The IOAA or International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics is a competition for students around the globe younger than 20 years. It aims to encourage young minds to pursue Astronomy as a career. Such an exam cannot merely be cracked by memorizing theories and plain old studying. However, practising through IOAA Mock Tests is almost a sure shot way to get into the high ranks. After all, you will be preparing by practising the actual test format as many times as needed. So, when the exact test date comes, it won't feel very different from your practice sessions!
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But first, let us learn a little more about the IOAA and its constituent exams
The IOAA has 5 stages in total
Stage 1: The National Standard Examination in Astronomy (NSEA)
Stage 2: Indian National Astronomy Olympiad (INAO)
Stage 3: Orientation Cum Selection Camp (OCSC)
Stage 4: Pre-Departure Training Camp (PDT)
Stage 5: International Olympiad in Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA)
The NSEA, or the National Standard Examination in Astronomy, is the entryway to the IOAA. The questions will be mostly based on topics in the physics and mathematics syllabus of the CBSE Board, including that of Class 12 and basic Astronomy. The questions and numerical are largely calculation based. Here, the emphasis is put on mathematics (excluding calculus) and physics topics with very little on pure Astronomy. Around 60000 students will be taking this exam, out of which only 500 students at most will be qualified to go to the next round.
Here, practising beforehand with IOAA practice papers will ensure that most of the question formats seem familiar. This will give you an edge amongst the thousands of candidates. It will also help where speed is a factor- being able to work and reason clearly under a time constraint is a huge advantage. The only way that can happen is by getting used to the test conditions by giving mock tests of IOAA during your preparation.
In the NSEA exam, candidates will have to face 80 questions carrying 3 marks each. 1 mark will be deducted for each wrong answer, and for every unanswered question, there will be no change in the total obtained marks.
This exam typically takes place in November. Applications open in August.
The next stage is the Indian National Astronomy Olympiad or the INAO. Selected students from the NSEA exam will be qualified to appear, organized by the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE). The 300-500 students selected will take exams at one of the 18 centres spread throughout the country. The questions will be based on Theoretical knowledge of Astronomy, Physics, and Mathematics, both objective and long questions. However, compared to the NSEA, there is more emphasis on Astronomical questions, and the Mathematics will get more advanced. The main key to doing well in the INAO is to solve the previous year question papers and ensuring you have clear fundamental knowledge in Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy.
The students who manage to qualify in the INAO stage proceed to the Orientation Cum Selection Camp- or the OCSC- in the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education. There, they undergo Theoretical and Experimental sessions in the field of Astronomy along with some Physics and Mathematics too. At this stage, they give you appropriate study material along with the practice sessions taking place. 35-50 students are selected for this stage from the previous 300-500, out of which only 4-6 students are chosen for the Pre-Departure Training Camp (PDT) and the final round, the IOAA.
A team of the final 4-6 students, with 2 adult guides, are sent to represent the country in the final stage- The International Olympiad for Astronomy and Astrophysics. They will be travelling to the host country with all expenses paid for by the host country. A detailed Syllabus which lists out all the topics required can be found on the IOAA official website.
IOAA Mock tests can be found on some educational sites- where they give you a test in the same format as the NSEA or INAO with a timer and tell you your score at the end. This can be very helpful after you've prepared and want to ensure that you don't take too long on any answer.
1. How Can I Prepare?
Here are some tips we've compiled:
Ensure you have your fundamental concepts clear when it comes to Physics and Mathematics as the questions often look complicated but employ the most fundamental concepts in solving them.
Going to the local Planetarium or Astronomy Club to practice sky observation and stargazing will be needed.
Keep testing yourself at regular intervals with the IOAA mock tests to be able to solve
And most important of all- remember to keep proper sleeping schedules!
2. What Are The Eligibility Criteria to Be Able to Sit for The NSEA?
To be eligible for giving the NSEA exam, you need to ensure the following:
Must be an Indian Citizen
Must be below 20 years of age on June 30th of the year of the exam
Must not have completed Board exams before November of that year
Must not have started college before June of next year
Must not be appearing in NSJS of that year