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The 2021 Canadian Open Mathematics Challenge -- Oct 28/29

The 2021 Canadian Open Mathematics Challenge — Oct 28/29

Frequently Asked Questions

Eligibility and Registration Inquiries

  • Can home schools or tutoring and coaching organizations participate?
    Yes. The COMC is Canada's premier national mathematics competition that is open to any student with an interest in and grasp of high school math. All exams are marked and final scores are returned to the teacher.

    To qualify as official participants, students must meet the official Eligibility requirements, which includes writing the exam at an Official Competition Writing Centre (OCWC). Most conventional schools are pre-approved Official Competition Writing Centres. Those which have not qualified are identified as "Unofficial-only".

    Any location not pre-approved can still participate unofficially. In such cases, the students are not eligible for merit-based prizes or recognition. Teachers: if your location doesn't qualify but you want to ensure your students participate officially and do qualify for recognition and prizes, please contact us. We will try to match you up with a school that we’ve designated as an Official Competition Writing Center. If that school is willing, your students could join theirs for the actual writing of the exam. Students: if your school does not qualify to become an Official Competition Writing Center, please contact us; we will try to help you find a way to write the competition.

    For more information, read this page.

  • What does “Unofficial-only” mean? What does “Official Competition Writing Centre” mean?
    Beginning in 2018, CMS strengthened the requirements as to where students can write the COMC exam. In order for the results to be considered “official” and earn merit-based prizes and recognition, students need to write at an Official Competition Writing Centre (OCWC). All schools are assessed to see if we can approve them as an OCWC. Most conventional schools are already approved so returning schools will not see a difference. Schools that don’t meet our requirements can run the exam unofficially (but receive their exams digitally, rather than as hard copies).

    For more information, read this page.

  • How do I get around the “Unofficial-only” restriction for my students?
    You can contact us. Your location can become official if you have a proctor that is a certified teacher under the Ministry of Education or a Professor from a Canadian University. If this is not an option, we’ll do our best to find a nearby school that we’ve certified as an Official Competition Writing Center. If that school is willing, your students could join theirs to write the competition.

    For more information, read this page.

  • My school is not registering for the COMC. What are other options to register for the competition?
    All registrations for the COMC must come from schools, through teachers or proctors. Individual students (and their parents) may ask any nearby school if they are participating in the COMC and if they are willing to add an exam in order to have the student participate at the school on exam day. The CMS has writing centres across Canada at our partner universities for students who cannot write in their own school. In 2021, writing centres may offer online and/or in person options. The sign-up page will include this information when it is available.
  • What grade levels can write the COMC?
    There are no grade eligibility requirements for the COMC. However, the difficulty level of questions is based on the mathematics curriculum taught in senior secondary grades and CÉGEPs. Some questions require a degree of understanding beyond the curriculum. To see potential topics and past exam questions, visit the Getting Ready page.
  • What are the registration steps?
    Teachers will use an existing school account or create a new school account to place an exam order online. Exams are shipped to the school by courier, or (in 2021) sent virtually. Read here to find the modes of writing the COMC available in 2021.
  • What is the minimum number of students that a school can register?
    A minimum of 2 exams per school in Canada, or 4 exams per school internationally. The minimum applies to both online and paper-based exams.
  • Is it possible to enter the competition without entering as a school?
    Students in Canada who are not at a participating school may be able to sign up to write either in person or remotely through a university writing centre. For further information contact the CMS office at contests@cms.math.ca
  • What is the deadline for registration?
    Registration for print exams closes at 11:59 PST on Monday, October 18th. Registration for digital delivery closes at 11:59 PST on Sunday, October 24th.

Modes of writing the 2021 COMC

Teachers may choose from two modes in which their students may write the 2021 COMC:

  • Print option
    Printed exams are delivered to the school and written by students under supervision at the school. Written exams are then returned by courier.
  • Digital Delivery option
    Exams are delivered to the school electronically (by email) and are printed by the teacher. Students then write the exams under supervision at school, and the written exams are returned by courier.

Exam Format and Procedures

  • What is the date and location for the COMC?
    The 2021 COMC will be held on Thursday, October 28th in Canada and the Americas (anywhere in North/South American time zones), and on Friday, October 29th elsewhere in the world. The exam is held locally (usually in your school) at a location arranged by the teacher or organizer coordinating the competition.


    If students are writing paper-based exams, the CMS recommends it be done during school hours.

    Here are the times of writing the online COMC in Canada and the Americas (October 28):

    • Pacific Daylight Time (PDT): 9am
    • Mountain Daylight Time (MDT): 10am
    • Central Daylight Time (CST): 11am
    • Eastern Daylight Time (EDT): 12pm
    • Atlantic Daylight Time (ADT): 1pm
    • Newfoundland Daylight Time (NDT): 1:30pm

    More details regarding the available modes of writing the COMC in 2021 may be found here.

  • Is the COMC an online or paper-based exam?
    It is a paper-based exam.
  • How long is the exam?
    The competition is 2.5 hours.
  • Are calculators permitted?
    No. Calculators and mobile phones are not permitted.
  • Are dictionaries allowed?
    Yes, dictionaries are allowed during the exam -- under supervision.
  • I have a special needs student. Do you provide the exam in special formats?
    The CMS will try to accommodate students who require an alternative exam format. Please notify the CMS office as soon as possible if you are supervising a student who needs a special exam format.
  • How can students prepare for the exam?
    The CMS will post a sample practice problem each week, starting the first week of September. Solutions are posted the following week when the next problem is posted.

    Please see the Problem of the Week page.

    Students can also practice using an archive of past exams and the official solutions.
  • What is the exam format?
    The COMC exam is the same for students at all grade levels and consists of three sections:
    1. Four introductory questions worth 4 marks each. Partial marks may be awarded for work shown.
    2. Four more challenging questions worth 6 marks each. Partial marks may be awarded for work shown.
    3. Four long-form proof problems worth 10 marks each. Complete work must be shown. Partial marks may be awarded.

    There are 80 marks overall.

  • Do students have to write the COMC at a particular time?
    The exam must be held on October 28th in Canada and the Americas, and on October 29 in the rest of the world.
  • Where are the exams sent for marking?
    Schools in Canada: a courier will arrive at each school on the day after the exam (Friday, October 29) to pick up the package of exams. Each school will have a sufficient number of pre-paid courier envelopes, which are pre-addressed to one of the COMC marking partner institutions.


    Schools outside Canada: the CMS will provide you with a Canadian address where you will need to send the exams by courier at your own cost.

    Important: Only exams arriving by the deadline of Monday, November 8th will be eligible for awards.

  • Is the exam available in French?
    Yes. Teachers can specify how many exams in English and/or French are required when placing the order.

Payment and Shipment Inquiries

Login and account inquiries

The Results

  • How do schools obtain the students’ participation and award certificates?
    When the final results are announced, teachers/organizers will be able to log in to their accounts to download and print participation certificates for all of their students.
    Awards certificates are only provided for official participants who achieve a high ranking, and are available for teachers/organizers to download and print. For students in Canada, award certificate plaques or portfolios are mailed to their schools.
  • How do I get my score?
    Teachers can access all their students' scores online using their school account once marking is complete. Individual scores are not shown publicly for privacy reasons.

    If one or more students' scores are unavailable, please contact the CMS office by email at comc@cms.math.ca.

  • What is an 'official paper'?
    To be considered official and thereby qualify for awards or prizes, participants and schools must meet the requirements as described on our Eligibility page.
  • Will I get a certificate?
    When the final results are announced, teachers/organizers will be able to log into their accounts to download and print the certificates for all students. For those students who have earned award(s), the certificate lists all the awards the student earned. For students who did not earn specific awards, the certificate is based on which quartile their scores fall into:
    1st quartile = Performance with Distinction
    2nd quartile = Performance with Honours
    3rd or 4th quartile = Certificate of Participation
  • Will I get a plaque?

    The CMS no longer issues student plaques. Students now receive a student portfolio (certificate in a commemorative folder). All students who earn a Gold, Silver or Bronze in non-grade specific categories at the regional or provincial level are eligible to receive a portfolio. All students who receive a Gold, Silver, Bronze or Honourable Mention on any of the Canada lists including grade-specific lists will also receive a portfolio.

    School plaques are only given to schools in Canada where at least one student is being sent a student portfolio.

  • Will I receive a prize?

    Anyone writing the COMC in Canada is eligible for a random draw participation prize.

Did we answer your question? If not, please email us.
If you have a suggestion for a question you think should be on this page, tell us that too!

To report errors or omissions for this page, please contact us at comc@cms.math.ca.