is designated by the host country) on the day of arrival and departure,
c) that the organization of the competition will adhere to the regulations,
d) accident insurance for all participants in connection with the itinerary,
e) the opportunity for the mentors to inspect the working room and practical apparatus to be used for the practical tasks before the competition takes place,
f) all necessary arrangements for the observance of safety regulations,
g) the medals, certificates, and prizes, which are presented at the official closing ceremony,
h) a report on the competition to be distributed not later than six months after the competition.
The International Jury:
a) is in charge of the actual competition and its supervision according to the regulations,
b) approves future organizers for the IChO,
c) discusses in advance the competition tasks presented by the organizer, their solutions and the marking guidelines, gives comments and takes decisions in case of changes,
d) supervises the marking of the examination papers and guarantees that all participants are judged by equal criteria,
e) monitors the competition and suggests changes to the regulations, organization, and contents for future IChOs,
f) makes decisions on the exclusion of a participant or an entire team from the competition (see also § 11, section 7),
g) elects members of the Steering Committee of the IChO,
h) may form working groups to solve specific chemistry-related problems of the IChO.
The members of the International Jury:
a) are obliged to maintain a professional discretion about any relevant information they receive during the IChO and must not assist any participants,
b) keep the marking and results secret until announced by the International Jury.
There are the following ex-officio members of the Steering Committee:
a) a representative of the current IChO,
b) a representative of the immediately preceding IChO,
c) representatives of the subsequent IChOs approved by the International Jury,
d) the immediate past chair of the SC (for one year only)
The incoming Steering Committee elects its own Chair from among its elected members at a meeting held before the committee’s term begins. The Chair:
a) calls and chairs the meetings of the Steering Committee,
b) calls and chairs the meetings of the International,
c) may invite non-voting guests to the meetings of the Steering Committee after consultation with the host of the meeting,
d) has the right to call extraordinary meetings of the International Jury when necessary.
The Steering Committee:
a) provides organizational oversight for the International Chemistry Olympiad and gives recommendations to the organizers,
b) proposes items for consideration at the International Jury sessions.
c) may co-opt 1–3 non-voting members for their particular expertise for periods of one year.
d) may invite representatives of confirmed future IChOs.
There is an International Information Center of the International Chemistry Olympiads gathering and providing (when necessary) all the documentation of the IChOs from the beginning of the Olympiad to the present. The seat of the Office is in Bratislava, Slovakia.
The competition consists of two parts:
a) part one, the practical (experimental) competition,
b) part two, the theoretical competition.
Detailed recommendations involving students´ safety and the handling and disposal of chemicals can be found in Appendices A 1, A 2, and B.
a) Appendix A 1: Safety Rules for Students in the laboratory.
b) Appendix A 2: Safety Rules and Recommendations for the Host Country of the IChO.
c) Appendix B contains a reference to the hazard symbols and statements of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification of Chemicals (GHS), the use of which is expected in labeling and classifying materials used at the IChO.
In the experimental part of the competition the following conditions must be fulfilled:
a) The experimental part must contain at least two independent tasks.
b) The marking cannot require subjective interpretation by the staff.
c) Competitors must receive the same substances when solving the tasks from qualitative analytical chemistry.
d) When solving tasks from quantitative analytical chemistry competitors must receive the same substances but with different concentrations.
e) In evaluating the quantitative tasks the master values must not be based on an average of the results of the competitors.
f) The great majority of the grade in quantitative tasks must be given to the mean value as reported by the competitors while some marks may also be given to the corresponding equations, calculations, or explanations directly related to the work. Points must not be awarded for reproducibility.
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. For example, the organizers will assume that students know that eating, drinking or smoking in the laboratory or tasting a chemical is strictly forbidden. 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.
Certainly, it can be assumed that all students participating in the IChO have at least modest experience with safety laboratory 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 burdens 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.
Students must be informed about the proper methods of handling hazardous materials.
a) Specific techniques for handling each hazardous substance should be included in the written instructions of the practical examination.
b) All bottles (containers) containing hazardous substances must be appropriately labeled using internationally recognized symbols (see Appendix B).
The laboratory facilities should be chosen with the following in mind:
a) Each student should not only have adequate space in which to work, but should be in a safe distance from other students.
b) There should be adequate ventilation in the rooms and a sufficient number of hoods when needed.
c) There should be more than one emergency exit for each room.
d) Fire extinguishers should be nearby.
e) Electrical equipment should be situated in an appropriate spot and be of a safe nature.
f) There should be appropriate equipment available for clean-up of spills.
Chemicals used in the IChO laboratory experiments need to be labeled according to the Globally Harmonized System of Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) standard developed by the United Nations. The organizing country should use the locally legislated GHS system (pictograms, hazard statements, etc.) if it exists. If such rules do not exist, the original GHS directives (http://www.unece.org/trans/danger/publi/ghs/ghs_welcome_e.html) and the GHS compliant documentation by the chemical providers should be used.
Awareness of experimental errors, use of significant figures;
Mathematics skills commonly encountered at secondary school level, including solving quadratic equations, use of logarithms and exponentials, solving simultaneous equations with 2 unknowns, the meaning of sine and cosine, elementary geometry such as Pythagoras’ theorem, plotting graphs (more advanced math skills such as differentiation and integration, if required must be included as one of the advanced topics)
Nucleons, isotopes, radioactive decay and nuclear reactions (alpha, beta, gamma);
Quantum numbers (n, l, m) and orbitals (s, p, d) in hydrogen-like atoms;
Hund’s rule, Pauli exclusion principle;
Electronic configuration of main group and the first-row transition metal atoms and their ions;
Periodic table and trends (electronegativity, electron affinity, ionization energy, atomic and ionic size, melting points, metallic character, reactivity);
Bond types (covalent, ionic, metallic, coordination), intermolecular forces and relation to properties;
Molecular structures and VSEPR theory;
Balancing equations, empirical formulae, mole concept and Avogadro constant, stoichiometric calculations, density, calculations with different concentration units;
Chemical equilibrium, Le Chatelier’s principle, equilibrium constants in terms of concentrations, pressures and mole fractions;
Arrhenius and Bronsted acid-base theory, pH, self-ionization of water, equilibrium constants of acid-base reactions, pH of weak acid solutions, pH of very dilute solutions and simple buffer solutions, hydrolysis of salts;
Solubility constants and solubility;
Complexation reactions, definition of coordination number, complex formation constants;
Partition coefficients: definition and simple calculations;
Basics of electrochemistry: electromotive force, Nernst equation, electrolysis, Faraday’s laws;
Rate of chemical reactions, elementary reactions, factors affecting the reaction rate, rate law for homogeneous and heterogeneous reactions, rate constant, reaction order
Reaction energy profile, activation energy, Arrhenius-equation, catalysis, influence of a catalyst on thermodynamic and kinetic characteristics of a reaction;
Use of simple first-order and zeroth-order kinetic rate laws, exponential decay, half-lives;
Energy, heat and work, enthalpy and energy, heat capacity, Hess’ law, Born-Haber cycle, standard formation enthalpies, solution, solvation and bond enthalpies;
Definition and concept of entropy and Gibbs’ energy, second law of thermodynamics, direction of spontaneous change;
Calculation of equilibrium constants from standard enthalpy and entropy data
Ideal gas law, partial pressures;
Principles of direct and indirect titration (back titration);
Acidi- and alkalimetry, acidimetric titration curves, choice and color of indicators for acidimetry;
Redox titrations (permanganometric and iodometric);
Simple complexometric and precipitation titrations;
Basic principles of inorganic qualitative analysis for ions specified in factual knowledge, flame tests;
Basic concepts of light and color, wavelength, frequency, wave numbers, photon energies, Lambert-Beer law;
Reactions of s-block elements with water, oxygen, and halogens, their color in flame tests;
Stoichiometry, reactions, and properties of binary non-metal hydrides;
Common reactions of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur oxides (CO, CO2, NO, NO2, N2O4, SO2, SO3);
Common oxidation states of p-block elements, stoichiometry of common halides and oxoacids (HNO2, HNO3, H2CO3, H3PO4, H3PO3, H2SO3, H2SO4, HOCl, HClO3, HClO4);
Reaction of halogens with water;
Common oxidation states of first row transition metals (Cr(III), Cr(VI), Mn(II), Mn(IV), Mn(VII), Fe(II), Fe(III), Co(II), Ni(II), Cu(I), Cu(II), Ag(I), Zn(II), Hg(I), and Hg(II)) and the color of these ions;
Dissolution of these metals and Al, amphoteric hydroxides (Al(OH)3, Cr(OH)3, Zn(OH)2);
Permanganate, chromate, dichromate ions and their redox reactions; Iodometry (reaction of thiosulfate and iodine);
Identification of Ag+, Ba2+, Fe3+, Cu2+, Cl–, CO32–, SO42–;
Organic structure-reactivity relations (polarity, electrophilicity, nucleophilicity, inductive effects, relative stability), structure-property relations (boiling point, acidity, basicity);
Simple organic nomenclature;
Hybridization and geometry at carbon and other centers;
Sigma and pi bonds, delocalization, aromaticity, resonance structures;
Isomerism (constitutional, configuration, conformation, tautomerism)
Stereochemistry (E/Z, cis/trans isomers, chirality, optical activity, Cahn-Ingold-Prelog system, Fisher projections, D/L);
Common electrophiles and nucleophiles
Electrophilic addition: addition to double and triple bonds, regioselectivity (Markovnikoff/Kharasch rule), stereochemistry
Electrophilic substitution: substitution on aromatic rings, influence of substituents on the reactivity and regioselectivity, electrophilic species;
Elimination: E1 and E2 reactions at sp3 carbon centers, stereochemistry, acid-base catalysis, common leaving groups;
Nucleophilic substitution: SN1 and SN2 reactions at sp3 carbon centers, stereochemistry;
Nucleophilic addition: addition to carbon-carbon and carbon-heteroatom double and triple bonds, addition-elimination reactions, acid-base catalysis;
Radical substitution: reaction of halogens with alkanes;
Oxidations and reductions: switching between the different oxidation levels of common functional groups (alkyne – alkene – alkane – alkyl halide, alcohol – aldehyde, ketone – carboxylic acid derivatives, nitriles – carbonates) Grignard reaction, Fehling and Tollens reaction;
Simple polymers and their preparation (polystyrene, polyethylene, polyamides, polyesters);
Amino acids and their classification in groups, isoelectric point, peptide bond, peptides, and proteins;
Carbohydrates: open-chain and cyclic forms;
Structures of glucose and fructose;
Lipids: general formulae of di- and triacylglycerides, saturated and unsaturated fatty acids;
General structure of DNA and RNA, hydrogen bonding between bases, the concept of replication and transcription;
Use of common protecting groups in organic synthesis;
Simple multistep organic synthesis;
Hydrophilic and hydrophobic groups, micelle and bilayer formation;
Polymers and monomers, chain polymerizations, polyaddition, and polycondensation;
Heating in the laboratory, heating under reflux;
Mass and volume measurement (with electronic balance, measuring cylinder, pipette and burette, volumetric flask);
Reading temperature from a non-digital thermometer;
Preparation and dilution of solutions and standard solutions;
Operation of a magnetic stirrer;
Carrying out of test tube reactions (e.g. qualitative testing for organic functional groups using a given procedure);
Volumetric determination, titrations, use of a pipette bulb or filler;
Measurement of pH (by pH paper or calibrated pH meter);
Drying of precipitates;
Operation of simple semi-automatic digital instruments using detailed instructions (not application-specific)
Plotting experimental data on graphs, analysis of graphs
Examples of concepts and skills allowed in the exam only if included and demonstrated in the preparatory problems (“Fields of advanced difficulty”)
6 theoretical and 3 practical topics from these or other topics of similar breadth are allowed in a preparatory problem set. It is intended that a topic can be introduced and discussed in a lecture of 2-3 hours before a prepared audience. The list below only contains examples. Problem authors are expected to include similar fields in their preparatory problems.