2021 — NSDA Campus, VA/US

Judge Overview

Debate Judges’ Orientation: Public Forum


Starting the round

  • Introduce yourself: name, school, your role (teacher, parent, etc.). Keep it short.

  • Empty your mind of any personal bias regarding the resolution. Your judgment should come from speaker performance, not your personal feelings about the resolution.

During the round

  • Keep time and don’t let speakers go over except to finish a sentence. You might have to interrupt a speaker when the time expires. Just say “Time. Thank you.”

  • The next segment of the debate should start promptly following the previous segment. Don’t rush the speakers but don’t let them take “unofficial” prep time.

  • Speakers may take prep time in segments (30 seconds, 1 minute, etc.) They might ask you to count time for them as they are prepping. Keep track of prep time in your notes. 

  • Judges should not ask questions or make comments during the round. You are the judge, not a participant in the debate.

  • A note on sportsmanship: Hold speakers to a high standard of professionalism and civil behavior. Rudeness, sarcasm, and browbeating – while rarely seen -- should not be tolerated. If necessary, you may interrupt the round to issue a warning. Unprofessional behavior can be penalized on the ballot.


Criteria for judging

  • Your main criterion is: Which side was most convincing?

  • To win the round, a speaker must present a well-reasoned case, defend that case against the opponent, and successfully rebut the opponent’s case.

  • Speakers generally read a prepared “constructive” speech. Point deductions should not be made for using a prepared speech at the beginning of the round.

  • Common criteria include:

    • Burden of proof: Which side did the best job proving his/her side is more valid?

    • Organization of ideas: Which side did the best job presenting the case in a structured, coherent manner?

    • Argumentation: Which side has used the most logical reasoning backed by evidence?

    • Resolutionality: Which side did the better job answering the central question(s) of the resolution? (Note: Inexperienced debaters often end up arguing things unrelated to the resolution. To win a round a debater must prove/disprove the resolution as written.)

    • Clash: Debate requires a clash of sides. Rebutting the opponent’s case is necessary to win a round. A speaker must also defend his/her case against the opponent’s rebuttal. (A Lincoln-Douglas debate should include clash on the value structure as well.)

    • Delivery: Which side communicated in a more persuasive, clear, and professional manner?


After the round


  • Oral critiques immediately after the round are strongly discouraged. The Tab Room needs your ballot ASAP.

  • Try to return your ballot to the Tab Room within ten minutes of the end of the round. 



Public Forum round format

1st Speaker, Team A                       4 mins.

2nd Speaker, Team B                      4 mins.

Crossfire: Speakers 1 & 2             3 mins

3rd Speaker, Team A                      4 mins.

4th Speaker, Team B                      4 mins

Crossfire: Speakers 3 & 4             3 mins

1st Speaker summary speech      2 mins.

2nd Speaker summary speech     2 mins

Grand crossfire: All speakers      3 mins.

3rd Speaker: final focus                2 mins

4th Speaker: final focus                2 mins.

Each team gets 4 minutes of prep time which can be taken in segments.



PUBLIC FORUM:   Resolved: Online learning is superior to face-to-face instruction.


Thank you for judging for the Spotsylvania County Middle School Debate  League!