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 “A” students, 3 “B” students and 3 “C” students. Often the “C” 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, it is recommended that a district-level competition or scrimmage be held to provide an excellent experience in competition and preparation for the state competition. 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 Oral relay– a team event held before a live audience. Seven comprehensive tests are given in the areas of economics, mathematics, language and literature, science (or social science), music, art and the Super Quiz topic. The 3 communication events include speech (prepared and impromptu), interview and a written essay. The competition concludes with the Super Quiz Oral Relay that is held in an arena/theater setting. One team member from each of the participating teams participates in a relay round resulting in nine rounds with five questions for each round.