The World Schools Debating Championship operates under the ‘Rules of the World Schools Debating Championships’. A full version can be found under the Rules and Guides section of the official website.

Tournament Arrangements

Each country sends only 1 team of up to 5 members with team coach and team manager.
Members must be full-time students at a secondary school in the last 6 months aged 14 to 18.
Team coaches and managers must be 19 or above with the manager also above the age of majority.
Coaches must submit an overview of each debater’s linguistic background to be eligible.

Team-member classification:
as EFL if their family’s first-language isn’t English, and their school doesn’t use English as a medium of instruction;
as ESL if their family’s first-language isn’t English, and their school does use English as a medium of instruction;
as a native English speaker if they come from a first-language English-speaking family.

Teams classification:
as EFL team if English isn’t an official language, and the majority of team is EFL;
as ESL team if English isn’t an official language, and no more than 1 member is classified as a native speaker;
as a native English-speaking team if they do not meet the criteria for being EFL or ESL.

Each team debates 8 other teams in the preliminaries, no more than 3 times a day unless agreed upon.
After preliminary rounds, teams are ranked by wins, adjudicators and then average adjudicator score.
Top 16 teams progress into the Octo (Impromp), Quarter (Impromp), Semi (Impromp) and Grand Finals (Preped):

  • Octo-Final A – Team 1 and Team 16
  • Octo-Final B – Team 2 and Team 15
  • Octo-Final C – Team 3 and Team 14
  • Octo-Final D – Team 4 and Team 13
  • Octo-Final E – Team 5 and Team 12
  • Octo-Final F – Team 6 and Team 11
  • Octo-Final G – Team 7 and Team 10
  • Octo-Final H – Team 8 and Team 9
  • Quarter-Final A – Winner of Octo-Final A and winner of Octo-Final H
  • Quarter-Final B – Winner of Octo-Final B and winner of Octo-Final G
  • Quarter-Final C – Winner of Octo-Final C and winner of Octo-Final F
  • Quarter-Final D – Winner of Octo-Final D and winner of Octo-Final E
  • Semi-Final A – Winner of Quarter-Final A and Winner of Quarter-Final D
  • Semi-Final B – Winner of Quarter-Final B and Winner of Quarter-Final C
  • Grand-Final – Winner of Semi-Final A and Winner of Semi-Final B
  • The two teams toss a coin after the semi-finals to decide the affirmative side.

All teams are ranked by their progression and then by their preliminary rankings.

Prepared motions for the preliminary rounds and the Grand Final shall be sent out at least 8 weeks earlier.
The host is given the impromptu preliminary motions at least 1 day early with 1 backup motion.
The host is given the impromptu knock-out motions at least 1 day before the break is announced.

Official complaints

  • A complaint against a judge shall be made to the CA within 24 hours by either a judge, team coach or manager.
  • The CA will decide whether further investigation is required and talk to relevant parties where necessary.
  • Along with the CAP, the CA will then decide to either dismiss or uphold the complaint. If upheld they either;
    • take no further action
    • counsel the judge
    • redirect the judge as a ‘shadow judge’
    • require further training before judging again
    • refer the matter to the Complaints Officer
  • Notification of the decision should be made to the complaint, the judge and the next CA where necessary.
  • No result of any debate shall be changed as a result of the complaint.


All debates will be in English with 2 teams of 3 speakers per side. The 8 minute speeches go Prop first, Opp second.
After the first 3 speeches, either the first or second speaker gives a 4 minute reply speech. Opp first, Prop second.
Teams must notify the chair of the 3 speaking debaters.

If a debater’s constructive speech must be substitute by a fellow debater, they receive the lowest possible score.
For reply speeches, a substitution limited to the first two speakers is not penalized.

In addition to the official time signals, team members / coaches may give discreet time signals.
No other communication between speakers and their delegation or audiences members is permitted.

Where there is more than half an hour preparation time, only team members can participate.
Teams may not use external materials or communicate with people outside the preparation room.
Only an English language dictionary, a bilingual dictionary, and a single-volume encyclopaedia can be used.


The Proposition must present a reasonable definition of the motion acceptable to the ordinary intelligent person.
If an obvious meaning is presented, the Proposition must define the motion as such.
If no obvious meaning is presented, the definition must allow for a reasonable debate.
Specific motions should be defined specifically and general motions generally.
Parameters, models or criteria by must be reasonable (acceptable to the ordinary intelligent person).

Defining absolute words literally may prevent reasonable debate.
Truisms, tautologies are illegitimate.
Squirreling (distortion of the definition to argue something irrelvant to the motion) is not permitted.
Place-setting (setting of a debate of general application in a particular place) is not permitted.
Time-setting (setting of a debate of general application in a particular time, past or future) is not permitted.

Definition Challenges – In case of an unreasonable definition, the opposition can

  • Accept it anyways and debate by the definition,
  • Argue that it is unreasonable and provide a reasonable alternative,
  • Broaden the debate back to the motion’s intent if Prop has unreasonably restricted the motion,
  • Challenge the definition but argue that ‘even if’ it is reasonable, the Prop’s case is still wrong,

If first opposition doesn’t challenge the definition, the definition is presumed to have been accepted.
If second proposition doesn’t challenge a re-definition by the first opp, the re-definition is presumed accepted.
Once accepted, no challenges can be made unless the proposition significantly alters the definition later on.

For more on definitions, see the WSDC Definition guide.

Speaker Roles

  • First Proposition
    • define the topic
    • establish the issues for the debate
    • outline the proposition case
    • announce the case division between the speakers
    • present his or her part of the proposition case
  • First Opposition
    • challenge the definition and present an alternative definition if necessary
    • respond to the proposition case
    • outline the opposition case
    • announce the case division
    • present his or her part of the opposition case
  • Second Proposition
    • deal with the definition if it has been challenged
    • respond to the opposition case
    • continue with the proposition case as outlined by the first speaker
  • Second Opposition
    • deal with the definition if it is still in issue
    • respond to the proposition case
    • continue with the opposition case as outlined by the first speaker
  • Third Speakers
    • deal with the definition if it is still in issue
    • respond to the other team’s case
    • the third speaker can have a small part of the substantive case but is not required to an usually doesn’t
  • Reply Speech
    • sum up the debate from the team’s viewpoint
    • respond to the other team’s overall case
    • summarize the speaker’s own team’s case
    • NO new material
    • a new example to illustrate an existing argument is permitted but not a new argument

Points of Information

  • may be given between the 1 and 7 minute of a substantive speech by the opposing team
  • intended to be a short point or a short question to the speaker no longer than 15 seconds
  • should be given both before and after ones substantive speech
  • the speaker has the absolute right to refuse or accept POIs
  • a speaker is expected to accept 2 POIs. Accepting too many risks loosing control of the speech
  • opposing teams should not offer an excessive number of POIs to the point of barracking
  • each team member should offer between 2 to 4 POIs per speech
  • both the offering and response to POIs are included in the speaker’s mark


  • Debates should be judged by odd panels of at least 3 with the team with the majority of votes winning.
  • Judges cannot judge their own team or any team they have a significant association with.
  • Nominated judges should have judging experience at high levels, be a regular judge and not a recent debater
  • All substantive speeches are marked out of 100 (40 for content, 40 for style, 20 for strategy)
  • Reply speeches are marked out of 50 (20 for content, 20 for style, 10 for strategy)
  • To encourage consistency, speeches should be marked within the following range of marks.
  • Content
    • Content is the argument used by the speaker, divorced from the speaking style.
    • A weak argument should be marked as weak even if it isn’t pointed out by the opposing team.
    • Judgment should not be influenced by personal beliefs or specialized knowledge.
  • Style
    • The way speakers speak with allowances for accents, speaking styles and debating terminology.
    • English as a Second Language speakers should be judged as if they were native English speakers.
    • In general, the use of cue-cards, lecterns, or other notes should not affect a speaker’s mark.
    • However, speakers should not read their speeches, but should refer to notes from time to time.
  • Strategy
    • This concerns a speaker understanding of the issues and structure/timing of their speech.
    • Weak responses to critical issues indicates poor content marks but good marks for strategy.