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The Experience

There are lots of wonderful academic competitions out there.  You can go prove you’re the best writer, or the best physicist, or the best speller.

Academic Decathlon isn’t about any of that!

It’s not about demonstrating how good a student you already are. It’s about daring to push your limits, to master college-level material and to practice skills, like public speaking, that might be wholly new to you. It’s about the people you’ll meet along the way—the coaches who will mentor you, the competitors who will challenge you, and the teammates who will become your lifelong friends.

As Decathletes, you’ll learn an exciting new theme each year. You’ll explore seven subjects connected to that theme, from art and science to math and economics. You’ll learn to move an audience not just with facts and rhetoric, but with confidence. And you’ll never do any of this alone. You’ll be working with a team—a team composed of students with a wide range of grades but a single shared goal.


What Happens During the State and National Competitions

Academic Decathlon® isn’t about mastering a single event, but ten different skills and disciplines. Every Academic Decathlon competition, whether it’s a local round or the national finals, will follow the same multidisciplinary format.

You’ll deliver speeches, one on a topic of your choice and one on a topic you’ve never seen before.

You’ll write an essay demonstrating not just what you’ve learned but how powerfully you can argue an idea.

You’ll be interviewed by judges asking you thoughtful questions about your past experiences and your goals for the future.

You’ll take challenging exams in Art, Economics, Literature, Math, Music, Science, and Social Science.

And, at the exciting Super Quiz, you and your teammates will take turns solving the most stimulating challenges of all from across every subject you’ve studied—while a virtual audience cheers you on.

2021 CURRICULUM: THE COLD WAR

General information on the topics in each of the subject areas.

  • SCIENCE: The science topic will be an introduction to astronomy and will include sections on the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • LITERATURE: The literature curriculum will include critical reading, one long work of literature, and selected shorter works. The long work of literature will be Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  • Art: The art curriculum will include a section on art fundamentals and will largely focus on an exploration of art during the Cold War.
  • Music: The music curriculum will introduce students to various musical works from the Cold War era.
  • SOCIAL Science: The social science curriculum will introduce students to the history of the Cold War.
  • Economics: The economics curriculum will cover fundamental economic concepts, microeconomics, and macroeconomics and will also include a thematic section on the economics of the Cold War.
  • Mathematics: The mathematics curriculum will cover general mathematics, geometry, and an introduction to differential calculus.*

 * The 2020–21 mathematics curriculum and materials will be the same as were used for the 2017–18 U.S. Academic Decathlon.