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Putnam Competition

The William Lowell Putnam Competition is an annual mathematics competition for regularly enrolled undergraduates in colleges or universities of the United States and Canada, who have not yet received a college degree. Prizes are awarded to individual participants and institutions.

The Putnam examination tests originality, technical competence and familiarity with the formal theories embodied in undergraduate mathematics. Questions cut across the bounds of various disciplines, and include self-contained questions that do not fit into any of the usual categories. These self-contained questions can involve elementary concepts from group theory, set theory, graph theory, lattice theory, number theory or cardinal arithmetic.

In Fall 2019, the competition will take place on Saturday, December 7th in Boelter 5249 from 8AM-4PM. Please be sure to bring a #2 pencil and an eraser for the competition. 

The UCLA Mathematics Department coordinates the UCLA Putnam team and runs activities such as

  • A "Problem solving" course (Math 100) is offered each fall. This is an excellent preparation for the Putnam competition. In Fall 2019 the course is taught by Professor Sarkar and meets MWF 10:00-10:50 in MS 6221.
  • An introductory preparation session, open to all students (whether or not enrolled in Math 100), will take place on  Friday, September 27, 4:00-5:20pm in Franz 1260​. Also, we will have a practice exam on  Monday, September 30, 4:00-6:50pm in Franz 2258A.
  • The top scorers on the practice test are invited to be part of the extended UCLA Putnam team, which receives intensive weekly preparation in the Advanced Problem Solving Seminar (Math 101, Mondays 4:00-6:50pm).  
  • Year round consulting for students who want to learn more about the Putnam competition, for example study old exam questions. Professor Sucharit Sarkar, sucharit@math.ucla.edu, is available to help.
  • Free pizza for lunch on the day of the competition.

Participation: All enrolled UCLA undergraduate students which do not have a college degree may participate in the Putnam exam. There is a four time limit for any participant. Three team members are designated every year prior to the competition, and their score will contribute to the UCLA team score. In addition, they and all the other participants compete for individual scores. The top performing UCLA student (whether a team member or not) will receive the Basil Gordon Prize, valued at $1000.

Reasons to participate: Students taking part in and preparing for the competition learn a lot about general mathematical skills such as solving problems and proving statements. Graduate schools and other employers can be impressed by high Putnam scores.

Preparation: Check here for more resources and information about how to prepare for the exam.

Time and Location: The Putnam examination takes place every year on the first Saturday of December. There are two sessions, a morning session from 8 am to 11 am and an afternoon session from 1 pm to 4 pm. There are 6 problems in the morning session and 6 problems in the afternoon session. Each contestant works independently with no collaboration. Results of the competition become known around March of the following year.

Registration: Participants should register prior to the competition: this year the registration deadline is Saturday, October 5, 2019. However, most years there are spots available for late registration because some registered students drop out.

Contact: If you want to register, click here. For problems registering contact Connie Jung at ugrad [at] math [dot] ucla [dot] edu in MS 6356.

Past results:  In 2018, the UCLA team (Ciprian-Mircea Bonciocat, Xiaoyu Huang, Konstantin Miagkov) was ranked #3 out of 568 institutions. 

A total of 4,623 students from colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada participated in the competition.  Among them were 42 UCLA students. Four of them were in the top 100 overall and received Prizes or Honorable Mentions: Xiaoyu Huang (83 points, ranked #18), Kaiqi Zhu (81 points, ranked #20), Konstantin Miagkov (70 points, ranked #42) and Osman Akar (60 points, ranked #77). Eight other UCLA students were ranked in the top 500: Ciprian-Mircea Bonciocat (55 points), Justin Li (50 points), Minghao Pan (44 points), Jacob Zhang (41 points), Alexandru Pascadi (37 points), Ken Willyard (33 points), Bryan Hu (31 points), and Yan Tao (28 points).

The Basil Gordon Prize, for the top scorer among UCLA students, was awarded to Xiaoyu Huang.

Other recent results:

  • 2017, Team Rank: 5; Basil Gordon Prize: Emre Girgin (61 points, ranked #34),;
  • 2016, Team Rank: 7; Basil Gordon Prize: Xiaoyu Huang (87 points, ranked #13);
  • 2015: Team rank: 6; Basil Gordon Prize: Dillon Zhi (49 points, ranked #68);
  • 2014: Team rank: 10; Basil Gordon Prize: Tudor Padurariu (63 points, ranked #30);
  • 2013: Team rank: 12; Basil Gordon Prize: Peihao Sun (40 points, ranked #136)
  • 2012: Team rank:  3 (best result in UCLA's history); Basil Gordon Prize: Tudor Padurariu (66 points, ranked #11);
  • 2011: Team rank: 12; Basil Gordon Prize: Tudor Padurariu (43 points, ranked #40);
  • 2010: Team rank: 32; Basil Gordon Prize: Francisc Bozgan (56 points, ranked #128);
  • 2009: Team rank: 58; Basil Gordon Prize: Junchao Zhang (37.2 points).