You Are At: AllSands Home > Kids > Education > Academic decathlon
Academic Decathlon is a nationwide organization that promotes an educational experience providing a format in which teams of high school students compete in academic events. District, regional, county, statewide, and national competitions are held. Decathlon subjects include economics, art, music, language and literature, mathematics, science and social science. In addition, each team member gives a planned and an impromptu speech, an interview and writes an essay. The tenth event of the Decathlon is the Super Quiz.

Any school can form an Academic Decathlon team, and each team is run a little differently. Some schools offer “Acadec” (as it is called by team members and coaches) as an actual class, while other schools offer it purely as an extracurricular activity.

A team is made up of 12 people, separated into 3 categories based on grades.

Category GPA
Honor 3.75-4.00
Scholastic 3.00-3.74
Varsity below 2.99

There are 3 people on each team, as well as an alternate for each category. If more than 12 people want to join the Acadec team, tryouts are held for the positions.

Contestants may compete in a higher division than their own GPA, but not in a lower division (i.e., a Scholastic student may compete as an Honor student, but not as a Varsity student). The final team score is made up of only six scores: the highest two Honors, two Scholastic and two Varsity totals. Because of this fact, no team carries more than nine members in actual competition, and if fewer than nine students choose to participate, the team is still fully eligible for overall awards.

At competition the students compete in the different categories. For economics, art, music, language and literature, mathematics, science and social science the competitors are given timed multiple choice tests. Each test is given in 30 minutes, and all tests are given on the same day, with breaks between every 2 tests. The material on the tests can be anything on the given topic. For example, In the 99-00 Acadec year, some of the artists were Frank Lloyd Wright and Maria Martinez. Coaches can purchase study materials through the official USAD program, or they can research everything on their own. Hundreds of pages of material must be learned and memorized simply for one topic. Anything is fair game for the tests. Some of the questions may include things like:

1. In Capriccio’s painting, the shadows suggest it is what time of day?
a) noon
b) mid afternoon
c) late evening
d) early morning

So students must be ready for anything and everything. The other topics which students compete in individually are Interview, Speech, and Essay. Super Quiz is a team event involving an auditorium full of people.

For the interview competition, the Acadec member is placed in front of 2-4 judges, and asked a series of questions. The student will be judged on their attitude, answers to the questions, and overall presence under the pressure of a rated interview. Speech is actually two separate competitions: prepared and impromptu. Usually months in advance, the student will have a 4-minute prepared speech memorized that they will present to 2-4 judges. After giving this speech, the judges will give the student 2 topics to choose from…then 1 minute to prepare, and then they must present an organized and creative 2 minute impromptu speech.

Essay is done much the way the tests are. A room full of students is given 3 topics, some sheets of paper and a pen, and they have 50 minutes to write a 5-paragraph essay. The program is so strict that the students may not bring in their own pens for fear of it being a method of cheating (ex. Using the clicker on a pen to send messages) so USAD provides pens.

At the end of 2 days of testing and speech giving, there is an awards ceremony where all the hard work is rewarded and medals are given out. Students spend hours upon hours on school days and weekends studying the material over and over so it is etched into their heads. The program is truly a good way to prepare for college and for the future at hand.