Debating is about developing your communication skills. It is about assembling and organizing effective arguments, persuading and entertaining an audience, and using your voice and gestures to convince an adjudicator that your arguments outweigh your oppositions. Debating is not about personal abuse, irrational attacks or purely emotional appeals.

A debate is held between two teams of three members each. These two teams will be referred to as the Affirmative and the Negative. Members of each team are assigned positions as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd speakers. For each debate, a motion is given. After the motion is given, teams are given thirty (30) minutes to prepare for each debate.

Each of the speakers will deliver a substantial speech of seven (7) minutes duration and either the 1st or the 2nd speaker on both sides will deliver the reply speeches for their teams. Reply speeches will be five (5) minutes.


The job of the affirmative team is to agree with (or 'affirm') the motion (topic). It will consist of three speakers. The affirmative team will speak first in the debate in Substantive Speech session. But in the Reply Speech session, the Affirmative team speaker will speak after the Negative team reply speaker. Each speaker in the team should fulfill the role of that speaker. At the end of the debate the team should observe debating etiquette. The team should sit on the right hand side of the chairperson. The seating arrangement is (from nearest to the chairperson): 1st, 3rd, 2nd. This is to make it easier for the first and second speakers to pass rebuttal material to the third speaker.


The job of the negative team is to disagree with (or 'negate') the motion (topic). It will also consist of three speakers. The negative team will speak last in the debate in substantive speech session. But in the Reply Speech session, the Negative team speaker will speak first before the Affirmative team reply speaker. Each speaker in the team should fulfill the role of that speaker. At the end of the debate the team should observe debating etiquette. The team should sit on the left hand side of the chairperson. The seating arrangement is (from nearest to the chairperson): 1st, 3rd, 2nd. This is to make it easier for the first and second speakers to pass rebuttal material to the third speaker.


The role of the chairperson is to control the debate. She or he should sit between the two teams.

The duties of a chairperson are 1) to announce the names of the teams which are participating. 2) to open the debate by welcoming all the attendants 3) to introduce all the debaters by calling the debaters one by one. He or she should then 4) to announce the motion (topic) of the debate, 4) and to mention the names of all adjudicators in the debate.

Then, she or he should tell the speakers and the audience the debate format used in the debate. It also explicitly mentions how long each speech will be for, giving the minimum and maximum times, and calling upon the Timekeeper to demonstrate the sound of knock.

The chairperson should then welcome the first speaker of the affirmative to open the debate.

After that speaker has concluded his or her speech, the chairperson should then wait for the adjudicator's (if there is only one adjudicator) or Chief Adjudicator's (if there is a panel of adjudicators) nod to proceed and then to welcome the next speaker (the first speaker of the negative team).

This process should continue throughout the debate in the following order:

In Substantive Speech Session:

  • 1st Affirmative.
  • 1st Negative.
  • 2nd Affirmative.
  • 2nd Negative.
  • 3rd Affirmative.
  • 3rd Negative.

In Reply Speech Session:

  • 1st Negative Reply Speaker
  • 1st Affirmative Reply Speaker

At the end of the debate the chairperson should do one of the following.

1) If there is only one adjudicator, the chairperson should wait until that adjudicator indicates his or her readiness and then announce the adjudicator to give the result of the debate.

2) If there is a panel of adjudicators, the chairperson should announce that the adjudicators are going to retire for some minutes (5 minutes maximum) for a short meeting to consider their decisions. The adjudicators will then leave the room. When they return, the chairperson should (a) call the adjudicators one by one to give his or her oral adjudication and announce the winner in the debate or (b) to let the chief adjudicator to give oral adjudication and announce the team won the debate.

The chairperson's role in the debate is now over.


As the name suggests the timekeeper keeps the time in a debate. This means that he or she times how long each speakers speaks and rings a bell (a knock) to indicate that certain amounts of time have passed.

To ensure fairness in a debate each speaker is given a maximum time that he or she is allowed to speak for. This is generally expressed as X minutes and Y seconds, For example "the speaking times for tonight's debate will be 4 to 6 minutes".

The standard equipment of the timekeeper is:

1 digital stopwatch

(an analogue one will do but it is much more difficult to use).

1 bell.

(if a bell is not available a glass and spoon is good, although hit the glass with care. Or rapping something hard, for example knuckles, against a desk is also good. Whatever is chosen it should be very clear and obvious, many a nervous speaker has failed to hear a bell because it was too soft.)

Pen and paper.

(at the end of the debate the adjudicator will need to know exactly how long each speaker spoke for. This should be recorded during the debate and handed to the adjudicator after the last speaker has spoken.)

At the start of the debate the chairperson will call upon the timekeeper to demonstrate the bell. In five minutes debating, the indication of 3 minutes speaking having expired should be given by one knock (or a tap of the desk etc.) and the indication of 5 minutes speaking having expired should be given by two knocks (taps of the desk etc.). The grace time is 20 seconds; so at 5 minutes and 20 seconds there must be a continuous knock. A sample of timing and knocking indication must be given during the chairperson's introductory remarks and should be used consistently throughout the debate tournament.


A debate can be held just about anywhere from a school classroom to the stage in any stadium or a hall. In all cases the actual part of the room used for the participants in the debate is the same and is laid out according to the following diagram:

If you look at it, the affirmative team sits on the right whereas the negative team sits on the left, and the chairperson accompanied with the timekeeper sits in the middle.

The adjudicator will sit with the audience (at the bottom of the diagram) as she or he is supposed to see the debate as the audience does. When the adjudication is delivered, however, the adjudicator will come to the front of the room and address all present.

When speaking, a speaker should come out from behind the desk and stand in front of the people (the teams, the adjudicators and the audience) and the chairperson together with the timekeeper sits behind the speaker.


The adjudicator decides the outcome of the debate. There may be one adjudicator or adjudicators may sit as a panel (always an odd number). The adjudicator does not bring with him or her any expert knowledge of the topic, always presuming the average knowledge of the average person, but will bring expert knowledge on debating. The adjudicator will give marks each speaker according to the prescribed rules of scoring available. If you still have to go that far, then a printed information is available, including the SMK ENGLISH DEBATING HANDBOOK which can be purchased from the Foreign Language Installation of VEDC Jakarta for the price of Rp. 100.000 per copy (complete with a copy in VCD).


The role of the audience is to enjoy the debate. The audience should applaud as each speaker is announced, as each speaker finishes speaking and when the result of the debate is announced. The audience should participate as any polite audience would, applauding, laughing and so on at appropriate times. The chairperson may ask any poorly behaved audience member to leave the room.


Like many similar activities, there are established forms of good behavior in debating.

While a speaker is speaking, she or he has the floor and, unless debating in an Australasian Parliamentary Style, it should not be interrupted. This includes comments interjected by the audience or other speakers as well as disruptive behavior from the other team or the audience.

In the name of fairness, speakers should sit down soon after their maximum time has expired. In some competitions a continuous knock is sounded after the speaker spends 5 minutes 20 seconds.

At the end of the debate the losing team's captain should stand and congratulate the winning team publicly, thanking to them for the debate. The winning team's captain should thank to the other team, the debating officials (chairperson, timekeeper and adjudicator(s) and the audience. Both teams should then shake hands.

It is considered poor sportsmanship to argue with the adjudicator about the result. If a gross breach of debating rules has been enacted then a formal appeal can be given, in writing, to the Chief Adjudicator. Otherwise discussions with the adjudicator should be to clear up any unclear points or to get some debating tips. Adjudicators are very happy to give such advice.



I. Politic


1. This house believes that people are getting irrational.

2. This house would control the press.

3. This house believes that undecided voting is against democracy.

II. Education


4. This house would abolish exams.

5. This house would merge any schools with their neighbors.

6. This house would exert minimum score in SMK National Examination.

III. Economy


7. This house believes that telephone tariff increase fools people.

8. This house would pay state officers based on merit system.

9. This house believes the government failed to run the economy.

IV. Sport


10. This house would legalize the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport

11. This house would censor sport uniforms.

12. This house would run national lotteries for developing sports.

V. Social


13. This house would ban marriage to more than one wives.

14. This house believes that feminism has gone too far.

15. This house would give sex education in schools.

VI. Law


16. This house supports the death penalty for corruptors.

17. This house condemns the use of animals for entertainment.

18. This house would not permit gun ownership.

VII. Entertainment


19. This house would ban beauty contests.

20. This house would censor TV programs.

21. This house would ban animals hunting for business.

VIII. Culture


22. This house would place its own culture first.

23. This house believes that you are what you see.

24. This house believes that Hollywood influences badly to our youth.


Round : Room :

Chair Person : Time Keeper :

Motion :














Total Score













Total Score

Winner : Affirmative/Negative Margin :

Best Speaker :

( )


Marking Scale

Substantive speech (1st, 2nd, 3rd) is scored:

Matter and Manner






28 – 29


Not so bad




31 – 32





Very Good




Close debate with relatively small difference between teams


Clear debate with big advantage o one team


Landslide debate, imbalance debate with almost no response from one team