Time Management Tips for the AMC 10/12

AMC 10 and AMC 12 Time Management Guide

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With the AMC 10 and 12 right around the corner, it is time to begin final review and planning for the contests.

Review of the format and scoring for AMC 10+12

For a longer explanation of the AMC 10+12 exams, check out our AMC 10/12: All you need to know post by clicking here. The highlights:

  • The AMC 10/12 Exams each feature 25 questions with a time limit of 75 minutes.
  • The maximum score is 150 points:
    • Each correct answer earns 6 points.
    • Each incorrect answer earns 0 points.
    • Each answer left blank earns 1.5 points.

Leaving questions a competitor is unsure about blank is a great way to boost their final score. Thus, students should focus their effort on the questions they are comfortable solving and minimizing mistakes. Some sample scores are shown below:

Score# correct# incorrect# left blank
Sample scores based on the number of questions correct, incorrect, and left blank on an AMC 10/12 exam.

Many students take the AMC 10/12 Exams to qualify for the invitational exams such as AIME and USA(J)MO. Those students should have score targets in mind when planning for the exam:

  • For the AMC 10, typically scores of 110+ will qualify for AIME, but these vary by year and have often been lower in recent years.
  • For the AMC 12, typically scores of 100+ will qualify for AIME, but these vary by year and have often been lower in recent years.

Remember, every point counts! In Fall 2021, the AMC 10 cutoffs were 96 to qualify for AIME. In the example score of 93 above, leaving 2 of the questions that were incorrect blank instead would give the student the 3 additional points needed to qualify for AIME!

Time Management Tips

Typically questions on the AMC 10 and 12 exams get harder as the exam goes on. Roughly speaking:

  • Questions 1 through 10 are approachable to most students.
  • Questions 11 through 20 get more difficult, but a prepared student should be able to solve most problems.
  • Questions 21 through 25 (especially the final 2-3) are typically very complex/difficult.

First time participants

If it is your first time taking the AMC 10 or 12 exams, just try your best! Focus on roughly the first 15 questions, and don’t be afraid to skip around to questions that seem easier or covering subjects you feel more comfortable with.

Goal: Qualify for AIME

If your goal is to qualify for AIME, our recommended plan is as follows:

  • In the first 25 minutes, work on the first 10 questions.
  • In the next 35 minutes, work on the next 10 questions.
  • In the final 15 minutes, review the questions already solved or try 1-2 additional problems.

Don’t be afraid to be flexible and skip some questions to come back to later. If #17 is on a topic you dislike, skip it and come back to it later. Maybe #22 is one similar to a problem you have solved before and is better to do!

Remember: Every question, whether it is #1 or #25, is worth 6 points for a correct answer. Plan some time to review your answers to make sure you don’t make any silly mistakes!

Goal: Qualify for USA(J)MO

If your goal is to qualify for AIME and USA(J)MO, our recommended plan is as follows:

  • In the first 20 minutes, work on the first 10 questions.
  • In the next 30 minutes, work on the next 12 questions.
  • In the final 25 minutes, review the questions already solved or attempt the final 3 questions.

Again, be flexible and don’t panic on test day. It is okay if the first 22 questions take a little longer, that just means you’ll have less time to review and will need to plan accordingly.

Try your best and do not panic!

Things might not go as planned on exam day, but try your best to stay calm and keep working! Maybe the first 10 questions are harder this year, but you’ll notice that the next 10 are easier and you make up time. Maybe the WHOLE exam is harder this year, so the cutoffs will be lower. Regardless of what happens, you’ll perform better if you stay focused and work hard the entire 75 minutes!

Want to Practice your Time Management Skills?

The Zoom International Math League (ZIML) site features great practice resources for students preparing for the AMC 10 and AMC 12.

ZIML Mock Exams

In particular, ZIML’s Mock Exam page (click here) features Mock AMC 10 and AMC 12 exams (plus more), featuring real AMC problems from past years plus the real scoring and real timing you’ll experience on test day. Try out a Mock Exam today!

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