what is ibo


The International Biology Olympiad (IBO) is an annual competition for secondary school students.  Their skills in tackling biological problems, and dealing with biological experiments are tested.  Interest in biology, inventiveness, creativity and perseverance are necessary.

Aims of the IBO 

The IBO competition aims at secondary school students who are interested in biology.  In bringing together gifted students, the IBO challenges and stimulates students to expand their talents, and to promote a career in science.  The objectives of this competition are to:

  • Stimulate active interest in biological studies;
  • Promote networking and understanding between biology students;
  • Promote and exchange ideas about biology education.


The biology competition between Czechoslovakia and Poland from 1985 to 1989 was the forerunner of the future IBO.  The positive experience from the International Olympiads in other natural sciences and mathematics prompted the idea of an International Biology Olympiad, for which UNESCO asked Czechoslovakia to take the initiative.  Six countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Poland and the Soviet Union) founded the IBO Competition in 1989 (Prague and Brno), and held the first competition in Olomouc in July 1990.  Notwithstanding some initial difficulties, this Olympiad was a great success.  More countries joined quickly in the following years and the number of participating countries still increases steadily.  Soon after the first IBO, a Coordinating Center was established in Prague to function as the administrative headquarters of the IBO. In 2017, the IBO became an officially registered association with its seat in Kiel, Germany.

IBO Structure

The IBO is organized as an international association, officially named “International Biology Olympiad e.V.”, registered in Germany at the register of associations at the local court in Kiel. Its Articles of Association govern the legal aspects of the IBO Association, including membership, the General Assembly and the Steering Committee.  The Articles of Association are available online. These Operational Guidelines complement the Articles of Association.

General Assembly

The General Assembly (GA) comprises all the members of the association.  Its legal role is described in the Articles of Association, §10.  The General Assembly is the ultimate authority for all decisions of the IBO Association. In addition, the GA is responsible for changes to these operational guidelines.

Steering Committee 

The Steering Committee (SC) operates as the managing board of the association.  Its legal role is described in the Articles of Association, §12.  In addition, the Steering Committee is responsible for the following matters:

  • Defining tasks for, and supervising of the IBO Office and Coordinating Centre;
  • Enforcing the rules of the IBO Competition and taking the appropriate measures in case of violation in accordance with the Articles of Association,

Making decisions in urgent, unregulated cases;

  • Call for electronic voting;
  • Ensuring all members are treated fairly and equally;
  • Communicating all decisions to the GA or Jury.

The Secretary of the Steering Committee will keep minutes of internal SC communications, and archive them.

IBO Office

The IBO Office exists to support the IBO Association in the broadest sense. It fulfills the following functions on behalf of, and under the authority of the SC:

  • Providing information for all members;
  • Maintaining public relations for the IBO with other institutions;
  • Promoting contact with non-IBO member countries;
  • Coordinating the invitation of observers from non-IBO member countries by the future host country;
  • Maintaining a list of current contact information of country coordinators, their deputies, observers and organizations taking part in the IBO Competition;
  • Collecting materials and information regarding the IBO and other biological competitions, including descriptions of National Biology Olympiads or similar competitions used to select IBO competitors;
  • Reporting about its activities at the General Assembly;
  • Fund raising for the IBO Association;
  • Perform and coordinate IBO-related research.

Coordinating Centre 

The Coordinating Centre (CC) is the former primary secretariat of the IBO Competition.  With the establishment of the IBO Office, most tasks have been taken over by the IBO Office, as described above. The CC will support the IBO Office in its functions and will be actively involved in transferring its knowledge to the IBO Office.  The CC is responsible for the yearly organization of the IBO Advisory Board meeting, and the annual handing over of the IBO Cup. In case the IBO Office is unable to fulfill its functions, the CC serves as a fallback option.


The term ‘host’ or ‘host country’ refers to the organization and organizers of the IBO Competition in the country concerned (see also Articles of Association, Definitions). The host is responsible for most of the preparation of the IBO Competition, including arranging the venue and setting the exams.  The host works in close collaboration with the SC, the IBO Office and CC to organize the competition according to the IBO standards, but also in case of problems.

 Advisory Board 

Every autumn the Coordinating Centre organizes an Advisory Board (AB) meeting as a platform for information exchange between the two previous and the two future hosts of the IBO Competition.  Together with the SC these parties can discuss various topics regarding the preparation of the competition, and benefit from each other’s experience and views.  Additionally, representatives from all members of the association are invited to join the meeting for discussion and to propose recommendations regarding the competition rules and regulations.  Interested members should apply to attend four weeks in advance and submit their proposals no later than 14 days before the meeting.  Minutes of the AB meeting will be sent to all members.  Any recommended change must be approved by the GA according to §2.1, possibly by electronic vote.