National Economics Challenge

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

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National Economics Challenge

Building an Ivy League-level resume and college application is no easy feat. Schools look at several aspects of your academics and personal life to decide whether you are a worthy candidate to represent their school. If you have a particular interest or passion in any field or excel in a certain area, it would be a great idea to focus on or participate in a program that highlights your talents outside of school.

Summer programs are a fantastic way to do this, as well as leadership or volunteer opportunities. One such way many of our students who have succeeded at AdmissionSight are able to showcase their skills is by entering in prestigious national and state-level academic competitions, such as the National Economics Challenge.

Are you interested in the study of how wealth influences our governing systems or have a knack for predicting trends of cause and effect? You might find you’re great at Economics.

Every year, the Council for Economic Education (CEE) holds the National Economics Challenge, designed to equip students with the tools and knowledge of personal finance and economics so that they can make better decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities.

What is the National Economics Challenge?

The National Economics Challenge is the country’s only economics competition of its kind for high school students. It tests micro and macroeconomic principles as well as knowledge of the world economy.

The Council for Economic Education (CEE) created the National Economics Challenge in 2000 to promote student interest in economics, reinforce classroom instruction, and to encourage teamwork and school spirit. In 2019, more than 10,000 high school students from the US and 2,300 from China participated. The National Economics Challenge is one of CEE’s key initiatives to focus public attention on the benefits of economic literacy and the need for a high-quality, standards-based economics curriculum in every state.

The competition applies the excitement of a competitive event to academic excellence and encourages students to apply their economics knowledge and work in teams. Competitions are held at the State/Wild Card, National Semi-Final, and National Final levels.

In each competition, teams answer rigorous questions on microeconomics, macroeconomics, international economics, and current events. At the National Final, students complete rounds of testing, work in teams to solve case problems and participate in a quick-paced oral quiz bowl in order to compete for the title of National Champions.

Each member, as well as one coach from the top four USA teams of the National Economics Challenge, will receive a medal and certificate of their accomplishment as well as a cash prize corresponding to their team’s rank:

1st place: $1,000

2nd place: $500

3rd place: $250

4th place: $200

The competition runs in two divisions: the David Ricardo Division, which is for first-time Challenge competitors who have taken no more than one economics course, and the Adam Smith Division, for AP, international baccalaureate, and honors students (as well as any returning competitors).

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How can I participate?

To get started, you must first participate in the Economics Challenge conducted at the state level. Students in all states have the opportunity to compete. You can contact your State Coordinator for more information.

What are the rules and requirements to be eligible for the National Economics Challenge?

  • Students must be enrolled for credit in a qualifying public high school, private high school, or home-based high school course at some time during the current academic year.
  • Students who have taken or are taking economics courses for college credit from a post-secondary instructor are not eligible to compete.
  • Students who have taken more than one semester of economics at any time must compete in the Adam Smith Division.
  • No student is permitted to compete in the David Ricardo Division for more than one year. Any returning student who has already participated in the National Economics Challenge​ (at the state-level or higher) must compete in the Adam Smith Division in subsequent years, regardless of previous or current coursework.
  • Home-schooled students must compete in the Adam Smith Division.

What are the regulations for team composition?

  • Teams shall be composed of no more than four members.
  • Competing with only three members, if necessary, is possible.
  • All members of a team must be from the same public school, private school, community organization or club, or afterschool program. This means that students from different schools are eligible to be on the same team if they are all part of one of the groups mentioned. Home-based high school students may join teams of any of the groups mentioned as well or may start a team with other home-based high school students in their county.
  • A team that qualifies for the National Semi-Finals and/or National Finals may reconstitute the members of its team prior to the competition. However, if a team must reconstitute members of a team, the team must retain a minimum of one original team member.
  • All teams must have a coach, who is an associate (e.g. employee or volunteer) of the team school, organization, or program, and who is fit to accompany students, should the team advance to the finals.

How do I register my team for the National Economics Challenge competition?

Start at your state level. Contact your State Coordinator to learn details about your state’s Economics Challenge.

My team is unavailable on the date on which the National Economics Challenge Semi-Finals competition is being held. Can we compete at a later date?

No. Your team may reconfigure its members and participate on the date provided or the team must forfeit.

Is there a limit to the number of teams coaches can register to participate in the Economics Challenge competition?

In most states, coaches may register as many teams as they wish to participate in the Economics Challenge competition. Students, however, may participate on only one team.

Does it cost money to participate in the National Economics Challenge?

No. There is no financial cost to participate in the National Economics Challenge; this competition is sponsored by the Council for Economic Education.

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What is the Wild Card competition?

Previously, if a state did not hold an Economics Challenge at the state level, teams in that state could not participate in the National Economics Challenge. The Wild Card competition is an online test that gives these teams a chance to participate in the National Economics Challenge.

The Wild Card competition will consist of Adam Smith and the David Ricardo divisions. The top team from each division will advance to the National Semi-Finals for a chance to compete in the National Finals in New York City! Note, this competition is reserved exclusively for teams living where a state competition is not held.

Who advances to the Semi-Finals of the National Economics Challenge?

States will be asked to identify one state champion from the David Ricardo division and the Adam Smith division to participate in the National Semi-Finals. How states determine their champion teams will be largely at their discretion, although champion teams must satisfy National eligibility requirements.

State coordinators will need to submit individual teacher and student registration forms to CEE only for the state champions in each division that advance to the National Semi-Finals. Contact your State Coordinator for more information.

Who advances to the National Economics Challenge Finals?

The top four scoring teams, in each division, of the National Semi-Finals advance to the National Finals.

What will the exam look like?

  • Semi-Finals: For both divisions (Adam Smith and David Ricardo) the exam is a written multiple-choice test. The test has three sections consisting of 15, five-option, multiple-choice questions in the area of macro, micro, and international economics and current events. Participants in the competition will have 20 minutes to complete each section of the test. For details on the competition format and scoring, you can visit the participation info page.
  • Finals: For both divisions (Adam Smith and David Ricardo) the exam will consist of four to five rounds:
    • Rounds I-III of the National Finals competitions test consists of 15, five-option, multiple-choice questions in the area of macro, micro, and international economics and current events. Participants in the competition will have 20 minutes to complete each test. For details on the competition format and scoring, visit our participation info page.
    • Round IV of the National Finals is the Critical Thinking round. Teams will have 30 minutes to prepare an economic analysis and a maximum of 10 minutes to present. Following the presentation, judges ask questions of the team members for 5-10 minutes. The top two scoring teams in Rounds I – IV will advance to the quiz bowl round to determine the champion.
    • Round V in the National Finals has a quiz bowl format covering all topics in economics.

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How are exams scored?

Team scores for the multiple-choice section of the Semi-Finals and Finals are determined by the aggregate of the top three individual scores. Scoring on individual tests is as follows: +10 points for each correct response, -5 points for each incorrect response, and 0 points for no response.

Can students receive their individual scores?

No. It is not possible for teams to receive their individual scores. Team scores will be given to coaches.

How can my team prepare for the National Economics Challenge℠ competition?

Besides having a working knowledge of economics and the ability to apply concepts and principles, teams may find it useful to view previous Semi-Final and Final exams in order to practice solving problems in the desired format.

In which division should my team compete?

There are two divisions: David Ricardo and Adam Smith.

The David Ricardo division includes teams of students currently or previously enrolled in one general economics course (or less) or courses which include introductory economic concepts (social studies, business, personal finance, etc.). The course must be taught by a secondary school teacher. Students who have never taken an economics course are eligible to compete. Students may only participate in the David Ricardo division one time.

The Adam Smith division includes teams of students, currently or previously, enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP Micro, AP Macro, or AP Micro and Macro), International Baccalaureate (pre-IB and IB), honours, two courses, any other advanced courses in economics (including courses taught by a secondary teacher where students earn college credit), or homeschooled.

The course must be taught by a secondary teacher. Any student who has previously participated in the Economics Challenge must compete in the Adam Smith division. Note, if one or more members of a team qualify for Adam Smith, the entire team must compete in the Adam Smith division. Students may participate in the Adam Smith division multiple times.

Are students enrolled in a course taught by a college professor eligible to participate in the National Economics Challenge?

No. As stated in the rules, courses must be taught by secondary teachers. Students enrolled, previously or currently, in an economics course taught by a college professor are not eligible to compete.

Do students need to be enrolled in or have taken, an economics course to be eligible to participate in the National Economics Challenge?

No. Current or previous enrollment in an economics course is not a requirement to compete in the National Economics Challenge℠.

Can students who attend the same virtual school constitute a team?

Yes, as long as students satisfy all other eligibility requirements.

Economics is one of those subjects that usually fall outside of the high school core academic subject areas (English, math, history, science, and foreign language). It’s typically an elective for most high school students and not necessary to graduate high school.

In fact, only 22 states require high school students to take a course in economics. The Council for Economic Education (CEE) is working to change that. The CEE’s mission is to teach students about economics and finance so they can make better decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities. Although many students aren’t learning it in the classroom, the CEE has found a way to teach them economics through their annual National Economics Challenge.

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The NEC fills a huge gap in high school students’ educations. Some may think economics is just pie charts and statistics, not needed unless you plan to be an economist. However. the students who participate in this competition know this couldn’t be farther from the truth; they are now armed with valuable real-world tools and skills that will be used throughout their lives.

Economics teaches several important concepts that can be used throughout high school, college, and beyond.

  • Decision-making: The study of economics can be summed up as the study of decision-making and how those decisions have an impact. If a student learns how to make good decisions, they can apply those principles as they face decisions such as where to go to school, or when and how to make a major purchase.
  • Resources and Scarcity: At every level, there are choices to be made about how to use resources, because usually there’s not enough money in our budgets to do everything we want. These are decisions made every day and at every level to try to improve lives with the resources we have.
  • Business Concepts: Business is all around us; we work for businesses and pay them every day for their products and services. Whether we work in business or just use their products, it’s necessary to have a basic understanding of these business and financial concepts to make smart decisions.
  • Politics, Policies, and Issues: Economic literacy gives people the tools for understanding how the world works. Economics addresses questions and issues around healthcare, investments, trade, immigration, real estate, business, crime, pollution, welfare, and school reform. Everyone benefits from economic literacy.

AdmissionSight believes in strengthening your application and highlighting your talents and skills, to present the best possible candidate to be accepted to your dream school. Putting yourself out there and taking the step to compete in something like the National Economics Challenge will only benefit you, not only in your personal growth but by showing admissions officers your integrity and initiative.


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