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  • Writer's picturebruce yu

#2 From AMC to AIME - Comparing The Chinese and American Math Olympiad System

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

To continue from where we left behind, today we are going to discuss about how American national IMO team select their candidates from so many smart students.


IMO in America

The biggest difference between American and Chinese high school students is that American students start to specialize/focus more on one specific field related to their university major or career in high school. Whereas Chinese students still have to be excellent in a wide range of subjects due to their educational system focusing on tests.


This difference provides a huge advantage for America to select talented students in Math Olympiad. Since there are at many elite universities in the United States, American students can choose to excel at what they like or what they are good at, as there are much more opportunities for them than China. Leaving the rest of students studying mathematics who are truly talented or interested, not just using it to go to college.


The selection system in US is designed more carefully, the difficulty of each level slowly increases, giving students more motivation to challenge themselves and not scared at first glimpse. To become a national team member, you have to :

  1. Participate in AMC10/AMC12, score top 2.5%/5% among all candidates

  2. After passing AMC, join AIME, score 11 or 12/15

  3. Selected to become a USAMO member ( around 400 students)

  4. Passing USAMO tests to become national team member ( final 6)

This selection system turns out to be a very smart and suitable design for America. The difficulty in AMC and AIME is easier than the high school national Math Olympiad in China, encouraging more students interested to fight for it, but also giving the super talented students the chance to prepare for USAMO directly, without spending so much time on the first two.


Difference and their causes between the selection systems in two countries

More students join the Math Olympiad in China

  1. China has a larger population

  2. Fewer Educational resources - Only a few competition candidates can receive offers from top universities in China, whereas students in the US can receive offers from top universities by doing a wider range of ECAs

Easier entrance level in US

Winter Math Camp (top 600) vs USAMO (top 400)

Half of the national team members in China chose not to study math in universities (2017)



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