Student Tips for Preparing for a Debate

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Schools aren’t just using the more common approaches of assessments in the classroom. Instead of just giving students their quizzes and exams on paper, they also now incorporate other graded activities such as group presentations, visual shows, and even in the form of debates. These activities provide students with the opportunity to think outside the box and also develop other skills that will help them in their academic pursuits. In this article, we’ll be tackling how to prepare for a debate for students.

Preparing for a debate is a behemoth of a task, either if it’s done in pairs, groups, or just by yourself. However, as students, it may be part of your assessments and therefore, you must do your best to make sure your arguments sound valid and flawless. Although preparing for a debate may sound like a daunting task, we have gathered a few tips that will help the task seem a little easier.

What is a debate?

If you look the word up, a debate is defined as an organized argument or contest of ideas in which the participants discuss a topic from two opposing sides. There is usually a statement in which two sides, usually dubbed “Pro” and “Con” present their arguments. However, unlike the usual arguments people see, debaters will use examples and evidence to support their ideas while working towards a conclusion. The main point of a debate is to not find the right side of the argument, instead, it’s to convince the opposition that you are right. In a more formal setting, there would be a neutral moderator who usually decides who the winner will be. In an informal setting, the arguments can continue until one side gives up.

How to prepare for a debate

Now that we have properly defined what a debate is, let’s dive deeper into the tips to help you prepare for one.

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1. Know the rules

Many people overlook how crucial it is to comprehend the debate’s rules and structure. Debate procedures and rules are strict, and if you don’t follow them, your team will be penalized or will lose the round. It’s best to make sure you know and understand the rules before the debate itself. Think of it as a sport, there would be different rules for different sports. There would also be ways for you to score and some things you could do that may take a point away from your team. Being aware of the rules and internalizing them will help you avoid any unwanted penalties. This also brings us to the next point.

2. Understand the type of debate

As mentioned before, the various forms of debates have different procedures and norms. You can prepare for an argument by knowing the type of debate in which you are participating. You are less prone to become agitated or perplexed in this manner. Read about the different types of debate and understand the one that you will be holding. The types of debates are Parliamentary, Academic Dissension, Leader’s Debate, Team Policy, Cross-Examination, The Lincoln–Douglas, Spontaneous Argumentation, and Constructive Dissension.

Some forms of the debate can overlap with each other making it sometimes confusing. In cases such as this, it’s best to turn to your facilitator (this could be your teacher) to clarify the form of debate as well as the rules. Again, take the time to understand the rules to make sure to use them to your advantage.

3. Do extensive research

While some may think that arguments are purely based on what you think is right, in debates it certainly is not the case. You must be well-read and educated about your subject as a debater. You can find statistics, work examples, and evidence through research, all of which are essential pieces of information for proving your position. You will need to understand the topic inside and out and know the facts about it like the back of your hand.

This also means that you will not only have to read and research your side of the argument but the opposition as well. Make sure to research any potential counterarguments that your opponents might make. In this manner, you are ready to respond to them. There will nothing be less convincing than seeing a side scrambling to answer the opposition’s questions or rebutting something that doesn’t correlate to the topic.

4. Never stray from the topic

And with relation to the previous tip, do not lead the topic somewhere else. Not only will it make your side of the argument seem invalid, but you will also be wasting time when you could be making more effective points. Additionally, while debates are more in connection with communication skills, it doesn’t need to have any grand and fancy words. Get straight to your point. Debates are timed and every second you use can have an impact on making your argument more convincing.

Organize your ideas beforehand. Even if you are just in the preparation stage of your debate, you should plan your ideas and make sure they are comprehensive. This will help you when it’s time for the actual debate, you can just tell the audience your main points and elaborate on them when time permits. This will get your key ideas out there in time and you’ll only be needing to support them throughout. It will also help in avoiding forgetting any key points you may have.

5. Practice your speech

When you practice your speech in front of other people (whether it be your family, friends, or teammates), you gain confidence and become more comfortable delivering it. To make your speech better, ask these listeners what they think of it. You can ask them probing questions that would help you make it better like asking which parts are clear and which are messy and needs more clarification. You can also ask them to repeat back to you the key points you have made to make sure they understand them during your speech. And most importantly, you can ask them if you have convinced them to take your side of the debate. Utilize this chance to time yourself as well. Make sure it doesn’t run too long or too short.

6. Confidence is the mantra

So, you have your speech ready, statistics and facts up your sleeves, and are already familiar with the rules of the debate. The only thing left to do is to deliver your speech. What could make or break you would be the tone of your voice. Make sure you sound confident and convincing. According to studies, individuals are more likely to believe comments spoken in a confident voice than hesitant ones. So, be careful to maintain your confidence and attention. Even though taking part in a discussion can be scary, with enough preparation, you will be more equipped and have a stronger case to make. You got this!



Carelle is a teacher who has been through the ups and downs of the teacher and learner life. She wishes for every learner to gain educational satisfaction that will help embody the people they want to be in the future.

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