General Rules

Regional Contest rules may vary from those in this document. Additional rules, exceptions, and other information pertaining to a specific regional contest can be found at the regional contest website.


The ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest is an activity of the ACM that provides college students with an opportunity to demonstrate and sharpen their problem-solving and computing skills.


The contest is a two-tiered competition among teams of students representing institutions of higher education. Teams first compete in regional contests held around the world from September to November each year. The winning team from each regional contest advances to the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest World Finals, typically held the following March to mid-April. Additional high-ranking teams may be invited to the World Finals as wild card teams.


The Contest Steering Committee, chaired by the contest director, sets the policy and general rules for the conduct of the contest. The contest director is solely responsible for interpreting the rules and for ruling on unforeseen situations.

For each regional contest, the contest director appoints a regional contest director who is charged with executing a regional contest within rules and guidelines which have been approved by the contest director. Regional rules may vary to accommodate differences in educational systems and host computing facilities.


Coaches may report claims of rule violations or misconduct of the contest within 7 days of the regional contest to the Director of Regional Contests, who will in turn make a recommendation to the Contest Steering Committee. The Contest Steering Committee may, by a 2/3 vote, overturn the results of the regional contest no later than the first Monday in December. Only rules violations and misconduct may be appealed. The decision of judges in accepting or rejecting problems are final.


The language of the Contest is English. All written contest materials will be in English. Additional languages may be used in regional contests. Terms which have undefined or different meanings outside the United States must be defined or redefined appropriately in that region's Region-Specific Rules. For example, the term baccalaureate degree may not be appropriate in some regions. A local term which is equivalent should then be specified, typically representing students from 19 to 22 years old. Rules may vary at the regional level to accommodate these differences.

Note:  Age plays no role in eligibility.

Team Composition

A representative of the sponsoring institution, typically a faculty member, must serve as or designate the team coach. The coach certifies the eligibility of contestants and serves as the official point of contact with the team.

Each team consists of up to three contestants. Each contestant must be a student enrolled in a degree program at the sponsoring institution with at least a half-time load. This rule is not to be construed as disqualifying co-op students, exchange students, or students serving internships. A student may compete for only one institution during a contest year.

At most one contestant of each team may hold a baccalaureate degree. No contestant may have completed two years of post-baccalaureate studies or hold a graduate degree. Students who have competed in two World Finals may no longer compete in the contest.

Contestant eligibility is determined during the academic term ending closest to the date of the regional contest. Graduation and degree conferrals are considered to occur after a term has been completed, not during that term. Any questions of eligibility should be posed to the regional contest director.

A team is not eligible to compete in the regional contest until the regional contest director has received all materials that certify team eligibility from the coach.

Only one team from a given institution may advance to the World Finals.

Where to Compete

Each team is expected to compete in the contest within its defined region. However, a team that is geographically closer to the site of another regional contest may, with the written consent of the Director of Regional Contests, switch its affiliation for the regional contest. An institution may send contestants to only one regional contest in a given year.

Regional Contest Attendance

All team members must attend all contest activities as specified by the regional contest director for that region. The coach is expected to attend or be available by phone during contest activities.  Failure to attend any of the designated contest events will result in automatic disqualification and forfeiture of any scholarships and prizes.

Conduct of a regional contest

Contestants may bring resource materials such as books, manuals, and program listings. Contestants may not bring any machine-readable versions of software or data.

Solutions to problems submitted for judging are called runs. Each run is judged as accepted or rejected by a judge, and the team is notified of the results.

Notification of accepted runs may be suspended at an appropriate time to keep the final results secret. A general announcement to that effect will be made during the contest. Notification of rejected runs will continue until the end of the contest.

A contestant may submit a claim of ambiguity or error in a problem statement by submitting a clarification request to a judge. If the judges agrees that an ambiguity or error exists, a clarification will be issued to all contestants.

Contestants are not to converse with anyone except members of their team and personnel designated by the regional contest director. Systems support staff may advise contestants on system-related problems such as explaining system error messages.

While the contest is scheduled for a particular time length (typically five hours), the regional contest director has the authority to alter the length of the contest in the event of unforeseen difficulties. Should the contest duration be altered, every attempt will be made to notify contestants in a timely and uniform manner.

A team may be disqualified by the regional contest director for any activity that jeopardizes the contest such as dislodging extension cords, unauthorized modification of contest materials, or distracting behavior.

At least six problems will be posed. So far as possible, problems will avoid dependence on detailed knowledge of a particular applications area or particular contest language.

Scoring of a regional contest

The judges are solely responsible for determining the correctness of submitted runs. In consultation with the judges, the regional contest director determines the winners of the regional contest. The regional contest director and judges are empowered to adjust for or adjudicate unforeseen events and conditions. Their decisions are final.

Teams are ranked according to the most problems solved. For the purposes of awards, or in determining qualifier(s) for the World Finals, teams who solve the same number of problems are ranked by least total time. The total time is the sum of the time consumed for each problem solved. The time consumed for a solved problem is the time elapsed from the beginning of the contest to the submittal of the accepted run plus 20 penalty minutes for every rejected run for that problem regardless of submittal time. There is no time consumed for a problem that is not solved.

It is the responsibility of the regional contest director to specify any additional tie-breakers. Tie-breaker policies must be announced to contestants before the contest begins.

Regional Contest Computing Environment

The programming languages of the regional contest include C and C++. Additional programming languages may be used. The programming languages of the World Finals are Pascal, C, C++, and Java.

Each team will use a single workstation. The regional contest director is responsible for determining that teams have reasonably equivalent computing resources.