British Physics Olympiad BPhO Round 1

BPhO Round 1

Competition date: Friday 12th Nov 2021
Papers returned for marking to BPhO by Friday 19th Nov
Entry deadline: Monday 8th Nov 2021
Competition details

Cost: £18 per student (2 free papers for non fee-paying schools). All subsequent rounds are free.
Prizes: Certificates and books


This paper consists of a set of short answer (Section 1) and several long answer thematic questions (Section 2). They require the student to solve problems, hence the time allocation. Results determine if students will be invited to participate in the next round (Round 2 in late January), and ultimately onto the team for the IPhO and, if the dates of the competition fit, the European Physics Olympiad (EuPhO). Students at the team level typically achieve 70-80%, but considerably lower scores indicate a level of achievement that should in itself be considered by pupil and school as a profound depth of development, skill at the subject, and a determination to solve hard physics problems. About 2000 students participate in the competition annually. This paper is a challenge and is not an A level replica or a guide to A level performance. Not does an expected A* at A level indicate that a top result will be obtained here. It is a very tall ladder of skill, ability and preparedness which students climb until they grind to a halt. Good students should be encouraged to prepare for it by working through past papers over the months before; questions from past papers should also be integrated in to your teaching scheme of work. Participation itself reflects strongly on a student’s interest and determination.

Award allocation

Certificates are awarded to the top students in approximately the following numbers:

Book prizes are generally awarded for Top Gold awards winners. (not currently with Covid)

Students achieving a certificate of any colour in the BPhO are very able physics problem solvers. We would encourage schools to present these certificates in a manner that recognises the significant achievement of successful students at a national level.

Past papers can be found here.

Qualification for Round 2 and selection for the Oxford Training Camp at Easter

The top group of students eligible for Round 2 (see the Round 2 criteria) will be invited to take part in Round 2 in late January. This will be the Top Gold students who satisy the requirements for Round 2 entry, and some invitees who have performed well in one or more questions of Round 1.

Ordering papers

For teachers only: to order, visit the online store from September. Papers are posted out from two weeks before the exam date. Schools in China must go through the company ASDAN China (see details in the online shop).

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