What is Academic Decathlon? (Everything You Need To Know)

Academic Decathlon is an engaging competition that fuels students’ love for learning and celebrates their academic talents. 

Its purpose is to showcase students’ academic prowess from various high schools.

In this article, we’ll delve into the details of what Academic Decathlon is all about.

We’ll explore the structure of the competition, the subjects covered, and the valuable skills it imparts to participants.

Overview of Academic Decathlon

AcDec, short for “Academic Decathlon,” is a national high school academic competition run by the non-profit United States Academic Decathlon (USAD) annually. 

It consists of two subjective performance events, an essay, and seven objective multiple-choice assessments.

The competition is meant to be inclusive, meaning students with all achievement levels can participate. 

How is Academic Decathlon Done?

Teams usually have nine players divided into three divisions: Honors, Scholastic, and Varsity, according to their grade point averages. 

Each team member competes in all ten events against students in their division, and team scores are based on the top two individual scores from each division.

The events cover various subjects, such as physics, social science, math, music, language and literature, economics, and art. 

Every year, these topics are related to a common theme. 

There is a Super Quiz event that switches between social science and science questions.

Judges grade three subjective events (speech, interview, and essay) in addition to the objective events. 

Gold, silver, and bronze medals are awarded to individuals and teams depending on their performance in various events and overall scores.

Though smaller states may have other requirements, teams must advance through local, regional, and state tournaments to qualify for the national championship in April. 

The USAD has also expanded to include an International Academic Decathlon and introduced an Academic Pentathlon for middle schools.

What You Should Know About Academic Decathlon

Although Academic Decathlon has gained popularity and recognition, it has faced some controversies over the years. 

Some teachers have said that the competition is unfair because it forces students to spend a lot of time on material that isn’t taught in school

Additionally, there have been concerns about the quality of student resource guides. 

Despite these challenges, Academic Decathlon remains a prominent and intellectually stimulating competition for high school students.

Is Academic Decathlon Worth It?

The Academic Decathlon program offers several compelling reasons why it’s worth joining. Here are seven key points to consider:

1. Test Preparation at No Cost

This free program provides you with essential study skills for standardized tests, so there is no need to spend a fortune on costly test preparation courses. 

Like, your friends might pay money to study for tests, but you’ll learn those skills for free.

2. Teamwork

Teamwork in Academic Decathlon is like having your academic back covered by a squad of supportive friends. 

The program divides the team into subgroups, ensuring everyone’s talents shine. 

Not only are you working for yourself, but also for the success of your partners. Decathlon is different because it has a strong sense of community.

3. Mastery of Study Habits

One strong reason to join Academic Decathlon is that it helps you get better at studying.

Every aspect of this program is designed to push students to their academic limits, from extensive reading to frequent quizzes and essays

Through this process, participants gain valuable study skills through this method that are useful throughout their academic careers. 

The demanding nature of the Academic Decathlon instills discipline, time management, and critical thinking skills. 

These habits extend far beyond the competition, benefiting college students and their lives. 

Hence, the competition lays the foundation for a lifetime of successful learning, making it a valuable investment in one’s education.

4. Speech and Interview Skills

Students are engaged in the standard curriculum and receive extensive training in persuasive writing and speaking. 

That means they learn to talk confidently in front of an audience, give convincing speeches, and perform well in interviews where they’ll be evaluated. 

These skills go beyond academics, preparing students for real-world scenarios where effective communication is vital. 

Possessing the capacity to communicate ideas clearly and convincingly is a great advantage that can improve one’s academic and professional career. 

5. Scholarship Opportunities

Most renowned colleges extend scholarships specifically for Decathletes. 

These scholarships, often substantial and not contingent on essays, reward students for their dedication and performance within the program. 

In other words, students improve their academic skills and information and raise their chances of getting money to go to college by competing in the Academic Decathlon.

It’s a win-win opportunity for those looking to invest in their academic and financial future.

6. Leadership and Responsibility

Being part of the Academic Decathlon is like a double shot of leadership and responsibility. 

It’s not just about academics; it’s about stepping up and taking charge. 

Students often become team captains or lead study sessions, honing their leadership skills. 

However, the sense of duty that comes with it is even more impressive. You’re not there just for yourself; you’re with your team.

Going through this doesn’t just help you get ready for college; it also makes you a better leader, which makes it worth it.

Eligibility for the Academic Decathlon

This is determined based on the student’s Grade Point Average (GPA) within specific categories. 

The Academic Decathlon, organized by USAD (United States Academic Decathlon), categorizes students into three groups:

Honors Category: This group comprises students with GPAs ranging from 3.80 to 4.0.

Scholastic Category: Students in this category have GPAs between 3.20 and 3.799.

Varsity Category: The Varsity category includes students with GPAs ranging from 0.00 to 3.19.

Hence, high schools can submit the transcripts of their nine candidates across these categories to the U.S. Academic Decathlon to prove the eligibility of their teams.

How does Academic Decathlon calculate GPA?

The Academic Decathlon uses a unique grading system to determine final rankings. 

However, the GPA computation does not include performance-based classes, such as those in music, art, or physical education. 

In addition, all grades are equally counted, whether from advanced placement, honours, regular, or remedial classes. 

Specifically, an A is considered a 4.0, a B as a 3.0, a C as a 2.0, a D as a 1.0, and an F as a 0.

Core Values of Academic Decathlon

1. Academic Growth

USDA prioritizes the intellectual development of high school students

It promotes a love for learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge across multiple disciplines.

2. Multidisciplinary Learning

The competition challenges students to excel in various subjects, fostering a well-rounded education beyond traditional classroom boundaries.

3. Teamwork and Self-Knowledge

United States Academic Decathlon (USAD) recognizes the importance of teamwork to achieve academic success and develop self-awareness and life skills. 

It encourages collaboration among students.

4. Equal Opportunities

USDA is committed to providing equal opportunities for students of all achievement levels. 

It embraces inclusivity, ensuring that academic enrichment is accessible to diverse participants.

5. Diversity and Inclusion

The organization values diversity and believes a mix of perspectives enriches the learning experience. 

It fosters an inclusive environment where all students can thrive.

6. Honesty and Integrity

USAD upholds high standards of honesty and integrity. 

It expects participants to maintain the utmost ethical conduct in all aspects of the competition.

7. Transparency

USAD is committed to transparent relations and interactions with all stakeholders. 

This transparency fosters trust and open communication within the academic community.

8. Excellence

The organization strives for excellence in its programs, services, and activities, ensuring participants receive the best educational experience.

9. Respect for Diverse Points of View

USDA encourages respect for diverse perspectives and opinions.

It values open dialogue and constructive debate as essential components of a well-rounded education.

Analysis of Academic Decathlon Events

Here’s an analysis of the events at the Academic Decathlon competition:

1. Speech

Decathletes must deliver a prepared speech on a topic of their choice, lasting up to four minutes. 

This event not only tests their knowledge but also their ability to communicate effectively. 

It helps students develop public speaking skills and boost self-confidence.

2. Essay

In the essay event, participants have 50 minutes to write a strong paper. 

This assesses their ability to articulate arguments and ideas effectively. 

Preparation involves studying the assigned theme to ensure they have the necessary knowledge to write about it.

3. Interview

The interview segment allows athletes to showcase their personal qualities, background, interests, and goals. 

It is similar to the admissions process; students must present themselves positively to judges and admissions counsellors.

4. Tests of Knowledge

This section includes seven multiple-choice exams covering various academic subjects such as: 

Art, Music, Social Science, Science, Economics, Literature, and Mathematics. 

It tests knowledge, critical thinking, and test-taking skills, which can be valuable for standardized tests like the SAT and AP exams.

5. Super Quiz

The Super Quiz is a team event where Decathletes collaborate to answer multiple-choice questions. 

It’s an exciting and competitive element of the competition, often in front of a live audience. 

It varies in format by state but is always the final event.

The theme for the Academic Decathlon of 2023-2024

Each year, the Academic Decathlon selects a theme encompassing all seven subjects. 

The 2023-2024 U.S. Academic Decathlon theme is “Technology and Humanity.” 

This theme delves into various subject areas, allowing students to understand the profound impact of technology on our lives.

1. Arts

In the field of art, participants will have the opportunity to explore how technology has influenced and transformed the art world, offering innovative mediums and techniques for creative expression.

2. Economics

Economics will examine fundamental economic principles and explore the vital relationship between technology, innovation, and the economy. 

Students will learn how technological advancements drive economic growth and change how we conduct business.

3. Literature

With “The Lathe of Heaven” by Ursula K. Le Guin as its centrepiece, the literature curriculum will lead students on a literary journey that touches on technology’s speculative and ethical aspects.

4. Mathematics

Mathematics will cover various topics, including general mathematics, geometry, and an introduction to differential calculus, equipping students with the mathematical skills required to understand and engage with technology in various fields.

5. Music

The music curriculum will explore the use of music in science-fiction films, highlighting how music plays a crucial role in creating immersive technological worlds on screen.

6. Science

The science component introduces students to the intriguing realm of neuroscience, including the influence of technology on our understanding of the human brain.

7. Social science

Social science focuses on the history of computers, shedding light on the evolution of computing technology and its impact on society.

FAQs on ‘What is Academic Decathlon?’ 

What are the behaviors considered inappropriate conduct during the competition?

Cheating, Stealing, Fighting, loud noise, or any behavior disruptive to others.

What should I wear during the test?

Casual attire is allowed, but some clothing items are considered inappropriate. Avoid wearing hats, sunglasses, jackets, hooded clothing, baggy-style sweatshirts or pants, cargo pants, torn jeans, or overalls in the testing arena.

Can international students participate in the United States Academic Decathlon?

International students are eligible to participate in the United States Academic Decathlon.

Who has the final authority regarding the participation and classification of international students?

The final authority regarding the participation and classification of international students lies with the State Academic Decathlon organization and the State Director. Their decision will be final.


The Academic Decathlon is the pinnacle of an intellectual tournament and a time to revel in one’s innate brilliance. 

You will have the time of your life if you compete in the Academic Decathlon.

Awesome one; I hope this article answers your question.

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Righteous Godwin
Righteous Godwin

Righteous Godwin, a graduate of Mass Communication, is a content and creative writer. Her passion for writing compels her to give her all to every project she undertakes.

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