Answer to Parent’s Question – When to Take USACO Silver Contest?


My child Is currently taking your USACO bronze class and will continue with Silver class in the Fall. I would like to have your input for the testing schedule. We plan to take the bronze test in December, but not sure when to take Silver test?  I noticed the Silver class will end in March.  Based on the class schedule, when do you think it is the best time for him to attend silver test, Dec, Jan, Feb, March?


There are a few aspects that I need to cover to fully answer your question, so let me itemize them below.

  1. Student can only take the Silver contest once they pass the Bronze level. For example, if he passed Bronze with one single try in December, then he will be taking the Silver contest in January; if he didn’t do as well as hoped in December and didn’t get promoted, he will continue to take the Bronze contest in January, and if he passes Bronze in January, then he would take the silver contest in February. And so on…
  2. Just because a student gets promoted from Bronze to Silver division, and can participate in the Silver division, it doesn’t mean she will be expected to do well immediately in the next Silver contest. Reason being : Problems in silver division require students to know much more algorithms and data structure, and of course all of them are at more advanced level too. It doesn’t only take smartness and problem solving skills to move higher in the USACO ladder, students do need to learn the topics tested by each division. Right after a student is promoted to Silver, she may not have completed the entire Silver course and learned all the Silver topics yet. So please do set your expectations accordingly.
  3. That being said, it doesn’t mean that a student should not participate in the next level contest once she is eligible to do so. There is no penalty or downside to try! And I always strongly encourage student to take every opportunity to practice solving problems under pressure and within hard time limit.

Hope I have answered the question, and same answer applies with Silver -> Gold, and Gold -> Platinum.