Policy or CX
Policy Debate/Cross-Examination Debate: Paired event
CX debate is considered by many to be the most rigorous of speech and debate events. Debaters are paired in teams, spend significant time researching and preparing files, and debate one proposition of policy for the entire school year. Debates are usually rapid-fire, last roughly 1 ½ hours, and are judged by CX coaches, former policy debaters or current college policy debaters.
Lincoln Douglas Debate: Individual event
Originally fashioned after the Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debates in the 1800s, LD debaters compete individually on topics lasting 2-3 months, usually on propositions of value. Debates last about 45 minutes and are traditionally slower than CX debates, although that has changed significantly as the event transitions into more of an information activity than a speaking event.
PF (or PFD)
Public Forum Debate: Paired event
Originally called “Ted Turner Public Forum Debate,” this event was designed in the late 1990s as a team event meant for public consumption. Teams of two debaters focus on monthly resolutions crafted around current events in debates lasting about 45 minutes. While speed of delivery has increased on the national circuit, most local events are still judged by community volunteers.
Congressional Debate: Individual event
This event allows students to model a lawmaking body such as the US Congress or Texas Legislature. Debaters prepare research and speeches on a set of legislation designed for each tournament or series of tournaments. Students write/research legislation and practice speaking and parliamentary procedure as part of their preparation for this event.
FX or DX (Foreign Extemp or Domestic Extemp)
Extemporaneous Speaking: Individual event
This event has been called the most useful of all speech and debate events. Extemp requires consistent commitment to following and offering critique on current events from the US and abroad. Students draw topics and have 30 minutes to prepare a 7-minute speech.
Oratory allows students to prepare an original written work on any topic. Each memorized speech is limited to 10 minutes and 150 quoted words. This event tends to combine public speaking and oral interpretation, and it is a valuable avenue for many students to find a voice on an important issue.
Using a play, short story, or other published work, students perform a selection of one or more portions of a piece up to ten minutes in length. With a spotlight on character development and depth, this event focuses on the student’s ability to convey emotion through the use of a dramatic text. Competitors may portray one or multiple characters. No props or costumes may be used. Performances can also include an introduction written by the student to contextualize the performance, and state the title and the author.
Two competitors team up to deliver a ten-minute performance of a published play or story. Using off-stage focus, competitors convey emotion and environment through a variety of performance techniques focusing on the relationships and interactions between the characters. No props or costumes are used. Performances can also include an introduction written by the students to contextualize the performance and state the title and the author.
Using a play, short story, or other published work, students perform a selection of one or more portions of a piece up to ten minutes in length. Humorous Interpretation is designed to test a student’s comedic skills through script analysis, delivery, timing, and character development. Competitors may portray one or multiple characters. No props or costumes may be used. Performances can also include an introduction written by the student to contextualize the performance and state the title and the author.
More abbreviations and definitions
If a student says they are going to State:
Texas Forensic Association (TFA): This is the state governing body for speech and debate competition. Students qualify to attend the TFA State Tournament (early March) by accumulating points earned in elimination rounds at area tournaments.
University Interscholastic League (UIL): This is the state governing body for athletics and academic competition. UIL offers district through state level competition in several events. There is no UIL for Public Forum Debate.
Nationals, or Nats
National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA): Formerly known as the National Forensic League, this organization is the national governing body for speech and debate and hosts the nation’s largest national tournament (mid-June). The National Forensic League still exists in name as the league’s honor society, the second honor society to be recognized by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Alumni of the NFL include a long list of politicians, celebrities, authors, and more.
Tournament of Champions: Hosted by the University of Kentucky, this organization is the equivalent to “select” sports teams for debate. Students who wish to qualify for the TOC (early May) often endure many additional hours of work/practice, cost to travel and attend camps, and greater opportunities for scholarships and college debate opportunities.
A tournament that awards students credit towards qualifying for State or TOC. Students accumulate points to qualify for State, while they need to win two bids to qualify for TOC. Points and bids are awarded based on how far a student advances in a tournament. Some TOC tournaments require students to advance to octo-finals to win a bid; others require students to advance to semi-finals or finals.
National Debate Coaches Association: This relatively new organization was created and is maintained by high school debate programs and their coaches. The organization hosts a national tournament (mid-April) and maintains as part of its egalitarian mission a qualification system based on students’ best performances through the year.
These tournaments are special invitation-only events held around the country. Often, round robins accompany other larger tournaments. Invitations to round robins are very prestigious and should be considered an honor and an opportunity to compete against some of the best students in the nation.