We’ve put together a list of team tips to complement our top 10 tips. If you’d like to share your own, please let us know at mathcontests@rmsptsa.org.

1) Team competitions are all about solving math problems.

It might sound obvious, but it’s true. As a result, our top 10 article applies just as much here. Be familiar with those tips as they can earn you some real points in team tests as well.

2) Teams should practice regularly throughout the season.

A good practice is 90-120 minutes and covers all round types for the events they’ll be competing in. Don’t forget about individual rounds that are included as part of the team component, such as mental math. The best way to prepare for a competition is to use past exams from that competition, which are usually available on their web site.

We’ve put together a sample team practice plan that can help you get started.

3) Use an answer grid to coordinate work on group tests.

Group tests are tests where all team members work together on the same set of questions. The goal is to distribute work among the team in order to efficiently generate the highest number of correct answers. As members complete a question, they write their answer in the proper row/column for that question. If the first two answers for a given question agree, then that problem should be considered solved and nobody should work on it further.

4) Identify a team captain.

After a few practices, the abilities of your team members will start to come into focus. It will be helpful to identify a team captain, who should be one of the stronger team members who can be relied on to execute the team strategy. They will be responsible for coordination during the competition, such as organizing the answer grid, breaking ties among teammates, and submitting college bowl rebound answers.

5) Have a group test strategy.

An efficient strategy for approaching group tests can optimize your team’s strengths and maximize your results. One recommended group strategy is to have your two strongest members start from the last (hardest) question or group and work backward (10-1). The two other members start from the front and work forward (1-10). Alternatively, team members can pick and choose the questions they work on, although it’s very important to avoid investing too many people or too much time on the same question while others have not been attempted.

6) Know when to guess.

Most of the time there is no penalty for an incorrect answer, so guess on anything you don’t know. But for rounds with penalties for incorrect answers, such as the multiple choice team test in Math is Cool, only guess when there is a favorable probability. For example, since MIC multiple choice questions are worth 2 points when correct and -1 when incorrect, teams should only guess if they can narrow possible answers down to 2 (a .5 expected value).

7) Order your team by capability for relay competitions.

The hardest problems are always the final (fourth) question, so have your strongest member go last. If you only have three members, then your strongest member should go first and last.

8) Wait to be acknowledged in college bowl.

Students have the right to wait to be acknowledged after buzzing in, and they should use it. Waiting for this acknowledgement allows them to confirm that their team buzzed in first so that they don’t give their answer to the other team. In addition, it allows an extra moment to confirm that they were the one to buzz in among their teammates so that they don’t answer at the same time. If two teammates offer different answers simultaneously, it will be considered incorrect.

9) Move on from mistakes.

If your team gives an incorrect answer in college bowl, all members should immediately forget it and move on. Discussing the problem while the other team is working on their rebound can give them an advantage in finding the correct answer.

10) Use time to your advantage.

In college bowl-style rounds between two teams, never rush your rebound opportunities. When the other team gives an incorrect answer first, they can no longer buzz in for that question. Your team should use the remaining time to openly discuss the question and come to agreement before submitting their answer through their captain. There is no downside to taking their time to check answers, as long as they deliver an answer within the time limit.