The Putnam Exam is a national mathematics contest for undergraduate students. It is held each year on the first Saturday of December. Questions range over all subjects covered in undergraduate math courses: calculus, linear algebra, abstract algebra, number theory, probability, combinatorics, geometry, etc.
Each exam is given in two sessions: one three-hour session in the morning, and one three-hour session in the afternoon. Six problems are given during each session. Up to 10 points can be earned on each problem, so there is a total of 120 points available to be earned. The questions are (usually) extremely difficult, and receiving just 1 point on the Putnam exam is considered an achievement.
Roughly 3000 undergraduate mathematics students take the Putnam exam each year. The names of the top 500 finishers are published, with extra acclaim going to those in the top 200. These lists are sent to graduate schools across the country; those who do well on the Putnam exam will have a much stronger chance of getting into the graduate school of their choice.
As an added benefit, the Biola math department offers a small cash prize for those that score at least 6 points on the Putnam exam. The first five points are worth nothing; the next five points are worth $5 each, and every subsequent point is worth $15.
Biola offers a 1 unit Putnam review class (Math 480) every fall semester; we discuss various problems from past exams, and strategies that can be used for solving them.
Check out this Putnam Archive webpage for a list of all past Putnam problems and solutions used since 1995.
If you are a current Biola student and wish to take the Putnam exam this December, please contact Joseph DiMuro at firstname.lastname@example.org.