Bryan Hsu Qualifies for USABO Finals


Chloe Wong, Staff Writer

AHS is proud to call one of our very own students a 2020 United States of America Biology Olympiad (USABO) finalist! Bryan Hsu, a graduated senior, is the first student from AHS to get a chance to compete in the International Biology Olympiad, representing the U.S.

Since 2002, USABO has “enriched the life science education of nearly 10,000 talented students annually”. It also encourages students to pursue an interest in biology. Applicants compete in three separate rounds of multiple-choice and short-answer testing: Opens, Semifinals, and National Finals. The first round of testing is open to any high school biology student (if their school is registered to an authorized USABO center) and consists of a 50-minutes multiple-choice exam.

Those who qualify for the next round by finishing in the top 10% can go to Semifinals, which is a three-part, 120-minute exam with some complex essay questions. The last round of testing, Nationals, is objectively the most difficult. Conducted at a host university “over 12 days with 10 days of instruction and 2 days of testing”, only the top 20 scorers at Semifinals are allowed to attend. The top scorers at Nationals then go on to compete in the International Biology Olympiad against more than 70 other participating countries.

These exams are notoriously difficult; research professors around many different states write the exams for the Semifinals and Finals.

According to Bryan, “The competition to get into any Olympiad Finals is incredibly intense, and it takes a lot of time on top of normal schoolwork to consistently read material that’s far beyond what’s taught at school.”

When asked what advice he would give to aspiring USABO applicants, Bryan answered, “For Olympiads in general—start studying early and hard and keep doing practice problems. In my experience for USABO, the Campbells textbook, used for AP Biology, is generally enough to get you to the Semifinals.”

However, the competition later became more fierce, and in order to study for Finals Bryan had to consult several college-level textbooks and resources, including information on: microbiology, botany, genetics, anatomy and physiology. .

But despite these challenges, he cites USABO as being one of the best experiences of his high school career. USABO “has really taught me critical thinking skills…I think that studying for USABO and getting the skills not only to succeed in a variety of activities but also to meet people who are so smart and motivated inspires me.”

Bryan will be attending the University of California, Berkeley. Pursuing his interest in science, he intends to major in molecular and cell biology.


Photo courtesy of Bryan Hsu