The AMC Exam: Is it Worth Taking?

By Olivia Canter

Recently, high-level math students took the American Mathematics Competition, otherwise known as the AMC, with the rest of the nation. The people of the Committee on the American Mathematics Competitions (CAMC) are devoted to strengthening students in regards to their mathematical skills as well as generate more interest in the subject.

This test is meant to be extremely difficult, which consequently causes only certain students to attempt the exam. The test consists of 25 problems over 75 minutes, and usually, students on the accelerated tracks are the majority in the testing room. It is graded out of 150 points; a correct question will get you 6 points, omission will get you 1.5 points, but an incorrect question will lose you 1.5 points. This unusual grading system akin to SAT II Subject Tests allows for some strategy in choosing which questions to guess and which to omit entirely.

Why do students take this exam? The AMC allows students to demonstrate their mathematical abilities at the highest level, and those who perform very well often receive awards and plaques. The test is administered differently based on what math courses you have taken; 7th and 8th graders are given the AMC 8, 9th and 10th graders are given the AMC 10, and 11 and 12 graders are given the AMC 12.

Mrs. O’Connell, an esteemed geometry and calculus teacher at Byram Hills High School, states her opinion of the test, “I think it helps students see how well they are doing at problem-solving and how they are doing in comparison to our school to other schools nationally. It also gives them the ability to compete in mathematics with other students, and if you are exposed to unique problems, it will help students think in different ways.”

What about the students who are allowed to take it, but not required? Should they take the AMC exam? Mrs. O’Connell goes on to explains that “we offer it to students not on the accelerated track, but the test does take time away from their classes. Students must see if the benefits of taking this test outweigh the lost class time.” Even if students are not in the accelerated course, everyone has a chance of doing well on the test.

Similarly, Chloe Sampere, a freshman at BHHS, thinks very highly of the AMC test, “I think it is a good experience to practice higher level test taking, and if I do well, it is something good to write on my college application.” After taking the AMC, those who aren’t already receiving mail from colleges will begin receiving information about summer programs and other opportunities offered. Even if you don’t perform well on the test, the college mail and advertisements are still likely to be sent, and you don’t even need to put your score on your college application!

What about preparing for the test, is it just yet another stressor? Olivia Picca, a freshman, explains, “I wouldn’t take the test because it causes an unnecessary amount of stress on kids trying to get through their day which is already stressful enough.” Contrastingly, Chloe Sampere says that “it doesn’t cause me extra stress because I know that it doesn’t have to be put on my college application if I do poorly.”

Most students are not stressed out by the AMC test because they are well aware that the score doesn’t need to be shown on your college application, so most students and teachers do not prepare a vast amount for the exam. Mrs. O’Connell explains, “I think the preparation is what you do on an everyday basis in classrooms, teaching students to be thinkers.” Some students, however, prepare for the AMC test because it is a great way to test your thinking, and it looks exceptional on your college application if you perform well.

Is this test a valid indicator of your mathematical intelligence? Mrs. O’Connell explains, “I think mathematical intelligence looks different in different situations because this isn’t about showing off basic mathematical skills, this is showing off how you apply those skills to unusual and unique mathematical situations.” This test is designed for those who really excel in problem solving and mathematics, but just because you don’t do well on the exam doesn’t mean that you are not mathematically intelligent.

While the AMC may take away from class time, it is a great opportunity for those interested in mathematical thinking, so next time you are offered the test, think about the pros and cons; it’s your choice!