Here are some tips for writing the AMC (American Mathematics Competitions):
- Set realistic goals for yourself, and don't be too worried about doing "badly". The AMC is designed to be difficult; the average test-taker gets less than half of the questions right, and the "average" person taking the AMC is above-average in math. So, even if you don't get many questions right, your performance is still creditable.
- It may not be to your advantage to attempt every question; it may be better to concentrate on relatively easy questions and ignore the last several questions, giving you more time to work on the remainder. For example:
- If you're trying to score 100 (to qualify for the AIME), it might be better to concentrate on the first 20 questions and attempt to answer them with at least 80% accuracy.
- If you want to score, say, 75, focus on doing the first 12 to 15 questions well. Ignoring the last 10 to 13 questions will give you around twice as much time to focus on the earlier, easier, questions.
- The AMC is a multiple-choice test, so most of the tips on the multiple choice test tips page apply.
- Keeping in mind that that there are 5 answer choices and that you get 1.5 points for leaving a question blank, you get a net 4.5 points for a correct answer but −1.5 points for a wrong answer, don't guess randomly; it will cost you marks on the average. However, if you can eliminate two or more answers before guessing, it may be to your benefit to guess.
- Each question is weighted equally; easy questions aren't worth any less than hard questions, so don't rush through the easy ones so quickly that you make careless mistakes.
- Make sure that you have all allowable aids (rulers, compasses, protractors, graph paper). Drawing figures when working out the problems is often an important step, and these aids will help you to do so well.
- Figures are not necessarily drawn to scale, but using your ruler or protractor to measure them might help to give you at least a rough idea of what the answer might be.
- If your results on the AMC are important for you, it's probably a good idea to prepare for it. If you decide to do so:
- Working through problems on old copies of tests is the best way of preparing. You can find many old copies of contests at the Art of Problem Solving wiki; they can also be found at several other places online, such as here, or your school may have some contests from previous years. You can also find a problem a day at MAAMinuteMath, and
contest problem books are also available.
- Don't study for the AMC as if it were a class test or exam. The AMC is primarily a test of how well you can think and solve problems, not a test of how well you know specific content. While most of the content in the questions is of the sort that you would learn in math class, it is employed in unusual ways that require insight and originality. It can help to study problem solving skills as well as strategies for discovering how to solve problems.
- While not strictly necessary, since you aren't allowed to use a calculator, you may want to brush up on your mental arithmetic skills and learn some calculation shortcuts. As well, you may find it helpful to know what the approximate values of certain common expressions are (e.g. to take two examples out of many, √2 is approximately equal to 1.41, or that 3/7 is approximately equal to 0.43).