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Putnam Competition

What is the Putnam Competition?

The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition is the preeminent mathematics competition for undergraduate college students in the United States and Canada. The Putnam Competition takes place annually on the first Saturday of December. The competition consists of two 3-hour sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. During each session, participants work individually on 6 challenging mathematical problems.

The Putnam began in 1938 as a competition between mathematics departments at colleges and universities. Now the competition has grown to be the leading university-level mathematics examination in the world. Although participants work independently on the problems, there is a team aspect to the competition as well. Institutions are ranked according to the sum of the scores of their three highest-scoring participants. Prizes are awarded to the participants with the highest scores and to the departments of mathematics of the five institutions the sum of whose top three scores is greatest.

81ST PUTNAM COMPETITION UPDATE

Due to the coronavirus crisis, the 81st Putnam Competition, originally scheduled for Fall 2020, has been postponed until Feb. 20, 2021. The competition will proceed in an unofficial mode, with no proctors, no prizes, no awards, and no national recognition of high-scoring individuals or teams. Students will administer the exam themselves via an online platform. The solution papers will be uploaded by participants themselves for grading. Scores will be reported back privately to the individual participants and the local supervisor of each institution will receive a report of the scores of the students for that institution.

Faculty members can register as the local supervisor for their institution hereAny college or university in the United States or Canada that wishes to offer the competition to their students must name a regular faculty member to serve as the local supervisor of the competition.

Participants will be expected to pre-register for the competition starting early December 2020, provided that the local supervisor from their institution has already registered. We will post the link for pre-registration here.

2019 Putnam Competition Problems and Solutions

The 2019 William Lowell Putnam Competition Problems and Solutions are now available to download. Follow the links below to access the PDF files. Problems and solutions starting from the year 2017 can be found on the Putnam Competition Archive page.

 

  2019 Putnam Competition Problems

  2019 Putnam Competition Solutions A Session

  2019 Putnam Competition Solutions B Session

 

  2019 Putnam Competition Problems & Solutions

 

2019 WILLIAM LOWELL PUTNAM COMPETITION RESULTS

Click here to access the 2019 Announcement of Winners, which includes Putnam Fellows, next highest ranking individuals, honorable mentions, Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize winners, winning teams, and teams earning honorable mentions.

Click here to access the press release for the 2019 William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition.

Results for past William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competitions can also be found here.

Preparing for the Putnam

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

 

FAQs for the Putnam

  1. Q. When is the 81st Putnam Competition?

    A. The 81st Putnam Competition will take place on Saturday, February 20, 2021.

  2. Q. What is an unofficial Putnam Competition?

    A. The competition will proceed online in an unofficial mode, with no proctors, no prizes, no awards, and no national recognition of high-scoring individuals or teams. Students will administer the exam themselves via an online platform. Solutions will be written on clean, white paper and uploaded by participants themselves for grading. Scores will be reported back privately to the individual participants, and the local supervisor of each institution will receive a report of the scores of the students for that institution.

  3. Q. When does registration open?

    ​A. Supervisor registration opens November 13, 2020.

  4. Q. How do students register?

    A. Participants need to pre-register for the competition. They may do so starting in early December 2020, provided that the local supervisor from their institution has already registered. A link will be provided on this page.

  5. Q. I have a bachelor’s degree. May I participate?

    A. Generally, the answer is no, even if that degree was granted long ago and even if you did not study mathematics then. The one exception is made for students who obtained a bachelor’s degree in the period December 2020 through February 2021; these students may take the 81st Putnam Competition, originally scheduled for December 5, 2020, but postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic until February 20, 2021. In other words, students who would have been eligible on December 5, 2020, retain their eligibility for the postponed competition.

  6. Q. May I participate in the Putnam Competition without an association to an institution?

    A. No. If you are not regularly enrolled in an undergraduate institution in the US or Canada, then you are ineligible to participate. If you meet the eligibility requirements but your institution does not have a Putnam local supervisor, ask a faculty member (perhaps the math department chair) to become the Putnam local supervisor for your institution. As a reminder, the 81st Putnam Competition on February 20, 2012, is unofficial and no proctoring is required; supervisors need only register their institution. If no faculty member is willing to play this role, then you will be unable to participate.

  7. Q. I am a degree candidate at one institution but temporarily at another. May I participate?

    A. Yes, and you could compete for either institution.

  8. Q. Must I have a high school diploma to participate?

    A. No. Students who are concurrently in high school but are taking some classes in a US or Canadian college on a regular basis are deemed to be “regularly enrolled” undergraduates. Please note, a student may participate in the official Putnam Competition at most four times. Generally, we discourage high school students from exhausting their eligibility. The 81st Putnam Competition on February 20, 2012, however, will be in an unofficial mode and will not count toward the four-times limit. If you are not regularly enrolled as an undergraduate at an institution of higher education, then you are ineligible.

  9. Q. Will the 81st Putnam Competition on February 20, 2021 count against my limit of four times that I may participate?

    A. No. Because there are no prizes or awards this year, students may participate in the unofficial competition this year and also participate in the competition in four other years.

  10. Q. I am a foreign student who is currently enrolled in a US or Canadian institution. May I participate?

    A. Yes.

  11. Q. I am regularly enrolled in a US or Canadian institution, but I am taking a year off. May I participate?

    A. Yes.

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