As it is grounded in human persuasion, debating is inherently a subjective activity.  Determining the winner of academic debating competition ultimately comes down to the preferences of the adjudicators who evaluate the round.  That said, debate operates on a set of common assumptions about format and conduct that should be shared by all who participate in the activity.  Those common assumptions are discussed in the Rules & Procedures section of this document.



  1. Each middle school is permitted to enter up to five teams of three students each in the competition (for a total of 15 students from each school).
  2. Eligibility of particular students is left to each school’s discretion, but generally, the student must be enrolled and in good standing at the middle school he or she represents.
  3. Contestants must participate in the tournament as three-person teams.  In an emergency, and upon the approval of the tournament director, a team may compete with two individuals.
  4.  The Semifinal round will be contested by the teams with the highest placing (based on preliminary round team win/loss record and points) from the preliminary rounds.  The winning teams from each Semifinal round will contest the Final Round.
  5. Failure of a team to attend any preliminary, Semifinal or Final round(s) at the time and place scheduled forfeits that team’s eligibility for the Championship. 

The Debates

  1. Teams will be scheduled in rounds with one other team.  One of those teams will be assigned to advance the motion (the “Proposition”) and the other will be assigned to oppose the motion (the “Opposition”).
  2. Each team will participate in a minimum of four preliminary rounds to determine their eligibility for the Semifinal and Final rounds.
  3. If an odd number of teams enter the competition, a team may receive a “bye” during the preliminary phase of the competition.  Each team will receive no more than one bye for the preliminary phase of the competition.  A bye will be recorded as a “win” for that team and the team’s points for the bye round will be averaged based on their points from other preliminary rounds.
  4. Preliminary round sides, positions and topics will be announced at 15 minutes prior to the start time of the debate.
  5. Teams may access any material or receive assistance from anyone during their preparation time.  Once the round has begun, teams may access only material prepared during the 15 minute preparation time.  No assistance may be offered to any team by any individual during the round.
  6. A team will be assigned to represent both the Proposition and Opposition side of each preliminary round motion.  The Semifinal and the Final round each will use a unique motion.  Motions will concern current controversial events and/or timeless philosophical or political issues.

Speaking Order and Time Limits

Each member of a team will make their presentation, within the time allotted, in the following order:

Constructive Speeches: 

First Speaker: Proposition                   (5 minutes)

First Speaker: Opposition                    (5 minutes)

Second Speaker: Proposition               (5 minutes)

Second Speaker: Opposition                (5 minutes)

Points of Information will be allowed after the first and before the last minute of each Constructive Speech.

Summary Speeches:

Rebuttal Speaker: Opposition             (3 minutes)

Rebuttal Speaker: Proposition             (3 minutes)

No Points of Information are allowed during Summary Speeches

Adjudication of Debates

  1. Each debate will be judged by at least one qualified judge.  At times, a odd-numbered panel of adjudicators may judge the debate. 
  2.  One team will be selected as the winner of the round.  Ties are not permitted.
  3. Each speaker in the debate will receive a score between 1-30. 
  4. A team score will be calculated for each team in the round.  The team score shall be the sum of each individual debater’s speaker score on a particular team.  Team scores will have a range of 1-90.
  5. At the conclusion of each debate, the adjudicator will decide which team has won the round and assign points to each of the speakers.  If the round is judged by an adjudication panel, the panel will confer to discuss the round and to attempt to reach a consensus on the decision.  Should a consensus be unreachable, the majority opinion of the adjudication panel will prevail.
  6. Once a decision has been reached, the adjudicator (or the chair of the panel) should reveal the decision and explain the reasons for the decision.  The adjudicator or chair should also reveal speaker points awarded to each speaker.
  7. All decisions of the adjudicator or the adjudication panel will be final and may not be appealed.

Evaluation of Debates

Debates will be assessed by evaluating the matter and manner of each team in an effort to determine the successful team in the debate.

  1. Matter relates to the issues addressed in the debate and the arguments used to advance a position.  Adjudicators will evaluate the relevance of the issues identified by the debaters and the strength of the support offered to underpin the debater’s claims.
  2. Manner refers to a debater’s presentation and strategy.  Adjudicators will evaluate the effectiveness of the debater’s organization and structure, their engagement of issues and each debater’s presentation of their arguments. Adjudicators will also evaluate cooperation among team members to advance a consistent and coherent position.


Free and Open Forum

As a laboratory for developing the skills necessary for engaged citizenry, the activity of debating and this contest fully embrace the ideals of open discussion of all issues and the freedom to advocate for one’s personal convictions.  Moreover, as an academic exercise, the speech of participants entered in this tournament is protected by the provisions of academic freedom.  This freedom and openness carries with it the responsibility to exercise those rights in a way that preserves those opportunities for others and doesn’t seek to exclude from the discourse those with whom an advocate may disagree.

Harassment of participants, behavior designed to intimidate or belittle participants or any conduct that is contrary to the free and open exchange of ideas will not be tolerated.  Any participant who engages in such practices may be expelled from the competition at the sole discretion of the tournament organizers.