Policy Debate

Policy (aka CX -Cross-Examination or Team debate) is the oldest style of debate and exists in both high school and college. Policy is a team format with each team consisting of two debaters. One team represents the Affirmative (proposing a policy change from the status quo) and the other represents the Negative (opposing the proposed policy change).

Unlike Public Forum or Lincoln-Douglas, the Policy topic remains the same for the entire school year. The topic is chosen annually by the National Federation of State High School Associations and is available on the National Speech and Debate Association website. Policy debate places a strong emphasis on evidence-based analysis. Participants are expected to conduct thorough research, cite credible sources, and utilize evidence to support their arguments and proposals.

Debaters construct cases that include advantages and disadvantages of the policy proposal. Advantages highlight the positive impacts and benefits of the proposed policy change, while disadvantages focus on potential drawbacks and unintended consequences. Policy is the fastest-paced of the debate events, (debaters speak quickly to make more points) and the most evidence-based.

Sequence of speeches and timing in a Policy debate round

Speech Abbreviation Time Limit
1st Affirmative Constructive 1AC 8 minutes
Negative Cross-Examination of Affirmative   3 minutes
1st Negative Constructive 1NC 8 minutes
Affirmative Cross-Examination of Negative   3 minutes
2nd Affirmative Constructive 2AC 8 minutes
Negative Cross-Examination of Affirmative   3 minutes
2nd Negative Constructive 2NC 8 minutes
Affirmative Cross-Examination of Negative   3 minutes
1st Negative Rebuttal 1NR 5 minutes
1st Affirmative Rebuttal 1AR 5 minutes
2nd Negative Rebuttal 2NR 5 minutes
2nd Affirmative Rebuttal 2AR 5 minutes

Each team is entitled to 8 minutes of preparation time during the round.

Summary of Judging Criteria

At a high level, the judge serves three primary purposes during each debate round.

  1. Determine the winner and assign speaker points. In most cases, you will be the only judge in the competition room.
  2. Provide constructive feedback. Students will want to know why you voted the way you did. You should comment on areas of strength and weakness, with the goal of helping competitors improve.
  3. Tournament official. You will keep time for the speeches and prep time. Judges also ensure tournament rules are followed and keeps the experience positive for both students and the host school.

Judges should also bring the following to the tournament

  • Notepad and pen/pencil. You'll use these to keep track of arguments during the debates.
  • Laptop or tablet computer. You'll need this to access Tabroom.com, which is where you will enter your decisions, speaker points and comments to the debaters.

Want more details on how to be a great debate judge? First time judges should read this document for more information on judging.