Rules, Procedures and Forms

Teams and Speakers

  • There are two teams in a debate: an Affirmative Team and a Negative Team: The Affirmative Team agrees with the topic and the Negative Team disagrees with the topic.
  • Each team may choose three individual speakers to speak during the debate. Other members of the team who attend the debate must not participate in the arguments or rebuttal during the debate.
  • The speaking order of speakers is as follows: First Affirmative, First Negative, Second Affirmative, Second Negative, Third Affirmative, Third Negative.

Etiquette of Speakers

  • All students are responsible for conducting themselves in a dignified manner by being courteous and respectful to each other at all times. Attack the argument, not the person.
  • Communication with members of the audience (either verbally or non-verbally) or the Chairman/Timekeeper is strictly prohibited during the debate. This specifically includes the passing of notes.

Speaking Time

  • Each speaker speaks for a set time determined by division level and debate type (see Topics) with a warning bell one minute before the set speaking time has elapsed. A continuous bell will be rung 30 seconds after the speaking time in which case the speaker must immediately end his/her speech and sit down.

Feedback and Result

  • The winner of each debate is decided by an adjudicator and the decision is final.
  • Adjudicators will deliver a brief summary and constructive criticism at the end of a debate.

A debate is set up as shown in the diagram below.

  • The debating season is conducted during Terms 2 and 3.
  • Debates are scheduled as specified on the Calendar of Events.
  • All divisions except Senior have 5 preliminary rounds. The Senior division has 4 preliminary rounds.
  • Each team attends the same designated venue for the preliminary rounds.
  • First debates begin at 6:30pm. Debaters should arrive 10 minutes before the scheduled time of their debate.
  • Short Preparation debaters are required to arrive 90 minutes before their scheduled debate to receive the topic.

  • The programme is comprised of six divisions as follows:
    • Year 5
    • Year 6/7
    • Year 8
    • Year 9
    • Year 10
    • Senior: Students in Years 11 and 12
  • Debaters may only debate as an official team member in a division equal or above that of their own.


  • The Affirmative Team will provide the Chairman for a debate.
  • The Negative Team will provide the Timekeeper for a debate.
  • In the event that there are not two people available to assume the roles of Chairman and Timekeeper, one person may perform both roles.
  • Let the adjudicator know if you don not have a Chairman or Timekeeper

Role of the Chairman

  • The Chairman collects the Chairman Sheets from the Information Desk. The Chairman fills out all the paperwork. The top sheet is kept by the Chairman and the next sheet goes to the Timekeeper. The rest of the sheets go to the Adjudicator. Make sure that the sheet to the Adjudicator is correctly filled in with the First and Last Names of all speakers. They must also collect a speaker award and the Chairman’s Notices. (if applicable)
  • The Chairman will introduce the debate and speakers according to the Chairman’s sheet. They are also responsible for reading the Chairman’s Notices (if applicable) at the end of the Third Negative speaker’s speech while the adjudicator is finalising his/her adjudication.

Role of the Timekeeper

  • The Timekeeper is responsible for ensuring that a bell and stopwatch is collected from the Information Desk if one is not already available in a debating room.
  • The Timekeeper will keep a record of the speaking times and record these times on the timekeeper’s sheet which should be handed to the adjudicator at the conclusion of the last speaker’s speech.
  • The Timekeeper will ring a warning bell once, one minute before the end of a speaker’s speaking time and twice at the allocated finishing time. If a speaker speaks for more than 30 seconds after the second bell, the Timekeeper should ring a continuous bell indicating that the speaker must immediately finish and sit down.


Both the Chairman and Timekeeper will act in a professional and impartial manner throughout the debate. This means that they are not participants in the debate as team members and must not in any way contribute to arguments and rebuttal to their teammates once the debate has started.


  • No verbal communication with members of the audience or either team, except for requesting the names of speakers to read the chairman’s script.
  • No gestures or body language with the audience or teams that would be a way of communicating thoughts on the debate.
  • No passing of notes between speakers or the audience and the chairman/timekeeper.
  • No phones or electronic devices are to be used during the debate.

  • Topics will not be changed once set.
  • If a team does not wish to debate a topic, they must submit a forfeit and a forfeit charge will apply as for any other circumstance.

Accuracy of Arguments

All material contained within a debater’s speech must be accurate. Where examples and quotes are used, they must be attributed to the original source and not taken out of context. Hearsay evidence should not be used.

Each year, Debating SA undertakes an audit of multiple debates to ensure that material presented by debaters is accurate. This includes cited evidence, examples, quotes, and other factual information presented.

Where such an investigation yields a finding that information has been presented that has been misconstrued, misrepresented, or fabricated, the speaker will be removed from the debate retrospectively. The team will be Unofficial and the team scores will be adjusted to reflect this.

  • Each speaker receives a score out of 100. The score will range from 70 to 100.
  • Marks are allotted to speakers on the basis of:

Argument: 50

Presentation: 30

Structure: 20

  • team score is the average of the three speakers’ scores. The team with the highest team score at the conclusion of the debate is declared the winner.

Official and unofficial teams

There are two types of teams: Official and Unofficial.


An Official Team is one which consists of 3 members who:

  • are students of the team’s school and are in the same year level or lower.
  • or a student filling in. They need not have debated before as long as they are a student at the school in the same year level or lower.


The point of an Unofficial Team is so that the debate can take place even if a team is missing a speaker. It is in the best interest of a team to turn up to debate rather than forfeit as they receive points for coming and debating rather than 0 points for a forfeit.

An Unofficial Team is one which is missing some of its team. Anyone can fill in for the missing debater.

  • They can be a teacher or parent or a student from the next year level up.
  • One debater can debate more than once if they want to.

An Official team will always be awarded 4 points as a win against an Unofficial team.

An Unofficial team can win a debate based on the debaters’ scores but it will receive a 2 for the win or a 1 for a loss.

See Results below for points.

  • The adjudicator is responsible for handing the results sheet to the Information Desk at the conclusion of the evening.
  • Results will be posted progressively on the Debating SA website and finalised by the end of each round. The status of results is indicated.
  • Teams will be ranked first according to win/loss points, then by aggregate team scores.
  • Teams will receive win/loss points according to the following:
Official Teams
Win 4 points
Loss against Official Team 3 points
Loss against Unofficial Team 4 points
Unofficial Teams
Win 2 points
Loss 1 point
Forfeit 0 points

If a team arrives at a debate where there is no opposition due to a forfeit or otherwise, that team must debate against the adjudicator.

The adjudicator will give the team feedback and may present possible opposing arguments. The team will be awarded a win by default. Speakers will be scored on their merits.

  • Prepared or Standard Debate is one for which the topic is known to teams before the scheduled debate.
  • All divisions have Prepared Debates.

  • Short Preparation Debate is a debate in which teams are given the topic 90 minutes before the scheduled debate. The topic will be released in a central area and then teams will move to allocated preparation rooms. Debating rooms and preparation rooms are usually different and this information will be provided on the evening.
  • The Year 10 and Senior divisions all have Short Preparation Debates.
  • Only the 3 speakers in the debate can participate in the preparation.
  • An adult can help with short preparation for Year 10 but Senior division teams must prepare Short Preparation debates without adult help or supervision.
  • Students are permitted to have access to electronic devices such as laptops, tablets and other internet-enabled devices during the preparation time unless advised otherwise by Debating SA. Teams are responsible for organising their own internet access as Wi-Fi access at the venue is not available.
  • Printing facilities are not available to students and speeches should be written on cue cards.
  • To preserve the integrity of the preparation process, students are not permitted to communicate with non-team members during the preparation time.
  • In the event that one or more team(s) do not arrive by the topic release time, Debating SA reserves the right to rearrange the draw for teams without opposition to ensure a debate with an opposition. This may involve a team debating the opposite side.

Quodlibetical Debates are debates where the topic is in the form of a scenario, which often presents debaters with a moral dilemma. Debaters should debate the issues presented by the scenario but may refer to external sources unless otherwise advised by Debating SA.

  • The draw for Rounds 1 to 5 will be available on the Debating SA website before the end of Term 1.
  • There may be minor changes to the draw as a result of forfeits or postponements. Teams are strongly encouraged to check the website regularly for the latest information.

  • If a team prepares the wrong side of the topic, that team will have 10 minutes after the scheduled debate time to prepare the correct side.
  • If the team is not able to debate after 10 minutes that team will have forfeited the debate.

  • Teams should aim to arrive to a debate at least 10 minutes before the scheduled debate time.
  • If a team or team members are running late, Debating SA should be contacted via phone.
  • If all the members of a team have not arrived 10 minutes after the scheduled debate time, that team:
    • may debate as an unofficial team, if one or more team members have arrived, or;
    • will forfeit the debate incurring a forfeit without notice charge.

  • A team forfeits when it does not debate at all in a given round. Forfeits should be avoided at all costs. Postponements and Unofficial Debates are alternatives to forfeits.
  • In the event that a team wishes to forfeit:
  • A forfeit will incur a charge of $100 which will be sent as an invoice.

  • Debates may only be postponed if all of the following are satisfied:
    1. The school asking for the postponement must contact the other school to make the arrangements.
    2. An adjudicator is available to adjudicate the debate.
    3. The opposing school agrees to the postponement.
      1. School contact details are available via the Schools’ Portal at
      2. Opposition right to refuse: If the opposing school refuses the postponement, the postponing team will have forfeited automatically.
  • WHERE: The debate should take place at either school, whichever is convenient to both schools.
  • WHEN: Postponements may only occur on the third week of each round as indicated on the Calendar (Postponements). A postponement is not possible in Rounds 4 or 5.
  • COST: All postponements incur a charge of $60 to the school asking for the postponement.
  • The date and venue of the postponement should be conveyed to Debating SA by Email. Debating SA will notify the school asking for the forfeit of the availability of an adjudicator.
  • NO CHANGES: Once the date of the postponement is set, the date is final. Subsequent withdrawals will be a forfeit by the withdrawing school (even if that school accepted the postponement)

  • There will be a Finals Series for the Year 6/7, Year 8, Year 9, Year 10 and Senior divisions, consisting of Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and a Grand Final.
  • There are no finals for the Year 5 division.
  • The top eight teams in each division according to the Results at the end of the preliminary rounds are eligible to participate in the Quarter Finals.
  • In the event that an eligible team is not able to participate in any part of the finals series that team will be withdrawn from the finals. If withdrawn at the Quarter Finals stage the position may be offered to the next eligible team on the ladder or such other team as Debating SA deems appropriate.
  • Finals dates are fixed and postponements of finals debates are not possible.
  • Finals elimination is conducted on a win-loss basis.
  • Debating SA will release finals topics at the conclusion of the preliminary rounds.
  • Sides and oppositions for finals are determined by team rankings, as follows:

Quarter Finals

Debate number Affirmative Negative
QF1 First ranked Eighth ranked
QF2 Second ranked Seventh ranked
QF3 Third ranked Sixth ranked
QF4 Fourth ranked Fifth ranked

Semi Finals

Debate number Affirmative Negative
SF1 Winner QF1 Winner QF4
SF2 Winner QF2 Winner QF3

Grand Final

Debate number Affirmative Negative
GF Winner SF1 Winner SF2
  • Debating SA may alter the above team pairings if there are less than 8 teams eligible to participate in the finals.
  • Quarter Final and Semi Final debates will be judged by a panel of 3 adjudicators and Grand Final debates by a panel of 5 adjudicators.
  • In the event that there is a panel of adjudicators, the winner will be determined by a majority vote of the panel. The decision of each individual adjudicator is secret and the overall decision final.
  • Individual speaker feedback is not given by adjudicators where there is a panel of adjudicators.

Filming of Finals Debates

Due to the significance of finals debates and value to future training for the debating community, it is a condition of entry into the finals series that students agree to be filmed. Where a team member does not wish to be filmed, the team must substitute a team member who is willing to be filmed. The team must notify Debating SA that this is the case.

Debater of the Year Awards will be held for all divisions to recognise excellence in debating.

The Debater of the Year for each division will be decided based on the following criteria:

  • Debaters must have participated in at least three debates to be eligible for consideration.
  • In each debate each speaker is ranked relative to the other participants in the debate (usually 1 through 6 in the case of 6 different scores) according to the speaker scores. This ranking is called a Debater of the Year Debate Ranking.
  • Speakers who have participated in the required number of debates will be ranked according to the following (in order):
    • The average of their best 3 Debater of the Year Debate Rankings.
    • The average of their best 3 speaker scores.
    • The standard deviation of their scores.
    • If two or more speakers are ranked the same under these criteria then the speakers’ positions as at the previous round will be used.
    • If no distinction between speakers can be drawn according to the above criteria then additional criteria may be applied by Debating SA.

For further information regarding debating please refer to the Official Debating Manual which has a detailed explanation of all the formalities of debating.

  • Please direct all queries via the contact us page.
  • Please direct all complaints and feedback via the Feedback Form. Complaints or feedback not received in writing via this form will not be considered.

Chairman, Timekeeper and Official Score Sheets

Chairman, Timekeeper and Official Score Sheets