World Schools Debating Championships

The following pages are intended to form a Chief Adjudicator’s Handbook.

They are an attempt at capturing many of the practices that have developed, either ad hoc or by Council decision, as the World Schools Debating Championships have grown in recent years. In particular, since 1999 we have seen an increasing need to separate the duties of Chief Adjudicator (CA) and Convenor – and their teams - as the scope of the Championships now requires dedicated event management.

These pages are meant to evolve. You are encouraged to contribute to the Handbook through addition, correction and update. Please use the discussion pages to catalogue differing opinions and suggestions, and amend articles where agreement is reached.

The Handbook is therefore a non-prescriptive record. With the exception of the definitions of the CA and Chief Adjudication Panel (which have been codified in the Rules), nothing is set in stone and future CAs may find their own way of doing things. But hopefully with a record of the issues and decisions of the past they can avoid re-inventing the wheel and repeating the mistakes of previous CAs.

With thanks to Dan Neidle, Jim Dutcher, Andrew Stockley, Vernie Oliveiro, Daphnie Drassinower and Asher Weill for their work in defining the CA’s position; Trevor Sather and Claire Ryan for their development of the Handbook; and Chris Erskine, Elizabeth Virgo and all those who combined these duties with convening in the past.

History of the Chief Adjudicator and CAP[]

  • 1999-2000
  • 2000
  • 2001-2002
  • 2003
  • 2004 and beyond


  • Selecting the Chief Adjudicator and CAP
  • Motions Committee
  • Working with the Convenor


  • Setting motions:
    • Past practice
    • Current practice
  • Distributing motions
  • Allocating sides

Pre-tournament: Deciding the schedule[]

This section is designed mainly for Convenors, but Chief Adjudicators are encouraged to read it too.

  • General issues:
    • Balancing schedule needs
    • Providing the right amount of time
    • Daily timetable
    • The Sabbath
    • Ramadan
  • Scheduling debates
  • Judges' training session
  • Special events:
    • Opening Ceremony
    • Grand Final
    • Closing Ceremony
    • Receptions
  • Excursions
  • Evening events
  • Free time
  • World Schools Debating Council meeting

Pre-tournament: The draw[]

  • Seeded draws
  • Round Zero
  • Vetoing opponents
  • Allocation of Proposition and Opposition sides
  • Schools
  • After it’s done:
    • When to release the draw
    • When to release the sides

Pre-tournament: Inviting international adjudicators[]

  • Eligibility:
    • Rules and principles
    • CVs
  • Not enough judges
  • Too many judges
  • Balancing needs

Other pre-tournament tasks[]

  • Communicating with teams
  • Preparing materials for adjudicators
  • Training of chairpeople and timekeepers

Adjudicators' briefing day[]

  • Timing and structure
  • Inclusion of coaches
  • Preparations
  • Session presenters
  • Use of filmed debates
  • Audience interaction
  • Assessment and accreditation
  • Getting to know the judges
  • Local judges
  • Another issue to highlight
  • Feedback after the training session

Ballots and the tab[]

  • Design of ballot sheet
  • The point of the tab
  • What the tab should do
  • Correcting ballots
  • Common mistakes
  • Running the tab: The technical bit
  • Individual rankings
  • Distribution of ballots

Judge allocation and evaluation[]

  • Overview
  • The theory
  • Technical bit: Integration with the tab
  • Balanced panels:
    • Grading judges
    • Geography
    • Age
    • Other factors
  • Clashes between judges and teams
  • Chief judges
  • Shadow judges
  • 'Shadow Shadow’ judges
  • Judges per round
  • Rounds per judge
  • Evaluating judges’ performances
  • Break round panels:
    • Octo-finals
    • Quarters and semis
    • Grand Final
  • Striking of judges by teams
  • Dealing with judges’ expectations
  • Feedback to judges

Debates at schools[]

  • Distribution of ballot papers
  • Etiquette in debates
  • Communication and crisis management
  • Collection of ballot papers
  • Liaison with schools
  • Workshops for debaters:
    • Purpose
    • Planning in advance
    • In practice
    • Workshop content

Daily tasks[]

  • Announcements
  • Distribution of materials
  • Roll-calls on buses
  • Sick adjudicators
  • To judge or not to judge?
  • Dissemination of results
  • Collection of results at hotel
  • Break rounds
  • Tabbing
  • Sorting ballots
  • Judge allocation

Queries and complaints[]

  • Mid-tournament adjudicators' briefing
  • Complaints

The Grand Final[]

  • Procedures
  • Verdicts and prizes
  • The closing ceremony

Final tasks[]

  • Report to World Council
  • Working with the Executive Committee
  • Thanks to judges
  • Collating the results