How Decathlon Works
Academic Decathlon is unique because it is not limited to high-achieving students. Preparation, participation, and competition include high school students from ninth through twelfth grades. A unique aspect of Academic Decathlon is the design to include students from all academic backgrounds. Each 9-member team consists of 3 Honor students (GPA 3.8 – 4.0), 3 Scholastic students (GPA 3.2 – 3.799) and 3 Varsity students (GPA 0.0 – 3.199). Often the Varsity students – perhaps never academically motivated before – perform the best. Some students who once performed average work excel in the competition and experience continued academic success after the event.
One high school per school district represents the school district at the state competition. The nine-member team must be from the same school and be the same team members that won district-level competition. School districts with more than one high school participating in Academic Decathlon plan a district-level competition to determine which high school will represent the district at the state finals. For those school districts having only one high school participating in decathlon, that school should still participate in the district-level competition to provide an excellent experience in competition and preparation for the state competition and to be able to compare their district scores against all of the other schools. The state competition is held in the Atlanta area.
Competition events include seven tests of academic strength, 3 demonstrations of communication ability and the Super Quiz – a team event held before a live audience. Seven comprehensive tests are given in the areas of economics, mathematics, literature, science, social science, music, and art. The 3 communication events include speech (prepared and impromptu), interview and a written essay. The competition concludes with the Super Quiz that is held in an arena/theater setting.
A team coach or co-coaches lead each team. Coaches often depend on experts in fields outside their area of expertise to work with the team. So the concept of team and coach broadens to include all who work to support the team to their goal.
Students prepare for objective tests in the disciplines of: mathematics, social science, science, literature, music, art, and economics. Curriculum resources guides are purchased from USAD. Detailed outlines are provided in the USAD Study Guides. For additional information about the objective tests, consult the GAD Coaches’ Manual.
The Speech event has two components – prepared speech and impromptu speech. Each speech is timed and scored by two to three judges using a formal rubric. The topic of the prepared speech is the student’s choice but it must meet the approval of the team coach. Consult the USAD Practice Test Booklet and the GAD Coaches’ Manual for more information about the Speech event.
Students are interviewed by a panel of two to three judges. The focus of the interview is centered on activities in which the student is engaged, college plans, preparations for Academic Decathlon®, and persons who have had an impact upon the student’s life. Some questions may include topics that would require the use of “critical thinking” skills. The judges score the students using an official rubric. Consult the USAD Practice Test Booklet and the GAD Coaches’ Manual for more information about the interview event.
The Essay event in the Georgia Academic Decathlon is conducted online before State Competition. Prior to competition, GAD will arrange for an online practice login session. It is imperative that all students test their usernames and passwords at that time. This is also an opportunity to allow students to familiarize themselves with the online platform. It is advisable to have the team use the practice prompts (samples from the WWI curriculum provided below) to type an essay in the time given, even though the prompts may have nothing to do with the current year’s curriculum. Any essay practice is useful.
The official essay writing for state competition must be held on one of two times provided. Students should arrive at least 25 minutes prior to the testing time. The entire team must write at the same time, including up to three alternates. Decathletes will type an essay in response to a prompt chosen from a set given to them. Students will be given 50 minutes for writing the essay. The essay will be scored in accordance with the published essay rubric.
Students should be given the following as they enter the testing room: 1) the Student Code of Conduct, 2) the student instructions. Students must sign the Code of Conduct and pass it back to the proctor before beginning the writing. The coaches may sign these forms after the testing.
Example Essay Prompts
Select one of the prompts for your essay. Write a well-organized essay in which you clearly respond to the question or direction that is presented in the prompt. Be sure to follow the accepted rules of standard English sentence structure, usage, spelling, and punctuation, and to use appropriate diction and style. Use specific information and examples from your studies to support your position. Provide a final paragraph to conclude or close your essay.
Gregor Mendel made major contributions in the study of genetics. Even though he died in 1884, his work became important during World War I. Explain the impact of Mendel on genetics during and following World War I.
Any major historical or cultural event has a direct impact on the literature of the time period. World War I introduced the writings of soldiers and women. Explain the impact these new writers had on the existing trends in literature and the culture in general.
Super Quiz is the only public event at State Competition. It is an event in which team members collaboratively answer questions from each of the seven academic decathlon curriculum areas (art, music, literature, economics, etc.). It is a public showcase of the academic decathlon curriculum. For more information consult the GAD Coaches’ Manual.
Forming A Team
Schools, school districts, or coaches interested in forming a new team should first peruse this website for more information. Specifically you should watch the podcast episode “All About the Georgia Academic Decathlon” as well as read through the information in the GAD Coaches Manual and in the GAD Frequently Asked Questions. As you are perusing the website, jot down any questions you might have. Then contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-414-3041, to find out if there is a Coordinator already in place for your district.
Once your school, or school district has decided to participate in decathlon, send in the registration form along with the $200 District Registration fee and complete the Testing Dates Notification form.
A workshop for coaches and decathletes is held in late August or early September each year. This workshop has multiple sessions on topics related to the upcoming GAD season. There is always a round-table discussion for coaches and sessions led by Kennesaw State University professors for the various testing areas. Please visit the “GAD Dates and Registration” and “GAD Fall Workshop” pages while you are visiting the website.