Test problems from past UKLO competitions




This page gives you a spreadsheet listing all the test problems that have been used in UK Olympiads since 2010; each problem’s name includes a link to the downloadable problem. The spreadsheet is not locked, so once you’ve saved it locally, you can easily search it, edit it or re-sort the data.  The same problems are also listed below.

Each problem is listed with the following information:

  • diff: its relative difficulty, as explained below
  • year: the year in which it was used in UKLO
  • number, name: its number in that year’s problem set, and its name
    • this cell is hyperlinked to a file containing the problem concerned, a separate answer sheet (where relevant), and the correct answers, plus a mark scheme and detailed directions for marking (as used by the original markers).
  • language: the language(s) from which its data are taken
  • extras?: any information beyond the problem and its solution.
    • expanded: an extended essay-length discussion of the problem and how to solve it, as well as ideas for building on it in discussing more general ideas about language and linguistic analysis.
    • notes: brief notes on the problem data, possibly as a separate file from the problem file.
    • problem, solution, commentary and marking scheme: a single file containing all relevant information.

Relative difficulty

The problems are also classified for difficulty. Here’s how this was calculated:

  • For problems from 2012 and later, the grading is objective and reflects the average marks of hundreds of competitors. Informally, the difficulty is the difference between the maximum possible mark and the average mark; so if everyone scores 100%, the difficulty is 1, but if the average is just 10%, the difficulty is 10. But as you’ll see below, it has to be more complicated than that!
    • Mathematically, the difficulty (diff) of a problem is the maximum score for that problem divided by the average score;
      • e.g. if the maximum was 20 and the average was 10, diff would be 2.0.
      • If everyone achieved the maximum, diff would be 1.0.
      • If the average was very low, say 1/20, diff would be 20.
    • However, difficulty depends not only on the problem but also on the competitor, so a problem which would be very hard for a Foundation competitor might be quite easy for an Advanced one. The figure for diff is therefore standardised for a typical Advanced competitor:
      • Where a problem was part of the Advanced competition in Round 1, diff is calculated as above.
      • Problems which were only included at lower levels (Breakthrough, Foundation or Intermediate) had their diff reduced by a figure based on the problems which were taken both at these levels and at higher levels, including Advance levels.
        • E.g. if an I-level problem’s average score was 5/10, giving an I-level diff of 10/5 = 2,
        • and the same competitors scored half (0.5) as well as the Advanced competitors did on the problems that they both did, giving an ‘I-adjustment’ for I and A (the mean I and A scores for those problems) of I/A = 0.5
        • then its diff (for a typical A-level candidate) was 2 x 0.5 = 1.
        • Similarly for lower levels: so the diff of a Breakthrough problem is given by B x F x I where
          • B = the diff for Breakthrough candidates
          • F is the F-adjustment figure (F/I) for problems taken at both F and I level
          • I is the I-adjustment figure (I/A) for problems taken at both I and A level.
        • This standardization calculation explains why some diff figures are below 1.0 (which would otherwise be the lowest possible).
      • Problems from Round 2 had their diff increased by a figure based on the difference between the Round 1 figures for the winners (who eventually took Round 2) and the overall average.
        • E.g. if the R2 diff for a problem was 2,
        • and the R1 Advanced winners’ average score was twice the average for all Advanced competitors,
        • then its diff for a typical A-level candidate was 2 x 2 = 4.
  • For problems from 2010 and 2011, unfortunately we have no data on scores for individual problems, so diff is copied from the grading in the two books of problems. This five-point grading is partly based on test scores in the American competition and partly estimated by test-setters; unfortunately there are no problems graded by both systems, so they are hard to match. For that reason, the American gradings are distinguished from the others by *.
  • The diff rating for the 2011 problem 2, ‘Japaneasy’, is a guess because it is not covered by either of the above systems. It’s highly recommended as a starting point for exploring the problems!

The problems

The problems are listed below in increasing order of difficulty. They are also listed in a downloadable spreadsheet which includes the links to the downloadable problem files, but which you can edit in Excel like any other spreadsheet.

The list below includes almost all the problems used in UKLO Round 1 and Round 2 competitions from 2010 to 2018.


diff year number, name language extras? area author
0.5 2011 2. Japaneasy Japanese expanded script Harold Somers
0.54 2014 3. Mokilese Mokilese expanded general Jeff Siegel
0.67 2014 1. What time is it in Tallinn? Estonian expanded general Babette Newsome
0.71 2018 18.1 (In)definitely Romanian Romanian notes and solution general Julia Barron
0.81 2018 18.2  Lithuanian road trip Lithuanian notes and solution general Babette Newsome
0.9 2016 2. Foreign French, German, Spanish problem, solution, commentary and marking scheme comparative Dick Hudson
0.89 2012 1. Being with it in Yolmo Yolmo expanded general Lauren Gawne
0.9 2017 3. We are all European 9 languages notes and solution comparative Babette Newsome
0.92 2012 2. Danish numbers Danish expanded numbers Mike Swan
0.9 2016 4. Beijing subway Chinese problem, solution, commentary and marking scheme script Catherine Sheard
1.0 2016 1. Alphabet Greek problem, solution, commentary and marking scheme script Dick Hudson
1.05 2017 R1.1. Our Italian family Italian notes and solution morphosyntax Dick Hudson
1.06 2015 1. Counting in Karelian Karelian   numbers Graeme Trousdale
1.08 2014 2. Maori loanwords Maori notes general Pat Littell
1.17 2012 6. Crocodile Bardi Bardi   general Catherine Sheard
1.18 2017 R1.5. Basquing in the sun Basque notes and solution morphosyntax Aleka Blackwell 
1.19 2018 18.5 At Ease in Gilbertese Gilbertese notes and solution general Michael Salter
1.2 2013 8. A little Dutch problem Dutch   general Harold Somers
1.3 2016 9. Nhanda Nhanda problem, solution, commentary and marking scheme general Babette Verhoeven
1.26 2014 6. Kairak verbs Kairak notes general Cindy Schneider
1.26 2015 2. Georgian places Georgian   script Daniel Rucki
1.28 2018 18.3 Finding your way in Sofia Bulgarian notes and solution script Babette Newsome
1.3 2016 8. Somali Somali problem, solution, commentary and marking scheme morphology Harold Somers
1.32 2015 3. Polish your Polish Polish   general Daniel Rucki
1.36 2012 3w. Welsh libraries Welsh notes general Dick Hudson
1.4 2016 6. Kaqchikel Kaqchikel problem, solution, commentary and marking scheme general Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine
1.38 2014 4. Running speech English notes phonetics, script Sue Barry & Dick Hudson
1.39 2017 R1.4. A little Tshiluba Tshiluba notes and solution morphosyntax Tom McCoy
1.4 2016 3. Watsonium Irish problem, solution, commentary and marking scheme spelling of loans Jane D’Altuin and Harold Somers
1.42 2017 R1.2. Inuktitut script Inuktitut notes and solution script Ollie Sayeed
1.4 2016 5. Amele Amele problem, solution, commentary and marking scheme general Babette Verhoeven
1.44 2013 5. Bulgarian Bulgarian   syntax Bozhidar Bozhanov
1.5 2016 R2.1 Malay Malay Problem, solution and marking general Bozhidar Bozhanov
1.51 2015 4. Old English English   general Graeme Trousdale
1.6 2016 7. The strange case of the Estonian language Estonian problem, solution, commentary and marking scheme general Praveen Venkataramana
1.56 2013 1. Yodaspeak English   syntax Harold Somers
1.59 2012 8. Arcturan intergalactic peace message fictitious language   general Simon Zwarts
1.59 2015 5. Elder Futhark Norse   script Catherine Sheard
1.69 2012 7. Waorani numbers Waorani   numbers Drago Radev
1.72 2012 R2.2. Who is good? Luiseño   general Ronald Langacker (via Dick Hudson)
1.76 2012 4. Haitian Haitian  notes general Ivaylo Youmerski
1.76 2015 8. Can you finish Finnish? Finnish   general Babette Newsome
1.77 2017 R1.6. Maori for the beach Maori notes and solution grammar Aleka Blackwell 
1.77 2017 R1.8. Choctaw Choctaw notes and solution morphosyntax Babette Newsome
1.79 2013 6. The long and short of English verbs English notes general Dick Hudson
1.8 2016 R2.2. Tocharian Tocharian Problem, solution and marking historical Ollie Sayeed
1.93 2012 5. Esperanto Esperanto   general Alexey Pegushev
1.95 2018 18.6 Are you OK with N’ko? Nko notes and solution script Babette Newsome, Harold Somers
1.96 2018 18.4 What’s yours is mine (for eating) Fijian notes and solution general ??
2.1 2016 R2.5. Get edumacated! English Problem, solution and marking phonology Patrick Littell
2.12 2013 3. Pali Pali   general Babette Newsome
2.13 2015 7. Murrinhpatha Murrinhpatha   general Rachel Nordlinger
2.2 2016 10. Don’t sell the house! Nung problem, solution, commentary and marking scheme general Alex Wade
2.22 2012 R2.1. A fox among the h English   computing Patrick Littell
2.35 2012 R2.3. The little engine that could… read English   logic James Pustejovsky, Patrick Littell
2.4 2012 9. Waanyi Waanyi   general Mary Laughren
2.46 2015 R2.3 Do-this-do-that Hmong  notes general David Mortensen
2.56 2015 9. Zoink! English   semantics Dragomir Radev with Christiane Fellbaum and Jonathan May
2.65 2017 R1.9. The goat, the mother and the Abkhaz wardrobe Abkhaz notes and solution grammar Samuel Andersson, Oliver Sayeed, and Elysia Warner
2.7 2018 18.7 Icelandic Relations Icelandic notes and solution general Babette Newsome
2.74 2015 6. Japanese places Japanese   general Harold Somers
2.8 2016 R2.4. Devanagari Devanagari Problem, solution and marking script Lauren Gawne
2.8 2016 R2.3. Huli Huli Problem, solution and marking numbers Bill Huang
2.84 2017 R2.1. Nepali Nepali notes and solution grammar Babette Newsome
2.88 2017 R2.3. Viet Vietnamese notes and solution grammar James Hyett
2.99 2014 5. Turkish Turkish notes general David Palfreyman
3.06 2012 R2.5. Catalan plurals Catalan   morphophonology Boris Iomdin
3.2 2017 R1.10. Kaytetye kinship Kaytetye notes and solution semantics Myfany Turpin
3.24 2014 7. Ilokano Ilokano notes general Bozhidar Bozhanov
3.29 2013 9. Bengali Bengali notes general Bozhidar Bozhanov
3.32 2017 R2.2. Do you see what I see? Proto-Algonquian  notes and solution morphosyntax Daniel Lovsted
3.39 2012 3d. Dutch past participles  Dutch notes general Babette Newsome
3.49 2013 4a. Arabic script Arabic notes script David Palfreyman
3.63 2015 R2.2 Malagasy crossnumber Malagasy  notes numbers Tom McCoy
3.98 2014 9. Lontara Buginese notes script Chelsea Voss
4.02 2017 R2.4. Muddled hieroglyphs Egyptian notes and solution script Dick Hudson
4.23 2017 R1.7. On the right Tamil track Tamil notes and solution script Kai Low 
4.35 2017 R2.5. Magic Yup’ik Yup’ik notes and solution number Kai Low 
4.61 2014 R2.1. Kiswahili verbs Kiswahili   general Catherine
4.64 2018 18.R2.4  It’s true: The truth about Chalcatongo Mixtec  Mixtec notes and solution general Babette Newsome
5.07 2018 18.R2.2 Nivkh Nivkh notes and solution general Heather Newell
5.3 2018 18.R2.3 Menya Menya solution general Aleka Blackwell
5.63 2013 R2.4. Stockholms Tunnelbana Swedish   general Patrick Littell
5.74 2013 R2.1. Deer Father Quechua   general Patrick Littell
5.93 2018 18.8 Vietnamese Matching Vietnamese notes and solution general Tom McCoy, Pat Littell, and Lori Levin
6.06 2013 4s. The Shavian Alphabet English – Shavian notes script Babette Newsome
6.1 2018 18.10 Tirana tourist Albanian notes and solution general Ali Sharman
6.48 2014 R2.2. Untangling Tanghulic  Kachai, Tusom, Ukhrul   comparison David Mortensen
6.5 2015 R2.4 Aymara Aymara   phonology Josh Falk
6.68 2014 R2.4. Navajo gophers Navajo   general Babette Newsome
8.11 2014 R2.3. Learning Yidiny Yidiny   general Mary Laughren
8.58 2015 5 Romance Latin, French, Catalan, Romanian   historical comparison David Palfreyman
8.72 2013 7. Phoenician Phoenician   script Harold Somers
9.01 2014 R2.5. Hungarians in a field Hungarian   puzzle Adam Hesterberg
9.43 2015 R2.1 Maxakali Maxakali   general Alex Wade
9.48 2015 10. Georgian Era Georgian   script, general Dorottya Demszky
9.99 2013 R2.5. Playing the cognate game Indonesian, Swahili   etymology Catherine Sheard
12.7 2013 R2.3. Beja Beja   general Dick Hudson
15.3 2018 18.9 Central Pamerican sums Pame notes and solution number Milena Veneva
17 2014 8. Musical code English notes code Harold Somers
32.9 2013 R2.2. Putting the books in order  Georgian, Armenian   script Drago Radev
33.3 2012 R2.4. 100 surnames Phags-pa   script Patrick Littell
*1 2010 1. Sorry we have no red cucumbers French   syntax Dragomir Radev
*1 2010 2. Gelda’s House of Gelbergarg English   general Cindy Schneider
*1 2010 3. Say it in Abma Abma   general Luda Kedova & Rachel Nordlinger
*1 2010 R2.3. F u cn rd ths English   computing Richard Sproat
*2 2010 R2.1. Ardhay Uzzlepay Minangkabau   general Diego Molla-Aliod
*2 2011 7. The war of the dots English (braille)   script Patrick Littell
*2 2011 R2.1. Stopping and flapping in Warlpiri Warlpiri   general Mary Laughren
*2 2011 R2.2. Counting in Irish Irish notes number Tom Payne
*2 2011 1. Running on MT English   meaning Harold Somers
*2 2011 3. Doubling in Caterpillar Country Arrernte notes general Mark Dras & Mary Laughren
*2 2011 5. Mix up on the farm Papago   general Lori Levin (data from Ken Hale)
*2 2011 6. Tiger tale Indonesian   general Dragomir Radev
*3 2010 4. Lost in Yerevan Armenian   script Dragomir Radev
*3 2010 7. Texting, texting, one two three English   code Patrick Littell
*3 2010 R2.2. Be Cree-ative Cree   script Patrick Littell & Julia Workman
*3 2010 6. Tangkhul tangle Tangkhul   general David Mortensen
*3 2010 R2.4. Tale of Kieu Vietnamese   script David Mortensen
*3 2010 R2.5. Possessed in Vanuatu Vanuatu   general Jane Simpson & Jeremy Hammond
*3 2011 4. Ulwa possessives Ulwa notes general Richard Sproat
*4 2011 R2.5. Swallow the salt Tadaksahak   general Bozhidar Bozhanov
*5 2010 5. Turkish delight Turkish   general Bozhidar Bozhanov
*5 2011 R2.3. Axolotl in the water Nahuatl   general John Berman
*5 2011 R2.3. A script for the Ndyuka Ndyuka   script Patrick Littell

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