Updated: Aug 28
I've been repeatedly asked, "How do you prepare for AMC 8? What are the resources you use? How can I help my child prepare for it?"
In fact, I wrote a brief sketch of this post as a reply to one of the mom's email. Then I saw a similar question on Quora and answered it. Finally decided that this deserves a post on its own.
So, do you have a middle schooler interested in math competitions? AMC 8 is a popular middle school math competition. Take a look to see what you need to know about it and how to prepare for it.
What is AMC and who can take it?
AMC stands for American Mathematics Competition. AMC 8 can be taken by any kid in Grade 8 or below. Usually, it's taken by the students in Middle School for it requires in-depth knowledge of topics covered in Middle School. AMC 8 is challenging even for Middle School kids. One would have to be an advanced 4th or 5th grader to be able to take it in Elementary school.
What is the AMC 8 time limit?
AMC 8 has 25 questions to be completed in 40 minutes.
Where can you register and take the AMC 8?
AMC 8 is usually administered in schools, but some RSM centers also do it. If you want your kid to take the exam you can contact your school or your local RSM center.
If you are homeschooling or if your school does not host the AMC 8, you can also look into the MAA website once the registration opens to see a list of your local schools that host it. You can call them to see if they will let you take the exam there.
When does the AMC 8 2022-23 exam take place?
AMC 8 will happen in mid Jan. The change has been made effective since the academic year 2021-22.
For the academic year 2023-2024, the AMC 8 exam will be held between Jan 18 and Jan 24.
When to expect the results
Official scores will usually be sent out in February.
What are the awards given?
Achievement Roll - For 5th graders and below who get a score of 15 or above.
Honor Roll - Top 5% of scores on the AMC 8
Distinguished Honor Roll: Top 1% of scores on the AMC 8
What is a good score on AMC 8?
A lot of parents and students ask me this question. A good score is subjective. An experienced problem-solver or a kid who has been doing competitions since elementary grade would want to aim for Distinguished Honor Roll. For someone who's just starting out or in 4th or 5th grade, getting more than the average score is decent and getting into Achievement Roll is good.
To get an idea of the average and the honor roll scores, here are the scores over the years. As you can see the average scores have been between 9-11, the honor roll mostly between 17-19 and the distinguished honor roll mostly between 20-22.
Distinguished Honor Roll
*2021 - AMC 8 happened in 2020 Fall and then 2022 Spring
Benefits of taking the AMC 8 exam
I love the AMC 8 exam. Preparing for it helps develop problem-solving skills in middle schoolers. One also becomes extremely comfortable with Algebra and Geometry if they prepare well for this exam. Hence I tell all my students to go for it.
If you do really well, your school might also let you take the advanced AMC 10 and AMC 12 exams.
Here are some methods I used when I helped my students prepare for AMC 8. Some materials have also been mentioned by my friends who've prepared their kids for it.
Edit: I've updated this post on Apr 17, 2021 so it contains a little more details and might not match up to the infographic.
Materials and Books you can use for AMC 8 Preparation
1. Pre - Algebra book from Art of Problem Solving - This is a great book that covers the basics of most of the topics that you need to master for your AMC 8. This book will also change your mindset about problem-solving if you are a beginner. Once you're done with this you can move on to the other introductory books by AOPS - Introduction to Algebra, Number Theory, Counting Probability and Geometry. You need to do about the first 10 chapters from Introduction to Algebra, Geometry and Counting and Probability. Once this is done you can finish each of the books.
2. Volume 1 - the Basics from Art of Problem Solving - This contains more advanced topics needed to ace the AMC 8.
3. Past exam question papers - you can find these in the AOPS website itself. This tells you what to expect. Also, you’ll find that every year the paper is getting more challenging. Papers older than 2010 are really easy.
As you do the papers, you need to make a not of the time. Always time your papers. Keep your answer sheet aside. Now you can do the same paper without the time limit. Now make a note of both your scores. The first one will tell you about your score under pressure and the second one will give you an idea of your subject knowledge. Every time you do a paper you will keep track of the answers that you got right and wrong in an excel sheet in the following format.
Put a tick if you got that question correct and an 'x' if you got that wrong. After you finish 5 years of papers or so, have a look at all the questions you got wrong. Work on these and see if you find a pattern where you go wrong. See if there is a particular topic that bothers you and work on that.
4. Online Courses by AOPS - You can enrol in these courses to help you prepare. You need to be highly disciplined to gain from these courses though. Go through their assignment problems every week without fail. Now they have in-person classes in some centres as well.
5. Alcumus by AOPS - Alcumus is free to use. You do need to set up an online account if you don't already have one.
How I use it - If you've already done Pre-Algebra and just need to review it, you can definitely use Alcumus. Just set the setting at hard/ insanely hard (depending on the level you like) and do the problems. Reviewing done real fast.
6. Brilliant is also supposed to have practice materials, but I haven’t specifically used them for practice.
7. Residential Math Summer camps - If you really want to crack it and be in the top 5%, there are some residential summer camps. To even get to these camps or benefit from them you should be an experienced problem-solver. You are looking at 3 weeks of your summer with at least 6–8 hours of math every day. That’s what it takes to crack it.
8. Hire a Math Competition coach/ tutor: If you think the summer camps are too expensive, you can still prepare at home with a guide/ tutor. I still believe summer is the best time to prepare for AMC 8 or Math Counts because your mind is free to absorb new material without too much distraction.
I’ve used the first 3 materials with my kids (just the Pre-Algebra book without the others) and boosted their scores from almost nothing (score between 0–6) to be in the top 15–25% within 3–4 months. I do wish I had more time to prepare them though.
Now that the preparation is done here are some tips to keep in mind before the exam.
Tips for taking the AMC 8 exam:
1. There are 25 questions and 40 minutes to finish the exam. The questions are usually in increasing order of difficulty. Keep track of the time when solving the questions. Estimated time for solving the questions are as follows- a. first 10 questions less than 10 min. b. 11-20 questions less than 17 min. c. 21-25 questions less than 10 min. d. use the rest of the time for rechecking your answers
2. There is no penalty for guessing. So do NOT leave any questions unanswered. Just take a guess :)
3. Figures are not necessarily drawn to scale. So please don’t measure the length of lines etc. (unless you have no other idea to solve the problem)
4. AMC 8 does not require the use of calculators. So if you are getting into some lengthy decimal calculations, you might want to re-read your question/ recheck your method. You should not be getting into lengthy calculations. Either your calculation is wrong or there is a trick to solving it.
5. You shouldn’t be spending more than 3 minutes in any question unless it’s towards the end. If you are stuck in any question and you don’t think you are going to get an answer in the next min or so, move on. You can come back to this later. All questions have equal weight, so your goal is to solve as many questions as possible.
6. There might be a question or two within the first 15 questions that are easy but consume a lot of time. Come back to that question after finishing the rest of the paper. Do not waste 5 minutes on that question unless that’s the only one you know.
Hope this gives you a good idea on how to prepare for AMC 8. All the very best for your preparation and exam.
As you might know I'm Vasudha, an Online Math Tutor. I love preparing kids for various Elementary and Middle School Math Competitions. The kids also enjoy the classes and have fun with preparation. I've helped a kid who was in the bottom 25% to move to the top 15%. I've also helped a kid who had trouble with understanding the paper to the top 25%. Last year, 4 of my students went to the state round in Math Counts.
If you would like to know more details regarding Math Competitions that your kid is eligible for Contact me here.
Disclosure: If you purchase any of the books mentioned through my Amazon links I might get a small compensation. Your price will still remain the same.
To learn about the other Middle School Math Competitions and how to register and prepare for them you can read this blog.