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Putnam Competition

What is the Putnam Competition?

The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition is an annual mathematics competition for undergraduate college students in the United States and Canada. The Putnam Competition takes place on the first Saturday of December, and consists of 12 problems taken in two three-hour sittings separated by a lunch break.

The Putnam began in 1938 as a healthy competition between colleges and universities mathematics departments. Now the competition is considered to be the most prestigious university-level mathematics examination in the world

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Registration Deadlines & Competition Date

  • Deadline for registration materials is: October 7, 2016
  • The 2016 Putnam Competition will take place on: December 3, 2016

Registering for the Putnam

Registration material can be requested from:

Leonard F. Klosinski

Putnam Mathematical Competition

Department of Mathematics and Computer Science

Santa Clara University

500 El Camino Real

Santa Clara, CA 95053-0374

Any college or university team wishing to compete must complete and return the registration material no later than the first week of October. Please note that no individual student may enter the competition independently of his or her institution. All contestants must be entered by the Putnam supervisor at a two or four-year college or university in the United States or Canada. Additionally, the local supervisor must be a faculty member.

For more information about registering for the competition, please visit:

Preparing for the Putnam

The Putnam Competition covers a range of material in undergraduate mathematics, including elementary concepts from group theory, set theory, graph theory, lattice theory, and number theory. Below are some books available for purchase that may help students prepare for this exam:

FAQs for the Putnam

  1. Q. Who may participate in the Putnam?

    A. The competition is open only to regularly enrolled undergraduates, in colleges and universities of the United States and Canada, who have not yet received a college degree. No individual may participate in the competition more than four times.

  2. Q. How are the problems graded?

    A. Each problem is graded on a basis of 0 to 10 points. All the necessary work to justify an answer and all the necessary steps of a proof must be shown clearly to obtain full credit. Some partial credit may be given, but only when a contestant has shown significant and substantial progress toward a solution.

  3. Q. What awards are given for the Putnam?

    A. There are two main awards given to Putnam Participants:

    • William Lowell Putnam Prizes: Prizes will be awarded to the departments of mathematics of the institutions with the top five winning teams. The five highest ranking individuals are designated Putnam Fellows by the Mathematical Association of America. Prizes will be awarded to each of these individuals and to each of the next twenty highest ranking contestants.
    • Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prizes: This prize will be awarded to a woman who demonstrates exemplary performance on the Putnam Competition. This will be in addition to any other prizes she wins.
    Institutions throughout the United States and Canada are encouraged to offer fellowships to high ranking contestants in the competition. For more information on scholarships and prizes, visit:
  4. Q. How are scores announced for the Putnam?

    A. The scores and rankings of individuals at a participating institution and the team ranking (top 150 only) will be mailed in one report to the supervisor of the examination at the institution. Contestants must obtain their ranking from the supervisor. The names and addresses of the top 500 contestants and the names of the top 10 teams will be mailed to all participating institutions. The lists of the top 10 teams and the top 100 individual contestants will also be published in the American Mathematical Monthly, together with the Putnam problems and solutions.