Frequently Asked Questions
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What is the purpose of IAAC?
Astronomy is an outstanding scientific subject that has inspired us humans for thousands of years: The International Astronomy and Astrophysics Competition gives students the opportunity to challenge their astronomy knowledge in a friendly competition and - by participating - to learn more about this interesting subject. IAAC has the aim to be accessible to all students from all countries regardless of their background. Furthermore, the IAAC uses today's technologies and the global connection through the internet to make this competition possible. Astronomy is a great motivation for students to get in touch with science and to start a professional career as a researcher or engineer.
What makes IAAC unique?
- Internationality: IAAC is a global competition from the first round! All participants solve the same problems in every round: This enables a fair evaluation and international exchange.
- Online Submission: The competition uses the possibilities of the modern world to allow all students to participate regardless of nation, region, school, or affiliation. Every student may participate independently - there is no affiliation of your school or teacher to IAAC required to participate in this competition.
- Research Problems: The pre-final round includes two research problem types. They require participants to get in touch with real scientific research papers and learn about recent scientific results to solve the problems. They encourage students for more advanced science and give them insights into actual research material.
- Teacher Support and Online Tools: We supply teachers and schools with additional materials and an online teacher interface that allows teachers to make better use of IAAC problems in class. We also generate performance reports for each individual student.
- English Proficiency: Solid skills in the English language are essential for an academic career. The competition problems help students to get in touch with scientific vocabulary and expressions.
I have already participated. Should I participate again?
Yes, of course!
Are teams allowed?
Everyone has to submit their own solution papers in all rounds. However, for the qualification round, you are allowed to work on the problems with your friends and classmates together. Working together or receiving help from other people is not permitted in the pre-final and final round. You find more about rules and cheating policy here: Cheating Policy
Where do I find the problems of last year's competition?
You find them here: Training Problems
How can I prepare for the competition?
Astronomy and astrophysics require knowledge from multiple fields: This includes in particular physics and math. Participants can use normal astronomy books to prepare for the problems - general scientific knowledge and math skills will be helpful. You can learn more here: Training Problems
Will there be verification codes on the certificates?
Yes, all of your IAAC certificates have verification IDs. This enables others to verify the authenticity of the certificates and documents: Verification page
How does IAAC compare to other science competitions? (e.g. IAO, IOAA)
Comparing the International Astronomy and Astrophysics Competition to other science competitions can be misleading: IAAC does not intend to be an alternative to established astronomy competitions (e.g. IAO or IOAA) and encourages all students to participate in such opportunities. Instead, IAAC focuses on encouraging a wide range of students to get engaged with astronomy, particularly students who start to find interest in scientific subjects. For that reason, IAAC is not primarily outlined for competitiveness but rather provides students with thought-provoking problems as an extra-curricular activity, appealing to students with and without profound astronomy skills. Instead, we prioritize a participants learning experience (e.g. through the research problems) and regard this as a central feature of IAAC. Moreover, IAAC empowers students by providing an independent competition platform without relying on their school or country and creating an international network of former participants.
How is the International Astronomy and Astrophysics Competition organized?
The International Astronomy and Astrophysics Competition is proudly coordinated by Edu.Harbour and takes place annually on an international level. The competition was organized in 2019 for the first time and has since then counted several thousand students from all around the world as participants. The organizing team is constantly evolving, with most team members being based in Germany. The idea formed after the success of the International Youth Math Challenge to which the International Astronomy and Astrophysics Competition has close relations, with the aim to establish a similar online competition addressing the disciplines of astronomy and astrophysics.
How is this international competition funded?
Such a global competition is attached to many costs which include human resources, technical infrastructure, materials, advertisement, and much more. Since IAAC is an independent and globally available competition, we are thankful for our sponsors covering some of the expenses. The remaining costs to fund this annual competition are covered through the participants and schools via the pre-final registration costs (More Information).
Where is the competition located? What is the address of IAAC?
The International Astronomy and Astrophysics Competition takes place online for the most parts and is accessible for students around the world - you do not need to travel somewhere to participate. The organizing team is constantly evolving, with most team members and technical infrastructure being located in Germany. There are also many other people around the world, such as the IAAC ambassadors, who do their best to make this competition a valuable experience. Letters and documents can be sent to our official address located in Germany:
International Astronomy and Astrophysics Competition
Who can participate?
All students (high school or university) are allowed to participate. Students from all grades and all countries are invited to participate! However, there are two age categories: Junior/Youth (under/over 18 years on the day of the application deadline).
Are high school students and university students allowed to participate?
Yes, as long as you are currently studying in a high school or university you can participate.
I will turn 18 after the submission deadline. To which age category do I belong?
The age criterion is determined by your age on the submission deadline of the qualification round: Junior (under 18 years) and Youth (over 18 years).
What is the difference between the age categories?
Students from both categories will receive the same problems in all rounds, however, students that are in the Youth category will have to reach more points (e.g. to qualify for the pre-final round, students that are under 18 years have to solve three problems correctly and students that are over 18 years have to solve four problems correctly).
Do I have to be a student to participate?
Yes, you have to be a student in a high school or a university to participate. If you are currently between high school and university (e.g. gap year) and plan to start university any time soon, you are also eligible to participate.
Prizes and Awards
How much is the total prize?
The prizes and awards worth a total of 700 USD which includes cash prizes of 600 USD. You find more information about the awards and prizes here: All Awards and Prizes
Do all participants receive certificates?
Yes, we will send participation certificates (soft copy) to all participants regardless of the results.
How many prizes and awards are there?
All participants receive participation certificates. The best students receive the 1. prize, 2. prize, and 3. prize with a cash award of 150 USD, 100 USD, and 50 USD (for each age category, youth and junior). Furthermore, the most outstanding participants from each country receive a special national award to honour their excellence. There are also special school awards and awards for ambassadors. You find more information about the awards and prizes here: All Awards and Prizes
What is the 'Special Honour for digital Submission'?
All participants that use professional computer programs (e.g. TeX) to write their solutions in a well-structured format receive a special honorary note on their certificates since this skill is important for your future career. Solutions submitted in Word format (.doc, .docx) do not receive this honour - please only submit solutions as PDF document. (Note: Not all typed solutions qualify for this honorary note. For example, documents that are not well-structured, contain unformatted equations, include unprofessional pictures/screenshots of equations, etc. do not receive this honour.)
What are the national awards?
Because the International Astronomy and Astrophysics Competition is an international competition with participation from various countries, we honour the best participants from each participating nation with a special national award certificate.
How can I receive my results and certificates?
We will send all results and certificates via email. However, you can also check your results and your certificates online: Login
Do I need to win to receive a certificate?
No, all participants (regardless of the results) receive certificates.
Do I receive a hard copy of my certificate?
All 1.,2.,3. prizes will receive hard copies of their certificates. All participation and finalists certificates will be sent as a soft copy via email (to lower the expenses and to protect the environment).
Are there awards for teachers and schools?
Yes, we understand the crucial role of teachers and schools for education. Because of that, we award three school awards to honour the efforts of the teachers and the school (the awards are not connected to cash prize): Teacher Information Flyer
How does a school win one of the school award?
Schools participate automatically if a student registers with the school name. (Please make sure that all of your students write the school name correctly and the same!) Also, we recommend that a teacher of the school registers: Teacher Registration
Who receives the gold, silver and bronze honours in the final round?
Participants are awarded depending on their relative total score in the final round: Gold, silver, and bronze honours are awarded in the ratios of 1:2:3. Therefore, around 16% and 34% of the participants receive a gold and silver honour, respectively. All other students receive a bronze honour.
Submission and Qualification Round
What should the submission file include?
The submission file should include the solution to as many problems of the qualification round as possible.
Do I have to write my answers on the problem sheet?
You can (a) write your answers on the blank space below the questions on the qualification round problem sheet. However, you can also (b) write your solutions on a separate sheet of paper or (c) type your solution on a computer. In cases (b) and (c) you do not need to write down the wording of the problems again.
Do I have to write down the steps or only the final solution?
Please write down your approach and the performed steps (such as mathematical operations).
Which file formats are allowed?
We accept PDF files and picture files. We do not accept any other formats, including Word and ZIP files.
Do I need to register somewhere before I can submit my solution?
No, you participate in IAAC by submitting your solution.
Do I need to solve all problems of the qualification round?
No, you need to solve three problems if you are a junior (under 18 years old) and four problems if you are a youth (over 18 years old) to qualify for the pre-final round. Try to solve as many problems as possible.
How can I check my submission and results?
You can use the online login: Login
Can I send you my solution via email?
No, we do not accept any submissions or solutions that we receive via email. You have to submit your solution via the official submission form: Submission
Can I edit or change my submission?
Yes, until the submission deadline. Please login as a participant and click on 'Edit Details'.
When is the deadline for the qualification round?
The submission deadline is Friday 30. April 2021 23:59 UTC+0.
When will the results of the qualification round be announced?
The results of the qualification round will be announced on Tuesday 11. May 2021. You will receive an information email and you can view your results online by this date: Login
What are the time zones of the deadlines?
The time zone is UTC+0 for all deadlines.
I have problems uploading my file. What should I do?
(1) Check whether your submission was already successful on this page: Login. (2) If your submission was not found, try to submit your solution again: try a different browser, try a different computer or laptop, or try to compress your file (only 10 MB allowed). Make sure that you have a good and working internet connection. (3) If nothing works, please contact us.
Do I have to write my answers in English?
Yes, if you need to write sentences, please use the English language only.
How can I change my name and other personal information?
To change your personal information, please use the login page and click on 'Edit Details'. You cannot longer change your details after the pre-final round.
Why was my submission deleted?
Some submission will be deleted during the evaluation process due to one of the following reasons: (1) It was not possible for us to open your file. In this case, you usually receive an email from us. (2) The file was unrelated to IAAC or does not contain any solutions and was thus regarded as spam. (3) The file barely contains any solutions to the problems and was thus regarded as spam, e.g. files that contain only answers to one problem written in a poorly formatted way are usually deleted.
Do I need to solve all five problems to qualify for the pre-final round?
No. You need to solve at least three (if you are a junior, under 18 years old) to four (if you are a youth, over 18 years old) of the qualification round correctly.
How does the pre-final round take place?
All participants that are qualified and that are registered for the pre-final round will receive the problems via email on Tuesday 1. June 2021. From that day on you have until Sunday 6. June 2021 to solve as many problems as possible!
What are the 'research problems' of the pre-final round?
The research problems require you to read a short scientific paper that will help you to answer the questions. You find more information here: Information Flyer
How many problems does the pre-final round have?
The pre-final round consists of 10 different problems that vary in difficulty, points, and topic. There are three types of problems that give you four, six, and ten points:
It is possible to reach up to 60 points in total. Participants have to reach at least 25 points (junior, under 18 years) or 35 points (youth, over 18 years) to qualify for the final round.
- 4x Basic Problems: The pre-final round includes four basic problems (lowest difficulty). A correct solution to a basic problem adds four points to the total score.
- 4x Advanced Problems: The pre-final round includes four advanced problems that are more difficult. A correct solution to an advanced problem gives you six points.
- 2x Research Problems: The pre-final round includes two research problems: These problems require you to read two short scientific research papers and to learn about recent scientific results in order to solve the problems or questions. This will give you the chance to get in touch with scientific research while solving the problems.
When does the pre-final round take place?
All participants that are qualified and that are registered for the pre-final round will receive the problems via email or at the online status page on Tuesday 1. June 2021. From that day on you have until Sunday 6. June 2021 to solve as many problems as possible!
How to qualify for the final-round?
Students have to reach at least 25 points (junior) or 35 points (youth) in the pre-final round to qualify for the final round.
How does the final round take place?
Participants that have solved the pre-final round successfully are qualified to participate in the final round: a multiple-choice online exam with 30 questions. The exam will take place in the school of each finalist supervised by a teacher. All finalists have to select a teacher who agrees to supervise the final exam. We will send all the required information to the selected teacher. The final exam has to be taken on the Tuesday 29. June 2021.
How many questions does the final round have?
The final round consists of a single online exam with 30 multiple-choice questions. The questions require knowledge about astronomy and astrophysics. Finalists have 60 seconds for each question! To every question, there are four possible answers given (only one is correct). A correct answer equals one point. The awards and prizes are given to the finalists with the most points in the final round.
What kind of questions/topics will be asked in the final exam?
The exam consists of 30 multiple-choice questions. Most of them are knowledge questions that test your general knowledge in astronomy and astrophysics. All standard astronomy topics are included (e.g. history of astronomy, observations in the night sky, constellations, observation techniques, the solar system and the planets, the structure of our sun, properties of stars, physical properties of astronomical objects, galaxies, interstellar physics, and more). Three example questions: 'Who was the first person to observe the moons of Jupiter?', 'Which is the brightest star in the night sky?', 'What spectral type is the star Beteigeuze?'.
Who can supervise the final exam?
The person conducting your final exam must be an active teacher (i.e. not retired) at some officially recognized school or university. The teacher must be able to prove his/her employment at a school and his/her teaching duty.
Can you refer me to some teachers that can supervise my final exam?
Unfortunately, we can not provide you with teachers that can take your final exam. Please contact the teachers of your school or teachers of other regional schools.
Does the teacher have to be from my school?
Does the teacher have to be a physics/science teacher?
There are multiple finalists in my school. Can we have the same teacher?
Absolutely yes. If there are multiple students that participate in the final round in your school, it is important that the same teacher takes the final exam for all students at the same time! Please contact your teacher and inform him/her about the other participants.
My teacher rejected as a supervisor. What should I do?
Please ask another teacher, who can prove to hold the exam as an independent authority. The rejected teacher can also register again with other documents (e.g. in case some information or documents were missing).
What help/tools are allowed for the final round?
You can bring a blank sheet of paper and a pencil for personal notes during the exam.
What if two participants have the same number of points in the final round?
In this case, the results of the pre-final round and of the qualification round will be used to determine the final winner based on the total points. If the tie remains, both participants will receive the same award and split the cash prize. However, this has never happened before.
When will the final winners be announced?
The results of the final round and IAAC 2021 will be announced on Monday 5. July 2021.
I had technical issues. Can I do the exam again or continue later?
No. You have to make sure that there is a steady internet connection during the exam and that your browser is up-to-date. You are responsible for any recording or filming mistakes. It is not possible to pause, continue or re-take the exam once you have started.
Can my teacher supervise me online (via Zoom, etc.)?
No. A teacher must supervise the exam in person. It is not allowed that the teacher supervises you via an online call (for example, Zoom or Skype). If you do not have a teacher available, please use the Covid-19 exception and record your exam.
What should the photo show that my teacher has to take?
The picture of the teacher should show the exam conditions/environment. That means the student taking the exam / in front of the device and the device screen.
I want to record my exam. Does a teacher need to register for me?
No. If you choose to record the exam, you do not need a teacher. Thus, no teacher needs to register or add you as a student.
Who can film my exam?
The person filming must not be a participant of IAAC. It should be a family or household member. You can also film the exam yourself without the help of another person.
Can I film the exam myself (without another person)?
Yes, it is allowed to use a camera stand or tripod to film the exam. In this case, please enter your name in the "Full Name" field and "NA" in the "Relationship" field during the exam process.
How can I upload the video of my recorded exam?
After you are done with your exam, you will see a window 'Final Exam Video Upload' at the bottom of the participant login page. There you can upload a link to your video. (You have to upload the video to a cloud or storage site; for example Google Drive, Dropbox, and others).
What is the deadline for the video upload?
Please upload the link to the video as soon as you are done with the exam. The last possible day is Thursday 1. July 2021.
My camera/phone cannot film for 30 minutes. What should I do?
It is allowed to have short cuts (under 5 seconds) within the video, e.g. to stop and restart the video, so that you have multiple shorter videos. You can cut the videos together into a single long video, OR you can send us a link to a folder with all the videos.
Does my teacher need a stamp on the teacher form (even during lockdown)?
If your teacher cannot get a stamp on the teacher form (which is required) due to the current lockdown, there are multiple possibilities. If he/she has already supervised exams during previous IAAC editions or our partner competition IYMC, your teacher can submit the 2021 form without a stamp and attach a form from previous editions which has a stamp. If not, your teacher can write 'Not Possible Due To Lockdown' in the stamp field. However, we will request the missing stamp later (in case you score very high results or we detect any other suspicious activities). Please note that it is not allowed for your teacher to supervise you online (e.g. Zoom or Skype).
What should the recorded video show?
The video has to clearly show (a) yourself in front of the computer/laptop/phone and (b) the exam content on the screen. For example, you can open the exam website on your desk and sit in front of it. Another person films you doing the exam from behind in a distance of 1-2 metre. The video shows you (from behind) doing the exam and the screen with you selecting the answers. Of course, it is also possible to film you from the side or any other angle (as long as you and the content on the screen are visible). Your face can be visible in the video, but this is not a requirement.
Must the video recording have sound?
Yes, the video must include the surrounding sound.
Can I skip questions and complete the exam under 30 minutes?
Yes, you can answer/skip a question also under 60 seconds.
Can I bring a blank paper and pen during the exam?
Yes, you can bring a blank paper and a pencil for notes during the exam.
Does my family/household member need to register to film the exam?
No, if you choose the recording option, you only need to write down the name of the person. The person filming does not need to register somewhere.
I have no teacher to supervise the exam. What should I do?
Please use the recording option in this case. To do this, please start the exam during the exam period (see information flyer or email) and select the recording option when the approval screen appears. You then have to specify a person filming the exam (you can also film yourself). You find more information in the final round flyer and in the information video (see announcement email or your login page).
Can I do the exam on my phone?
Yes, it is allowed to do the exam on your phone.
How to collect my prize or award?
We will use international shipping to deliver all of the 1., 2., 3. prizes - there is no need to travel somewhere. The national awards will be sent digitally as a soft-copy.
Do I need to pay something to partcipate?
The IAAC qualification round is free to enter for all students around the world. However, all qualified participants of the qualification round that want to register and continue with the pre-final round have to cover the pre-final registration costs of 8 EUR to make this global competition possible: More Information
There are no other costs throughout the competition or in the final round!
Why are there the 'Pre-Final Registration Costs'?
The International Astronomy and Astrophysics Competition gives students around the world the opportunity to unleash their creativity and science skills! Such a global competition is attached to many costs which include human resources, technical infrastructure, materials, advertisement, and much more. Since IAAC is an independent and globally available competition, we are thankful for our sponsors that cover some of the expenses! In order to make this opportunity on an international level possible, we ask the participants of the pre-final round to cover the registration costs of 8 EUR. The registration costs are necessary to provide the resources for the evaluation of this year’s competition and in particular for the comprehensive pre-final round: More Information
How much are the registration costs?
The pre-final registration costs are 8 EUR: More Information
Are there any other costs or fees in other rounds?
No, the registration costs for the pre-final round are the only costs that have to be covered by participants of this year's competition.
Do I have to pay if I participate in the qualification round?
No, if you are successful in the qualification round, you are free to decide whether you want to register and continue with the pre-final round or not. You will always receive a certificate of your results in the qualification round!
Can I only participate in the qualification round and not in the pre-final round?
Of course, you can participate in the qualification round and receive your participation certificate and not register for the pre-final round. However, in this case, you would miss this opportunity.
How to pay the registration costs?
We will inform all successful participants of the qualification round about the registration process for the pre-final round. The registration costs have to be covered before the pre-final round starts if you want to participate in the pre-final round. The costs can be covered with any common payment method such as PayPal or credit card.
Can I pay the registration costs in my currency?
Of course, the currency will be converted automatically.
Are there fee waivers or scholarships available?
This competition is arranged on a global level and a lot of effort and passion is put into making this experience possible. However, technical infrastructure, advertisement, media work, human resources for evaluations and design work, etc. are expensive. All this together adds up to a registration costs of 8 EUR to make this competition happen. We are continuously searching for additional sponsors that help us to reduce the overall costs even further. If you are not able to cover the costs under any circumstances, please contact us.
Is it possible to cover the costs for a group/class of students?
Yes, we provide a group payment page for teachers and schools to cover the pre-final registration costs for multiple participants at the same time (as a group).
Teachers and Schools
I am a teacher. Can I use this competition in class?
Yes, teachers and schools are invited to share this opportunity with their students and to make talented students in particular benefit from IAAC. You can use all problems, posters, and materials. The registration form for teachers is available here: Registration
How can I check the submissions and results of my students?
We have implemented an online tool to check the submissions and results of your students: Login
Are there awards for teachers and schools?
Yes, we understand the crucial role of teachers and schools for science education. Because of that, we award three school awards to honour the efforts of the teachers and the school (the awards are not connected to cash prize): Teacher Information Flyer
Will there be certificates for teachers?
All teachers that supervised the final round exam with students will receive a verification/certificate about their commitment (which includes the list of supervised participants).
Where can I register as teacher?
The registration page for teachers is available here: Teacher Registration
Can I cover the registration costs for a group of students?
Yes, we provide a group payment page for teachers and schools to cover the pre-final registration costs for multiple participants at the same time (as a group). This feature will be available via the teacher interface as soon as the pre-final registration period begins.
How can my teacher add me as a student?
As soon as your teacher was approved, he/she can log into his/her teacher account and add you as a student by clicking on the button 'Add Student'. Your teacher has to enter your year of birth and email. Please note that the email must be the exact email with which you are registered for the competition.
What are IAAC ambassadors?
Since IAAC is an international competition with participants distributed all around the world, it is crucial to have official IAAC ambassadors in several schools, cities, and countries. IAAC ambassadors are being honoured with an official certificate: You officially represent IAAC, you can coordinate an IAAC student group, promote IAAC in your country, and ensure that your country has vital IAAC activity! Being an IAAC ambassador is not only good for your CV and career experiences, but it gives you the unique opportunity to prove your skills as a coordinator and to encourage students to get engaged with astronomy.
What are the responsibilities, benefits, and activities of ambassadors?
You have a variety of responsibilities such as to encourage students and youths to participate in IAAC and to inform schools, local institutes, etc. about IAAC. You also have the power to operate in the name of IAAC, to establish a strong and vital IAAC group in your region, and to inspire other youths for astronomy and science! All official IAAC ambassadors additionally receive a personal ambassador page to manage their activities. However, the unique opportunities are just a few of many reasons to become official IAAC ambassador: There are more benefits such as high-class career experiences and the official IAAC ambassador certificate. You find a list of possible IAAC ambassador activities here: Ambassador Activity Flyer
What are the requirements to become ambassador?
You have to be at least 14 years old, be interested in science and astronomy, and be willing to spend the time to encourage students to get engaged with astronomy and to participate in IAAC.
How to apply to become Ambassador?
In order to verify your eligibility as official IAAC ambassador, please fill out the ambassador application form: this includes your CV and a short motivation statement that explains your reasons and plans for becoming IAAC ambassador. After you applied, we will review your application and contact you: Ambassador Application Form
Do I need to translate my transcript to English?
No, please submit your original transcript if no English version is available. However, please submit an English transcript if available.
Is there a deadline for the ambassador application?
Yes, we accept applications about two weeks before the deadline of the qualification round, i.e. the ambassador application deadline is 16. April 2021.
Are ambassador allowed to participate in the competition?
Are there awards for ambassadors?
Special awards are given each year to the most active ambassadors to honour their excellent and responsible performance. This includes awards for encouraging many participants as well as for coordinating many activities. However, your main purpose of becoming an ambassador should always be to inspire youths! You find more information here: Awards and Prizes
Can I create an IAAC social media page?
In general, we do not recommend to create a local IAAC social media page as information published on the official IAAC social media page are relevant to all participants and a separate page might be misleading for some students. However, feel free to create social media groups etc. to encourage and coordinate your local IAAC group (for example, a group for your school, district, city).
Will I stay ambassador forever?
Once you are approved, you are ambassador without the need to apply again in the future. However, the IAAC team removes all inactive ambassadors (no participants or activities) each year. If you have been removed but want to continue as an ambassador, you must apply again.
What is the ambassador score?
The ambassador score is determined by 10×QR + 20×PF + 30×F where QR, PF, F are the total number of participants in the qualification, pre-final, and final round associated with you as an ambassador. Participants from all previous editions are included. Participants can select their ambassador on the submission form.
What are the ambassador levels?
To award active ambassadors with long-time experience, ambassadors can rank up to five levels depending on their engagement and contribution in making publicity, organizing local events, and other activities. The levels certify the ambassador's dedication and commitment to the IAAC community: Newcomer, Experienced, Accomplished, Senior, Honoured.