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Academic Decathlon 101

What is the Orange County Academic Decathlon (OCAD)?OCAD First Place Medal

Like its ancient Greek counterpart, Academic Decathlon is a ten event contest where high school students of all academic abilities and achievement work as a team to compete in the areas of language and literature, science, mathematics, social science, economics, art, music, essay, interview, and speech.  Each team aspires to compete at the state or national level.

The purpose of Academic Decathlon is to develop and provide academic programming, curriculum, and assessment to promote learning and academic excellence.  Students of all achievement levels participate in a variety of rigorous and challenging academic events while building teamwork and a competitive spirit. 

Founded in 1968, by Robert Peterson, Ed.D., former County Superintendent of Schools, the Orange County Academic Decathlon serves as the model for all prestigious Academic Decathlon events that now exist at the state and national levels.​​

How Does Academic Decathlon Work?

Academic Decathlon teams consist of nine student members, known as Decathletes.  Each team consists of three Honors decathletes (GPA 3.8-4.0), three Scholastic decathletes (GPA 3.2-3.79), and three Varsity decathletes (GPA 0.0-3.19).  Each Academic Decathlon team spends months working together in preparation for a rigorous and demanding competition season against other local area schools.

All decathletes participate by taking 30-minute multiple-choice tests in the subject areas of art, language and literature, economics, mathematics, music, science, and social science.  Each area, with the exception of mathematics, is based on an annual theme (e.g., Russia, the Great Depression, the History of the Civil War). The theme for 2023-2024 is Technology and Humanity​.

In addition, each decathlete is required to perform a planned 4-minute speech on a topic of their choice, a 2-minute impromptu speech, and a 7-minute interview (similar to a job interview) and to write an essay within a 50-minute period.

The competition culminates with an exciting Super Quiz relay, a team event where parents and classmates cheer from the sidelines, much like a sporting event.

After scores for all tests, interview, speeches, essay, and Super Quiz scores are cumulated, individual and team award medals are presented at an awards ceremony.  The overall winning team from the Orange County Academic Decathlon is invited to participate in the statewide California Academic Decathlon.  In years past, based on overall state scores, additional teams have also been invited to represent Orange County as "wild card" teams.