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International Physics Olympiad




  • The International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) is an annual physics competition for high school students. It is one of the International Science Olympiads. The first IPhO was held in Warsaw, Poland in 1967.
  • Each national delegation is made up of at most five student competitors plus two leaders, selected on a national level. Observers may also accompany a national team.
  • The students compete as individuals, and must sit for intensive theoretical and laboratory examinations. For their efforts the students can be awarded gold, silver, or bronze medals or an honourable mention.
  • The theoretical examination lasts 5 hours and consists of three questions. Usually these questions involve more than one part.
  • The practical examination may consist of one laboratory examination of five hours, or two, which together take up the full five hours.
  • The competition lasts for two days. One day is devoted to theoretical problems (three problems involving at least four areas of physics taught in secondary schools, total number of marks is 30).
  • Another day is devoted to experimental problems (one or two problems, total number of marks 20).
  • These two days are separated by at least one day of rest. On both occasions the time allotted for solving the problems is five hours.
  • Each team consists of students from general or technical secondary schools (not colleges or universities) or have graduated but are yet to enter university, and must be under the age of 20. Typically each team consists of five students (pupils) and two supervisors.


The Physics Olympiad program follows the following 5 stages-

  • Stage I: NSEP- National Standard Examination in Physics
  • Stage II: INPhO- Indian National Physics Olympiad
  • StageIII: OCSC- The Orientation cum Selection Camp inPphysics
  • Stage IV: PDT- Pre-departure Training Camp for IPhO
  • Stage V: IPhO- Participation in International Physics Olympiad




  • NSEP is the first stage in selection of students for the physics Olympiad Programme, which is organised by the IAPT- Indian Association of Physics Teachers.
  • Every student aspiring to go through the successive stages of the programme, must enroll for NSEP.
  • National Standard Examination in Physics is held at a large number of centers in the country.NSEP is an examination of 2 hours.
  • Eligibility:

  • All Indian students who are born on or after July 1st, 1994 and also, are in addition, in Class XII or lower as of November 30th, 2013were eligible to appear for NSEP 2014 – 2015.
  • Any student may appear for more than one subject in NSEP provided the examination schedule allows it. For this you would have to check the examination schedule pertaining to different subjects. Also, the students who have passed Class XII are not eligible to enrol for NSEP exam.
  • It is entirely a student’s responsibility to ensure that the eligibility criteria are satisfied before he or she applies for the exam. In case at any stage of the programme it is found that the student does not satisfy the eligibility criteria, then he or she may be disqualified from the programme.

Exam Pattern and Structure

NSEP exam does not emphasize on rote memory, but the comprehension of the structure.

  • The format is as follows:

Part A (180 marks)



50 multiple choice questions consisting of-
(A1) 40 questions.

Each question with only one of the four options is correct

(A2) 10 questions.

Each question with one or more than one options can be right. To get credit, no incorrect option or options should be marked and all correct option or options must be marked.

Part B (60 marks) 5 or 6 questions are problems or short-answer type questions. All the questions carry equal marks.
Language: English universal.

However, the NSEP question papers may be available in Hindi, and other regional languages provided that there are more than 300 students for that language. However, this has to be checked with IAPT.


Qualifying for the Second Stage:

The aim of the first stage examination is to have a wide range, then to progressively increase this reach,then to attain nationwide representation for stage II without overly compromising on merit or quality. Thus the selection to the stage II examinations i.e. the Indian National Olympiad Examinations (INOs) is based on the following structure-

Eligibility Clause:

Any participating candidate must secure a score equal to or greater than a Minimum Admissible Score (or MAS) to be eligible for the Stage II INO exam leading to the International Olympiad. By default, the MAS for a given subject will be 40% of the maximum score in that subject.

Proportional Representation Clause (PRC):

The number of students selected for Stage II (INO) in each subject is around 300 students. Hence, in the event of a tie at the last position in the list, all students with the same marks at this position will qualify to appear for the Stage II examinations. However, the selected students must nevertheless satisfy the eligibility clause laid out above.

Minimum Representation Clause (MRC):

Notwithstanding the proportional representation clause as explained above, the number of students selected for INO from each State and UT must be at least 1, provided that the eligibility clause is satisfied thoroughly.

Merit Clause:

Given the eligibility clause as stated above, it is conceivable that 300 students may not qualify for Stage II in a subject. In a case like this, the shortfall (less from 300) will be selected based purely on merit without further consideration to proportional representation and minimum representation clauses.

Thus in the event of a tie at the last position in the list all students with the same marks at this position will qualify to appear for the Stage II examination.

Note: There will be no other criterion or provision for selection to the Indian National Olympiad Examinations (INOs).

  • All students who qualify to appear for the INPhO get a certificate of merit from IAPT.

STAGE-2:- INPhOIndian National Physics Olympiad )

The Indian National Physics Olympiad is organized by HBCSE in about 15 centres in the country.


  • Students selected from Stage I examination (i.e. NSEP) are eligible to appear for INPhO.
  • In addition, those students who have represented India in International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) in the previous year, need not appear for the first stage NSEP examination in physics. They may be allowed on special request to the National Coordinator for the respective subjects, to directly appear for the second stage i.e.- Indian National Physics Olympiad (INPhO) examination, in case they satisfy other eligibility criteria like as age, class, etc. which are applicable for the Physics Olympiad.

Exam Pattern and Structure :-

  • The INPhO duration is of 3 hours. INPhO 2014-2015 happened on February 1st, 2015, Saturday. The date and time information of the exam is usually given out on HBCSE site in the 1st week of January every year.
  • The confirmed schedule and date is hosted on the site and also communicated to the eligible students by post, so that no one misses out this crucial information. Students who appear for INPhO are eligible for Travel Allowance and Dearness Allowance as per the norms of the programme.


As like NSEP, the syllabus for INPhO is also based roughly on the school syllabus of class 9th and 10th (CBSE board). But, the syllabus of higher secondary school is only a broad guideline. Here the problems and questions in National Physics Olympiad are usually non-conventional and of really high difficulty level, just as comparable to International Physics Olympiad. For that matter, the syllabus of IPhO should be considered for INPhO.

S. No




1. Mechanics
  1. Foundation of kinematics of a point mass
Vector description of the position of the point mass and velocity and acceleration as vectors


  1. Newton’s laws and inertial systems


Problems may be set on changing mass
  1. Closed and open systems; momentum and energy, power work,
  1. Conservation of energy, impulse, conservation of linear momentum
  1. Elastic forces, the law of gravitation, frictional forces, potential energy, work in a gravitational field
Hooke’s law, frictional forces static and kinetic, coefficient of friction (F/R=const), choice of zero of potential energy
  1. Centripetal acceleration, Kepler’s laws
2. Mechanics of rigid bodies
  1. Statics, torque, centre of mass
Couples; conditions of equilibrium of bodies
  1. Motion of rigid bodies, translation, angular velocity, rotation, angular acceleration, and conservation of angular momentum
Conservation of angular momentum about fixed axis only
  1. External and internal forces, equation of motion of a rigid body around the fixed axis, kinetic energy of a rotating body, moment of inertia
Parallel axes theorem (Steiner’s theorem) and additively of the moment of inertia
  1. Accelerated reference systems and inertial forces
Knowledge of the Coriolis force formula is not required
3. Hydromechanics
  1. No specific questions will be set on this but students would be expected to know the elementary concepts of pressure, the continuity law and buoyancy


4. Thermodynamics and molecular physics
  1. Internal energy, first and second laws of thermodynamics, work and heat
Thermal equilibrium and quantities depending on state and quantities depending on process
  1. Model of a perfect gas, pressure and molecular kinetic energy, equation of state of a perfect gas, Avogadro’s number, absolute temperature
Also molecular approach to such simple phenomena in liquids and solids as boiling and melting etc.
  1. Work done by an expanding gas limited to isothermal and adiabatic processes
Proof of the equation of the adiabatic process is not required
  1. The Carnot cycle, reversible and irreversible processes, thermodynamic efficiency, entropy (statistical approach)and Boltzmann factor
Entropy as a path independent function, quasistatic processes, entropy changes and reversibility
5. Oscillations and waves
  1. Harmonic oscillations and equation of harmonic oscillation
Solution of the equation for harmonic motion; attenuation and resonance – qualitatively
  1. Harmonic waves, transverse and longitudinal waves, propagation of waves, linear polarization, sound waves, the classical Doppler effect
Displacement in a progressive wave and understanding of graphical representation of the wave, Doppler effect in one dimension only, measurements of velocity of sound and light, propagation of waves in homogeneous and isotropic media, Fermat’s principle reflection and refraction,
  1. Superposition of harmonic waves, interference, coherent waves, standing waves, beats



Realization that intensity of wave is proportional to the square of its amplitude.

Fourier analysis is not required but candidates should have some understanding that complex waves can be made from addition of simple sinusoidal waves of different frequencies.

Interference due to thin films and other simple systems (the final formulas are not required)

6. Electric charge and electric field
  1. Conservation of charge, Coulomb’s law
  1. Electric field, Gauss’ law, potential
Gauss’ law confined to simple symmetric systems like sphere, plate, cylinder etc., and electric dipole moment
  1. Capacitors and capacitance, dielectric constant and energy density of electric field
7. Current and Magnetic field
  1. Current, resistance, Ohm’s law, internal resistance of source, Kirchhoff’s laws, Joule’s law, work and power of direct and alternating currents
Simple cases of circuits containing non-ohmic devices with known V-I characteristics
  1. Magnetic field (B) of a current, Lorentz force, current in a magnetic field
Particles in a magnetic field, magnetic dipole moment, simple applications like cyclotron
  1. Ampere’s law
  1. Law of electromagnetic induction, Lenz’s law, magnetic flux, self-induction, energy density of magnetic field, inductance, permeability
Magnetic field of simple symmetric systems like circular loop, straight wire, and long solenoid
  1. Alternating current, voltage and current (series and parallel) resonances, resistors, inductors and capacitors in AC-circuits
Simple AC-circuits, final formulae for parameters of concrete resonance circuits, time constants are not required



8. Electromagnetic waves
  1. Oscillatory circuit, generation by feedback and resonance, frequency of oscillations
  1. Wave optics, diffraction grating, diffraction from one and two slits, Bragg reflection, resolving power of a grating


Introduction to Indian National Junior Science Olympiad (INJSO)

Indian National Junior Science Olympiad is organized every year by HBCSE at about 15 centres in the country. Indian National Junior Science Olympiad is the second step that offers an opportunity for Indian students to represent India in world-wide championships. It is organized jointly by the Indian Association of Physics Teachers (IAPT) and Homi  Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE).

INJSO Eligibility Criteria:-

In order to appear for INJSO, students need to qualify the (NSEJS) examination. In addition to this, those students who have been exempted as described in the Enrollment page are also eligible to appear for INJSO.

INJSO Syllabus:-

The syllabus for INJSO will be broadly similar to NSEJS with emphasis on conceptual understanding and quantitative reasoning. Questions and problems in National Olympiads are usually non-conventional and of high difficulty level, comparable to International Olympiads.

S. No. Topic Details
1. Science Skills and Safety
  • Understanding scientific methods and working in the laboratory.
  • Follow instructions in the laboratory
  • Identify and use basic laboratory equipment
  • Draw scientific diagrams of apparatus
  • Measure temperature and volume
  • Follow safety techniques when using equipment
  • Make observations using the five senses
  • Describe the scientific method
  • Make inferences based on observations
  • Record a science experiment using standard headings
  • Use scientific language
  • Collect, represent and interpret data in tables and graphs
2. Pushes and Pulls
  • Understanding of what forces are and what they can do
  • Measure forces using a spring balance
  • Describe what forces are and what they can do
  • Calculate the density of an object
  • Carry out experiments with friction, gravity and density.
  • Explain the difference between mass and weight
  • Say what friction is and explain how it can be helpful or a nuisance.
  • Explain things in terms of the pull of gravity
3. Survival in the Environment
  • Understanding of how physical and behavioural adaptations help animals survive.
  • Define the terms habitat and adaptation
  • List characteristics that help an organism survive
  • Distinguish between an animal’s living and physical environment
  • Classify adaptations as structural or behavioural
  • List the physical conditions that affect aquatic animals
  • Research, carry out and write up a study of a particular environment
  • Make inferences from observations
4. Solids, Liquids and Gases
  • Understanding of the differences between solids, liquids and gases.
  • Explain the three states of matter
  • Measure the temperature of melting ice
  • Recall the boiling point of water and the melting point of ice
  • Draw simple graphs
  • Calculate the density of materials
  • Measure mass using a balance
  • Use a particle model
5. Responding
  • Define the terms stimulus and respond and how they relate
  • Understanding of how our body senses help us respond to our environment.
  • Describe how nerves carry massages
  • Describe the various senses in our body
  • Investigate the senses
  • Investigate how fast our muscles react
  • Explain how muscles move arms and legs
6. Energy
  • Understanding of the different types of energy and energy changes.
  • Identify and describe the various forms of energy
  • Describe what energy is and where it comes from
  • Explain the difference between stored energy in action
  • Understand how sound is caused
  • Explain everyday happenings in terms in energy changes
  • Understand that fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource
  • Use different forms of energy to make an object move
  • Conduct an experiment involving energy changes
7. How Life Begins
  • Understanding of how new life is created in humans.
  • Describe the sex cell of humans
  • Describe the differences between animal and plant cell
  • Describe the human reproductive organs
  • Observe the development of a baby during pregnancy
  • Understand the changes that take place in boy’s and girl’s bodies during puberty
8. Solving Problems in Science
  • Understanding the scientific method.
  • Write up report of experiments
  • Describe the scientific method
  • Write hypothesis
  • Test a hypothesis by doing an experiment
  • Design an experiment using the scientific method
9. Acids and Bases
  • Understanding what are acids and bases.
  • Understand ph and its practical uses define neutralisation
  • Describe the properties of acids and bases
  • Use ph paper to check acidity
  • Use and make indicators
  • Use acids and bases safely
  • To be aware of the formation and effect of acid rain
  • .Apply knowledge of acids and bases to everyday situations
10. Interdisciplinary “Space” Studying the Universe
  • Know the order of the planets
  • Understanding our solar system and space exploration.
  • Describe key features of each planet
  • Describe spiral, elliptical and irregular galaxies
  • Distinguish between comet, asteroids and meteors
  • Explain the significance of star colour
  • Be aware of the impact of space exploration
  • Identify major constellations
  • Make scale model of planets
  • Plot positions of stars
  • Design and make a space mobile or building from recycled materials
11. Materials from the Earth
  • Understand what natural resources are
  • Understanding natural resources, where they are found and what they are used for.
  • Present information on renewable resources
  • name useful substances made from natural materials e.g. glass and concrete
  • Find out whether or not natural resources are renewable
  • Understand how materials and rocks are mined and how they are used
  • Map the locations of various mineral resources around the world Understand how fossil fuels, uranium and water are used to provide energy
12. Science and technology
  • Explain the difference between science and technology
  • Understanding of how technology has been used to solve problem.
  • Find out about some inventors and inventions
  • Be aware of inventions
  • Design a test to solve an everyday problem
  • Carry out a science fair experiment
  • Research to find relevant information
13. Keeping Healthy
  • Understanding the digestive and circulatory systems.
  • Use the model to explain how food passes from the small intestine to the bloodstream
  • Explain what the part of the digestive system do during digestion
  • Describe the importance of fibre in the diet
  • Understand the effect of exercise on pulse and breathing rates
  • Investigate the structure and care of teeth
  • Describe how the blood carries food and oxygen to the body cells
  • Describe the structure of the heart and how to take care of it
14. Batteries and Bulbs
  • Understanding of batteries’ concept and circuits.
  • Draw circuit diagrams
  • Make simple circuits
  • .Know the difference between series and parallel circuits
  • Understand about resistance and short circuits
  • Describe the properties of conductors and insulators
  • Explain how electrical safety device work (fuses and earths)
  • Know the component of electrical plug
  • Understand the rules for using electrical safely
15. Atoms and Molecules
  • Describe the practical theory to explain the properties of solids, liquids and gases
  • Understanding of atoms, molecules, elements and compounds.
  • Know the name of some common molecules
  • Explain that matter is made of atoms and molecules
  • Describe what elements and compounds are
  • Understand the basic structure of the atom
  • Know the first twenty elements and their symbol from the periodic table
  • Explain the difference between elements and compounds in termof atoms and molecules
  • Know about some of the people who discovered different elements
  • Write a simple word equation
  • Know the formula of some common compounds
16. Cycles in nature
  • Understanding of food chains and webs
  • Describe how bacteria and fungi recycle substances
  • Use food chains to show the link between animals and plants
  • Construct food webs
  • Know the difference between scavengers and decomposers
17. What are Things made of
  • Understanding of the concept of the periodic table and the elements
  • Review particle theory, atoms, molecules, elements and compounds
  • Atoms and Molecules
  • Understand basic patterns of the periodic table
  • Learn to write simple equation
  • Learn the first 20 elements by symbol and name
  • Know the basic structure of the atom, protons, neutrons, electrons
  • Know about alloy
  • Look at where metals and other important materials come from and what they are used for
18. Diseases
  • Understanding how infections disease is caused and transmitted
  • Know which organism cause common diseases
  • Describe the microorganisms that cause disease
  • Understand how our body fights disease
  • Understand about how antibiotics are used to fight disease
  • Understand the history of disease and vaccination
19. Global Consumer Science
  • Understanding of scientific testing of consumer product and the impact of consumerproducts on our health and environment.
  • Understand the difference between objective and subjective testing
  • Use the steps of scientific testing
  • Calculate the waste from packaging
  • Know about the argument surrounding genetically modified foods
  • Understand how long different substances take to break down
  • Research recycling
  • Understand the impact of consumer products on our environment
20. Science and the Road
  • Understanding of Newton’s First Law (Inertia), friction, Reaction Time, Acceleration, Carsafety.
  • Know about car safety features
  • Understand the main reasons for car accidents
  • Be aware of road safety
  • Measure reaction time
  • Calculate speed and acceleration
  • List the factors affecting stopping time
21. Interdisciplinary “The Body” Life Goes On
  • Understanding of human reproduction and inheritance.
  • Recognise variation in human characteristics
  • Describe the structure and function of the male and female reproductive system
  • Describe the role of genes and chromosomes in human inheritance
  • Be able to calculate the chance of children being born male or female using model
  • Use family trees to determine the features of family members
  • Use grids to predict variation in offspring characteristics
  • Describe genetic engineering and social implications
22. Light and Colour
  • Understanding of how light and color are produced.
  • Explain why things are colored
  • List the colors of spectrum
  • Describe how long and short sightedness can be corrected with lenses
  • Find out how we see colors and why color blindness occurs
  • Observe how light travels in straight lines
  • Investigate how different colors are made
  • Observe how images from when light reflect from when light reflect from mirror
  • Predict the colour produced when filters are used
  • Investigate how lenses bend light to form images
23. Forensic Science
  • Understanding of how science is used in crime detection.
  • Understand how scientists collect and interpret the physical evidence from a crime
  • Describe the job of a forensic scientist
  • Investigate hypothetical crimes
  • Use chromatography to examine ink samples
  • Examine fingerprints
  • Use indicator to detect the presence of certain substances
  • Understand about ballistic and genetic evidence
  • Examine evidence using a microscope
  • Understand about the use of atomic absorption spectrophotometers to examine traces of chemical
  • Write hypothetical forensic reports
  • Construct evidence table and detect patterns
24. Mathematics Ability
  • Understanding of the mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Fraction
  • Simple Trigonometry
  • Logarithms
  • Simple Geometry
  • Arithmetic and Geometric Array
  • Power and square roots
  • Quadratics Equation

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