The International Biology Olympiad (IBO) was founded in 1989 by six nations and initially took place in 1990. It is an annual competition for students which focuses on promoting highly gifted biology students, especially at advanced secondary level. The national and international competition is funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). The Institute for Science Education in Kiel (IPN) is responsible for organising the national competition. It ends with four candidates being chosen for the Olympic team.

The objectives of the competition are: the promotion of an active interest in biology projects and the promotion of creative thinking when solving biological and ecological problems; initiating contact between students that are especially interested in biology; and developing friendly relations among young people from different countries in order to contribute to international teamwork and to promote an understanding of different nations.

The International Biology Olympiad takes place in summer in one of the participating countries. Full particulars about the selection of national teams, the tasks as well as the organization of IBOs is specified within an international IBO guide.

In Germany a four-level selection procedure (see procedure) takes place. From more than six hundred participants in the first round the four best German pupils in the subject biology for the IBO-team (see messages) are subsequently selected. Students in the German school system (i.e. also foreigners, who attended a school in Germany at least two years before the IBO or Germans at a German foreign school) can participate. They should, however, not be older than 20 years of age.