Every year, the USACO contest season runs from December to March/April, including four contests in December, January, February, and March (sometimes in April). We go over all the details about how USACO works at Lesson #1 of USACO Bronze class, you can also find all information about the USACO contests at But here are answers to some frequently asked questions about USACO.

Do they need to register for contest ?

No, students only need to have a login to which they are created on the first lesson. When the contest time window opens, they just need to log in and follow instructions to enter.

What is the contest season?

Each year the contest runs from December to March/April of next year. There will be four contests in each season, happening in Dec, Jan, Feb, and then Mar or April (called Open)

Can my child attend the “Open” contest or have to qualify for it somehow?

“Open” is a special name referring to the last contest of the season. When “Open” ends, the entire season concludes and the usaco committee look at students’ overall performance for the entire season and choose top contestants to admit to the summer camp – which prepares for IOI. You do not need to do anything to qualify for the “Open” contest, it just works the same as any other contest. Recently for Open, students are given 5 hours to complete three problems – one more hour than usual.

My kid has not finished the entire Bronze/Silver curriculum yet, should he/she still attend?

Yes! I have been emphasizing this to both Bronze and Silver class students recently that I want all of them to attend the contest. For the bronze students, they should at least go in to get familiar with how everything works. Everyone should just try to see how much they can do, and get used to how it feels and the stress. 🙂 There is no penalty to try, there is no downside to have a bad score, and you never get “demoted” back when reaching to a higher level. So, yes, everyone should try, every time.

Does everyone need to start from Bronze?

Yes, no matter how good you are, you need to start from Bronze and work your way up. And everyone can start the Bronze contest, you do not need to do anything to qualify for Bronze.

How well they need to do to get promoted?

There are 3 problems, each tested with about 10 or more test cases. If students solve all three problems and all test cases, they get full score of 1000 points and they will be instantly promoted to next level during the same weekend. You don’t need full score to be promoted though, the cut-off lines have been between 600~850, very often in the range of 700-800.

When do we know if student gets promoted or not

Our students all have learned how to calculate their scores even during the contest, but the promotion cut-off line will be published a few days after the end of each contest, student should check it to see if they are promoted or not. They should also double check on their final scores because sometimes, not often, the committee actually decided to update some test cases so your score might turn out to be different (again, rarely though).

My kid looked, but can’t find the promotion information

They should make sure to be logged in, and click on the contest that they attended, there should be information on their scores and the cut off line. They will also see which division they are in, if they are promoted, they will see that they have been put in the higher division.

What can I do as a parent to help my kid?

Be supportive and encouraging, make sure they are well fed and well rested, give them a quiet environment to work and focus. Don’t stress them out. 🙂 I keep telling the students, just do your best, have fun solving the problems, and no pressure! You can always try again, and you should always keep trying. If USACO is easy then it won’t be prestigious. Keep doing your best and don’t let the outcome worry you, and things will happen naturally. Enjoy the process!

Any other questions? Email, and we will add the answers here!

Good luck!