Are you interested in computational logic and thinking, but hate coding? Do you want to participate in a prestigious, internationally-renowned competition to showcase your problem-solving, critical and fast thinking abilities? The Bebras Competition is a competition designed to test students on their ability to solve complex problems in informatics and computational thinking, but with no coding involved! Students of all ages, across 30 different countries compete on a yearly basis to prove themselves on an international stage.
What is the Bebras Challenge?
The Bebras Computing Challenge is a prestigious international competition that tests students' computational thinking skills through different problems and puzzles. From elementary to high school students, all are trained to solve these problems by learning the ability to break down problems into small components and create efficient solutions by teaching students how a computer thinks through problems. This makes the participants of the Bebras Computing Challenge exceptionally prepared for future careers in the computational industry.
This was founded in Lithuania by Professor Valentina Dagiene, created to promote computational education among students, regardless of their prior knowledge or experience in programming. Over the years, the Bebras competition has evolved into a prestigious event that attracts thousands of participants from numerous countries, fostering the next generation of digital computer scientists and programmers with the knowledge and ways of thinking needed to be innovators.
Bebras not only provides a platform for students to demonstrate their computational thinking skills but also offers a gateway to prestigious opportunities and recognition. Excelling in the competition signifies proficiency in algorithmic reasoning, logical deduction, and the ability to apply computational concepts to real-world challenges, leading students to often be top performers in the International Olympiad of Informatics and attend universities for computer science.
Is the Bebras Challenge Prestigious?
The Bebras Challenge is the world’s largest computer science competition, with 53 participating countries and 3.2 million participants in 2023. Scoring high means that one is within the top 10% of one’s entire country, indicating high prowess in computational logic and critical thinking. Due to the competition’s short structure and relatively short duration, despite how difficult the questions may be, the Challenge itself is often not student’s greatest honor, but serves as a stepping stone for future competitions, such as the International Olympiad in Informatics or in the United Kingdom, to sit in the Oxford University Computing Challenge. Regardless, performance in the Bebras Computing Challenge indicates one’s talent in computational thinking and logic, which is a high indicator for success in computer science and beyond, which schools and employers alike continue to recognize.
Who is Eligible to Participate?
The Bebras Computing Challenge is completely open to all students from ages 6 to 18 with any form of internet access. All it takes to participate is to register with a school that is registered in that country’s Bebras Challenge, and when the time comes, anyone can enter the competition.
Timeline and Structure of Bebras Challenge
The Bebras Computing Challenge itself is a completely remote and digital test, with 18 - 24 interactive and multiple choice questions, to be solved within 40 - 55 minutes. The test may occur at different times depending on which country you are from, as the challenge is run locally by country, with different sets of questions approved by an international community. In the United States, the test is typically run in mid to late November. Check out this link for more information and contact info for every participating country.
Questions are split into easy, medium, and hard difficulties, each worth different points for getting correct and incorrect. For every correct answer there are 3, 4 or 5 points (depending on the difficulty of the task: easy, medium or hard), 0 points for unanswered questions, and then minus a quarter of the possible points if the answer is incorrect. Other systems could also make questions worth 6, 9, or 12 points.
The competition is also split up into different age groups, with different sets of questions for each group.
I group. Pre-Primary – Grade 1 and 2 (5-8 years old)
II group. Primary - Grade 3 and 4 (8-10 years old)
III group. Benjamins – Grade 5 and 6 (10-12 years old)
IV group. Cadets – Grade 7 and 8 (12-14 years old)
V group. Juniors – Grade 9 and 10 (14-16 years old)
VI group. Seniors – Grade 11 and 12(13) (16-19 years old)
Then, after the test is completed, students are able to see their results after a couple of weeks, and then are awarded certificates by Bebras for high placements. Afterwards, countries may choose to run their own further competitions based on the results of the Bebras Challenge, such as further Computing Competitions, qualifiers for the country’s International Olympiad for Informatics team, or other head-to-head computing competitions.
10 Things You Need to Know to Win
1. You need to familiarize yourself with computational thinking
The Bebras Computing Challenge is all about your ability to understand how a computer thinks. Familiarize yourself with key concepts such as algorithms, logical reasoning, pattern recognition, and problem decomposition. The US Bebras website or International website provides resources like sample problems and practice materials to develop your computational thinking skills. Spending some time on these practice problems, reviewing binary programming, or just general logical thinking and walking yourself through a sequence of orders can be a great way to begin studying for the Bebras Challenge.
2. You need to understand how a computer processes data
Having advanced knowledge of data structures like arrays, lists, and trees is crucial for solving advanced Bebras problems. Problems on the challenge often asks you the result that a computer will give you based on a series of data given to it, thus you need to be able to understand how a computer processes, reads, and manipulates data. Online tutorials on Youtube and Khan Academy and coding platforms like Codecademy offer interactive courses that cover data structures in detail.
3. You need to develop algorithmic problem-solving skills
Problems on the Bebras Challenges often require designing and/or understanding an algorithm, or an example of a scenario in which an algorithm will be used. You should begin practicing your algorithmic problem-solving skills by studying algorithm design techniques such as divide and conquer, recursive algorithms, dynamic programming, and greedy algorithms. Websites like GeeksforGeeks provide comprehensive tutorials and practice problems to help you master these techniques.
4. You need to be a master of logical reasoning
The Bebras Computing Challenge is unique to other computing challenges in that no coding experience is needed, and every problem can theoretically be solved through pure logic alone. Be sure to spend some time solving logic puzzles and riddles to develop your logical intuition and sharpening your inductive reasoning skills. A fun way to study can be to use Puzzle Prime, with a vast collection of challenging puzzles and logical games to improve your logical thinking.
5. You need to stay updated with the current field of computer science
For older challenge participants, the competition often incorporates current computational topics. Use sources like MIT Technology Review, Harvard Technology Review, or the New York Times to stay informed about recent advancements in different aspects of computer science like artificial intelligence, data science, and cybersecurity.
6. You need to be able to manage your time
18 questions in 40 minutes may seem like enough to not be stressed, but do not be fooled! These questions are logic problems, which means it can easily take a minute to even understand what the problem is asking or to understand the diagram given to you, which only leaves you another minute to come up with a solution! Therefore, time is a critical factor in the Bebras Challenge. After some initial rounds of practice, be sure to practice under time constraints to develop shortcuts or strategies to navigate these problems.
7. You need to collaborate and work through problems with other people
Being the largest computer science competition in the world, there are likely other Bebras enthusiasts near you, whether it is within your own school or even a digital community! You should actively engage in discussions to solve problems together, answer other people’s questions, and ask questions! These will all help develop all of the skills that you need to succeed in this competition, by exchanging ideas and strategies and learning from others. You may even broaden your perspective by learning a new way to solve problems you struggled with, or see a shortcut to save you time during the challenge!
8. You need to embrace a growth mindset
The purpose of the Bebras Computing Challenge is to cultivate logical thinking in future generations of computer engineers and scientists, not to win a cash prize or medal. Challenges and struggles are opportunities to grow and to learn, rather than an indication of you not being prepared or “smart enough. Approach the Bebras Challenge with a positive attitude, embracing the journey of improvement rather than focusing solely on outcomes. By emphasizing continuous learning and perseverance, you can maximize your potential as a high performer in the Bebras competition in future years or even just the skills and talents necessary to succeed in your future education and career.
Conducting advanced research is another great way to build new skills, take charge and expose yourself to new perspectives. It can also boost your profile for scholarships and competitions! If you want an opportunity to build your own independent project and research paper, then consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program. Last year over 2100 students applied for about 500 spots in the program. You can find the application form here.
Aaron Zheng is a sophomore at Harvard University, studying Bioengineering. He is passionate about biotechnology, business development, and aiding students to get to college, regardless of background. In his spare time, he looks to read, journal, and explore the world.
Image Source: Bebras Challenge logo