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How to prepare for ACM – ICPC?

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ACM ICPC(Association for Computing Machinery – International Collegiate Programming Contest) is a worldwide annual multi-tiered programming contest being organized for over thirteen years. The contest is sponsored by IBM. 

This article focuses on what all topics that are important for competitive programming and should especially be studied in order to train yourself for the upcoming ACM-ICPC contest. 

Rules of the Contest – World Final Rules for 2021 Click here 

Indian Participants – Codechef conducts all the Indian Regionals. Click here to know about team formation, reimbursements, etc 

ICPC for Schools by CodeChef – This competition serves as a gateway for school students to participate in the ACM ICPC contest along with ICPC college participants held across India. It is an idea conceived by CodeChef and supported by Amrita University. 

To reach the world’s final, there are two phases. First, you have to qualify for the Preliminary online Round conducted on Codedrills (since last two years). Every college’s top team is selected if they have at least one question solved during the contest, with the number of teams selected based on the number of available seats in that particular region. These teams will then go on to compete in the prestigious International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) regionals, where they will represent their college and compete against other teams from around the world. The regional contest is onsite in which the teams who qualified for the preliminary round, reach the site to compete in an onsite regional contest. The teams which further qualified for the onsite regionals round will reach the world’s final ACM ICPC. 

How to apply for ACM-ICPC: 

  1. Go to the ICPC website (
  2. Create your personal contestant id, log in with the same, and fill in all the necessary information.
  3. As you have to create a team with a mentor/coach from your college your coach should do steps 1&2 but as a coach.
  4. Now the coach has to go to the dashboard -> create a team.
  5. Now you have to choose which region you want to opt for.
  6. Then register all the contestants with the proper mail id which the team members registered on ICPC BAYLOR. Remember only a Team Coach can create the team.

A sample ICPC Problem: A usual ICPC problem has the following features: 

  1. Problem statement: describing the problem and what output is to be generated.
  2. Input: Make sure that you read this section with complete attention as missing out on any minor detail may land you in the wrong answer zone.
  3. Output: Just like above, this one also should be read carefully.
  4. Constraints: These can include constraints on input, time, memory, code size, etc.
  5. Time limit: See if your algorithm can work in this range. If not, time to change it!
  6. Memory limit: If you are fond of allocating memory for every small thing, it’s a good time you change it.

Preparing for ACM-ICPC

First and foremost Step: PRACTICE – Following are the resources that can be referred to for practicing the ACM-ICPC alike contests and problems. For all these Online Judges, begin with the problems with maximum submissions and check other solutions to check how you may improve. Do Participate in their monthly contests to remain up to the mark. 

  • ACM-ICPC Past Problems – ICPC Archive, Practice at Codechef
  • TopCoder – Proceed by increasing problem levels gradually
  • Codeforces -List of Problem Sets
  • Codechef – Beginners can start with Codechef Beginners and proceed further
  • SPOJ – Move from easy to tough problems
  • USACO – Excellent training resource
  • uvaOnline Judge – Huge repository of problems
  • Hackerrank – Practice problems topic wise and participate in preparatory series
  • Hackerearth – Participate in preparatory series
  • Practice – Good for beginners. Has problems ranging from difficulty level School to Hard.
  • List of various Competitive Programming Contests available online all throughout the year
  • Usaco Guide – Provides detailed explanations of each topic, as well as numerous practice problems.
  • Atcoder – Contest A,B,C are beginner friendly and can help you in strengtheing your algorithms. 



What to study?

Knowing just the basics of programming won’t be fruitful for aspirants of ACM ICPC. One needs to have a thorough knowledge of advanced algorithms used as well. The following Topics list out the necessary Topics and Algorithms that one must surely know to improve and stand a chance in the actual competition. 



Elementary data structures: To begin with competitive programming, one must master Data Structures. Following is the list of most commonly used data structures: 

Advanced Data Structures 
Priority queues, union-find sets, (augmented) interval trees, (augmented) balanced BSTs, and binary indexed trees 

More Advanced Data Structures. 

Sorting and Searching: Concentrate on learning the basic concepts and also get familiar with all the library functions available. 

String manipulation: Strings make programming problems interesting and difficult too and probably thats the reason they are used extensively in such contests. Learning library functions for String actually proves very helpful (C++: See this and this, String in Java). 

Choosing the right Language: C++ is to date most preferred language followed by Java when it comes to programming contests but you should always choose a language you are comfortable with. Being CONFIDENT in any language is most important. 

Standard Template Library: A quintessential especially for those using C++ as a language for coding 

Dynamic Programming 

All DP Algorithms 


More articles on Backtracking 

Greedy Algorithms 

More articles on Greedy Algorithms 

Graph Algorithms: One of the most important topics which you can not ignore if preparing for ACM – ICPC. 

All Graph Algorithms 

Basic Mathematics

Arithmetic: Programmers must know how integers and real numbers are represented internally and should be able to code high-precision numbers. Bit manipulation tricks and knowing library functions for number basic arithmetic would be very helpful. 

Number theory: Knowing some of these concepts would save a lot of time and effort while programming in the contests. 

Combinatorics : Although directly might not seem to be important, Combinatorics is important to estimate asymptotic complexity of algorithms. 

Geometrical Algorithms 

Network Flow Algorithms 

All Articles on Geometric Algorithms 

More Advanced Stuff

Bit Algorithms, Randomized Algorithms, Branch and Bound, Mathematical Algorithms, Heavy Light Decomposition, A* Search 

Informative Articles that you may like to read


Programming Camp Syllabus 



Last Updated : 25 May, 2023
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