Singapore Math Olympiad: Tips for preparation

The Singapore Mathematical Olympiad, also called SMO is the largest mathematical competition in Singapore. It is also known to be one of the toughest in the world. Thousands of students from various schools all over Singapore participate in this contest every year.

The registrations for this SMO 2017 closed on 31st March and the preparations are in full swing for the exam to be held on May 30th (for the Junior Olympiad). Preparing for this challenging competition can look like a daunting task; but with a systematic and organised plan, it could be made interesting; if not easy.

Some basic tips that you should keep in mind when preparing for Singapore Math Olympiad:

Know the pattern and curriculum:

The Junior section of the Singapore Math Olympiad consists of 10 multiple choice questions and 25 open-ended questions. The syllabus consists of algebra, number theory, geometry, pattern recognition and simple combinatorics.

Find out the pattern of the exam from your school and the syllabus; if you are appearing for the Senior or Open level.

Make sure fundamentals are right:

SMO is not like regular school exams where practising various types of questions is sufficient. The questions are more complex and geared towards the application of student’s in-depth knowledge of the topics. Difficult questions require knowledge from several topics. Build your basics right and you should be good.

Develop a framework:

While you need to have a good knowledge of all the topics, every student will always have some favourite topics. You can choose to approach each question individually, but it’s a good idea to group the questions in different buckets based on the broad topic. You can then work on your strongest topic first. This will not only build up your initial confidence, it will also give you a good head-start. Attempting questions topic wise also helps you recognise patterns in questions.

Understand the question:

Notice that I have not written: “Read the questions”. Of course you need to read the question, but more importantly, you need to understand the question. Questions in SMO are designed in such a way that some may seem very trivial or obvious, but its also easy to get started in the wrong direction. Understand the intention behind the question and it will help you approach it in the right direction.

Check the online resources:

Internet has many resources online and use them to get access to a variety of problems. Learn to solve these problems analytically. Take your time and do not rush through during initial practice stage. It is more important to get these questions right than finish them fast.

Some of the resources you can look at are:

Encyclopedia of Mathematics

The Math Forum

Platonic Realms Interative Maths Encyclopedia (PRIME)

The History of Mathematics : While this site may look boring, it is one of the resources recommended by Singapore Mathematical society. The article focuses on how mathematicians approached problems and helps you build an analytical appoach to concepts.

Math on the web: It has links to downloadable eBooks.

Singapore Mathematical Society Problem of the week : This site posts math problems from previous year’s SMOs. Solutions are usually posted after a week.

Solve previous year’s papers:

Solving previous year’s SMO papers give you an idea of the pattern, kind of questions and the amount of effort required in solving the questions. The questions in SMO are designed in such a way that each question requires the student to use various concepts. Practice is essential in solving such questions. Check out our post on previous year’s solved SMO papers and accelerate your preparation.

Review your answers:

After you have attempted the paper, do review the answers to see if you missed out on something. A decimal here and there; and you lose all your marks.Silly mistakes could cost a lot in examinations like Olympiad, so be vigilant.

Quality matters over quantity:

Last but not the least; spend quality time on your preparation. If you are feeling tired or are not in a mood on a particular day; relax. SMO is not about spending 10 hrs everyday preparing. The problems require you to be alert and focused. Get good night sleep, exercise every day and make sure you are physically fit.

We will be posting previous year’s Math Olympiad question paper with solutions soon. Check back our blog soon.

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