British Biology Olympiad

Advanced problem solving competition for A-level students & entry point for the International Biology Olympiad

~80%

of schools win medals

8,476

students competed in 2021

622

schools took part in 2021

Next held in early 2022

The BBO is open to students in post-16 education studying at school or college. The competition consists of two, 45-minute multiple choice papers to be taken online under staff supervised exam conditions. Students will be presented with topics and ideas which they are not familiar with, so will compete with their problem solving skills and understanding of core principals.

In addition to encouraging and rewarding pupils in their studies, the BBO is the first stage in selecting a team to represent the UK at the International Biology Olympiad (IBO). The IBO seeks to challenge by both theory and practical tests some of the top pre-university biology students in the world, with over sixty countries taking part.

The top-scoring students in the BBO will be invited to complete further practical and theoretical training and assessments in order to select a team to represent the UK at the International Biology Olympiad (IBO).

View results of BBO 2021

If you are a teacher whose students took part, you can now view their results by logging in below.

How many students can I enter?

There are no limits on participation numbers.

What are the eligibility requirements?

The British Biology Olympiad is aimed at students in their final year of pre-university education. Therefore, we specify that all students must be under the age of 19.

Whilst most students are 17-18, younger students often take part. Younger students are likely to perform better in the Intermediate Biology Olympiad (aimed at 16-17 year-olds) or Biology Challenge (aimed at 13-15 year-olds) which take place after the British Biology Olympiad.

Students from all types of schools, and from anywhere in the world can take part.

The examination assumes knowledge of the common elements of the biology A-level syllabi.

The medal boundaries are set using only students from UK schools, and are then awarded to all participating students.

Students which have not studied in the UK for the past two years, or who have attended an International Biology Olympiad previously, or who have attended team selection at the University of Warwick previously, are not normally eligible to participate in team selection. However, they may take part in the British Biology Olympiad.

Can my students have extra time?

Students who usually have extra time in public examinations may have the appropriate proportion of extra time to complete the British Biology Olympiad. It is up to the invigilating teacher to facilitate this correctly.

How is the team selected for IBO?

Eligibility for the team selection round to represent the UK at the International Biology Olympiad, and the nature of team selection, closely mirrors the International Biology Olympiad, and is at our discretion.

We will contact the teachers of the best performers from the British Biology Olympiad to discuss this and arrange invitations to participate in team selection. We are currently expecting invitations for team selection to be sent two weeks after the British Biology Olympiad, and for team selection to take place in the Easter holiday.

Students which have not studied in the UK for the past two years, or who have attended an International Biology Olympiad previously, or who have attended team selection at the University of Warwick previously, are not normally eligible to participate in team selection. However, they may take part in the British Biology Olympiad.

The School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick have carried out outstanding team selection rounds for many years.

Contingencies for COVID-19

We successfully hosted the Intermediate Biology Olympiad 2020 at the height of lockdown, which had even more participants than usual. Therefore, we are confident the British Biology Olympiad will go ahead successfully.

Where schools are unable to open, or students are self isolating, teachers will be able to invigilate them remotely so they can participate from home. Further details on how to do this will be sent in early 2021.

Team selection may take place remotely.

The International Biology Olympiad is currently scheduled to take place in Lisbon. The Japanese hosted a fantastic virtual International Biology Olympiad in 2020, at which the UK secured 4 medals.

What will be assessed?

The British Biology Olympiad is not primarily a test of knowledge. We do not expect students to know things from beyond the normal A-level syllabus, and we do not expect teachers to make special preparations for their students to perform well in the British Biology Olympiad. However, the British Biology Olympiad will cover topics which all students are unfamiliar with.

Questions will ask students to use their biological intuition, logic and imagination to answer questions. They will be expected to apply basic principles which they are familiar with to new topics. The British Biology Olympiad is a challenging problem solving competition, however, there will be some quickfire questions of basic knowledge, since students enjoy these.

Questions will aim to teach students about cutting edge and topical biology.

I am a student/parent

The British Biology Olympiad is administered as an exam. Therefore, only your teacher can register candidates, and invigilate them. If you want to take part you must convince your teacher to make the arrangements!

You could politely and kindly explain that the competitions are free, sign-up is simple, the vast majority of participating schools receive at least one medal, and that invigilation could be as simple as watching you during a lunch-break.

All contact between UKBC and students should be made via teachers (except for in-person events such as the IBO).

Format of papers and invigilation

The British Biology Olympiad comprises two 45 minute multiple choice papers. All students must sit both papers. Medals are awarded entirely on the score from these two papers.

Both papers are entirely online, so all students must have access to an internet connected device – a computer is likely to be easiest for them.

Teachers are responsible for invigilating their students under normal examination conditions. We verify that registering teachers are part of a legitimate school or examination center.

Nearer the exam, teachers will be given administrator accounts, and instructions on how students can set up accounts.

Further details will be sent prior to the competition. Contingency arrangements for students participating from home due to COVID-19 will be sent prior to the competition.