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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Moleclues competitions: Ask & Win

If you are up to 17 years old and have a question about molecules, send it to us!

Your question may not have a simple answer – some of the most important questions of our time are impossible to answer! That is part of what makes them so interesting! Think about it: your question could eventually lead to a new breakthrough in science!

Molecular Frontiers will award prizes to those who ask the BEST QUESTIONS! The winners are announced once a year at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden. Fun fact: this is also where the Nobel Prize is announced each year.

What can I win?
5 boys and 5 girls will each year win a medal, a certificate and an iPad.
The Medal, designed by eminent bio-nano-technologist Prof. Shuguang Zhang of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, depicts the famous DNA molecule viewed from the unusual "z" direction on one side and an exclamation mark made of a carbon nanotube with a "C60" buckyball point on the other. It also has the name of the winner engraved alongside our moto: CURIOSITY CREATIVITY HONESTY KNOWLEDGE. 

The certificate was designed and hand-painted by our Scientist and Teacher, Artist-in-Residence Dr. Elizabeth Ball and is printed on heavy paper like that of the Nobel prize certificates - perfect for framing!

The Apple iPad is a cool, handheld gadget with limitless capabilities, from playing music and video to surfing the web and much more - just add whatever software you like on your own!

Submit your idea HERE.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Basic Skills for the Practical Part of the IBO

The official website of the International Biology Olympiad (IBO) released an updated guide to the IBO. You can access it here.

The IBO practical examination should concentrate on the evaluation of competitors for
their ability to solve given biological problems using the following skills.
In the IBO tasks the names of organisms will be the national names (no description)
together with the scientific names (Latin) in brackets. Any description instead of name
is prohibited. The organizers should construct the questions so that the name of the
organism is not a key element for answering; otherwise they should use very well-known
organisms (general representatives of a group) mentioned in the list for

I Science Process skills
1 Observation
2 Measurement
3 Grouping or classification
4 Relationship finding
5 Calculation
6 Data organization and presentation: graphs, tables, charts, diagrams, photographs
7 Prediction / projection
8 Hypothesis formulation
9 Operational definition: scope, condition, assumption
10 Variable identification and control
11 Experimentation: experimental design, experimenting, result/data recording, result interpretation and drawing conclusions.
12 Representing numerical results with appropriate accuracy (correct number of digits)

II Basic biological skills
1 Observation of biological objects using magnifying glasses
2 Work with a microscope (objective max. 45 x)
3 Work with a stereomicroscope
4 Drawing of preparations (from a microscope, etc.)
5 Exact description of a biological drawing using tables of biological terms marked with a numerical code

III Biological methods
Competitors in the IBO should know the following methods and be able to use them. If any method requires extra specific information concerning procedures that depend on special technical equipment, instruction will have to be provided.
A Cytological methods
1 Maceration and squash technique
2 Smear method
3 Staining of cells and slide preparation
B Methods to study plant anatomy and physiology
1 Dissection of plant flower and deduction of flower formula
2 Dissection of other plant parts: roots, stems, leaves, fruits
3 Free - hand sectioning of stems, leaves, roots
4 Staining (for example lignin) and slide preparation of plant tissues
5 Elementary measurement of photosynthesis
6 Measurement of transpiration
C Methods to study animal anatomy and physiology
1 Dissection of invertebrates. Dissection of fish or parts or organs from vertebrates bred for the consumption is allowed, too. Animals being used, as dissection material should be dead before being submitted to the competitors.
2 Whole - mount slide preparation of small invertebrates
3 Elementary measurement of respiration
D Ethological methods
1 Determination and interpretation of animal behaviour
E Ecological and environmental methods
1 Estimation of population density
2 Estimation of biomass
3 Elementary estimation of water quality
4 Elementary estimation of air quality
F Taxonomic methods
1 Use of dichotomous keys
2 Construction of simple dichotomous keys
3 Identification of the most common flowering-plant families
4 Identification of insect orders
5 Identification of phyla and classes of other organisms

IV Physical and chemical methods
1 Separation techniques: chromatography, filtration, centrifugation
2 Standard tests for monosaccharides, polysaccharides, lipids, protein (Fehling, I2 in KI(aq), biuret) 
3 Titration
4 Measuring quantities by drip and strip methods
5 Dilution methods
6 Pipetting, including use of micropipettes
7 Microscopy, including use of counting chambers
8 Determination of absorption of light
9 Gel electrophoresis

V Microbiological methods
1 Preparing nutrient media
2 Aseptic techniques (flaming and heating glass material)
3 Inoculation techniques

VI Statistical methods
1 Probability and probability distributions
2 Application of mean, median, percentage, variance, standard deviation, standard error, T test, chi-square test.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Model organisms for research

Below you will find some important information about organisms used in research.

The Bacterium Escherichia coli

The Fruit Fly Drosophila melanogaster

The Nematode Worm Caenorhabditis elegans

The Plant Arabidopsis thaliana

 The Yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Source: PIERCE, B. A. (2012). Genetics: a conceptual approach. New York, W.H. Freeman.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Concepts of Biology

Are you looking a good review of biology concepts to prepare for the USA Biology Olympiad (USABO), International Biology Olympiad (IBO), Science Bowl or any other biology competition or exam, download a very useful and clear biology book which outlines the general principles and describes key concepts.

Read the book here.

Download for free at

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Zatobowl simulator

Zatobowl "Science Bowl Simulator" provides thousands of questions for National Science Bowl (NSB), National Ocean Science Bowl (NOSB) and other national and international science quiz competitions.
Zatobowl features include:
  • Online Multi-Player System: Compete online with friends and others around the world in real time.
  • Buzzer Practice: with audio questions, a one click buzzer and sub-second response timing.
  • Peruse Questions : read a question, answer it, and instantaneously see the result coupled with a wikipedia link for related information, significantly speeding up learning.


Science Bowl book list

Here is a useful list of books that will help you prepare for all sections of the Science Bowl.


1. The Living Science, Miller-Levine

2. Human Biology, Chiras

3. Biology-The Web of Life, Strauss Lisowski

4. Biology, Campbell and Reece


1. Contemporary College Physics, Jones

2. College Physics 3rd edition, Wilson

3. Conceptual Physical Science, Hewitt-Suchocki-Hewitt

4. College Physics, Serway and Faughn


1. The Harper Collins Mathematics Dictionary, E.J. Borowski & J.M Borwein

2. Calculus, Farrand Poxon

3. Physics: Algebra/Trig Hecht


1. Chemistry, Harold Nathan

2. Organic Chemistry, Frank Pellegrini

3. General Chemistry, Umland & Bellama

4. Chemistry, the Central Science, Brown Lemay and Bursten


1. Living in the Environment, G. Tyler Miller, Jr.

2. Asking about Life, Tobin & Dusheck

3. The NY Public Library Science Desk Reference, Macmillan


1. Environmental Science, Nebel Wright

2. Earth Then & Now, Montgomery - Dathe

3. Physical Geology, Mark Crawford

4. Earth Science, Tarbuck and Lutgens


1. In Quest of the Universe, Karl F. Kuhn

2. Horizons-Exploring the Universe, Michael A. Seeds

3. The Cosmic Perspective, Bennett Donahue

4. Astronomy Today, Chaisson and McMillan

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Science Bowl competition

The Science Bowl competition is a high school and middle school science knowledge competition using a quiz bowl format held in the United States. A buzzer system similar to those seen on popular television game shows is used to signal an answer.

Teachers and coaches frequently ask how to best prepare their students for the Science Bowl competition.  There are various successful strategies your team can utilize.  Here are just a few ideas and guidelines that may help.

Forming a National Science Bowl® Team

If your school doesn’t already have a math and/or science club, start one as soon as possible.  You don’t have to have 30 students interested in science to make a National Science Bowl® team.  Getting one started usually takes a little effort, but once you get it going, they usually are very easy to keep going year after year.  Also, once you do form one, make sure it is worth the students’ time.  Historically, the more successful teams at science competitions are made up of very enthusiastic students that come from schools with fun, well-organized math and/or science clubs (regardless of size).  We are talking about quality not quantity.

Team Selection
Selection for your National Science Bowl® team can be difficult.  Each student should be knowledgeable in all of the discipline areas.  However, the more successful teams have students that are more specialized in different areas.  For example: Student “A” might be better at mathematics than the rest of his/her team. Student “B” might be better at physics and astronomy that the rest of his/her team.  This will give your team a good balance with an “expert” in each of the disciplines.  It is also a good idea to have a few grade levels represented, not just the higher grade levels.  By breaking up your team, you will still have some veterans this year while giving a few rookies the necessary experience to carry your team next year.  Some teachers let the students vote for team members based on knowledge, performance, and attendance.  Others hold practice competitions to determine the team.  It is ultimately up to you, so choose your team wisely.  Most competitions allow non-participants to watch all the matches and to cheer their team’s achievements.  Remember, all students on the team MUST be from the same school! Also, it is recommended that coaches place 5 students on each team: if one student cannot attend the National Finals, the other four students will still be eligible to attend.  Teams of three students are NOT eligible to attend the National Finals.

Make a Schedule
Make an agenda or study schedule during your first meeting.  Your team needs to decide how many hours they will spend per week in the practicing.  Initially, practice times may be short, but as the competition nears you may want to schedule more intensive practices. Brainstorm ideas with your team for review and practice.  Decide how long your meetings will last.  An hour meeting might be broken up with 30 minutes of review of the subject for the week, and 30 minutes of knowledge games. At least 2 practice competitions are recommended.  This will help familiarize the students with the rapid fire, oral presentation for the questions (which is quite different from answering review questions from their text books).  Keep the team enthusiastic and focused on the task at hand each week.  Bring in science teachers or the school principal to act as practice moderators.  Be sure the contest rules are adhered to stringently.
Example Schedule:
Week 1: Get to know you, ice breakers, fun games
Week 2: Biology and Chemistry
Week 3: Math and Physics
Week 4: Earth and Space Science
Thanksgiving Break
Week 5: Energy and General Science
Week 6: Review rules and strategies
Week 7: Practice Competition
Christmas Break
Week 8: Biology and Chemistry
Week 9: Math and Physics
Week 10: Earth and Space Science
Week 11: Energy and General Science
Week 12: Review rules, strategies, and disciplines

Study Wisely
As mentioned earlier, each student needs to be familiar with all seven subjects.  However, students should be concentrating the bulk of their studying/reviewing on their own 2-4 areas of expertise.  Students should concentrate their efforts on learning topics from which questions are likely to come.  The toss-up questions must be answered in less than 5 seconds and the bonus questions must be answered in less than 20 seconds.  Do not waste time studying problems that have long, time consuming solutions.  Focus more time studying things like definitions, formulas, concepts, and short answer problems.  By studying wisely, students will be able to spend more time practicing and learning to solve problems quickly.

Know the Rules & Game Playing Strategies
Make sure each student knows the rules of the competition.  This cannot be stressed enough.  Every year teams lose points because the students do not know all of the rules.  Also, teach the students the strategies of the game for different situations. For example: if the team is in the lead during the second half of the game, recognize that the clock is now the team’s ally.  If your team is awarded a bonus question, train the students take a few extra seconds to double check with each other to make sure they get the question right. If they are too hasty with their decisions, the lost ten bonus points could come back to haunt them in a close match.  Being well versed in the rules and knowing all strategies of the game, your team will have the edge in a close match and may even allow them to triumph over a better team that is not as strategic.

Practice, Practice, Practice
There is no substitute for hard work and this means self-discipline and practice.  Make an effort to duplicate an actual competition as much as possible.  Also, it is a good idea to rotate the person asking the questions each game.  This will allow them to get experience hearing the questions come from different tones of voice, accents, and dialects.  Do not wait until the month before the Regional Science Bowl to practice for the competition.  Use old test questions from your previous exams or even Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy games if you have to.  Just get them familiar answering the questions orally and waiting to be recognized before answering.

Keeping It Fun
Do not lose sight of the overall focus of getting your students interested in science and math.  Finding the right combination of fun games and interesting study tools could take a little work.  There are many new and interesting ideas out there.  The internet is an excellent place to get some great knowledge games and interactive study tools.  Just remember, the more the students enjoy it, the more they will want to do it, and the more successful they will become. Given the proper motivation, preparation, and encouragement, your team will have a successful, and rewarding science bowl experience.  You can then channel your National Science Bowl® team’s enthusiasm and momentum to do other fun things throughout the year.  For example: the National Science Olympiad program, Math Counts, or the National Ocean Science Bowl.

Establish Team Goals
There can be only one winner of the National competition, but participation itself is important.  Involve the students in the establishment of realistic goals for the team each competition year.  Celebrate and document these goals in posters and team practice sessions.  Many National champions build on the successes of each year until the championship is won.
Set goals that will challenge the team.  Schools competing for the first time win many regional competitions.  Do not be intimidated because your school has not participated in the past.
•    Make sure the principal, teachers and administrative staff at your at your school know that the National Science Bowl® team is an active program and that you are the person in charge.
•    Find out about your school’s policy regarding use of the school facilities and equipment.  Do they allow use of shop facilities, computer lab, etc.?
•    The lock-out buzzer system used in the National Science Bowl is from Novel Electronic Designs.  The systems can be found online at

If your school has similar programs such as quiz bowl, their clubs may use comparable buzzer systems and they may be willing to lend you their system, if you ask nicely!
Students can also practice with eight different pieces of fluorescent paper.  The students can be acknowledged according to color.
•    Official clocks to time the rounds of competition and the questions can be purchased from local sporting goods store or you may want to utilize the clock in the room.  We recommend stopwatches to time questions.
•    When practicing, set up the room the same as an actual competition room.
•    Get your students familiar with the roles of the officials.

Resources and Suggestions
•    Inform your science club of current events in the subject areas used in competition, as well as energy related events.
•    Some of the best resources are the Glossaries in the back of books.
•    National Science Bowl® resources website:
•    Publisher contacts:
McGraw Hill    877-833-5524

Pearson Education    800-848-9500

Franklin, Beedle, & Associates    800-322-2665

Jones and Bartlett Learning    800-832-0034

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt    800-462-6595

Reference Material:
Online:  -- Courses in a variety of subjects from the world’s top scholars  -- videos about everything.  -- videos about everything.  -- Cartoon Guide series  -- Flash cards   -- Frank Potter’s science gems is a huge resource categorized by content area and grade level: K – 16.
The American Heritage Student Science Dictionary
A Dictionary of Science (Oxford Paperback Reference)
The Handy Science Answer Book, a compilation by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburg

Online:  -- Math Vocabulary
Beyond Numeracy by John Allen Paulos
Mathematics:  A Human Endeavor by Harold Jacobs
The Joy of Mathematics by Theoni Pappas
More Joy of Mathematics by Theoni Pappas
The Harper Collins Dictionary of Mathematics
The Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics

Campbell Biology 9/E – AP edition
Biology 8th edition by Solomon Berg and Martin
Biology by Raven, Johnson, Losos and Singer

Conceptual Physics by Hewitt
Conceptual Physical Science by Hewitt, Suchocki, Hewitt
Fundamentals of Physics by Halliday, Resnick and Walker.  8th Edition
Universe by Freedman and Kaufman

Online:  --college chemistry review from purdue   -- chemogenesis is a novel approach to understanding chemical reactivity.   -- Wiki books provides a general rundown of chemistry basics  -- a good and complete glossary of chemistry terms
Conceptual Physical Science by Hewitt, Suchocki, Hewitt
Chemistry: The Central Science with Mastering Chemistry® (12th Edition) – older editions are great and much less expensive to purchase.

Earth and Space Science
Online:   (good glossary of earth science terms and interactive quizzes)   (this is a very general site with excellent selected resources – some guidance required for students)
Earth Science (With CD-ROM) by Edward J. Tarbuck, Frederick K. Lutgens, Dennis Tasa, Publisher: Prentice Hall
Earth Science and the Environment (with EarthScienceNow and InfoTrac) by Graham R. Thompson, Jon Turk, Publisher: Brooks Cole

Alternative energy sources
Department of Energy National Laboratories and cutting edge research
Economics, supply / demand
Energy storage (other than batteries)
Energy usage
Environmental impacts
Fossil fuels
Fuel distribution
Social, political considerations
Solar energy
Wind power



Tuesday, May 3, 2016

British Biology Olympiad (BBO) Past papers

Due to strict Society of Biology rules, we were asked to remove all past papers of the British Biology Olympiad (BBO). Please contact us directly should you need past papers to practice for upcoming olympiads.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Biolympiads LOGO Design Competition

Are you passionate about biology? Do you have creative ideas for designing a Logo for the leading biology blog Biolympiads? If yes, then read on. is inviting all school students from all over the world to design a Logo for the leading biology blog. Logo contest includes an epic amount of prizes! The winner (1st prize) will receive $100 Amazon voucher for biology books with a further $50 Amazon voucher for a runner-up! We are looking for cutting edge logos from all passionate biology high-school students from ALL over the world!

All logos will be uploaded on Biolympiads Facebook page as well as on the blog. A Facebook account is required to take part in the voting process on the official Facebook page. The logos with highest number of votes will be selected on 31st of August 2016.

Submitted Logo designs will be eligible for the following prizes:
  • 1st Prize $100 Amazon voucher
  • 2nd Prize $50 Amazon voucher
  • How to submit your Logo:
1. Submit your Logo by sending an email to
2. We will post your Logo to the Biolympiads Facebook page:
3. Promote your post to get the highest number of “likes”
4. The submission with the highest number of likes and a runner-up on 31st of August, 2016 will be awarded $100 Amazon voucher and a $50 Amazon voucher for biology books, respectively.


Deadline: 30.08.2016
Contest publicly announced: 01.04.2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Freaked out about upcoming biology olympiad?

January and February are the most important months for olympiad participants as in many countries first rounds take place during these months. If you did not finish to read Campbell and it is only several weeks before biology olympiad, try to calm down and do not overdo too much because you need fresh mind and good eyes for the day of olympiad.
But here are some tips that you can do to revise:

  • download this set of notes from Campbell Biology and read it.
  • download this set of questions similar to those found during olympiads from here.
  • if you do not have Campbell you can take a look at some great slides with pictures from Campbell here: or from here with more detail
  • if you do have Campbell, flick through ALL the pictures, diagrams, graphs and tables. They are ESSENTIAL. 
  • also I uploaded good revision notes HERE.
  • lastly, I have prepared extensive and very comprehensive explanation sheets for all past USABO Open and Semifinal exams 2004-2014. If you are interested in purchasing them, get in touch with me

Hope this will help your revision and do not forget to bring some chocolates (or other sweets) to the venue because the brains can use only glucose (or if you were starving for some weeks, also ketone bodies) and when you work hard, you will need to replenish your resources.

Best of luck!!!


Friday, January 15, 2016


Life table and survivorship curves are important part of olympiads. Please find this useful handout below.

Big thanks to Donovan pages 311 EE.pdf.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Revision notes for olympiad

Here you will find another great set of notes for quick revision before olympiad.

Big thanks to:

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Ecological niches

 An ecological niche is the role and position a species has in its environment; how it meets its needs for food and shelter, how it survives, and how it reproduces. A species' niche includes all of its interactions with the biotic and abiotic factors of its environment.

Biological Niches

Big thanks to

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

European DNA Day Essay Contest 2016

The structure of the DNA double helix was unraveled over sixty years ago! DNA Day, April 25, is now commemorated internationally as a celebration of Genetics and its promises. For the eighth year, the European Society of Human Genetics (ESHG), will be sponsoring a DNA Day Essay contest in European high schools. Once again we will partner with the American Society of Human Genetics in this initiative; using similar essay questions, thus allowing a better assessment of knowledge and perspectives on genetics among students from both continents. 

The essay contest is meant as a learning tool and a means to promote knowledge of genetics within Europe. It intends to challenge students to examine, question and reflect on the importance and social implications of genetic research and its applications. Essays are expected to contain substantive, well-reasoned arguments indicative of a depth of understanding of the issues addressed by the selected essay question.

For more information visit 


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