The most important national mathematics competitions for high school students and below are those in the series beginning with AMC 10 and AMC 12 (the American Mathematics Competition). These are the first in a series of contests (AMC → AIME → USAMO) that are used to decide
- who the individual USA national champions are,
- who qualifies for the Math Olympiad Summer Program (MOSP – a free summer math training program), and
- who will comprise the US math Olympiad team that competes in the International Mathematical Olympiad — the world championship for high school mathematics.
Both MIT and Caltech have had entry blanks on their official admission application forms for the applicant to enter their best AMC and AIME scores.
Which test should I take?
AMC 10 and 12 are offered twice each February (an A exam and a B exam), and a student can take one A exam and one B exam with the better of the two scores used to determine if they qualify for the subsequent contests and MOSP. Students in 11th and 12th grade should take the AMC 12 twice. Students in grades 10 and below should take either the AMC 10 twice, or the AMC 12 twice, or one of each. Students in 8th grade and below can also participate in the AMC 8 contest, but AMC 8 does not allow the student to qualify for any of the other things mentioned above. A student who takes AMC 8 should also take the AMC 10 and/or AMC 12 if possible.
How do I register for the test?
If your school offers AMC 10A, 10B, 12A, and 12B then you are all set. If your school does not, then you have several options available.
- If you are in middle school, you can ask your local high school if they offer the AMC contests and if they will allow you to participate. (Note that your middle school may also participate in the AMC 8 contest).
- If your high school does not already offer the AMC, you can request that they offer it this year.
- If your high school only offers the AMC 10A/12A but not the AMC 10B/12B or vice versa, or if your school refuses to offer any AMC contest, then you can take the AMC contests for free at the University of Scranton. Simply fill in this form:
to register to take it at the University of Scranton (we can host up to ten students for each of the four contests). Last year the contest was also offered at other local universities which might be a shorter drive for you. See the latest list of university AMC host sites.
Thus, everyone can take the AMC 10 or 12 by taking it at a university host site, if necessary. There are also other options available for home-schooled students to take the AMC. See the AMC website for details.
How should I prepare for the test?
Students in 8th grade or below should participate in the MATHCOUNTS competition and training program. This will give them a solid foundation for the AMC.
For high school students, the best way to prepare is by taking old AMC contests under exam conditions (timed, no calculator, etc.). You can find recent problems and solutions for AMC 10 and AMC 12 at the Art of Problem Solving website, or you can purchase official copies directly from the AMC website. You can compute your score by adding 6 points for each correct answer and 1.5 points for each blank answer. Thus when practicing, a typical student should strive to maximize their score by leaving questions blank if they have no idea how to solve them. Scores above 100 points on the AMC 12 and above 120 points on the AMC 10 usually qualify for the next round of the competition, the AIME. It is very difficult for a beginner to qualify for AIME, so don’t expect to do so on the first attempt. But don’t give up. Your score will improve with practice!
Students who would like to have coaching and instruction in addition to just practicing old exams have several options. First you should see if the AMC coach at your high school or a local high school is offering practices and a training program. The Art of Problem Solving website also offers some online classes to prepare students for the AMC 10 and AMC 12. Exceptionally advanced high school students who live near the University of Scranton can contact me about taking my undergraduate class on Problem Solving.
What should I bring to the contest?
Students may use writing utensils, scratch paper, graph paper, rulers, compass, protractors, and erasers. Calculators are not allowed. We will provide scratch paper and at least one No.2 pencil for filling in the bubbles in the answer sheet, but you should bring the other items with you if you want to use them on the contest (I recommend bringing them since it can’t hurt to have them).
Students learning “English as a Second Language” (ESL) may use a book nontechnical dictionary between their native language and English. A student may use the dictionary only the first time that he/she takes the AMC 10/AMC 12. The dictionary must be given to the contest manager to examine and retain for the 24-hour period preceding the contest.
When and where is the test adminstered?
The times and locations of the AMC contests at the University of Scranton are listed at the top of the registration page:
You can find the relevant building on these maps of campus. Parents who are waiting for their child to finish the contest might want to in or near the Starbucks in the DeNaples Center (building #38 on the map). Northern Light is also an excellent coffee shop within walking distance. The contest is 75 minutes long. We will provide scratch paper and yellow No.2 pencils for all students but students may prefer to bring their own writing utensils and erasers as well.
Note: if the university is closed due to weather conditions, the AMC contest will be canceled as well. You can check the status at the university Severe Weather hotline.
Parking is available for parents of students participating in this event. Simply park on the 4th floor of the parking pavilion (building #17 on the map of campus).