The selection process for students who participate in the United States National Chemistry Olympiad begins at the Local level. Each year chemistry teachers in central Ohio are invited to send any interested students to participate in a local qualifying exam held in March. The 60 question, 110 minute, multiple-choice test is provided by the National program and covers topics typically found in a college general chemistry course. The number of schools in the Columbus Section area that choose to participate in the local qualifying exam varies from year to year but averages fifteen schools and seventy-five total students. Many participating schools form study groups for their teams and spend hours in preparation. In addition to the cost of the exam and certificates for participating teachers and students, the Columbus Section provides funding for snacks and beverages for these students.
The Local Exam is graded by the Local coordinator and the top eleven students (with no more than two students from each school) are invited to participate in the National Chemistry Olympiad Exam. The number of students who may participate in the National Exam is based on the size of the Columbus Section and must be US citizens. The scores are also separated into those from students taking chemistry for the first time and those who are in second-year courses.
Over a 4-day period in April, the eleven students who go on to take the National Chemistry Olympiad Exam face an extensive 4.5 hour, three-part test: a 90 minute, 60 question, multiple choice exam; a 105 minute, 8 question, free response exam; and a 75 minute, 2 problem, lab practical.
The Columbus Section provides dinner, snacks and beverages for these participating students. The Section Chair presents certificates to participating students and provides monetary awards of $100 and $60 respectively to the first and second place students in both first and second-year chemistry studies.
The National Chemistry Olympiad Exam is sent to National headquarters to be graded. Of the over 1000 students who participate in the National Exam, 20 are selected to attend an intensive, two-week study camp in June at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The top four performing student from the camp participate in the International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO) held in July at various world venues.
In 2009, the US had its best showing in years winning 1 gold and 2 silver metals at the IChO held July 18-27 in Cambridge, England.
The goals of the United States National Chemistry Olympiad Program are: