The Detroit Local Section Exam for the US National Chemistry Olympiad


As of March 12 the Detroit Local Section Exam for the 2020 US National Chemistry Olympiad has been cancelled.  All sponsoring teachers have been notified.

The Chemistry Olympiad program in Southeast Michigan.
The United States National Chemistry Olympiad (USNCO) is a program for high school chemistry students. The USNCO is sponsored nationally by the American Chemical Society (ACS) and organized locally by the Detroit Section of the ACS.  Students from the nine-county area served by the Detroit Section are eligible to participate. 

The ultimate objective of the USNCO is the selection of the four members of the United States team for the International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) to be held this year in Istanbul, Turkey.  
The selection process begins with the Local Section exam in March.  In southeast Michigan the top eleven students on the Local Section exam (after adjusting for the national rules) are named as Nominees of the Detroit Section.  The Nominees and nine Runners-up will receive cash prizes of $150 and $75 respectively. The Nominees will return to UM-Dearborn in late April to sit for the National Exam.  Approximately one thousand students nationwide take the National Exam;  the top twenty on the National Exam will be invited to the Olympiad Study Camp at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.  T
he four members of the US team are then chosen after ten intense and grueling days at the Study Camp. 

Online Registration for the Detroit Local Section Exam for the USNCO

The Local Section exam for the 2020 Chemistry Olympiad will be administered on Friday, March 20 on the campus of the University of Michigan-Dearborn.  Online registration will open on February 3, 2020. 
For reasons of space, there is a limit of twenty students per school on the Local Section exam. High school teachers should click HERE to register up to fifteen students and five alternates for the 2020 USNCO Detroit Local Section Exam.  If you would prefer to register by paper, you may download a PRINTABLE REGISTRATION FORM.  Alternatively, you may contact Dr. Mark DeCamp at and registration materials will be mailed to you.  Confirmation will be sent out by email when the registration materials have been received.  Deadline for receipt of registration materials is Friday, March 13.

Who should participate?  All high school chemistry students are invited to attend, but persons who have completed or are currently enrolled in an AP Chemistry class will be the best prepared for the Local Section Exam.

Is there a cost to participate?  There is no fee to participate in the Local Section Exam for the Chemistry Olympiad.  Students should bring their own calculators (in conformance with rules of the competition).  Scantron answer sheets, No. 2 pencils, and scrap paper will be provided.  Each participant will receive an Olympiad pin.  

National and Local Rules for the Chemistry Olympiad  Note that the National Rules supersede the Local Section Rules.

2020 Olympiad Schedule of Events

  • Mid-January.   Registration materials mailed to teachers.  If you are not on the Detroit Section's Education Committee mailing list, contact Dr. Mark DeCamp at and materials will be sent to you.
  • Monday, February 3.  Online registration opens 
  • Friday, March 13.  Registration Deadline
  • Friday, March 20.  The 2019 Detroit Local Section Examination  The Detroit Local Section Examination will be administered on Friday, March 20 from 4:30 to 6:30 pm on the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus (specific locations TBA). Click HERE for a campus map. Students should plan to arrive at UM-Dearborn no later than 4:15 for registration. The Nominees and Runners-up will be introduced by 8:00 pm.    
  • Friday, March 20.  SEMCTO meeting.  While the students are taking the exam teachers are invited to attend a meeting of SEMCTO (SE Michigan Chemistry Teachers Organization).  2019 Recipients of the PTEG award will be presenting.           
  • Thursday, April 23.  The National Exam  The National Exam will be held on Thursday, April 23, 2020 in the Natural Sciences Building at UM-Dearborn. Following the exam, the Nominees, their families and teachers will be guests of the Detroit Section at the annual Olympiad awards dinner.
  • Early May.  Olympiad Study Camp participants notified.

Downloadable version of the 2019 Detroit Local Section Exam (and answer key)The 2019 Detroit Local Section Exam and answer key can be accessed here.  The Local Section exam consists of seventy multiple choice questions and an free-response question.  The multiple choice portion of the exam is based on the test created by the ACS with ten additional questions.  The free-response question is used for the purpose of breaking ties.  One hundred sixty students from twenty-four schools completed the Local Section Exam last March. The average on the 2019 exam was 35.9 (out of 70) right, with a high score of 62. 

2019 Olympiad Nominees, Runners-up, and participating schools
Click HERE for a listing of the Nominees, Runners-up and participating schools on the 2019 Detroit Section Chemistry Olympiad.   Also available is a histogram showing the distribution of scores on the Local Section Exam.

Detroit Section USNCO Archives
  • Detroit representatives at the USNCO Study Camp, 1985 - 2019
    The Detroit Section has participated in the USNCO program since 1985. For twenty-four of the past thirty-five years Detroit has sent at least one student to the Study Camp at the Air Force Academy.  In 2019 Yajvan Ravan (Churchill High School) represented the Detroit Section at the Study Camp.  At the conclusion of the Study Camp Yajvan was chosen for the US team and he ultimately earned a gold medal at International Chemistry Olympiad in Paris!  A complete list of all Study Camp participants from the Detroit Section can be found
  • Old essay questions  In selecting Nominees and Runners-up in Detroit, ties are broken by means of a free response question. The topic of the essay question is usually timely. The essay questions from past ten Detroit Local Section Exams are collected HERE.
  • Downloadable copies of generic Local Section exams and past National exams can be accessed at ACS USNCO website.

Additional Information

Additional information about the Chemistry Olympiad program can be found at the USNCO National Website.

Photo Gallery from the 2019 Local Section and National Exams

Local Section Exam

Taking the Local Section Exam.  OK, it's the 2018 exam, but every year it looks the same.

The Teacher's meeting hosted by SEMCTO

Teachers at the 2018 SEMCTO meeting, Steve Kosmas presenting

The National Exam and Awards Dinner

Nominees taking Part I of the National Exam

The lab practical

Future Gold Medal winner Yajvan Ravan (Churchill High School) working on one of the lab problems.

Keynote speaker Prof. Evan Trivedi, Department of Chemistry, Oakland University

Eleven Nominees following presentation of cash awards.  L to R:  M. Wang, Kim, P. Soni, K. Hwa, A. Zhang, V. Nayak, K. Masel, T. Lwo, A. Relekar, Y. Ravan, L. Weng (missing: S. Ganesh)

Yajvan Ravan, third from left, displays his gold medal after the International Chemistry Olympiad.

Last updated 02/02/20