Using an hour to prepare a debate

Debating competitions such as the World Schools Debating Championships often require participants to prepare a debate in a short period of time. In the case of the World Schools Championship, this time period is one hour. It’s also a really good way to get a classroom debate spread over two lessons (one for preparation, and one for the debate itself).

An hour flies by when you’re having fun! It’s important to have a plan for how to use your prep time and stick to it.

NB: This page assumes that your teacher will have told you (or you will have decided between you) beforehand who is speaking and in what order – if you not you will have to use some of your precious time to make this decision. 


Somebody needs to have a stopwatch in front of them and make sure that you are moving on when you need to. Somebody else needs to have responsibility for making a final call if there is a disagreement on something and there is no more time to discuss it.


This is a sample recommended timetable but you may choose to change the timings slightly to suit you better. Whatever you choose make sure you follow it for every debate so that you get into a good routine.

If you finish a section early move on early, but make sure you never move on late

  • Minutes 0-5:  silent, individual time where each team member writes down their ideas
  • Minutes 5-10: go around and listen to each person’s ideas – do not interrupt or discuss at this stage – just listen and write down
  • Minutes 10-25: group discussion to decide on the following:
    • Definition (including criteria or model if necessary)
    • Team line and what you are setting out to prove
    • Which arguments you are running, how you are bunching them together and what they will be called
    • Division of speeches and order of arguments
  • Minutes 25-40: go through each named argument as a group (if you have three big points you get approx 5 minutes for each, five small points three minutes etc) and flesh out the steps of analysis, examples, analogies etc.
  • Minutes 40-55: first and second speakers write speeches. Third (and fourth and fifth if applicable) think about rebuttals for the other side, any more examples etc
  • Minutes 55-60 – Come back together as a group and make sure that you are all happy with the strategy – remember consistency helps win debates so you must know what everyone else is arguing so that you can back them up.

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