NZIBO Programme

NZIBO fosters interest, participation, and excellence in biology through participation of secondary school students in the New Zealand Biology Olympiad Programme. Annually around 350 secondary school students from throughout New Zealand participate in this programme.

Aims of the NZIBO programme:

  • To enhance the educational opportunities for students of Biology in New Zealand, fostering academic excellence in Biology.
  • To develop awareness of current biological research in New Zealand amongst students and teachers.
  • To foster relationships between tertiary educators, employers, and talented young biologists, increasing the number of students who see biology as a vibrant and rewarding career pathway.

NZIBO Programme Outline

The National Entrance Examination

This examination is the first step in the NZIBO programme. The questions are based around a wide variety of biology topics but are resourced based so that they are suitable for students from any of the three curricula commonly used in New Zealand: NCEA, Cambridge International Examinations, and the International Baccalaureate. The exam assumes only basic biological knowledge and tests thinking skills not curriculum specific knowledge. It is similar to the ICAS Science exam but highlights current biological research in New Zealand and is designed as an active exam with high interest and a strong learning component.

The examination is aimed at Year 12 students with an interest in Biology and who would like to be considered for selection for the New Zealand team. It is also suitable for Year 13 students who wish to highlight their academic ability in their curriculum vitae. Talented Year 10 and 11 students should be encouraged to attempt this examination as a number have been successful in the past and have been selected for the tutorial programme. Participation in Year 11 allows them two years to study Biology at a higher level, enhancing their chances of being selected for the New Zealand team and winning medals at the IBO.

Registration costs $40 but is discounted for students from schools who have not had students register before and can be waived for Māori and Pasifika students. Please visit the registration page to become a member of NZIBO and to register for the national entrance examination. The exam will take place on the fifth Wednesday of Term 3 each year. Registration details can be found here - please note NO LATE REGISTRATIONS can be accepted.

A group of about 200 students who have shown outstanding ability in this exam will be awarded a Bronze certificate and then invited to participate in the online tutorial programme. The committee reserves the right to offer students from under-represented groups or who show promise but who have not made the academic 'cutoff' a place in the tutorial programme as 'wild cards'.

The Tutorial Programme

Education Perfect provides electronic tutorials and access to NZIBO tutors for students participating in the tutorial programme. The students are also given access to Pearson’s MasteringBiology resources and complete a series of MasteringBiology assignments. These assignments are interactive and include quizzes, animations and videos. Students say they are a fun and effective way of learning Biology. The tutorial programme supports students to develop a greater depth of understanding of biology in general and the IBO syllabus in particular. A supported digital platform links students throughout the course. The syllabus is set at university level and is academically challenging.

Tutorials run over the NZ summer, from September to July in the following year. Students are given a break during NCEA and external exams and there is flexibility in submission dates until school finishes in December so students can manage their time commitments effectively. The order of the tutorial topics is determined by the Year 12 secondary school syllabus so that the first tutorials completed will also assist the students with sitting their school examinations. The first five tutorials (Cell structure and function, Ecology, Plant anatomy & physiology, Animal anatomy & physiology and Genetics & evolution) are assessed in the Practical Training Camp Selection Examination.

Participants invited to participate in the 2023/2024 tutorial programme will be charged a fee of $125.

(Note: This fee may be waived for tauira for whom the fee would prevent participation in the tutorial programme.)

The Practical Training Camp Selection Examination

This exam is held on the fifth Wednesday of Term 1 each year. In 2024 this will be on Wednesday 28 February. This two hour, online multi-choice exam is sat at your school under formal exam supervision. The 20 - 25 students with the highest marks in this exam AND who have participated fully in the tutorial programme will be offered places in the residential practical training camp. Wild card places may also be offered to ensure a diverse student group. Students who accept a place and attend the training camp will receive a Silver certificate.

The Practical Training Camp

The camp is fully residential and runs for approximately 10 days during the holidays at the end of Term 1. At this camp students have a full programme of practical laboratory sessions, field work, and seminars with some of New Zealand’s top scientists. The camp is heavily subsidised by NZIBO sponsors but there is a cost to each student of $900 (TBC). This cost should not prevent any student from participating as schools often support their students and the NZIBO committee will support students in financial need. This camp is a highlight of the program for most students.

The camp includes both practical and theoretical assessments and the NZ team of four is selected on the basis of their academic performance throughout the camp. Their participation in camp activities and their ability to work in a supportive team is also considered in the selection process. The New Zealand team receive Gold certificates. They continue to study the IBO syllabus with the help of team mentors and their local university until the International Biology Olympiad. The IBO is held in July and hosted by a different country each year (click here to see the list of future host countries). The top ranked New Zealand student at the IBO competition receives a Platinum certificate from NZIBO.

Benefits of Participation

Participation in the NZIBO programme helps to develop a greater understanding of biology and will assist students with their school examinations and first year university papers in biology. It is recognized by universities in New Zealand and overseas as a sign of academic excellence.

Students attending the camp receive a lab coat and publications from Otago University, and are well placed to excel in first year Biology studies at University!

NZIBO alumni hold a wide variety of scholarships at universities, both here in New Zealand and overseas.

Important Dates for your diary

2023/2024 Programme Dates
15 June 2024 Online registration for the 2024-25 NZIBO programme OPENS
11 August 2024 Online registration CLOSES. Late entries not accepted.
21 August 2024 National Entrance Exam for the 2024-25 NZIBO programme (sat online at your school under supervision)
24 September 2024  2024-25 Online Tutorial Programme begins
26 February 2024 Selection Exam for the 2024 Practical Training Camp
School hols April 2024 Practical Training Camp (dates to be confirmed)
13 to 20 July 2025 IBO 2025 - Quezon City, Philippines