Useful tips on how to prepare for USACO

Posted by Dardy Lacy on April 19th, 2023

USACO preparation is a critical part of getting high marks in the exam. In the US, students can compete in a series of science and math tests that test topics beyond the standard high school curriculum. There is the USABO for biology, USAMO for math, USNACO for chemistry, USACO for computer science and USAPhO for physics.

These contests aren’t just used to recognize students for achievement in these respective subjects but also choose the members of Team USA to participate in international competitions. USACO is divided into four main divisions – silver, bronze, platinum and gold. There are 4 online contents each year where participants can download the problems and upload their solutions online.

Each contest comes with three problems that require a program written to compute the right answer for a collection of test cases. Scores for each problem are calculated based on the number of tests that the program computes correctly within the memory and time bounds allowed. There are different programming languages used such as Java, Python, Pascal, C, or C++.

Every student starts in Bronze and is promoted based on his or her contest scores. There are nearly five hundred thousand pre-college students who take these contests but only a fifth of these students reach the gold or platinum level.

Preparation

The first thing to keep in mind during summer math camps is to not expect to learn everything during the course. Most of the time, it isn’t about asking yourself what you should learn as a student but more about how to do it. All courses in this field are great but they will not cover all the necessary skills needed for a job. E.g., if you are planning to learn software development, you might end up learning a considerable amount of different programming languages but you might need to go beyond that for your work.

You may also have to understand and get the hang of new languages on your own without having a teacher to teach you. It might be a great idea to look for introductions to programming languages online, some of which are offered for free such as Java, MATLAB, Python and more.

The best way to study is to take initiative and take your studies into your own hands. You should schedule your time and after completing your important assignments, you can hit Google and find out the type of computing skills that tech companies look for. You should look into the requirements of those companies you want to work for. You could even make little programs or websites for yourself, to push yourself further.

Do not study at night before the exam

This is the worst USACO preparation strategy you can use. You should try to get your assignment done well ahead of deadlines. Have them ready at least one week in advance. Otherwise, you will get tired and your code will not work. You will fail the exam. Computer science is one of the areas where it is necessary to work throughout the course.

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Dardy Lacy

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Dardy Lacy
Joined: July 9th, 2022
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