Academic Decathlon

Blog post by Elena Trinh, class of 2020

The Academic Decathlon, otherwise known as simply AcaDec for short, is an annual academic competition that involves events where students compete in 7 subject tests, write an essay, perform a speech, and partake in an interview. While it may sound overwhelming at first, you are given 10 months in advance to prepare for the competition, beginning in March when the topic of the year is released. Each year, a new topic is chosen for the next season, and this year, the topic is “1960s in the U.S.” Many students have heard about AcaDec, but not many know exactly what it is. For the sake of this testimonial, I’ll be briefly detailing less of the logistics of the event and more about how it’s helped me develop as a person since my years joining.

As mentioned previously, AcaDec consists of 10 events: speech, interview, essay, and seven subject tests, of which include art, literature, social science, music, science, economics, and math. Given resource guides about the history, literature, art, and etc. about the 1960s, students are given 50 question multiple choice tests and 30 minutes to complete them for each of the subjects. Students, teams, and schools are ranked according to how well students perform on each event.

I first joined AcaDec towards the end of my freshman year. One thing I would advise, though, is to be fully informed about what you’re getting into before joining. When I joined, I wasn’t even aware that we were expected to perform a speech or be interviewed at all! This terrified me, seeing as I’ve always had a fear of public speaking. However, while joining AcaDec might not have been ideal at first, I grew to enjoy it, and from these experiences, I learned so many valuable lessons that will sure to be beneficial for me in the future. I grew more comfortable in public speaking and in the art of answering interview questions smoothly. Taking tests and essays in a timed manner has really assisted me in my AP classes when we are tasked to complete timed tests or essays. AcaDec also develops healthy studying habits since each player is expected to memorize countless events and public figures for the sake of a few tests.

However, I would say that AcaDec is geared towards students who are stronger in history and social science since the majority of the content is learning about history. My word of advice for anyone interested in joining the Academic Decathlon is to be aware of how much time you’ll need to invest in it. In order to do well in Acadec, you need to consistently study and dedicate at least a portion of your week to doing something related to the upcoming competitions. My favorite aspect about AcaDec, though, has been the people. The people I met in AcaDec were people who I never would’ve befriended had I not joined the program. I met some of my best friends in this program, and taking the opportunity to join has been one that has truly changed the course of my high school experience for the better.