Academic Decathlon

Sponsor: Leslye Gilchrist–

Open to students of all academic levels, Academic Decathlon is an enriched elective course* that prepares students for a prestigious national academic competition. Each year, students study a wide variety of information on a particular theme. The ten events are Social Studies, Literature, Art, Music, Economics, Science, Math, Essay, Speech, and Interview. Students may participate independently or may enroll in the guided independent study elective course. Participation in Academic Decathlon greatly enhances students’ preparation for numerous AP courses: English, History, Art History, and more!

Academic Decathlon also sponsors Magnet’s Personal Pantry, available in the Bean Me Up Coffee House in the library. This pantry provides basic hygiene products for any student who may need them.

In the spring semester, the team is chosen. A team consists of three students each in the following GPA categories (based on academic courses only):
*Honors: 3.8-4.0
*Scholastic: 3.2-3.799
*Varsity: 3.199 or below

Each division may have an alternate. Students who do not make the team can continue to compete in the individual competition all the way through nationals. Our students have won medals at the national level in both team and individual competitions.

*Students may also study the material independently and compete to be on the team.


2021-2022: Water: A Most Essential Resource
2020-2021: The Cold War
2019-2020: In Sickness and in Health: A study of illness and wellness
2018-2019: The 1960’s
2017-2018: Africa
2016-2017: World War II
2015-2016: India

Magnet has gone to Nationals every year that we have competed since 1983!

2018-2019 team at USAD Nationals

Students on Academic Decathlon:

“Decathlon was one of my best high school experiences. Not only do you build lifetime friendships with your teammates and the Decathlon community, but you also learn invaluable skills. Decathlon forces you to think in a multi-disciplinary manner that is critical to higher learning in college and beyond. You do not only learn how to memorize large sums of material, but you also learn how different fields are connected around a central theme.”
Former CMHS Decathlete Zhen Zhen Shi: Tulane; Weill Cornell School of Medicine, New York

“Decathlon gave me a space to discover my best studying strategy without stressing about having a bad grade. It helped me learn information that was useful in other classes, as well.”
Leilani Chester, 10th grade, 2019 Academic Decathlon


2017-2018 team at USAD Nationals, Frisco, TX
2016-2017 team at USAD Nationals, Madison, WI
2015-2016 team at USAD Nationals, Anchorage, AK

Students from around the country:

Omar Khan, 2017

There are just too many to list, so here are some key reasons:

  1. AcDec challenges you in a way that no other class (AP or not) cannot
  2. Learning about a different country or a certain time period is a great way to expand your world view and expose yourself to different ways of life
  3. Shiny medals
  4. Everyone goes in knowing very little (if anything at all) about the topic, so it’s a very fair competition. Everyone starts at the same place and only your perserverence and dedication will allow you to succeed.
  5. You’ll learn test taking strategies that will make tests like the ACT and SAT seem easy
  6. The skills you develop in AcDec will last you through college and throughout life. I’m not kidding on this one. Seriously.
  7. Being a part of a close knit team where you all read the same packets and study the same topics creates lifelong connections. There’s really nothing quite like it and it’s such a rewarding feeling to carry your own weight on a team and watch your teammates grow and learn. I was a decathlete for 2 years and I would do a third if I had the chance. It was definitely hard and a ton of work, but I always had my team.
  8. Might look good on college resume
  1. Challenging material: The topic material is so dense and has so many little facts and minute details. As you get into more challenging courses in high school, the ability to read and digest a section of dense texts, as you do in Academic Decathlon, will come in very handy.
  2. Subject material is applicable throughout high school and beyond: Material I’ve learned in Academic Pentathlon (middle school) and Decathlon has come up again and again in my core classes. For example, the book we are reading this year in AcDec (Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe) is also the book we will be reading in the spring in my English class. The analysis of the book done in the fall in AcDec will make spring semester in English a breeze.
  3. Competition: Competition, especially if you’re successful, is really fun. Even if you’re not, it’s still a great way to bond with people on your team that you might not have otherwise met.
  4. Test-taking skills: This is, and probably will continue to be, my greatest takeaway from Academic Decathlon. You will hone your reasoning and application skills. Additionally, you get really good with guessing. After seeing so many tests at competition, you are able to discern which answer is probably right, even if you have little to knowledge on the topic of the question. These skills help not only in AcDec, but also in tests in your classes, AP exams, and the SAT/ACT.