The Physics Olympiad program follows the following 5 stages :

  • Stage 1 – NSEP- National Standard Examination in Physics.

  • Stage 2 – INPhO- Indian National Physics Olympiad.

  • Stage 3 – OCSC- The Orientation cum Selection Camp in physics.

  • Stage 4 – PDT- Pre-departure Training Camp for IPhO.

  • Stage 5 – IPhO- Participation in International Physics Olympiad.

Stage I, the National Standard Examination is entirely the responsibility of Indian Association of Physics Teachers. All the remaining stages are organized by HBCSE. NSEP is essential to be qualified so as to participate in the INPhO.

Eligibility, Syllabus and Structure :

Following is the detailed information about eligibility and structure of NSEP and INPhO in detail. It is very important to learn about NSEP before you gear up for the INPhO.


  • NSEP is the first stage in selection of students for the physics Olympiad Programme, which is organised by the IAPT- Indian Association of Physics Teachers. Every student aspiring to go through the successive stages of the programme, must enroll for NSEP. National Standard Examination in Physics is held at a large number of centers in the country.

    NSEP is an examination of 2 hours.


All Indian students who are born on or after July 1st, 2001 and also, are in addition, in Class XII or lower as of November 30th, 2020 were eligible to appear for NSEP 2020 – 2021. Any student may appear for more than one subject in NSEP provided the examination schedule allows it. For this you would have to check the examination schedule pertaining to different subjects. Also, the students who have passed Class XII are not eligible to enrol for NSEP exam.

It is entirely a student's responsibility to ensure that the eligibility criteria are satisfied before he or she applies for the exam. In case at any stage of the programme it is found that the student does not satisfy the eligibility criteria, thenhe or she may be disqualified from the programme.


The detailed guidelines for NSEP syllabus is not given but it is roughly estimated to be of the Class 11th and 12th standards (CBSE board). Those students who are interested in INPhO must start preparing for it directly as the detailed syllabus of INPhO is listed out below (find in the INPhO section below). In such a way NSEP syllabus will automatically get covered.


NSEP exam does not emphasize on rote memory, but the comprehension of the structure.

The format is as follows :

Part A (180 marks)

50 multiple choice questions consisting of-

( A1 )

40 questions.

Each question with only one of the four options is correct

( A2 )

10 questions.

Each question with one or more than one options can be right. To get credit, no incorrect option or options should be marked and all correct option or options must be marked.

Part B (60 marks)

5 or 6 questions are problems or short-answer type questions. All the questions carry equal marks.


English universal.
However, the NSEP question papers may be available in Hindi, and other regional languages provided that there are more than 300 students for that language. However, this has to be checked with IAPT.


The aim of the first stage examination is to have a wide range, then to progressively increase this reach,then to attain nationwide representation for stage II without overly compromising on merit or quality. Thus the selection to the stage II examinations i.e. the Indian National Olympiad Examinations (INOs) is based on the following structure :

  • Eligibility Clause : Any participating candidate must secure a score equal to or greater than a Minimum Admissible Score (or MAS) to be eligible for the Stage II INO exam leading to the International Olympiad. By default, the MAS for a given subject will be 40% of the maximum score in that subject.

  • Proportional Representation Clause (PRC) : The number of students selected for Stage II (INO) in each subject is around 300 students. Hence, in the event of a tie at the last position in the list, all students with the same marks at this position will qualify to appear for the Stage II examinations. However, the selected students must nevertheless satisfy the eligibility clause laid out above.

  • Minimum Representation Clause (MRC) : Notwithstanding the proportional representation clause as explained above, the number of students selected for INO from each State and UT must be at least 1, provided that the eligibility clause is satisfied thoroughly.

  • Merit Clause : Given the eligibility clause as stated above, it is conceivable that 300 students may not qualify for Stage II in a subject. In a case like this, the shortfall (less from 300) will be selected based purely on merit without further consideration to proportional representation and minimum representation clauses. Thus in the event of a tie at the last position in the list all students with the same marks at this position will qualify to appear for the Stage II examination.

NOTE : There will be no other criterion or provision for selection to the Indian National Olympiad Examinations (INOs).

All students who qualify to appear for the INPhO get a certificate of merit from IAPT.


  • The Indian National Physics Olympiad is organized by HBCSE in about 15 centres in the country.


  • Students selected from Stage I examination (i.e. NSEP) are eligible to appear for INPhO.

  • In addition, those students who have represented India in International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) in the previous year, need not appear for the first stage NSEP examination in physics. They may be allowed on special request to the National Coordinator for the respective subjects, to directly appear for the second stage i.e.- Indian National Physics Olympiad (INPhO) examination, in case they satisfy other eligibility criteria like as age, class, etc. which are applicable for the Physics Olympiad.


The INPhO duration is of 3 hours. The date and time information of the exam is usually given out on HBCSE site in the 1st week of January every year.

The confirmed schedule and date is hosted on the site and also communicated to the eligible students by post, so that no one misses out this crucial information. Students who appear for INPhO are eligible for Travel Allowance and Dearness Allowance as per the norms of the programme.


As like NSEP, the syllabus for INPhO is also based roughly on the school syllabus of class 9th and 10th (CBSE board). But, the syllabus of higher secondary school is only a broad guideline. Here the problems and questions in National Physics Olympiad are usually non-conventional and of really high difficulty level, just as comparable to International Physics Olympiad. For that matter, the syllabus of IPhO should be considered for INPhO.







Foundation of kinematics of a point mass

Vector description of the position of the point mass and velocity and acceleration as vectors.

Newton's laws and inertial systems

Problems may be set on changing mass

Closed and open systems; momentum and energy, powerwork,

Conservation of energy, impulse, conservation of linear momentum.

Elastic forces, the law of gravitation, frictional forces, potential energy, work in a gravitational field.

Hooke's law, frictional forces static and kinetic,coefficient of friction (F/R=const), choice of zero of potential energy.

Centripetal acceleration, Kepler's laws.


Mechanics of rigid bodies

Statics, torque, center of mass

Couples; conditions of equilibrium of bodies.

Motion of rigid bodies, translation, angular velocity,rotation, angular acceleration, and conservation of angular momentum.

Conservation of angular momentum about fixed axis only.

External and internal forces, equation of motion of a rigid body around the fixed axis, kinetic energy of a rotating body, moment of inertia.

Parallel axes theorem (Steiner's theorem) and additively of the moment of inertia

Accelerated reference systems and inertial forces.

Knowledge of the Coriolis force formula is not required.



No specific questions will be set on this but students would be expected to know the elementary concepts of pressure, the continuity law and buoyancy.


Thermodynamics and molecular physics.

Internal energy, first and second laws of thermodynamics, work and heat.

Thermal equilibrium and quantities depending on state and quantities depending on process.

Model of a perfect gas, pressure and molecular kinetic energy, equation of state of a perfect gas, Avogadro's number,absolute temperature.

Also molecular approach to such simple phenomena in liquids and solids as boiling and melting etc.

Work done by an expanding gas limited to isothermal and adiabatic processes.

Proof of the equation of the adiabatic process is not required.

The Carnot cycle, reversible and irreversible processes, thermodynamic efficiency, entropy (statistical approach)and Boltzmann factor.

Entropy as a path independent function, quasi-static processes, entropy changes and reversibility.


Oscillations and waves

Harmonic oscillations and equation of harmonic oscillation.

Solution of the equation for harmonic motion; attenuation and resonance - qualitatively.

Harmonic waves, transverse and longitudinal waves,propagation of waves, linear polarization, sound waves, the classical Doppler effect

Displacement in a progressive wave and understanding of graphical representation of the wave, Doppler effect in one dimension only, measurements of velocity of sound and light, propagation of waves in homogeneous and isotropic media, Fermat's principle reflection and refraction.

Superposition of harmonic waves, interference, coherent waves, standing waves, beats.

Realization that intensity of wave is proportional to the square of its amplitude.

Fourier analysis is not required but candidates should have some understanding that complex waves can be made from addition of simple sinusoidal waves of different frequencies.

Interference due to thin films and other simple systems (the final formulas are not required)


Electric charge and electric field

Conservation of charge, Coulomb's law.

Electric field, Gauss' law,potential.

Gauss' law confined to simple symmetric systems like sphere, plate,cylinder etc., and electric dipole moment.

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


Current and Magnetic field

Current, resistance, Ohm's law, internal resistance of source, Kirchhoff's laws, Joule's law,work and power of direct and alternating currents.

Simple cases of circuits containing non-ohmic devices with known V-I characteristics.

Magnetic field (B) of a current, Lorentz force, current in a magnetic field.

Particles in a magnetic field, magnetic dipole moment, simple applications like cyclotron.

Ampere's law

Law of electromagnetic induction, Lenz's law, magnetic flux, self-induction, energy density of magnetic field, inductance, permeability.

Magnetic field of simple symmetric systems like circular loop, straight wire, and long solenoid.

Alternating current, voltage and current (series and parallel) resonances, resistors, inductors and capacitors in AC-circuits.

Simple AC-circuits, final formulae for parameters of concrete resonance circuits, time constantsare not required.


Electromagnetic waves

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

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

Dispersion and diffraction spectra and line spectra of gases

Electromagnetic waves as transverse waves, polarizers, polarization by reflection

Superposition of polarized waves

Resolving power of imaging systems

Black body and Stefan-Boltzmann’s law

Planck's formula is not required


Quantum Physics

Photoelectric effect and energy and impulse of the photon.

Einstein's formula is required

De Broglie wavelength and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.



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

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

Simple applications of the Bragg equation.

Energy levels of atoms and molecules (qualitatively), absorption, , spectrum of hydrogen like atoms emission.

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