How to Prepare for the AMC 8 Math Contest
What is the AMC 8 Contest
The AMC 8 is a math contest organized by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). The AMC 8 contest contains 25 multiple choice questions that must be completed within 40 minutes. There is no negative marking on the test, so remember to put an answer for every problem (even if you have to guess).
Who can take the AMC 8
Students must be in grade 8 or below and also under 14.5 years of age on the day of the competition. Note that students in elementary schools are also eligible to take the contest.
Where can you take the AMC 8
Many middle schools host the contest in their school. If your middle 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 8 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 elementary school and interested in taking the AMC 8, you can also reach out to math teachers in nearby middle schools and check if any of them will allow outside students to take the contest.
How to score high on the AMC 8
So, how can you score well on the AMC 8? Here are four key things to focus on:
Understanding all the content: these go beyond the school curriculum so there's going to be a lot of learning to do if you're new to competition math
Being able to apply concepts to tricky problems: these are math content problems and the problems are not straightforward like in school math so the problems require creative thinking and that's something that can only be achieved with more practice
Solving the problems accurately: You need to learn how to avoid common mistakes like calculation errors, silly mistakes, misreading the questions, etc
Working quickly: You need to finish 25 problems in 40 minutes, and you need to learn good time management so you can attempt all the questions without getting stuck.
What are the best resources to prepare for the AMC 8 contest
If you are new to competition math or taking the AMC 8 for the first or second 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 8 Fundamentals Course: A free 10-class course that covers the most important concepts for the AMC 8 like Casework, Complementary Counting, PIE, Finding Areas of irregular shapes, etc.
2. Competition Math for Middle School: The AoPS book is also a great resource for beginners.
For more advanced students, the following resources will help you improve your skills and help you achieve a perfect score.
3. Free AMC 8 Advanced Course: If you have a good understanding of the fundamental concepts, the AMC 8 Advanced Course explores harder concepts like Similar Triangles, Stars and Bars, Recursion, etc.
4. Free Mastering AMC 8 Book: This is 400+ page hybrid book with plenty of practice problems.
5. Challenging Problems in Middle School Math
This is a good book for preparing for middle school competitions
6. Volume 1 book by AoPS: For even more advanced students, the Volume 1 essentially provides a summary of the Introduction Series by AoPS, covering many important concepts.
7. Introduction series books from AoPS: For even more practice, you should check out the "Introduction" series books from AoPS:
b. Introduction to Number Theory
c. Introduction to Counting & Probability
Practice Contests & Mocks
1. Official AMC 8's from previous years with solutions: Use these tests with a 40 minute timer to simulate test taking situations.
2. AoPS Created Mock Contest 2022: A high quality mock contest created by Art of Problem Solving problem writers
3. AoPS Created Mock Contest 2021: Another high quality mock created by Art of Problem Solving problem writers
4. AoPS User created 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.
5. AlphaStar AMC 8 Practice Tests Book: A book with some high quality mock contests created by the problem writing team at AlphaStar Academy.
For even more practice, there are a variety of 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. MATHCOUNTS Trainer: Four different levels of problems from MATHCOUNTS competitions. This trainer makes problem solving fun by giving you harder and harder problems as your rating increases.
3. For the Win: Practice speed and accuracy by playing head to head against other players to answer questions quickly
4. 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.
5. MAATester: This site makes it easy to search for problems related to any topic from various contests.
By using these resources and practicing regularly, you can improve your skills and increase your chances of success on the AMC 8.
What materials are allowed on the AMC 8 contest
According to MAA Guidelines, during the competition, students are only allowed:
Writing utensils (Note: this includes colored pens/pencils)
Blank scratch paper
Prohibited materials include:
Crucial Tips for improving your score on the AMC 8
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 35 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 40 minutes to finish the test, so you have an average of 1.6 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 leave any question blank. Remember there is no negative marking, so don’t leave any question blank. Always make a guess! You still have a 20% chance of getting it right. Better yet, you can use meta solving techniques to improve your chances! Here is a video with some useful meta solving techniques that shows how to find answers to problems without actually solving it.
8. Timed Test Practice. Since only a few days are remaining for the AMC 8, try to take at least one timed test - either previous year’s AMC 8 contest or a mock test (link in description), and remember to keep a 40 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. The video “All You Need to Know to ACE the AMC 8” is a good way to review the important concepts for the AMC 8, and will help refresh your memory of the important formulas at the top of your mind.
Good Luck on the AMC 8.