Guide for Adjudicators           

Debating is the art of persuasion and therefore persuasiveness is the paramount criteria for judging a debate round. There are three, equally weighty, sub-criteria that specify what makes a team persuasive: content, strategy, and style.


·         Relevance - Was the speech germane to the motion and/or definition? Did it clearly avoid specific issues that needed to be addressed? Was its humour relevant or irrelevant?

·         Analysis - Did the speaker demonstrate perceptive understanding of the big issues, and relate smaller points to that? Were examples used to prove a point, or merely thrown away? Were unsubstantiated assertions, logical flaws and case contradictions spotted in the opposing case?

·         Evidence - The relevance of examples and authorities is vital to the persuasiveness of a speaker. Their absence should be penalised. You may find as a judge that your expert knowledge in a particular field reveals a mistaken use of an example in a speaker's case; however, if the opposition do not highlight this, it is probably unfair to penalise them.


·         Duties of the Speaker - As described above (see Guide for Debaters), each speaker has a role to fill. Did they do their job? Did 1st Prop define the motion clearly, and was it a fair definition? Did 1st Opp challenge that definition, and if so, was it a fair challenge? Did 1st Opp and both 2nd speakers rebut previous arguments satisfactorily? Did the summary speakers identify the major issues of the debate?

·         Teamwork - Did the two speakers work together well, and did their arguments complement each other? The first speaker should lay out the basic meat of their case and the second should develop this or look at it in a different context. The summary speeches should go over all the major issues that have been raised.

·         Rebuttal - The most demanding and interesting feature of a good debate. After the first proposition speaker, each subsequent speech must spend some time addressing arguments raised by the other side. Did the speaker fail to do this? Or did he/she only address trivial arguments, instead of dealing with the potentially damaging ones? A speaker who undermines their opposition while consolidating their own defence should be rewarded.

·         Structure - Were the speeches clearly structured and easy to follow? Was the team argument logically ordered in a sequence that flowed naturally from point to point?

·         Timing - Were the speeches well-timed, both externally - i.e. Not overstepping or falling short of the time limits by much - and internally - i.e. Devoting an appropriate proportion of the speech to each point?

·         Points of Information - Points of information (POIs) are questions or comments offered by an opposing speaker during a speech. POIs are meant to throw a speaker off track, to stump a speech, or show how foolish a point may be. POIs can only be offered during non-protective times: any time between (but not including) the first and last minutes of a speech. POIs should be offered by each member of the opposition whenever they feel they have something to contribute. To offer a POI, an opposition speaker should stand up and say “On a point of information,” or “Information,” or “On that point,” and so on. Sometimes those offering POIs prefer to make a statement that clues-in the speaker on what they will say, for example, “on the costs,” or “on legality,” or “on your irrelevant point” and so on. POIs should not be a means of harassing the speaker. Those offering POIs should be wary about the thin line separating a POI and harassment. POIs are meant to show adjudicators that a debater is an active participant in the debate, and so POIs are meant to help not hurt. Accepting POIs is at the sole discretion of the speaker. Whom a speaker chooses to recognize for a POI is up to them, and it is the speaker’s right to end a POI even if the point wasn’t fully made or explained.  Some POIs run longer than they should and speakers get easily agitated by the rambling. Once you understand what the POI is hinting at, ask them to sit down. However, when a speaker does accept a POI, it is their responsibility to respond to it, though they should not spend too much time on it. Each speaker should accept two POIs.


·         Delivery - You should consider the debater's public speaking skills: 'listenability', humour, plausibility, use of gesture, fluency, audibility, variety of tone, and ability to relate to the audience, for example by establishing eye contact. The speeches, while benefiting from the use of humour and gesture, should not become pantomimic or reliant on gimmickry. Props are not allowed. Reading from notes or prepared speeches is not allowed.


Marking Scheme

Judges have to decide on two specific things during a round based on the above stated criteria: they must first distribute speaker points, from 14 (lowest) to 30 (highest), which coincided with the descriptions given below; second, a judge must decide on the rank of each team for each round. The rank is to be calculated by adding the individual speaker points; whichever team has the highest total speaker points ranks first in the round, that which has the lowest total speaker points ranks fourth.

Speaker Points:




The perfect speech!


A brilliant speech, among the best you have heard. "I have a dream" material.


An excellent speech. Engages with audience extremely well, easy to follow and understand, intelligent argument backed-up with relevant examples. Not tied to notes and responds well to other team's arguments. Could feasibly win the competition.


A strong speech. Generally a clear and well-argued speech with perhaps only one or two minor flaws. Good engagement with audience through use of effective rhetoric or humour – strong analysis, structure and use of examples. Perhaps mishandled a supporting argument, for example.


A good speech. Possibly lacks a subtler appreciation of the arguments, or falls in to traps set by other teams, but on the whole has good analysis, examples and style. Does nothing wrong, but does not necessarily distinguish themselves.


A reasonable speech. Some good points, some bad points. Nothing compelling stylistically but definitely listenable. Speaker deals with opposition points in structured manner, if not always devastatingly.


An average speech. The speaker has some reasonable arguments (which might not differ from ‘stock’ issues), but fails to deliver them effectively. There is some structure to the speech, and the speaker has a basic understanding of debate.


A speech that needs some improvement. The speaker manages to speak for the full time, and makes some attempt to not only to advance their case but also to rebut arguments. They are generally consistent, and attempt to use rhetoric.


A speech that needs significant improvements. May contradict partner or lose thread of argument noticeably. May have trouble speaking for the allotted time; allows opposing teams to interrupt. Very weak arguments.


A non-speech. If a debater does not show up, they earn a zero.

Reaching a Decision

·         The most important thing a judge must do is be consistent. Giving one team a loss, for example, for not fulfilling their duties, yet giving another team the win, which also doesn’t fulfill their duties, is wrong – unless all teams fail in this respect.

·         Make sure all three criteria: content, strategy, and style are taken into account. These criteria should be considered equal and a good judgment will take all three into account.

·         Chair adjudicators have the final say in a decision though they are seriously asked to come to a decision with the advice of supporting adjudicators.

·         Pros and Cons or pre-prepared cases are strictly forbidden. Debaters who take their cases straight from books, or binders should be given an automatic loss. Props and citations are not allowed.



Once a decision is reached allow debater to re-enter the room and disclose their standing in the round. Do not disclose individual speaker points. Also share the reasoning for your decision. Advice should be given unless specifically proscribed by the Chief Adjudicator. For the last preliminary round, 3rd round, advice is not given, because we want to keep debaters in suspense about who may break to the semi-finals.



          The Chair adjudicator in each round is also given the duty to maintain order. This done in two principle ways: a constructive and a punitive way.

Constructive Order:

  1. The Chair judge must first make sure that the 1st Prop team has plenty of time to prepare their case before other teams are allowed into the room. In doing so, judges themselves should abstain from entering the room while the 1st Prop is preparing their case. Fifteen minutes are given after the announcement of a round for the 1st Prop team to prepare themselves.
  2. Once all the teams enter and get situated in their appropriate seats, please fill in the relevant parts of the scoring sheet: round, motion, names of judges. Then pass the sheet around so that each team can fill in their team name and their individual names.
  3. Make certain a timekeeper, who will bang on the table to notify the speaker of their limits, is present. The timekeeper will be the assistant adjudicator. Preliminary rounds will last five minutes. The first and last minute are protective minutes, where points of information are not allowed. Semi-final and final rounds will/may last seven minutes.
  4. Call the House to order, read the motion and introduce the first speaker by name and position (1st Prop first speaker, 2nd Opp summary speaker, etc.) and so on.
  5. Once all speakers are finished call the motion to a close and ask the speakers to exit the room whilst you decide the speaker points and team standing.

Punitive Order:

An unfortunate part of maintaining order is sometimes having to admonish bad behaviour, this is done by making a point of order or accepting a point of order on behalf of a complaining debater. Points of Order concerning the procedure of the debate are exceptional, but can be made at any time and by any member of the House if the Standing Orders are being contravened. They must be addressed to the Chair who will ask for the clock to be stopped while the Point is considered. The Chairman may then rule on the point or act in consultation with the Organisers of the Debate. A Chairman may also warn and has the discretion to take action against any member of the House who acts in a discourteous manner, harasses the speaker holding the Floor, or obstructs the Debate in any way. In any event, Points of Order should be rare.

The Guide for Adjudicators has significantly borrowed from the ESU John Smith Memorial Mace Manual. The remainder of these pages was written by Austin D’Souza. Complaints, Comments, Applause to L.A.D’ or