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INFORMATICS IN EDUCATION, 2006, Vol. 5, No. 1, 15-36
© Institute of Mathematics and Informatics,

ISSN 1648-5831

Structure, Scoring and Purpose of Computing Competitions

Gordon CORMACKa, Ian MUNROa, Troy VASIGAa, Graeme KEMKESb

aDavid R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, University of Waterloo Waterloo Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada E-mail:,,

bDepartment of Combinatorics and Optimization, University of Waterloo Waterloo Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada E-mail:


We identify aspects of computing competition formats as they relate to the purpose of these competitions, both stated and tacit. We consider the major international competitions - the International Olympiad for Informatics, the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest, and top coder - and related contests whose format merits consideration. We consider the operational impact and possible outcomes of incorporating several of these aspects into scholastic competitions. We advocate, in particular, that contests be designed so as to provide a rewarding experience and opportunity for achievement for all competitors; not just the winners. Specific contest elements that should be considered are: (1) real-time scoring and feedback, (2) rewards for testing and test case creation, (3) tasks with graduated difficulty, (4) collaborative tasks, (5) practice contests and entry-level contests for novices, and (6) inclusion of spectators.


informatics olympiad, programming contest, algorithm contest

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