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Putnam Competition

About the Putnam Competition

The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition is the preeminent mathematics competition for undergraduate college students in the United States and Canada. The Putnam Competition takes place annually on the first Saturday of December. The competition consists of two 3-hour sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The Putnam Competition is an annual examination consisting of twelve problems, each worth ten points. Testing originality as well as technical competence, the examination's median score is often zero points out of 120. 

The Putnam began in 1938 as a competition between mathematics departments at colleges and universities. Now the competition has grown to be the leading university-level mathematics examination in the world. Although participants work independently on the problems, there is a team aspect of the competition as well. Prizes are awarded to the participants with the highest scores and to the departments of mathematics of the five institutions the sum of whose top three scores is greatest.

The Northwestern Putnam Team

Prior to 2019, the Putnam Supervisor used the results of a selection test to select three students to form the official Northwestern Putnam Team. Students not selected for the official team could still participate in the competition as individual contestants.

Since 2019, there is no need for preselection of team members. Institutions will be ranked by the sum of the scores of their top three participants. The top three participants will be referred as the team for that institution, but the team will not bet determined until grading is complete.

2023 Putnam Competition

The examination for the  Eighty Fourth William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition took place on Saturday, December 2nd, 2023, in two sessions:

Note: In order to attend the examination students had to register - see the official page

See the Putnam page and this page for more details.

Putnam Competition Training

To prepare for the Putnam Competition, the Department of Mathematics hosts weekly problem-solving sessions (usually during the Fall quarter). We welcome any student interested in tackling difficult problems, regardless of whether he or she intends to participate in the Putnam Competition.

The Organizational Meeting was on Tuesday, September 26th, at 6pm in Room 104 of Lunt Hall (Mathematics Department). At the meeting, we discussed, among other things, holding training sessions for students interested in participating the competition or just in math problem solving.

Training sessions: Unless otherwise specified training sessions will be in Lunt 104. Check the schedule here.

Mailing List

Request subscription to the Putnam emailing list by sending an email to with the following line in its body:

where Your Name means that you must write your name there.

Alternatively, please click in one of the following links, depending on whether you want to subscribe or unsubscribe:

Clicking on one of those links will fire up the mail program associated to your browser with the appropriate command for the listserver already typed in. Note however that if your choice is to subscribe Putnam, you must add your name at the end of the line "subscribe Putnam", otherwise the listserver will reply with an error message saying that the name is missing.

Resources and Further information

 Contact the Putnam Supervisor for further information.