Syllabus for Physics Olympiad

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General Outline

  1. To crack the answers in the test, do not make extensive use of the calculus (differentiation and integration) or complex numbers or even by solving the differential equations.

  2. The questions asked which are not stated in the syllabus will have enough clues so as to help the students solve the problem without any previous knowledge of the topic.

  3. As such, sophisticated practical equipment which remain unknown to the students will not be used. In case, they are used, enough instructions for their use will be provided.

  4. The original texts of the problems have to be set in the SI units.

Theoritical Part


  1. Foundation of kinematics of a point mass. Note: Vector description of the position of the point mass, velocity and acceleration as vectors only are included.

  2. Newton's laws, inertial systems Note: Problems on changing mass may be asked.

  3. Closed and open systems, momentum and energy, work, power

  4. Conservation of energy, conservation of linear momentum, impulse

  5. Elastic forces, frictional forces, the law of gravitation, potential energy and work in a gravitational field. Note: Hooke's law, coefficient of friction (F/R = const), frictional forces static and kinetic, choice of zero of potential energy will form a part of the topic.

  6. Centripetal acceleration, Kepler's laws

Mechanics of Rigid Bodies

  1. Statics, center of mass, torque Note: Couples, conditions of equilibrium of bodies have to be studied by the students.

  2. Motion of rigid bodies, translation, rotation, angular velocity, angular acceleration, conservation of angular momentum Note: Conservation of angular momentum about fixed axis only will be included.

  3. External and internal forces, equation of motion of a rigid body around the fixed axis, moment of inertia, kinetic energy of a rotating body Note: Parallel axes theorem (Steiner's theorem), additivity of the moment of inertia are included in the course.

  4. Accelerated reference systems, inertial forces Note: Knowledge of the Coriolis force formula is not required


It will be presumed that students are aware of the basic concepts of pressure, buoyancy and the continuity law.


  1. Internal energy, work and heat, first and second laws of thermodynamics Note: Thermal equilibrium, quantities depending on state and quantities depending on process are required to be studied by the students.

  2. Model of a perfect gas, pressure and molecular kinetic energy, Avogadro's number, equation of state of a perfect gas, absolute temperature are the concepts which are to be noted. Also study molecular approach to such simple phenomena in liquids and solids as boiling, melting etc.

  3. Work done by an expanding gas limited to isothermal and adiabatic processes are included in the course study. However, proof of the equation of the adiabatic process is not required.

  4. The Carnot cycle, thermodynamic efficiency, reversible and irreversible processes, entropy (statistical approach), Boltzmann factor including entropy as a path independent function, entropy changes and reversibility, quasistatic processes are to be studied.


  1. Harmonic oscillations, equation of harmonic oscillation Note: Solution of the equation for harmonic motion, attenuation and resonance-qualitatively forms a part of the curriculum.

  2. Also study Harmonic waves, propagation of waves, transverse and longitudinal waves, linear polarization, the classical Doppler effect, sound waves along with displacement in a progressive wave and understanding of graphical representation of the wave, measurements of velocity of sound and light, Doppler effect in one dimension only, propagation of waves in homogeneous and isotropic media, reflection and refraction, Fermat's principle

  3. Superposition of harmonic waves, coherent waves, interference, beats, standing waves together with realization that intensity of wave is proportional to the square of its amplitude is included in course curriculum. However, Fourier analysis is not included, unlike some understanding about complex waves which can be made from addition of simple sinusoidal waves of different frequencies which is required. Interference due to thin films and other simple systems (final formulas are not required), superposition of waves from secondary sources (diffraction)

Electric Charge

Study related to electricity would include:

  1. Conservation of charge, Coulomb's law

  2. Electric field, potential, Gauss ‘law Note: Gauss’ law confined to simple symmetric systems like sphere, cylinder, plate etc. electric dipole moment

  3. Capacitors, capacitance, dielectric constant, energy density of electric field

Current & Magnetic Field

  1. Current, resistance, internal resistance of source, Ohm's law, Kirchhoff's laws, work and power of direct and alternating currents, Joule's law. These concepts would include study of simple cases of circuits containing non-ohmic devices with known V-I characteristics

  2. Magnetic field (B) of a current, current in a magnetic field, Lorentz force, particles in a magnetic field, simple applications like cyclotron, magnetic dipole moment are also included.

  3. Ampere's law

  4. Law of electromagnetic induction, magnetic flux, Lenz's law, self-induction, inductance, permeability, energy density of magnetic field along with magnetic field of simple symmetric systems like straight wire, circular loop and long solenoid have to be studied.

  5. Alternating current, resistors, inductors and capacitors in AC-circuits, voltage and current (parallel and series) resonances are included in the course. However topics of simple AC-circuits, time constants, final formulae for parameters of concrete resonance circuits are not included.

Electromagnetic Waves

  1. Oscillatory circuit, frequency of oscillations, generation by feedback and resonance

  2. Wave optics, diffraction from one and two slits, diffraction grating, resolving power of a grating, Bragg reflection

  3. Dispersion and diffraction spectra, line spectra of gases

  4. Electromagnetic waves as transverse waves, polarization by reflection, polarizers Note: Superposition of polarized waves

  5. Resolving power of imaging systems

  6. Black body, Stefan-Boltzmanns law These topics will be included in the curriculum. Planck's formula is not included.

Quantum Physics

  1. Photoelectric effect, energy and impulse of the photon will be included. Note: Einstein's formula is compulsorily to be done.

  2. De Broglie wavelength, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle are included.


  1. Principle of relativity, addition of velocities, relativistic Doppler effect

  2. Relativistic equation of motion, momentum, energy, relation between energy and mass, conservation of energy and momentum


The concept study relating to matter would include:

  1. Simple applications of the Bragg equation

  2. Energy levels of atoms and molecules (qualitatively), emission, absorption, spectrum of hydrogenlike atoms

  3. Energy levels of nuclei (qualitatively), alpha-, beta-and gamma-decays, absorption of radiation, halflife and exponential decay, components of nuclei, mass defect, nuclear reactions.

Practical Part

The study of Theoretical concepts in the syllabus will give a clear understanding of the experimental problems. The experimental problems given in the experimental contest should contain measurements.

  1. Candidates should have indepth knowledge of how instruments affect measurements.

  2. Knowledge of the most common experimental techniques for measuring physical quantities mentioned in Part A is expected to be borne by the candidates.

  3. Students should know of the basic laboratory instruments and devices such as calipers, thermometers, simple volt-, ohm-and ammeters, potentiometers, diodes, transistors, simple optical devices and so on:

  4. Also they should be able to use some sophisticated instruments and devices such as double-beam oscilloscope, counter, ratemeter, signal and function generators, analog-to-digital converter connected to a computer, amplifier, integrator, differentiator, power supply, universal (analog and digital) volt-, ohm-and ammeters under the expert guidance given.

  5. Students should be able to identify how and from where the errors have cropped up and also should be able to estimate their influence on the final result (s).

  6. Absolute and relative errors, accuracy of measuring instruments, error of a single measurement, error of a series of measurements, error of a quantity given as a function of measured quantities are the basic knowledge which the students are expected to possess.

  7. Transformation of a dependence to the linear form by appropriate choice of variables and fitting a straight line to experimental points.

  8. Candidates should know how to use the graph paper with different scales (for example polar and logarithmic papers) properly.

  9. Correct rounding off and expressing the final result (s) and error (s) with correct number of significant digits.

  10. They are also expected to have standard knowledge of safety in laboratory work (Nevertheless, if the experimental set-up contains any safety hazards the appropriate warnings will be stated into the text of the problem.).

Point to Remomber

The syllabus for National Standard Examination in Physics (NSEP) is almost similar as the curriculum of senior secondary level (Class XI and Class XII) of CBSE Physics. However, only basic guideline for the course is mentioned. No detailed syllabus is given for NSEP.

The syllabus for Indian National Physics Olympiad (INPhO) is broadly similar to NSEP but the difficulty level of the questions will be higher. Questions and problems in National Olympiads are usually non-conventional and of high difficulty level, comparable to International Olympiads.

Detailed and step-by-step solutions of MCQs and FREE video lessons for all HBCSE olympiads, including many from past papers.

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