Participation increases in science testing competitions


By Chris Li
<[email protected]>

For freshman David Liang, May 2 is the day when his results for the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad (USNCO) exam come back. According to Liang, this exam is part of a series of tests to chose a team of select chemistry students around the nation.

“In order to participate in USNCO, you first take the regional ACS exam, which is open to any students willing to take it,” Liang said.

In recent years, more students at CHS have participated in this process. This increase in the number of test takers may be part of a trend. According to the American Chemical Society, recent years have seen increases in exam participants.

Science department chairperson Jennifer Marlow said the USA Biology Olympiad examination has also seen more participants at CHS.

Marlow said she believes this trend can be attributed to an increase in awareness of such opportunities.

“More students are becoming aware of these types of exams, and we’ve had considerable success in past years, so more and more people want to participate,” Marlow said.

According to Marlow, the increases in the number of participants have been largely due to awareness-raising organizations such as Chem Club.

“(Chem Club) doesn’t just focus on preparing students for the exam, but it also does other activities that give students an idea of what the exam is like,” Marlow said.

Teachers have also encouraged their students to sign up for such opportunities. According to Agarwal, her AP Biology teacher informed her about the exam.

“Although I wasn’t expecting too much, I really wanted to see what I had learned throughout the year and what I knew,” Agarwal said.

In fact, the number of students taking the ACS exam was so large that there had to be a newly set limit. Liang said that in previous years the qualifying requirement for  USNCO depended on the students’ scores, but the new two-person quota only allows the two students with the highest scores in their school to advance to the next round.

Although Agarwal said she is not expecting too much when the results come, she said that participating in the competition has definitely exposed her to the more in-depth concepts of biology.

“(The competition) has definitely made me see that there’s a lot more out there to learn. For example, a process like osmosis may seem simple when your teacher presents it, but the practical applications of it are enormous and  much more complex,” Agarwal said.

Liang said he shares a similar view. “Studying and preparing for this test have really helped me understand more of the deeper concepts, especially the material that isn’t usually taught in school,” Liang said.

Agarwal said participating in the biology competition has greatly helped develop her future career options.

“I plan to major in biochemistry,” Agarwal said. “If not, I’m definitely going to major in something with a biology component. Taking this exam has really opened my eyes as to the options out there.”