You are here

Putnam Competition

What is 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. During each session, participants work individually on 6 challenging mathematical problems.

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 to the competition as well. Institutions are ranked according to the sum of the scores of their three highest-scoring participants. 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.


2019 Putnam Competition Problems and Solutions

The 2019 William Lowell Putnam Competition Problems and Solutions are now available to download. Follow the links below to access the PDF files. Problems and solutions starting from the year 2017 can be found on the Putnam Competition Archive page.


  2019 Putnam Competition Problems

  2019 Putnam Competition Solutions A Session

  2019 Putnam Competition Solutions B Session


  2019 Putnam Competition Problems & Solutions



Click here to access the 2019 Announcement of Winners, which includes Putnam Fellows, next highest ranking individuals, honorable mentions, Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prize winners, winning teams, and teams earning honorable mentions.

Click here to access the press release for the 2019 William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition.

Results for past William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competitions can also be found here.

Preparing for the Putnam

The Putnam Competition covers a range of material in undergraduate mathematics, including elementary concepts from linear algebra, modern algebra, analysis, and number theory. Below are some books available for purchase that may help students prepare for this exam:


Registration for the 2020 Putnam Mathematical Competition will open on September 1, 2020.

Undergraduate students must participate through their college or university in which they are regularly enrolled. Those who already hold a bachelor’s degree are ineligible. No individual may participate in the competition more than four times. An eligible student who has not yet received a high school diploma should be informed of this limit before participating.

Any college or university in the United States or Canada that wishes to offer the competition to their students must name a regular faculty member to serve as the local supervisor of the competition. 


FAQs for the Putnam

  1. Q. Who may participate in the Putnam?

    A. The competition is open only to regularly enrolled undergraduates, in colleges and universities of the United States and Canada, who have not yet received a college degree. No individual may participate in the competition more than four times.

  2. Q. How are the problems graded?

    A. Each problem is graded on a basis of 0 to 10 points. All the necessary work to justify an answer and all the necessary steps of a proof must be shown clearly to obtain full credit. Some partial credit may be given, but only when a contestant has shown significant and substantial progress toward a solution.

  3. Q. How does the team competition work?

    ​A. All participants in the competition compete individually, without collaboration. Prior to 2019, each institution was represented by a preselected team of three participants. Starting in 2019, there is no preselection of team members. Institutions are ranked by the sum of the scores of their top three participants. We refer to these top three participants as the team for that institutions, but the team is not determined until grading is complete.

  4. Q. What awards are given for the Putnam?

    A. There are two main awards given to Putnam Participants:

    Institutions throughout the United States and Canada are encouraged to offer fellowships to high ranking contestants in the competition. For more information on scholarships and prizes, visit:
    • William Lowell Putnam Prizes: Prizes will be awarded to the departments of mathematics of the institutions with the top five winning teams. The five highest ranking individuals are designated Putnam Fellows by the Mathematical Association of America. Prizes will be awarded to each of these individuals and to each of the next twenty highest ranking contestants.
    • Elizabeth Lowell Putnam Prizes: This prize will be awarded to a woman who demonstrates exemplary performance on the Putnam Competition. This will be in addition to any other prizes she wins.
  5. Q. How are scores announced for the Putnam?

    A. The scores and rankings of individuals at a participating institution and the team ranking will be emailed to the supervisor of the examination at the institution. Participants will also be emailed their scores for the individual competition problems. An Announcement of Winners PDF, containing the names of the top 500 contestants and the names of the top 10 teams will be emailed to all participants and local supervisors. The lists of the top 10 teams and the top 100 individual contestants will also be published in the American Mathematical Monthly, together with the Putnam problems and solutions.