When I was a freshman in the university, I was a member of my university Olympiad team to compete on the Student Physics Olympiad. And I failed to get a single medal. Although the results weren't good, the fact that I had a chance to go to the competition is one of my competitive points. How can I write that down on my CV?

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    No. Just no. If you get caught falsifying facts, you will be in even worse position.
    – Erbureth
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 11:04
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    Never lie in your CV. It will most certainly backfire. @Ooker the success is that you made it to the competition; no more, no less.
    – Davidmh
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 11:19
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    I'm worried that it's confusing to lecture the OP not to lie on a CV, when they aren't considering lying or looking anything to lie about. "Pretend you succeed" is vague and misleading advice, which is probably why it was never turned into an answer.
    – user18072
    Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 4:11
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    @djechlin: it's not vague, it's pretty clear, and it's not misleading, it's plain wrong, dangerous, and highly irresponsible to suggest lying.
    – Lie Ryan
    Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 9:49
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    @LieRyan yes, but when you lecture someone on the dangers of lying when that person isn't lying, you're kind of implying they're lying. That's the problem; not the accuracy of the contextless advice.
    – user18072
    Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 12:01

3 Answers 3


the fact that I had a chance to go to the competition is one of my competitive points. How can I write that down on my CV?

You almost wrote down exactly what you need.

  • was selected to go to SPO, [...which is an accomplishment why?] an extremely selective program admitting only [top X% of, Y hundred, etc.] physics students nationwide

And it's always fine to say "placed in the top 1/2 of students" if true. Just from a resume writing standpoint anything worse than top 1/2 wouldn't add value to include.

As an aside, you are completely right that this is huge lauds. In high school I placed #8 in a similar state-wide competition. What if the top 10 were invited for an even more competitive competition and I came darn near in last? Don't fall for the Russian doll effect which more or less just tells you you're not #1 in the world (...but even the best undergraduate programs admit more than one physics student!) Obviously the admission would be an accomplishment.

Quantification is important. Numbers are best for a corporate resume, but perhaps just establishing the prestige of SPO is sufficient. Check their website for info on how prestigious it is to participate. Perhaps they have recognition from the U.S. President or something - whatever it is they'll be sure to brag about it somewhere. If the reviewer does not know of SPO, they will have no way to tell this isn't just an email list with 30 students submitting problems and answers with a leader board.

  • Thanks for your answer. I worked on the experiment part and failed on measure the required things. So basically I was in the bottom half. But I may use your words in the bullet. However I don't have an exact X or Y number. Is is OK to avoid them?
    – Ooker
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 3:21
  • @Ooker I'll put it this way: some day in the future you're going to be telling a corporation, in your resume, that you will make them X dollars or save them Y dollars. If you're a startup engineer? Well, there were X engineers, we sold for Y million dollars so I made Y/X million dollars. Come up with reasonable estimates that if asked about you could explain, and use them.
    – user18072
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 3:39
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    @Ooker if the reviewer is unfamiliar with SPO, then they will have zero idea whether this is a national email list that 30 people sign up for or a Big Deal. You need to quantify this somehow if you want it to look like a serious achievement to an uninformed person.
    – user18072
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 3:40
  • @Ooker also try their website for this kind of info (they probably have a blurb on how prestigious they are, which is what you need) or directly reach out to them to ask how to quantify how great it is to participate.
    – user18072
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 3:43
  • Your explanation convinces me. I'll accept this. I've tried to search on their website, but they don't show that data. I'll ask them directly and if they are too busy to answer me, I'll estimate it as you suggested.
    – Ooker
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 6:09

Firstly, you did not 'fail' - you were part of a team and competed - so congratulations on that.

Secondly, it can't hurt to include an entry in you CV under a heading like 'Other Achievements', something along the lines of:

(Year), Competed as part of (Team) for the Student Physics Olympiad.

If you have space, briefly describe positive aspects of your participation.

  • Thanks for your respond. Actually I attempt to write this under the Activities section, so they can go along with other activities, like my volunteer jobs. Because of this, I think I will need to have a describe of every activities. I just don't know how to find a positive aspect of this, except that I was a member.
    – Ooker
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 3:13
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    You competed and were a participant - that is in itself a major positive
    – user21984
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 3:19
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    @Ooker my resume had an "awards" subsection of education when I finished college. You might experiment with that format. I would try not to make this look equivalent to volunteer work, since this is a Big Achievement that speaks to your aptitude rather than a small achievement that speaks to your personality, character, etc.
    – user18072
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 3:42
  • @djechlin: I also attended to the Student Chess Championship. Does this equivalent to the Olympiad?
    – Ooker
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 6:12
  • @Ooker I have no idea. You have to research or decide this for yourself, and writing resumes involves making annoying tradeoffs based on space concerns.
    – user18072
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 11:29

When you go to an interview, the interviewees often read your CV beforehand looking for subjects they can talk to you about. They are often very interested in anything that will let them explore how good your are at team work etc.

So yes you should list it, but be ready to give positive answers to questions about it, what you learned, and how you help your other team members etc.

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