We identify aspects of computing competition formats as they relate to the purpose of these competitions, both stated and tacit. We consider the major international competitions - the International Olympiad for Informatics, the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest, and top coder - and related contests whose format merits consideration. We consider the operational impact and possible outcomes of incorporating several of these aspects into scholastic competitions. We advocate, in particular, that contests be designed so as to provide a rewarding experience and opportunity for achievement for all competitors; not just the winners. Specific contest elements that should be considered are: (1) real-time scoring and feedback, (2) rewards for testing and test case creation, (3) tasks with graduated difficulty, (4) collaborative tasks, (5) practice contests and entry-level contests for novices, and (6) inclusion of spectators.
We examine the precision with which the cumulative score from a suite of test cases ranks participants in the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI). Our concern is the ability of these scores to reflect achievement at all levels, as opposed to reflecting chance or arbitrary factors involved in composing the test suite. Test cases are assumed to be drawn from an infinite population of similar cases; variance in standardized rank is estimated by the bootstrap method and used to compute confidence intervals which contain the hypothetical true ranking with 95% probability. We examine the relative contribution of easy (so-called fifty-percent rule) cases and hard cases to the overall ranking. Empirical results based on IOI 2005 suggest that easy and hard cases are both material to the ranking, but the proportion of each is unimportant.