Bronze class – Summer or Fall?

Our USACO bronze class requires prior programming background and only contains 15 lessons in one semester to prepare you for the challenge!  The onsite in-person group lessons are offered every summer and fall.

Here are the pros and cons of taking the Bronze class in summer:

Advantage

Every December to March, USACO holds four contests, each of which is available to everyone participate and try advance to next level. For example, if a student passes Bronze in December, he is eligible to take the Silver contest in Jan; if one passes Bronze in Jan, then she is in the Silver division in February.

Needless to say, Bronze level is the easiest to conquer, and as students advance through the levels, they will need to solve problems that are much harder and they should expect to spend much more time and efforts to prepare.

Each December we have many students pass Bronze on their first, single try, some with a flashing full score of 1000 points and entered the Silver division RIGHT AWAY (during the same contest). However if they just took the Bronze class in Fall, even though they are eligible for Silver contest,  it is almost impossible for them to perform well enough. The best case scenario is for them to take our very intensive Accelerated Silver class and get a shot in March (which is the last chance of the season). We do have outstanding students reached Gold this way each year with two promotions in a roll! However, given the short amount of time to learn all the Silver materials and the much higher difficulty level for Silver, a large number of students will need to try again in the next contest season, since they just got started from Bronze in Fall.

Taking bronze class in summer will greatly help students because they can continue to take the Silver class in Fall, and benefit in the following way:

  • Continuing into the Silver level class will surely make passing Bronze in December much easier
  • Once they pass Bronze, they already learned many Silver topics and are in decent shape to try out Silver contest right away
  • By March, they would have completed our entire Silver curriculum (with a regular pace, not accelerated) and maximize their chance to advance from the Silver division!

Disadvantage

If students don’t continue their pursuits during Fall and divert to other priorities, then they apparently need to freshen up again by themselves by December to perform!  Taking Bronze class in Fall would help from this perspective, with the students go into contest with everything warm and fresh.

So when should YOU take it? You have to weight the pros and cons and make the best decision for yourself!