Q. #1. I don't know about the American Mathematics Competitions. What are they? What are the different contests?
A. The mission of the MAA's American Mathematics Competitions is to increase interest in mathematics and to develop problem solving through a fun competition. Teachers and schools benefit from the chance to challenge students with interesting mathematical questions that are aligned with curriculum standards at all levels of difficulty. In addition, students gain the opportunity to learn and achieve through competition with students in their school and around the world.
- The AMC 8 is a 25-question multiple-choice contest for middle-school students in grades 8 and below who are under 14.4 years of age on the day of the contest. The material covered is the middle school mathematics curriculum. Topics include probability, estimation, percentages, spatial visualization, everyday applications and reading and interpreting graphs. The AMC 8 is for students in the sixth through eighth grade, although accelerated fourth and fifth graders can also take part. The AMC 8 is 25 questions in length and is multiple choice with no penalty for guessing. The contest takes only 40 minutes. A student's score is the number of problems correctly answered. The AMC 8 is administered in schools in November.
- The AMC 12 covers high school mathematics, and is for students in high school who are under 19.5 years of age on the day of the contest. The AMC 10 covers mathematics normally associated with grades 9 and 10 and is for students under 17.5 years of age on the day of the contest who are not enrolled in grades 11, 12 or equivalent. Both contests are given in a convenient 75-minute interval, is 25 questions in length, with approximately 12 questions in common to both contests. The AMC 10 and AMC 12 are administered in schools in February.
- The American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME) is a 3-hour integer answer contest. Students will qualify for the AIME and can participate in the AIME only they score 120 or above on finish in the top 2.5% of the AMC 10, or if a student scores 100 or above or finishes in the top 5% of the AMC 12. The AIME is administered in schools in March.
- The USAMO is a six question, two day, 9 hour essay/proof examination. The Junior Mathematical Olympiad or USAJMO contest better meets the level of young students. The USAJMO new contest bridges the computational solution process of the AIME and the proof orientation of the USAMO. Both are administered the last week of April. All problems can be solved with pre-calculus methods. Approximately 270 of the top scoring AMC 12 participants (based on a weighted average) are invited to take the USAMO. Approximately 230 of the top scoring AMC 10 participants (based on a weighted average) are invited to take the USAJMO. U.S. citizens and students legally residing in the United States and Canada (with qualifying scores) are eligible to take the USAMO and USAJMO.
Q. #2. All the problems seem really difficult. What should I do to learn how to solve them?
A. We recommend studying the problems and solutions from previous tests. These previous tests are available on the AMC Publications page. You can also prepare through AMC Advantage™ at amc.edfinity.com.
Q. #3. What books should I buy to study from or to improve my scores?
A.There are many fine books to study. We suggest you start by looking through the Problem Books Section at the MAA Bookstore. Currently, the Contest Problem Books Volumes I - IX catalog all the AMC contest problems from 1950 to 2007 and these books are a good place to start. Another suggestion is to use the search and recommendation features of Amazon.com.
Q. #4. Who can take the AMC contests?
A. Any student in any registered school who meets the respective age/grade restrictions for the AMC 8, AMC 10 and AMC 12 may take the respective contests. Students may take the AIME after qualification by being in the (approximately) top 2.5% of scorers on the AMC 10 and the (approximately) top 5% of scorers on the AMC 12. The USAMO is restricted by invitation to students attending school in the United States or Canada and citizens of the United States living abroad. The only requirement for participation in the AMC 8, AMC 10 and AMC 12 is registration by the participating school.
Q. #5. How young can a person start in the AMC program?
A. Students can begin at any age that they and their parent/teacher/mentor believes them to be ready respectively for the AMC 8, AMC 10, or AMC 12. Students as young as 8 have participated in the AMC contests.
Q. #6. What are the tests that lead to the United States of America Mathematics Olympiad (USAMO) and USA Junior Mathematical Olympiad (USAJMO)?
A. The AMC 8 is a standalone contest with benefits of its own (listed in the AMC 8 section of the FAQ). The path to the USAMO and USAJMO begins with either the AMC 10 or AMC 12. Approximately the top 2.5% of AMC 10 students and top 5% of AMC 12 students qualify to take the American Invitation Mathematics Examination (AIME). Students with the top 270 10*AIME + AMC 12 scores are then invited to take the USAMO. The 230 students with the 10*AIME + AMC 10 scores are then invited to take the USAJMO. Taking it a step farther, the top 12 students named USAMO winners take the Team Selection Test (TST) to determine the 6 member United States International Mathematics Olympiad team.
Q. #7. What if my school does not offer the AMC tests?
A. Urge your principal, math teacher, gifted education coordinator or anyone else you can think of at your school to help your school register for the contest. If your school doesn’t offer the AMC tests, then one option would be to offer the tests to your school. You could offer to pay for the registration and material cost for the school, making it hard for them to refuse. Organize a math club, or get the existing Math Club to sponsor and fund the registration for the contest. Please make arrangements for your school to register as we must send the contest materials to the school directly. Some colleges and universities also host the contests, particularly the “B” date of the AMC 10/12. Check our web pages for a list of participating Institutions of Higher Learning.
Q. #8. How can I get all my scores from past years if our school didn't keep everything?
A. Write a letter or an email to the AMC office with your request. Our postal address and our email address are on all of our literature.
- Be sure to specify your name, exactly as it was used on the contest, the years that you took the contests, which contest you took, the name of the school where you participated (the school’s CEEB will help us look it up faster, if you know it), the city, the state and the Zip/Postal Code.
- Requests for scores are answered only for the student who took the test and received the scores, their parent/guardian, or school counselor.
- Please allow up to two weeks for an answer.
Q. #9. Where can I get past AMC papers and solutions?
A. You can order copies of problem papers and solutions directly from the AMC office. See AMC Publications.
You can also order CDs that have all the AHSMEs from 1950 - 1974 (the AHSME Volume I CD, item 9) and the AHSMEs from 1975-1999 (the AHSME Volume II, item 10) and a CD that has all the AIMEs from 1984 and all the USAMOs from 1972 on, item 11. Furthermore, the problems and solutions are reproduced from the original source, so there are no typos, no edits, and the original solutions. The CD that comes with the Math Club Package contains all the contests, AMC 8, 10, 12, AIME and USAMO from 2000 to 2009. We have not yet added the 2009 -2010 contests.
Q. #10. How do we get our organization (home schools, learning centers, testing center, etc.) involved in the AMC contests?
A. We prefer to offer our contest to public schools, a few government accredited private schools, colleges and universities. Before allowing other organizations to register for the contests, we would like to do further research about your academic structure. In order for us to do the required research, please provide American Math Competitions with complete information about your organization, including:
- Organization Name
- Contact Person
- Email Address
- Complete Address, City, State and Zip
- Student Population
- Also include any other information helpful in our research.
Please allow 4 to 6 weeks for the research to be complete and a decision or determination to be made. You will be contacted by email.
Q. #11. Could you please clarify how the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals (Intramural school awards) are awarded?
- To earn a medal requires taking the same test consecutively: AMC 10 or AMC 12
- There are no medals for the AMC 8
- Earning top place on the AMC 8 Middle School Contest does not qualify you for earning a consecutive medal on the AMC 10 or AMC 12
- Earning top place on the AMC 10 does not qualify you for earning a consecutive medal on the AMC 12.
- Awards are earned in consecutive years, not consecutive tests, so if a student earns a top score in 2005 on the AMC 10B, and earns a top score on the 2006 AMC 10A and AMC 10B, they would receive 2 Bronze medals. If in 2007 they receive the top score on only the AMC 10A they would receive 1 Silver Medal. Then if in 2008 they earn the top score in both the AMC 10A and AMC 10B they would receive 2 gold medals.
- All top scores do not have to be at the same school as long as the student is the top score at the school they are currently attending, they will earn the appropriate award. The challenge to us comes with matching a student name from two different schools, and we generally need to be told. For example: we would have trouble matching top scorer Suzie Quezy at Lincoln High School in 2007, with the name Suzie Quezy at Omaha Central in 2005 and sometimes we know a student has moved (because the parents call us) but most of the time we don't. There are many similar names that have no relation to each other, even within the same school, let alone across the country, so generally we need to be told.
- If you take one of the high school contests (AMC 10 or AMC 12) in either middle school or high school, and you are the top student, you receive a pin (first year top award for a specific contest).
- If in the second year in a row you take the same contest and are again the top student, you receive a bronze medal ( 2nd year top award for a specific contest).
- If in the third year in a row you take the same contest and are again the top student, you receive a silver medal ( 3rd year top award for a specific contest).
- If in the fourth year in a row you take the same contest and are again the top student, you receive a gold medal ( 4th year top award for a specific contest).
- If in the fifth year in a row you take the same contest and are again the top student, you receive a another gold medal.
In this way it is possible for one person to earn top honors in a school every year they take a specific contest.
- If they start in 6th grade winning top school honors for the AMC 12 there would be 7 first place finishes. They would have received a pin, a bronze medal, a silver medal, and 4 gold medals.
- If they start in 6th grade winning top school honors for the AMC 10 there would be 5 first place finishes on the AMC 10. They would have received a pin, a bronze medal, a silver medal, and 2 gold medals. Then they would have to take the AMC 12, and they would receive 2 first place finishes, but the tally starts over again, and they would receive a pin and a bronze medal for those two years
Q. #12. What AMC 12 (or AIME) score do you need to get into University X
A. From the February 14, 2006 blog of Ben Jones, in Admissions at MIT: "A good AIME score will certainly help you. I can't give you an exact number because it depends on how it fits into the overall context of your application, but you should report any AIME scores to us - they can never hurt you.''
Q. #13. Do you have any philosophical advice for students, parents and teachers about the AMC contests?
A. Here are some principles that we think are useful advice.
- Remember, the process is not about you or about "notching your belt" with accomplishments and honors. The contests are to provide high quality, challenging math problems aligned with the high school curriculum. The purpose is to increase interest in mathematics and to develop problem solving through a fun competition. We aim to challenge students with interesting mathematics questions at all levels of difficulty. This gives students the opportunity to learn and achieve through competition.
- Teachers and parents should help students prepare but let the students perform at the appropriate level and take pleasure in solving challenging mathematics problems.
- Encourage students to do their own preparation at their own pace.
- Prepare students for occasional disappointment and discouragement. The contest problems are often much harder than the math that is typically covered in school.
- Do not let stereotypes or misguided information steer students away from either studying for the contests or pursuing other additional interests that they may have.