How to Prepare for the AMC 12 Math Contest
What is the AMC 12 Contest
The AMC 12 is a math contest organized by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). The AMC 12 contest contains 25 multiple choice questions that must be completed within 75 minutes. You get 1.5 points for every question that is left blank, so remember to not guess blindly.
The top 5% (approximately) students on the AMC 12 are invited to take the American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME).
Who can take the AMC 12
Students in grade 12 or below and under 19.5 years of age on the day of the contest can take the AMC 12. Note that even students in elementary/middle schools are eligible to take the contest.
Where can you take the AMC 12
Many high schools host the contest in their school. If your school doesn't offer the contest, you can try requesting your math teachers or principal to consider becoming a hosting site. You can also search for nearby locations hosting the contest using this zip code search.
The Mathematical Association of America also requests its member institutions of higher learning to consider offering the AMC 12 to students whose schools will not be offering the contest. You can find a list of alternate locations in your area here.
If you are in a school which does not host the contest, you can also reach out to math teachers in nearby high schools and check if any of them will allow outside students to take the contest.
How to score high on the AMC 12
So, how can you score well on the AMC 12? Here are four key things to focus on:
1. Understanding all the content: The problems go beyond the school curriculum, so if you're new to competition math you will need to learn a variety of concepts from Algebra, Number Theory, Combinatorics, and Geometry. Note: The AMC 12 contests include a few extra topics compared to the AMC 10, so you must specifically prepare for these topics:
c. Complex Numbers
2. Being able to apply concepts to tricky problems: AMC 12 problems are not straightforward like in school math, so the problems require creative thinking and that's something that can only be achieved with significant practice
3. Solving the problems accurately: You need to simulate test conditions to learn how to avoid common mistakes like calculation errors, silly mistakes, misreading the questions, etc
4. Working quickly: You need to finish 25 problems in 75 minutes, and you need to learn good time management so you can attempt most of the questions without getting stuck.
How to prepare for the AMC 12 contest
Step I: Reviewing the Basics
If you are new to competition math or taking the AMC 12 for the first time, you need to ensure that you have a good understanding of the fundamental mathematical concepts. You can use the following resources to get started:
1. Free AMC 10/12 Fundamentals Course: A free course that covers the most basic concepts for the AMC 12 like Expected Value, Modular Arithmetic, Diophantine Equations, Power of a Point, etc.
Step II (If time): Build Strong Fundamentals
To solidify your fundamentals, it is highly recommended that you work through the AoPS Introductory series books. They are quite comprehensive, but they take a long time to complete.
3. Introduction Series books by AoPS (In order of importance)
b. Introduction to Geometry
You can also use Alcumus for extra practice along with these books.
Step III: Mastering AMC 12 Concepts
4. Volume 2 book by AoPS: Volume 2 is appropriate for students who have mastered the problem solving fundamentals presented in Volume 1 and are ready for a greater challenge.
5. Intermediate Series books by AoPS
6. PreCalculus by AoPS (Chapters 1-8): Precalculus covers trigonometry, complex numbers, vectors, and matrices. It includes nearly 1000 problems, ranging from routine exercises to extremely challenging problems drawn from major mathematics competitions
In the last 1-2 months before the contest, it is important to review and refresh all the concepts that are important for the AMC 12 test.
7. Mastering AMC 10/12: This free book will help you learn and practice advanced concepts useful for AMC 12 problems such as Linearity of Expectation, Markov Chains, Cyclic Quadrilaterals, etc.
Step 4: Practice Contests & Mocks
In order to practice speed and accuracy, it's important to take full AMC 12 tests.
Some tips when mocking AMC 12:
1. Don't brush off silly mistakes: Rather than treating a silly as something that's not a big deal, analyze why you made that silly and what you will do not to make that mistake again. Here is a video with tips to avoid sillies.
2. Peek but not read: For problems that you are not able to solve, don't just "read the solution". Rather, try to look at a few lines of the solution and then solve the rest of the problem on your own.
3. Build speed gradually: At first, try to work at a pace that you can achieve high accuracy with. Then, try to gradually increase your speed while still maintaining high accuracy. Never rush or work carelessly to increase speed as this will only reduce your accuracy significantly.
List of Mock Contests
1. Official AMC 12 from previous years with solutions: Use these tests with a 75 minute timer to simulate test taking situations. The AMC's are increasing in difficulty every year, so only AMC 12 contests from 2021 Fall and after are representative of the difficulty of recent AMC 12.
2. AoPS Created AMC 12 Mock Contest 2022: A high quality mock contest created by Art of Problem Solving problem writers
3. AoPS Created AMC 12 Mock Contest 2021: Another high quality mock created by Art of Problem Solving problem writers
4. AoPS User created AMC 12 Mock Contests: These mock contests are created by users on the AoPS forums and are of varying quality and difficulty levels. Still a good practice if you have completed all the previous year’s AMC 8 contests.
6. CMC Mock Contests: Nearly all of the tests created by CMC (even the ones from 2017) are extremely high quality and close in difficulty to AMC's nowadays.
For even more practice, there are some useful websites which help you practice specific topics and improve problem solving speed.
1. Alcumus: Free resource by AoPS to practice problems from specific topics.
2. AMC Trivial: This site generates problems from past contests. You can even make custom mocks from older questions and it can give problems from specific topics or difficulty levels.
3. MAATester: This site makes it easy to search for problems related to any topic from various contests.
4. For the Win: Practice speed and accuracy by playing head to head against other players to answer questions quickly
By using these resources and practicing regularly, you can improve your skills and increase your chances of success on the AMC 12.
Crucial Tips for improving your score on the AMC 12
1. Bring colored pencils/pens. For Geometry problems, sometimes it may help to use colors to mark different regions or draw similar triangles. Colors can help you visualize things better and make geometric observations.
2. Double check what the question is asking for. When you finish solving a problem, take a quick glance at the last sentence in the question to confirm that you are marking what the question is asking for. For example: You solve a complex Geometry problem and correctly calculate the side length of a square, mark that answer and move on…but the question was asking for the area of the square. You don’t want to make that mistake.
3. Double check the bubbled answers. Towards the end, don’t forget to double check the answer sheet to make sure that the answers you have bubbled match up to the answer you have marked in the question paper.
One time I actually forgot that I had skipped a problem and then for all the subsequent problems the answers were shifted up by one so then all of those problems got marked wrong. Here is an important tip to check the answers - don't just check it as “A C D B”. Always try to associate the question number like “ 15 A, 16 C, 17 D, 18 D, etc.”
Also don’t leave this task to the last second, as you may be in the middle of solving a problem and won’t like to waste time in checking. Try to double check a few minutes before the end, maybe around the 65-70 minute mark. Most test centers will announce a time warning a few minutes before the end, so plan to check things at that time.
4. Don’t get stuck on any question. All questions have equal points, so your goal is to solve as many questions as possible. The questions are usually in increasing order of difficulty but some questions can be misplaced. Don’t get stuck on any question. If you are not making progress or the problem looks too bashy, then just mark it and skip it during the first pass. You should come back to it later. You should not have the mindset that oh it's the number five I should be able to solve it but I'm not able to solve it.
5. Don’t be intimidated by the questions at the end. There are 25 questions and 75 minutes to finish the test, so you have an average of 3 minutes per question which is not a lot of time. So make sure you budget your time wisely and leave enough time for the end questions which are typically harder. But some of them may be misplaced or from one of your stronger subjects, so depending on how much time you have left, try to solve the ones that are from your strong subjects or that look doable
6. Sleep well, eat healthy, Stay Calm. This seems like common sense, but it is important to emphasize it again. Don’t try to cram till 4am on the day before the contest. A good night’s sleep and relaxed mind can be more helpful in making sure that you don’t make silly mistakes.
One simple meditation trick that is worth trying just before the test: Just close your eyes and take 5 deep breaths and it will help to calm your nerves.
Some people recommend eating dark chocolate before the test as it is considered a mood enhancer.
7. Don’t guess blindly. Remember you get 1.5 points for any question left blank, so don’t guess blindly as the chances of getting it right is only 20%. But you can use meta solving techniques to improve your chances of finding answers to problems without actually solving them.
8. Timed Test Practice. Since only a few days are remaining for the AMC 12, try to take at least one timed test - either previous year’s AMC 12 contest or a mock test, and remember to keep a 75 minute timer to simulate real test conditions. And try to apply the tips mentioned here during that practice test. This will make you become used to handling the stress of the test and help you with learning the time management that works best for you.
9. Review, Revise, Refresh. On the day before the test, try not to stress and don’t start learning new topics. Just review concepts and formulas for topics that you already know.
Good Luck on the AMC 12.
What materials are allowed on the AMC 12 contest
According to MAA Guidelines, during the competition, students are only allowed:
Writing utensils (Note: colored pens/pencils are allowed)
Blank scratch paper
Prohibited materials include: