This is the first of the selection papers for the UK team for the IPhO. However, it is also a paper about physics problem
solving, and is taken by those who have a keen interest in rasing their problem solving skills.
Last year the Round 1 competition was entered by 2800 students in UK schools.
Competition date: Friday 10th Nov 2023
Scanned scripts returned (uploaded) for marking to BPhO by Friday 17th Nov 2023
Cost: £18 per student (4 free papers for non fee-paying
schools). All subsequent rounds are free.
International schools sit the paper on Monday 13th November 2023. The paper will be available on Saturday 11th Nov 2023.
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 two and a half thousand 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. Nor 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.
Certificates are awarded to the top students in approximately the following numbers:
Book prizes are generally awarded for Top Gold awards winners.
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.
The top group of students eligible for Round 2 (see the Round 2 eligibility criteria) will be invited to take part in Round 2 in late January. This will be the Top Gold students who satisfy the requirements for Round 2 entry, and some invitees who have performed well in one or more questions of Round 1.