How It Works

Debate Format

Each debate begins with a coin toss. The winner of the toss has the choice of selecting one of the two topics provided, or to defer the selection to their opponent, who will have the option to decide whether s/he will argue the affirmative or the negative position. The participants will then have 5 minutes to prepare their arguments. Once the first speech begins, each speaker has an additional preparation time of 5 minutes (example: if the negative speaker uses 3 1⁄2 minutes of preparation time right before his first speech, he will have 1 1⁄2 minutes of preparation time to use prior to their final speech).


The main question that a judge should be concerned with is this: which contestant better supported his/her side of the topic? Such things as verbal delivery and organization are important, but the primary voting criteria is the overall quality of a student’s arguments and the student’s refutation of their opponent’s arguments.

Generally speaking, a judge should take a Tabula Rasa (blank slate) approach to the debate.

This means that only those arguments which occur in this debate should be considered. This also means that every assumption is contestable. Finally, this means that a judge should recognize his/her bias on the subject, and avoid both the influence of that bias and the influence of overreaction to bias (i.e. trying so hard not to be biased that you end up favoring the side you personally disagree with). Judging is based on what the students are saying and not what the judge knows about the topic.

Sample judging scenarios can be found in the contestant and judge information packets on the Registration page.

Sample questions can be found on the Question Submission & Sample Questions page.

Past Brackets