First Round: Registration
Consists of a 40-minute multiple-choice test on basic knowledge of general chemistry. Every year, around 500 young people from all over Switzerland take part. The 60 best students make it through to the second round.
First Preparatory Weekend
At the end of November, the students who have qualified for the second round are invited to a weekend (Saturday-Sunday) at the University of Basel.
Basic knowledge in Chemistry is consolidated and the foundations for advanced topics are taught. The lectures, given by professors and PhD students, are short and interactive.
Furthermore, there is time for laboratory visits and the exchange between participants.
Second round: Central exam
The second round ("Central exam") takes place on a mid-January weekend (Friday-Saturday) at the University of Berne.
Beside the exam on Saturday, the students also receive a lecture on exam techniques, get a whiff of life at the University of Berne, visit research laboratories and attend a talk about a current research topic given by a senior scientist or professor. The exam itself lasts three hours and consists of ten to twelve theoretical problems.
These problems cover a broad range of topics, where the candidates are not supposed to being able to solve them all: This allows the students to focus on their individual strengths and knowledge.
The top sixteen students are then selected and invited for the next round, starting with two more preparation weekends.
Futher Preparatory Weekends
At the beginning of February, the candidates are invited to a preparatory weekend at the EPF Lausanne. This lasts for three days, from Friday to Sunday. After a short lecture on the theory involved in laboratory work, they will solve practical tasks in the lab including titrations and organic syntheses, all working individually, guided by the volunteers.
University of Zurich
In March, the same students are invited to the University of Zurich to improve their knowledge in theoretical aspects of chemistry. This part involves no lab work, but short theoretical courses given by professors and Ph.D. students on solving advanced chemistry problems.
These preparatory weekends allow students to not only deepen their chemistry knowledge and capabilities with hands-on learning, but also get an insight to different Universities and get in touch with academics.
Third round: Final week
The preparation for the final exam lasts half a week and is held in ETH Zurich during the week following Easter.
Students are taught advanced topics, both theoretical and practical, from Tuesday through Thursday. Friday is reserved for a theoretical exam in the morning and a practical exam in the lab in the afternoon.
During the final ceremony on Saturday morning, the four students who will represent Switzerland in the IChO later in July are announced. These students will receive some some more tailored pieces of training in the meantime.
International Chemistry Olympiad
The International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) is an annual chemistry competition for high school students.
The event usually lasts ten days in July and is hosted by a different country each year. All participating country may send four candidates and two mentors. One of the days is devoted to the practical exam and one to the theoretical exam, each lasting 5 hours. During days without an exam, sightseeing and activities are organized by the host country.
Most importantly, participants will be interacting with other students from all over the world, making friends and so building an international network among promising young chemists.
More than a competition
However, the competition is not only a selection process: it also brings together like-minded people who share an enthusiasm for chemistry and introduce students to more in-depth chemistry than the high school curriculum.
Throughout the competition, the olympiad covers all necessary expenses for students: This includes travel costs by public transport, food and accommodation.
In agreement with the Schulamt Liechtenstein, SwissChO is also in charge of selecting and training students from the Fürstentum towards their participation at IChO.
The students take part in the same examinations and in the same preparatory events under the same conditions. Their top ten students are invited to the Basel weekend and the second round where the final four will be selected to attend the further preparation and the national finals where they can secure their ticket for IChO.