Astronomy & Astrophysics Olympiad

BAAO logo

Competitions

BAAO Syllabus

The British Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad is a newer project that has formed within the BPhO trust. It was launched in 2015 and offers schools across the UK a series of competition papers that focus on astronomy and astrophysics. It is a gateway to competing in the International Olympiad in Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA), allowing students to represent their country and compete with over 40 other nations.

The BAAO is currently targeted at students in Years 12 and 13, however GCSE students can attempt it as well. The competition is syllabus independent, and will assume no prior modules specialising in astronomy have been taken. It is based on core physics applied to the wider universe, with extra details being provided in the questions.

The question papers are set to be stimulating, challenging students to think deeper, whilst at the same time bringing them closer to many of the latest ongoing research topics and discoveries in astronomy. In combination with its dedicated university based training camps, the BAAO provides students with an intriguing path to discovering more about astronomy and astrophysics, and following this through to higher education.

The students are encouraged to take the Astro Challenge Paper in the Autumn term and are required to take at least one of the BPhO Round 1 paper in November and BAAO Round 1 paper in January. The top students from either are invited to take the BAAO Round 2 paper in February and the final selection for the five students who will represent the UK to the IOAA will take place at the Easter training camp in Oxford, in April.

A video showing experiences at the 2023 Oxford camp (for both the Physics and Astro streams) is below:

You can read more about the experience of the Oxford Astro camp and attending the IOAA in Poland from one of the students on the 2023 team, Charlotte, in her blog post here.

Studying past BAAO papers available online is strongly recommended. Past papers are available online from this site, along with the solutions. Students should attempt at least two or three past papers and subsequently view the solutions, in order to ensure that they know what to expect.

The award boundaries for the BAAO Astro Round 2 paper are generally: