Judge Training

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National Speech & Debate Association

The National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA) approved online training course has videos, slides, and short quizzes and takes about 1.5 hours to complete for both Speech and Debate. We suggest breaking it up into two sessions. You must register on the website to access the course content.

Below are some helpful links to get you started on your judging journey:

Judging Speech

In speech, a typical round will contain six different contestants, although this number can fluctuate depending on how many students are entered in the event.  Prior to the start of the round, the judge will pick up a set of ballots from the tournament organizer. These ballots are where judges will record their thoughts on each performance, suggestions for improvement, and general feedback for the performer. At the end of the tournament, each school will receive all the ballots written about their competitors so contestants can use your feedback to improve!

The judge will meet the students in the assigned room and watch the entirety of the round, which usually lasts for one hour. During each speech, the judge will make notes on the ballot, keep the contestant’s time, and ensure the round runs smoothly.

Students will occasionally ask for time signals, it is up to you whether or not you would like to honor that request. Time signals are a simple system that let competitors know how much time they have used throughout the speech. The most common time signals are to alert the student when they have two minutes remaining by holding two of your fingers in the air, like a peace sign, and to alert them when they have one minute remaining by holding one finger in the air.

In speech, it is common for competitors to enter in more than one event for the tournament, this is called being cross-entered or double-entered. Student’s who are double-entered should be allowed to speak earlier in the round if they have another event to go to, and should be excused for entering the round late if they were competing in a different event in the same round.

At the end of the round, the judge will evaluate the speakers and rate them on a scale from one to six, with the best performance receiving the one ranking. Depending on the tournament, you may be asked to assign competitors speaker points, typically on a scale from 90-100, with 100 being outstanding. After the rankings are complete, judges should return their ballots to the tournament organizer.

During preliminary rounds of the tournament, there is usually only one judge per round. However, when students begin competing in elimination rounds, rounds will have more than one judge. This is called a panel.

Sample Ballots:

Instructional SPEECH Videos

Select the videos below to access nine short speech training videos.

Judging Debate

Public Forum (PF) and Lincoln-Douglas (LD)

In debate, each round will have two debaters, or two teams, depending on the event.  Prior to the start of the round, the judge will pick up a ballot from the tournament organizer. The ballot is where judges will record their thoughts on each performance, suggestions for improvement, and general feedback for the performer. At the end of the tournament, each school will receive all the ballots written about their competitors so contestants can use your feedback to improve!

There are two sides to every debate, one side supports the resolution being debated, the other side negates the resolution. In Policy Debate and Lincoln-Douglas Debate, the sides will have been decided before the round. In Public Forum Debate sides are determined by a coin flip at the beginning of the round.

All debate events have a unique order to the round, divided into three parts: speeches, cross-examination, and prep time. Speeches are where the bulk of the debating is done, with each team presenting and reinforcing their arguments while refuting their opponents. It is common for judges to flow a debate, which means the judges will take notes about the speeches in order to keep track of the debate.

Cross-Examination is a period of time where debaters can ask each other questions. There are some differences between kinds of debate, but the purpose of cross-examination remains the same; asking questions that will allow the debater to make stronger arguments. It is up to you whether or not to flow this part. Typically, this is not a time for debaters to be making arguments, instead, it is to clarify their opponents positions.

Each event gives debaters a set amount of prep time, where competitors can take a moment to prepare for the next part of the debate. Competitors can take prep time between speeches and should notify the judges when they begin and end prep.

The judge will watch the entirety of the debate and then decide which side won. Depending on the tournament, judges can give an oral critique or disclose the results of the round. An oral critique is when the judge provides the debaters with immediate feedback by talking with both sides after the debate. Similarly, a disclosure is when the judge reveals which side won the debate right after the round.  Neither of these are necessary, and, be sure to check with the tournament organizer before giving oral critiques or disclosing. When filling out the ballot, you may be asked to assign competitors speaker points, typically on a scale from 20-30, with 30 being outstanding. After the decision has been made, judges should return their ballots to the tournament organizer.

During preliminary rounds of the tournament, there is usually only one judge per round. However, when students begin competing in elimination rounds, rounds will have more than one judge. This is called a panel.

SAMPLE Ballots:

Lincoln Douglas Ballots:

Public Forum Ballots

DEBATE Judge Training Videos:

Judging Congress

Written Instruction and Sample Ballots

Look here for written instruction on judging Congress and sample Congress ballots: Congress Written Instruction and Sample Ballot

Congress Judge Training Videos

Please watch the following videos in the order they appear on the screen.