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Frequently Asked Questions

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November 2015 Super Quiz

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What is MassDecathlon?

Massachusetts Academic Decathlon offers a high school competition unlike any other in the nation, in which students from all walks of academic life compete in ten different events as a team. For a detailed explanation, visit What Is Academic Decathlon?.

Is Academic Decathlon only open to "A" students? What makes Academic Decathlon different from other academic competitions, such as Quiz Bowl or Science Olympiad?

Academic Decathlon is certainly not only open to "A" students! In fact, one of the most beautiful aspects of the program is that not only can everyone find a place in it, but having a full team requires having at least two "B" students and two "C" students. Furthermore, unlike in other competitions where students specialize in one or two strengths, each Decathlete is required to compete in all ten events, meaning that they must be as well-rounded as possible in subjects as far apart as Math, Literature, and Speech. For a more detailed explanation, visit What Is Academic Decathlon?.

How did Academic Decathlon begin?

The Academic Decathlon was the brainchild of Dr. Robert Peterson, who organized the very first Academic Decathlon competition in 1968 in Orange County, California. Since then it has spread tremendously throughout the United States, with over 1,000 teams competing across the country each year.

Is MassDecathlon affiliated with a national organization?

Yes, Massachusetts Academic Decathlon is affiliated with the United State Academic Decathlon.

What determines whether a student is in the Honors, Scholastic, or Varsity division?

To determine the division of a student, calculate his or her non-weighted GPA (excluding certain classes - see the official USAD site for further details). Honors must have a GPA of 3.75 or above, Varsities 2.99 or below, and Scholastics in between. For the most up-to-date official GPA calculator, use the USAD GPA calculation worksheet.

How many schools participate in Academic Decathlon?

Over a thousand teams from 33 different states currently participate in Academic Decathlon, and last year (2015) 27 Massachusetts schools competed.

How have Massachusetts teams performed at the national level?

Massachusetts teams have been consistently excellent, with our state counting thirteen top-ten finishes this century alone and placing as high as fourth in the nation.

How is Massachusetts Academic Decathlon funded?

As a nonprofit organization, Massachusetts Academic Decathlon is funded solely though donations, USAD grants, school participation fees, and the generous financial support of our sponsors.

Getting Involved

How can I compete in Academic Decathlon?

Coaches and students alike can check out this page to learn how to form a team!

Are volunteers needed?

We love having helping hands! If you're interested in being an Essay, Speech, or Interview judge, or helping out the competition in other ways, click here!

How can I financially contribute to Massachusetts Academic Decathlon?

If you are a representative of a corporation or other group and would like to sponsor us, please visit this page. If you are an individual, please contact us directly at

When should I start preparing for Academic Decathlon?

To optimize their performances, many of the highest-scoring teams and individuals get started as soon as they have received the new Resource Guides and utilize their summer time to prepare. Others start at the beginning of the school year, or whenever they get recruited for their school's team. Do what feels best to you!

As a general rule of thumb, teams are most successful at Academic Decathlon when they read each of the 7 USAD Resource Guides at least once, so it's best to budget enough time before each competition to learn and become familiar with (individually or as a team) the information covered in the Resource Guides.

How can I prepare for Academic Decathlon (as a coach)?

There are a great many ingredients that fall into the recipe of coaching an Academic Decathlon team. One, of course, is finding and recruiting students for the team, whether from the classes the coach teaches, school announcements, word-of-mouth, or others methods. Another, and one of the most important, is teamwork and team bonding. It is also critical to help students find a study method that works best for them - Academic Decathlon is not intended to have its curriculum purely lectured but to provide an opportunity for students to learn from one another and identify how they best learn. For advice and questions, feel free to email, and MassDecathlon offers a free coaching workshop each year in September for new and veteran coaches alike.

In addition, visit the Coaches' Corner for helpful tips assembled from past coaches and students, registration forms, official USAD policies and GPA calculator, and a coaches' handbook with everything you ever needed (or wanted) to know about the competition.

How can I prepare for Academic Decathlon (as a student)?

Different students have immensely different ways to prepare for Decathlon. Some read the Resource Guides numerous times, some use third-party resources such as those produced by DemiDec or Decademy, and others make their own study materials. One of the best things about the program is that it helps students figure out how they best learn, so experiment and see what works best for you!

To help get you started, check out the Students page for study tips from past Decathletes, guides to the subjective events (essay, speech, and interview), and links to additional print and Internet resources.

What if my school can't afford to buy the USAD study materials?

If it's your first year competing, you can apply for a USAD-funded grant to get the materials for free!

Competition Logistics

What if we don't have a full team of 9 students?

Since team scores are calculated by adding the top two overall scorers per GPA division, as long as you have at least two students each in Honors, Scholastic, and Varsity, your team score will not be affected. If you do not have enough students to field a full team of at least six students, you may and should absolutely still compete, though it will be difficult to fare well against full teams.

Can I have a student whose GPA falls in the Scholastic range compete in the Varsity division?

You may not field students in GPA categories lower than their calculated one - however, you may field a student at a higher GPA division. As such, it is theoretically possible to field a team of 9 Varsities, 3 of them counting as Scholastics and 3 as Honors. In some situations (for instance, if your team's third Varsity is scoring higher than your second Scholastic) it is recommended that you do this.

Where can I register for competitions?

You can register your team for the 2015-16 school year here! Each team must fill out an overall competition season registration as well as a registration for each competition.

What if I have a sick or missing student during the essay writing window?

If this is the case, then unfortunately the student will receive a score of zero for the Essay event, but may still participate in the other events the day of the competition.

Can an alternate student submit an essay?

Alternate students only take the seven objective events (tests) at any given competition.

What is the format of a Massachusetts Academic Decathlon competition?

The tests will generally be taken in the following order: Math, Music, Economics, Science, (Lunch), Literature, Art, Social Science. During Regionals and State, Speech and Interview will take place during lunch, and Essay will be completed online prior to the day of competition. Super Quiz follows the final test, and then the awards ceremony begins! Competitions with all 10 events (February Regionals and March State) typically end by 7pm.

An official full schedule will be e-mailed to coaches at least two to three weeks before each competition.


Where do I go if I have questions throughout the year?

Feel free to email us at anytime at!

Developed and maintained by Massachusetts Academic Decathlon. Academic Decathlon, United States Academic Decathlon, U.S. Academic Decathlon, USAD, Super Quiz, and the USAD logo are trademarks and service marks of The United States Academic Decathlon Association and are used under license.