Info for High Schools

Academic WorldQuest™, a flagship WACA program entering its 18th year in 2020, is a fun, friendly, and powerful way for high school students to learn about international affairs. Nearly 5,000 students compete in AWQ contests organized by 50 World Affairs Councils hosts in their states. Prepare yourselves for the increasingly interconnected and complex world of the 21st century and show what you know!

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2020 Academic WorldQuest National Competition

**COVID-19 Update: The in-person Carlos and Malú Alvarez 2020 Academic WorldQuest National Competition, originally scheduled for April 24-25, has been canceled and will not be postponed or held virtually. This difficult decision comes after carefully monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., the World Health Organization's declaration of a pandemic, hearing about local restrictions on high school student travel, and conversations within the Network. WACA congratulates the students and Councils on all their hard work throughout the 2019-2020 AWQ season. 

If you are a high school student or a member of the public, please find your local Council here to get involved in the 2020-2021 AWQ season! Click here to see a list of all 2019-2020 participating Councils with information such as local competition dates, winning teams, and links for more details!

Nancy Lindborg, President and CEO of the United States Institute of Peace, delivered a virtual keynote address to the Council Network and all Academic WorldQuest students and teachers on May 28, 2020: "COVID and Conflict, Pandemics and Peace: The Road Ahead." (Watch below.) In light of the current pandemic and the unfortunate but necessary cancelation of the Carlos and Malú Alvarez 2020 Academic WorldQuest National Competition, Nancy addressed the students and teachers along with the national audience. She explored the unprecedented threats the coronavirus poses to fragile states and the important opportunities the pandemic offers to help fragile states recover better. A question-and-answer session followed Nancy's remarks.


Preparing the next generation of leaders, scholars, and decision-makers to thrive in a rapidly changing world - where our national interests are intertwined with the global community - is one of the greatest challenges facing our country. It requires a renewed enthusiasm for global studies in our high schools. Too many American students today fall behind their counterparts from other countries in their knowledge and understanding of world history, geography, and current international events.

The mission of Academic WorldQuest is to close the gap.

Program Structure

A World Affairs Council in your area will provide key dates and information to high school teachers and students for local Academic WorldQuest programs. Teams consist of four students plus alternates who are passionate about current international politics, geography, global economics, history, and world cultures. Typically, teams prepare in an after-school setting over the course of several months. You can read instructions and rules in our Operations Paper here and our Teacher's Guide here.

AWQ Study Guide and Topics

The World Affairs Councils of America’s 2019-2020 AWQ Official Study Guide is the primary resource to help students and teachers prepare for the topics covered in the timed question-and-answer AWQ competitions hosted by local Councils. Councils may adapt these topics to align with their local programming initiatives. 

AWQ 2019-2020 Topics were announced in mid-September. The AWQ Study Guide is also an essential resource for the Carlos and Malú Alvarez Academic WorldQuest National Competition, hosted by WACA every April in Washington, DC.

Winning teams are invited to represent their high school, city, and local Council at the national AWQ championship weekend, which includes the competition, unique programming planned to enhance the global education experience, and an opportunity to meet and engage with more than 250 like-minded peers from around the United States.

2019-2020 AWQ Topics

  • U.S.-Russia Relations
  • Country in Focus: South Korea
  • Preventing Extremism in Fragile States
  • Oceans: The World's Garbage Dump
  • Great Decisions
    • Refugees and Global Migration
    • The Middle East: Regional Disorder
    • Nuclear Negotiations: Back to the Future?
    • The Rise of Populism in Europe
    • Decoding U.S.-China Trade
    • Cyber Conflict and Geopolitics
    • The United States and Mexico: Partnership Tested
    • State of the State Department and Diplomacy
  • Brexit and the EU
  • China's Belt & Road Initiative
  • Germany: 30 Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall
  • Qatar and the Future of the Gulf Cooperation Council
  • Current Events


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