Competition format

This competition for UK (+ international^) secondary schools pits teams of students in Years 7 to 11 (England & Wales nomenclature, Scotland P7-S4) against each other in a timed automated challenge across two rounds each of which can be sat at any point in a nominated working fortnight under local invigilation.  Local teacher expertise is not required, merely careful supervision.

(^ international schools can participate in both rounds of the competition and receive digital certificates although the prize money / cup is reserved for teams of UK students who are also sitting the Round 2 competition in the UK.)



Coding submissions (via the online interface) will be supported in a number of different languages but these will be limited and reviewed each year based on demand from registering schools. Python, C++, C#, Java, JavaScript and Visual Basic.Net are the main languages of choice for this competition.

All questions will receive one or more lines of input and produce one or more lines of output. Each submission will be subjected to automated tests to determine the points awarded. Code submissions must complete within the specified (usually 3) seconds of processing time for each test. The memory available to each submission is also limited which may be relevant to some later problems.

Some sample level questions are available on the practice page.

The code must not generate any output other than the answer. For this reason no prompts should be included in any code otherwise solutions will be marked incorrect by the marking engine.

Competition Topics Overview

Algorithmic thinking:
The main goal of our problems are to develop algorithmic & computational thinking.

  • Logical and Algorithmic Thinking
  • Decomposition and Abstraction
  • Pattern Identification
  • Debugging and continual testing

Language constructs typically used include:

  • selection
  • iteration
  • input/output*
  • type conversion (including string, integer, float, Boolean)
  • basic string processing (inc. letter by letter iteration, find/replace, reversing…)
  • arrays / lists+
  • functions

Level 4 problems will include some test cases which test the efficiency of the solution within the timeout allowed. * Please note that input prompts / additional output must not be included in solutions because of the auto-marking. + Nested lists, dictionaries, 2D arrays or other structure will be useful on some higher level problems.

Round 1 Format

Questions will be simple and short. Pairs of students (or solo if absolutely necessary) will each work on a single computer to complete as many questions as they can in the 40 minutes allowed. For the R1 senior set (Years 10-11 in England & Wales, Scotland S3-S4) , Q1-6 will be worth three points with Q7-10 worth five points. The junior set (Y7-9, Scotland P7-S2) has seven questions each worth three points. There will be a range of easy questions with most questions solvable in well under ten lines of code.

Security is ‘low’ for Round 1 : this means that schools can allow different classes to take it on different days within the competition date window. The invigilating teacher is responsible for ensuring that no copies of the questions are distributed digitally (only in printed form) and that these are all collected in and destroyed/retained along with any rough paper at the end of the session. Invigilation can be in online form if required (e.g. via a teams meeting and students sharing their screen throughout with an actively invigilating teacher).

Students must be from Years 7-11 (Scotland P7-S4) but there are no other restrictions on the pairings.

Templates and details to facilitate Participation, Merit & Distinction certificates will be issued to participating schools along with their results. The top 50% of entries will be entitled to a merit certificate; the top 25% to a distinction certificate with students in distinction pairs (whether through the junior or senior question set) entitled to enter Round 2 (either continuing in their pair or in rearranged teams – see below).

Round 2 Format (for those who qualify)

Questions will be more demanding and following the four-level format outlined below.

There will be teams of up to three and they will sit together. They may have access to one computer each and use up to three different logins per team. A maximum of two Y10-11 (Scotland S3-S4) students are allowed in a team of three. At least one of the two students who qualified from Round 1 must make up any Round 2 team but the other two need not have sat/qualified from Round 1 or have been in the same pair initially.

Security is ‘high’ for Round 2 : this means that if a school is entering multiple qualifying teams then all of those teams must sit the competition on the same date and time or in immediately contiguous times on the same date. We regret that there can be no flexibility on this rule for Round 2.

The Coding Environment

Teams can code directly into the online submission window but many will prefer to use an installed development environment and copy/paste their code across. All submissions must be made strictly within the time allowed however.

Individual question submissions will be marked online instantly with feedback given regarding the number of test cases passed or failed although the test cases themselves are not shown. The overall results will not be available until after the competition closes when team pair scores will be combined.

Invigilation / Supervision

The supervising teacher will require no specialist knowledge but will invigilate to enforce the following basic rules. Further guidance will be sent to registered teachers together with the questions for secure storage shortly before the competition opens.

  • Students must not access any other websites other than the competition site and the official language or IDE integrated reference documentation. Students can also take in copies of up to 20 A4 sides (10 double sided pages) of printed or digital code snippets to assist them into either of the two rounds

Round 2 Question Details

A number of question tasks will be available – more than most teams will be able to complete in the hour permitted. These problems will range in difficulty from trivial to harder with points available for each task set accordingly. This format is designed with the intention that it encourages teams to divide and conquer and includes a younger programmer to aid development.

Level 110 points per questionThese can be solved typically by under ten lines of code, sometimes a lot less. They will typically focus on some basic text or number processing.
Level 210 points per questionThese can also be solved with short programs but will make more developed use of array processing or functions.
Level 310 points per questionThese are aimed at easier versions of British Informatics Olympiad level 1 questions and would typically involve iteration and selection; a few of the test cases might require a time-efficient solution.
Level 410 points per questionThese are aimed at easier versions of BIO level 2  or level 3 questions which focus on modelling questions e.g. of a short game simulation or some algorithmic complexity in which tests would time-out if a less efficient method is used (4 seconds of processing time is allowed & this is the same for all languages).

* students can be in teams of less than 3 for Round 2 if needed although this is not ideal.

Competition formal summary information:

How to participate: interested teachers should register on our free registration form on this website which will add them to the mailing list.

Start/closing dates: the competition window for coding submissions is shown on the homepage for each year. Registrations should be made at least a week before this window to ensure sufficient time for the material to be sent to the invigilating teaching

The nature of any prizes: see our prize pages on this site for the prizes available at the Round 2 stage

Competition Prize Restrictions:

 –  geographical (UK only), international schools may register to sit the competition and receive digital certificate awards but final prize money / cup eligibility is only open to teams of UK students, who are also sitting the competition in the UK.

– ages (see team conditions above: a student’s yeargroup must be considered to be that defined by the usual yeargroup for their age range in UK schools)

– technical (submissions must be made online to the competition coding site, hosted on and strictly invigilated by a teacher)

The promoter’s full name and business address:

The Perse School, Cambridge, CB2 8QF

How and when winner(s) will be notified, and when they will receive their prizes: details of winning schools / team names will be published within a month of the competition closing window (hopefully earlier). Details will be published on the site and winning schools will also be contacted via the invigilating teacher with prize money sent as soon as possible following the conclusion of the competition once names for cheques have been provided (typically 6-8 weeks). Permission will be sought from winning schools/teams for any additional publicity material other than the team name and name of the school.

Scoring: Each challenge has a pre-determined score based on its level of difficulty. A team’s score on each challenge is determined by the number of test cases a team’s code submission successfully passes. If a team submits more than one solution per challenge then the team’s score will reflect their best code submission for that challenge. Teams are ranked by score. If two or more teams achieve the same overall score, then the tie is broken by the number of points achieved on the Level 4 questions and if that is also equal, by the numbers of submissions needed to achieve those Level 4 points (less being better). The organising committee’s decision will be final.