Academic Decathlon Essay Prompts 2013

National Theme: World War II

Academic Decathlon Events for 2016-17

Fall Coaches Meeting: October 12, 2016

Prep Day at CSUB: November 9, 2016

Speech, Interview, Essay: January 12, 2017

Kern County Academic Decathlon: February 4, 2017

State Academic Decathlon: March 23-26, 2017

National Academic Decathlon: April 20-22, 2017 (Madison, WI)

Forms for Kern County Academic Decathlon Coaches.

Kern County Alumni

Would you like to let us know who you are and share your current activities?

Answer the following questions and e-mail to

  • Name
  • Year participated in Kern County Academic Decathlon
  • High School attended as an AD participant
  • Current contact address and phone
  • Activities since high school
  • Current work or business
  • Other items of interest

For additional information or questions, please contact Cathie Morris at (661) 636-4593 or FAX (661) 636-4135.

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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