Academic Decathlon Essay Prompts 2012 Gmc

The United States Academic Decathlon (USAD) is an academic competition for high school students in the United States. The Academic Decathlon consists of 10 events: Art, Economics, Essay, Interview, Language and Literature, Math, Music, Science, Social Science, Speech and Super Quiz. Each year, one of the ten subjects is chosen as the Super Quiz, which uses a different format than the other events. The topics and theme of the competition are released in March of every year, giving students time to prepare for the competition season which runs from November to April.[2] The events are split up into two groups: the seven objective tests (Art, Economics, Language and Literature, Math, Music, Science and Social Science) and the three subjective events (Essay, Interview and Speech). They are designated as such because the former seven are multiple choice tests, whereas the latter three are graded by judges. Students are given half an hour to answer each multiple choice exam. These exams consist of 50 questions, with the exception of Math and Super Quiz which have 35 and 52 questions respectively.[3]

Topics used[edit]


Since 1997[edit]




Looking Forward:
Creating the Future[47]
Art[47]Art focused on innovations in the Fine Arts. Featured pieces:
Economics[47]Fundamentals of economics, microeconomics, and environmental economics
Language and Literature[47]Novel


Selected poems

Math[47]Fractals, fractal geometry, and algorithms in the complex plane
Music[47]Music focused on breakthroughs in American Jazz. Featured pieces:
Social Science[47]Infrastructures Around the Globe: Suez Canal, Transmerican Railroad, Panama Canal, Alaska Pipeline, Channel Tunnel, Glen Canyon Dam, Three Gorges Dam, and the International Space Station
Super QuizSustainable Earth[6][49]


Understanding the SelfArt[50]Art focused on images of the self. Featured selections:



  • Portrait of a Man from Rome (c. 50 BCE)
  • Guanyin from China (c. 580 CE)
  • Walking Woman (Femme qui Marche) and Annette, both by Alberto Giacometti


Economics[50]Fundamentals of economics, business organizations, and profiles in individual enterprise
Language and Literature[50]Novel


Math[50]Logic and set theory, numbers, combinatorics and probability, and application
Music[50]Music focused on sacred music from around the world. Featured songs:
  • "El Melej" by Alia Musica
  • "Al-'Ada" by La Sulamiyya
  • "Wir setzen uns mit Tranen nieder" by Netherlands Bach Society
  • "Bluebird Song" by Lena Clark
  • "Quen a Virgen Ben Servira" by Ensemble Alcatraz
  • "Nyamaropa yeVana Vava Mushonga" by Muchatera
  • "Arrullo San Antonio" by BMOSA
  • "Ngoma ra Mrongo" from Kenya & Tanzania
  • "Kriti: Ninnadanela" by Ramnad Krishnan
  • "Kecak" by Music for the Gods
  • "Move on up a Little Higher" by Mahalia Jackson
  • "O Magnum Mysterium" by Choir of Westminster Cathedral
Science[50]The Biological Self: biology of the cell, molecular genetics, and the immune system
Super Quiz[6][50][52]Concepts of the Self: Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion



Understanding the Natural World[6]ArtRomantic, Realist, Impressionist, and Asian Art, including
EconomicsFundamentals of economics; micro- and macro-economics; a special section on "The Economics of the Natural World"
Language and LiteratureNovel


MathGeneral math, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry
MusicMusic of the Romantic Era, featuring the following works:
Social ScienceThe Natural World as it Shapes Human History: early cultures in the Americas, technology and the natural world, the impact of natural disasters in U.S. history, and the preservation of nature.
Super QuizThe Blue Planet: Beneath the Surface[63]


America: The Growth of a Nation[64]Art[65]

Early American Art

Native American Art

  • Bowl (Sikyatki Style) - Sikyatki Cultural Group
  • Taos Pueblo - Pueblo Nation
  • Scenes of Plains Indian Life - Cadzi Cody
  • Cape - Anishinabe Cultural Group


Economics[66]Fundamentals of economics; micro- and macro-economics; The U.S. Economy in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Century
Language and Literature[67]


Shorter Selections

Math[68]General math, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus


  • Botany as a Science
  • General Characteristics of Plants
  • Plant Physiology
  • Plant Reproductiona and Life Cycles
  • Plant Phyla
  • Plants of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
  • Plant Ecology
  • Plant Genetics
Super Quiz[71]The Lewis and Clark Expedition


Exploring the Ancient World[72]Art[73]

Ancient Near Eastern Art

Ancient Egyptian Art

Art of Ancient Aegean Civilizations (Cyclades, Minoa, and Mycenaea)

  • Statuette of a Woman - Cylcades
  • Palace at Knossos - Minoa
  • Stirrup jar with octopus - Mycenaea

Ancient Greek Art

Ancient Etruscan and Roman Art

  • Fundamentals of economics
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • International trade and Global Economic Development
  • The Economies of Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations (Egyptian, Greek, and Roman)
Language and Literature[75]

Plays by Sophocles

Shorter Selections

  • General Math
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Differential Calculus
Music[77]Music focused on the Classical Era with the following selected pieces:
  • "Voi che sapete" from Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • String Quartet in D Major, op. 64, no. 5, "The Lark" finale: vivace - Joseph Haydn
  • String Quartet in G, K. 387, molto allegro - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • String Quintet in G Minor, K. 516, adagio non troppo - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Symphony no. 44 in E Minor, "Trauersinfonie" allegro con brio - Joseph Haydn
  • "Son imbrogliato io già" from La Serva Padrona (The Maid as Mistress) - Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
  • Symphony no. 104 in D, finale, spiritoso - Joseph Haydn
  • Die Schöpfung (The Creation), Recitative and Chorus: "In the beginning" - Joseph Haydn
  • Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 488, allegro - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • "Ah taci ingiusto core" from Don Giovanni - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, "Eroica" allegro con brio - Ludwig van Beethoven
  • String Quartet in C-sharp Minor, op. 131 Presto (scherzo) - Ludwig van Beethoven
  • String Quartet in C-sharp Minor, op. 131 Allegro (finale) - Ludwig van Beethoven
Social Science[78]Emerging Empires in the Near East, Egypt, Greece, and Rome
Super Quiz[79]From Empty Space to Incredible Universe: The Sky Is Not the Limit



China and Its Influence on the WorldArt[87]
  • Tripod Ritual Vessel
  • Pendant in the Form of a Dragon
  • Female "Long-Sleeve" Dancer
  • Spirit Jar (Hung Ping)
  • Exalted Gathering in the Green Woods
  • Boy Leading an Ox Along the Farm Path
  • Boddhisttva Kuan-Yin
  • Verse in Cursive Script
  • Bamboo and Rocks
  • Book of Sudhana from the Garland Sutra
  • Taihe Dian
  • Imperial Throne
  • Empress's Twelve Symbol Robe
  • Blue-and-White Dish
  • Pillow
  • Official Seal
  • Cricket Container
  • Cosmetic Case and Mirror Stand
Economics[88]Fundamentals of economics, macroeconomics, microeconomics, areas, international trade and development, and the development of the Chinese market economy.
Language and LiteratureThe featured novel was The Good Earth.[6][88] Shorter selections includedI Watered My Horse, Sent to My Two Little Children, The Terrace in the Snow, Half of Me is Aching, Kubla Khan, and The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter[89][90]
Math[88]General math, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and differential calculus.
Music[88]There were 18 selected pieces on the Music of China.
Social Science[88]Introduction to the People's Republic of China
Super QuizAn Introduction to Climatology[6][88]


History of the Civil WarArt[91]There were 18 selected works chosen from museums in Washington, D.C.

Traditions and Innovations in Painting

Memorializing the Civil War


  • Frederick Douglass by an unidentified photographer
  • The Sick Soldier by Mathew Brady
  • Cañon de Chelle, Walls of the Grand Cañon about 1200 Feet high (Wheeler Survey) by Timothy H. O'Sullivan

African-American Art


  • Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana, 1837–39
  • Lyndhurst for George Merritt, Tarrytown, New York by Alexander Jackson Davis (architect)
  • Shotgun House, New Orleans, nineteenth century
Economics[92]Fundamentals of economics, including general topics in macro- and microeconomics and international trade and global economic development, slavery, and the economics of the U.S. Civil War.
Language and Literature[93]Featured Novel

Shorter Selections

Section from the Book of the Dead of Nany from the 2004–05 curriculum. Students were to memorize facts including that the whole scroll is 17 feet long, Nany was a ritual singer for Amen-Ra and that her coffin was a hollow wooden sculpture of Osiris.[1]

The essay section is there to test the student's writing ability.  They are given three writing prompts, and they must choose one topic to write on.  These topics usually revolve around the Language and Literature category or the Super Quiz category, so students must make sure they are knowledgeable on those topics.  They are given 50 minutes to write the essay.  The essays are then graded by judges with a pretty subjective guideline.  Like most essays, students are graded on their ideas, organization, grammar and mechanics, and overall impression.


1.  Know your possible topics = You know the topics are coming from the super quiz or the plays you read.  Think beforehand what possible essay topics could come from these.  Think of the main themes in the literature you read.  Those are always possible topics.  No one can always be sure of guessing correctly, so just be well versed in the two subjects.  If you know the plays very well, whatever question they give you should be pretty easy. 

2.  Write A LOT = People may tell you that size does not matter, but it does.  It simply makes you look like you gave more effort.  Of course you do not just want to write a bunch of junk.  You have 50 minutes of writing.  I guarantee that if at 40 minutes you look around there will be a lot of people who "finished."  Use all your time.  You know it takes you maybe ten minutes to write a conclusion and check for errors.  Fill that body up with more info in the meantime.

3.  Organize just like you do in school = You know to start with an introduction.  You know the intro should catch the reader's attention and lead to a thesis.  You know you should have multiple body paragraphs with transitions.  You know there should be a conclusion.  Take five minutes in the beginning to think about what each paragraph will have and organize your thoughts.

4.  Be unique = Graders have to read every essay for one category (all Honors small school essays).  They will begin to see the same ideas in every paper.  One third will start off with "There are many ______________ in the world."  The intro and conclusion are quite important for you to stand out and seem different and intelligent.  Otherwise you will be thrown in with the rest and only get a 600. 

5.  Sound intelligent = I'm not just talking about using polysyllabic words to make you sound verbose.  Your entire thesis should be an intelligent one.  I'd spend the time to really think of that great thesis that is unique and special.  The question may be about the Italian Renaissance.  Don't just fill your essay with as many facts about this topic as possible.  Ask yourself, "What am I trying to say about this renaissance thing?"  It better not be as simple as, "The renaissance sure had some smart people," or "The renaissance really influenced the world today."  You want to be specific and have a direct idea to talk about.  A grader would be much more impressed with an idea like, "The philosophical concept of humanism that was developed in the renaissance has helped lead the Western world to becoming more secular even though it was never designed for that."  Your entire essay then defends this point.  In comparison to other writers who are just saying, "Leonardo da Vinci sure painted some nice pictures and did you know he wrote backwards?" you will sound brilliant.  You will distance yourself from others who are just trying to "fact drop" ideas in with no real purpose.

6.  Check grammar and mechanics = I know at the end of writing you are tired.  Still, take the time to read it over and check for mistakes.  You are hand writing these essays, and most kids only write on computers with good old spell check. 


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