Policy debate scoring is defined by the National Speech & Debate Association to fall under three distinct categories – content, style, and strategy. Each of these area are weighted and carry a total of 60-80 points per debater for each initial speech. The reply on the other hand, is only scored between 30-40 points.
The reason for employing the above range is to keep things consistent between each team member’s speeches. This keeps too many or two little points being awarded to individuals. After all, the total score is based off of the whole team score.
Content carries a 40% weight in all rounds of the debate. For the initial speeches, 24-32 points can be awarded. The reply on the other hand only receives 12-16 points.
The judges are looking solely for argumentation in this portion and are instructed to penalize weak arguments even if the opposition does not point them out. Additionally, judges are to remain unbiased in their decisions. Their personal beliefs are not reflected in the score.
Style also carries a 40% weight in all rounds of the debate. For the initial speeches, 24-32 points again can be awarded and the reply only receives 12-16 points.
When points are awarded for style, judges are focused on the delivery of the speech. The debater must speak clearly, effectively, and use an appropriate rate of speech. Additionally, proper use of hand gestures, facial expressions, and overall body language are awarded appropriately for the style category.
Strategy carries a 20% weight of the overall score in each round of the debate. For every initial speech, 12-16 points can be awarded. For the reply round, only 6-8 points are awarded.
For this category, judges are looking for debaters to clearly identify the most important issues and allocate their time to each of them according to their overall significance. Judges are instructed specifically that strategy and content do not overlap. If a debater uses an effective and proper strategy, but has weak arguments, the student will be penalized for content NOT strategy.
After all rounds are completed, the judges go to final scoring. Each round receives a total score and the sum of those scores is the overall team score. The team with the highest overall score is crowned the winner of that particular match-up.
Not all tournaments are scored the same. The allocated points and categories may differ depending on the competition. This general overview is a good guide to use as a way to prepare for individuals debates. Make sure as a debater that all of these areas are strong and well executed. Above all else, do not forget to remain confident and calm!