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Information for Contestants

Getting ready for ICPC? Make sure you go through this checklist:

Reference Materials

We suggest bringing language reference manuals, data structures and algorithms textbooks, discrete math textbooks, and general math reference books. (The problems don’t typically assume or require sophisticated mathematics, but you might be able to use math to simplify a problem or find an easier solution.) Also bring printouts of the problem statement and solution for any practice problems you worked on, and any notes you or your coach may have created.

Note that while sites will usually provide some online documentation, it is not a good idea to rely on that too heavily. When one of your team members is using the computer, he or she should be programming, not browsing through online documentation looking for inspiration. Use online documentation to help you remember the details of what you already know.

Understanding Your Programming Language

Obviously the better you know your language the better you’ll do. Here are some suggestions about what you should know.

All Languages

Character classification and case conversion. String handling, including converting between strings and numbers. Using arrays.


The formatted I/O functions printf and scanf, and the corresponding string functions sprintf and sscanf, which are much more powerful than most people realize. The string functions strchr, strrchr, strspn, strcspn, strpbrk, strstr, and strtok. The binary search function bsearch and the quicksort function qsort.


The STL classes bitset, deque, list, map, priority_queue, queue, set, stack, and vector. The STL algorithms accumulate, adjacent_find, binary_search, copy, count, equal, fill, find, for_each, generate, includes, inner_product, lexicographical_compare, max_element, merge, min_element, mismatch, next_permutation, prev_permutation, remove, replace, reverse, rotate, set_difference, set_intersection, set_symmetric_difference, set_union, sort, swap, transform, and unique. The STL function objects such as equal_to, logical_not, and plus. The string stream classes istringstream and ostringstream.


Python 2/3

Beef Up Your Programming Skills

Knowledge of the following data structures, algorithms, and programming techniques will be useful.

You should also practice with a variety of different types of problems. Regionals usually includes some combination of the following:

Higher math may include

Practice, Practice, Practice

Schedule. Ideally you should practice once per week. Have a 1-3 hour practice where you try to solve as many problems as possible under contest conditions. Any problems that you don’t solve must be solved during the week before the next practice. Keep a record of all the problems you solved, their solutions, and any notes about unusual features of the problem.

Team Strategy. You only have one computer, so learning to work as a team is essential. The most important thing is to accurately judge the difficulty of the problems. Many talented teams have done poorly because they started working on one of the hardest problems first. Remember that the length of a problem description is not necessarily related to its difficulty. For additional tips, check out Teamwork in Programming Contests: 3*1=4.


There are many sources for practice problems. Here are a few:

Other Competitions