ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest

From Academic Kids


ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (abbreviated as ACM/ICPC or just ICPC) is an annual activity of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) that provides college students with an opportunity to demonstrate and sharpen their problem-solving and computing skills. The event is sponsored by IBM.



The contest traces its roots to a competition held at Texas A&M University in 1970 hosted by the Alpha Chapter of the UPE Computer Science Honor Society. The contest evolved into its present form as a multi-tier competition in 1977, with the first finals held at the ACM Computer Science Conference. It has been held annually since then. Originally, the contest included mainly teams from US and Canada. It has grown into a worldwide competition with teams from 75 countries in 2004.

Since the beginning of IBM's sponsorship in 1997, contest participation has grown enormously. In 1997, 840 teams from 560 universities participated. In 2004, 4109 teams from 1582 universities participated. The number of teams keeps increasing by 10-20% every year and future competitions may be even larger.

Contest rules

ACM/ICPC is a team competition. Each team consists of three students. Participiants must be university students, who have had less than five years of university education before the contest. Students who have previously competed in two World Finals or four regional competitions are ineligible to compete again.

During contest, the teams are given 5 hours to solve between 8 and 10 programming problems (with 8 typical for regionals and 10 for finals). They must submit solutions as programs in C, C++, Pascal or Java. Programs are then run on test data. If a program fails to give a correct answer, the team is notified about that and they can submit another program.

The winner is the team which correctly solves most problems. If several teams solve an equal number of problems, the placement of teams is determined by the time when they submitted the correct solutions.

For example, consider a situation when two teams, A and B, solve two problems each. The team A submitted their solutions 1:00 and 2:45 after the beginning of the contest. The team B submitted solutions 1:20 and 2:00 after the beginning. Then, the total time is 1:00+2:45=3:45 for team A and 1:20+2:00=3:20 for team B and team B wins.

If, before submitting the correct solution, the team has submitted incorrect solution to the same problem, it receives a 20 minute penalty for each incorrect solution attempt.

Compared to other programming contests (for example, International Olympiad in Informatics, ACM/ICPC is characterized by a large number of problems (8 or more problems in just 5 hours). Another feature is that each team can use only one computer, although teams have three students. This makes the time pressure even greater. Good teamwork and ability to withstand pressure is needed to win.

Regionals and World Finals

The contest consists of several stages. Many universities hold local contests to determine participants at the regional level. Then, universities compete in Regional contests. Winners of Regional contests advance to World Finals. More than one team from a university can compete in regionals, but only one may compete at the world finals. From each region, at least one team goes to World Finals. Regions with large number of teams send multiple teams to finals (sometimes as many as 6 teams from one very large region).

No participant can take part in more than two World Finals.

Some large regions also hold Subregional competitions which are intermediate between local and regional contests.

2005 World Finals

The 2005 world finals were held at Pudong Shangri-La Hotel in Shanghai on April 6, 2005, hosted by Shanghai Jiaotong University. 4,109 teams representing 1,582 universities from 71 countries competed in elimination rounds, with 78 of those teams proceding to the world finals. Shanghai Jiaotong University won its second world title, with 8 of 10 problems solved.

Upcoming Contests

The 2006 ICPC world finals will be held in San Antonio, Texas, hosted by Baylor University.


The world finals champions since 1977 are:

See also

  • TopCoder, a similar set of competitions conducted online.

External links

Official website

Online judges


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