What is Academic Decathlon?
Academic Decathlon, or ACADECA, is a competition in which high school students from competing schools in the county engage in a series of multiple-choice examinations of various categories stemming from one central topic, in order to win both individual, and team medals. Schools who are successful at the county level can advance on to the state competition, and if that success continues, potentially the national level. The subjects students will be tested on include: math, social science, science, literature, music, art, (and economics, if you are on the varsity team). Along with these examinations, there are categories for speech, essay, interview, and “superquiz”, where a student trio collaboratively answers questions spanning from all subjects but mathematics. Individual students will compete against other students in their respective division, including students who attend the same school. The cumulative score of each student at a school helps determine the rank of each competing school at the competition.
How many students are on a team?
Academic Decathlon teams are composed of nine students, however each school can have multiple teams, i.e. an A team, B team, so on and so forth. Of these nine students, three require an unweighted academic GPA 3.8 or higher, these students will be placed in the “honors” division. The team also requires three students with a GPA between 3.20 – 3.799, to be placed in the “scholastic” division, and the remaining three students ought to have a GPA of 3.199 or lower, for the “varsity” division.
What are the awards, and how do you get them?
For each subject, there are five medals awarded per division to the five-highest scorers on the exam. For instance, if I am in the scholastic division, and I receive a third place medal on the music exam, it means that of all the scholastic students who took the music exam, I scored the third highest. The non-multiple-choice events are graded following a rubric that can be found on https://www.usad.org. Similarly to the multiple choice events, first through fifth place medals are awarded in speech, essay, and interview to students who score highest on the given rubric. The super quiz event is based on the performance of the collective three trios (honors, scholastic, varsity) on a short multiple choice quiz, and the five highest scoring teams will receive an award.
What is the time commitment for Academic Decathlon?
The time commitment for Academic Decathlon is predicated on each individual student, and their goals going into the competition. There is no set time commitment for Academic Decathlon, although the coach may assign mandatory meetings and practice sessions. However, it is crucial to both the success of the school and the students that competitors spend their own time to read through the materials, take practice exams, collaborate with teammates, and prepare for the competition. Students are given materials for the topic in advance, and can thus prepare for the competition for months prior, meaning most students will have put a considerable amount of time into studying. In order to succeed, it is recommended that students allocate a notable amount of time and effort to thorough preparation.
How do I join?
There are two levels of competition, JV, and Varsity. To join the Academic Decathlon club, and eventually register for the competition, it is necessary to notify the Academic Decathlon coach at University High School, Sr. Esposito, by sending him an email concerning your interest in joining, or waiting until the announcement of an interest meeting, where you can join by filling out an interest form. (For 11th or 12th graders, the topic has already been announced as the Cold War, meaning all of the information in the materials will be in respect to the cultural theme of the Cold War.) The coach of Academic Decathlon handles the formal registration process, so a necessary prerequisite to competing is joining the Academic Decathlon club.
Where can I do more research into Academic Decathlon?
Here are some notable resources:
- For more information regarding the competition structure, medals, difficulty, history, etc., visit https://www.usad.org/Curriculum/2020-2021-Curriculum.aspx
- For more information concerning specifically Orange County Academic Decathlon, visit https://ocde.us/decathlon/Pages/default.aspx
- To see Curriculum updates, go to https://usad.org/Curriculum/Curriculum-Updates.aspx
- To purchase materials: http://store.usad.org
- To see the benefits of joining — attached is a cool recruitment flyer: https://ocde.us/Decathlon/Documents/OCADSchoolFlyer2015-RedWhiteBlue.pdf
- To contact coaches or teachers: https://universityhigh.iusd.org/directory/all
By JAX ARMSTRONG
Opinion Copy Editor