World Schools Format

The World Schools Format, commonly referred to as WSDC is one of the biggest debate formats in the world. It is used in both Sweden's high school debate community and globally at international debate tournaments such as the World Schools Debating Championships. The format places two teams against each other and they are assessed by independent adjudicators on their style, content and strategy. The adjudicators then vote on the team they thought won the debate and deliver feedback in order to give debaters the chance to improve.

Each team is made up of no more than five debaters, however only three participate in the debate. The team is handed a motion (topic to debate) either months before the debate (this is known as a prepared debate) or an hour before it (this is known as an impromptu debate). In the latter case teams aren't allowed to communicate with anyone besides their team members and can't access any literature or the internet. The team supporting the motion is known as the proposition, the one opposing is known as the opposition

A motion is a statement the proposition must defend and the opposition must take contention with. All motions begin with "This house..." Essentially this house is the group that is proposing an action and that proposed action is the statement that follows. Most often motions begin in one of two ways:

This House believes that... (THBT)
If a motion begins this way the debate is about the principal, not the practical. "Is this idea a good idea?", "Is this action moral?"
"THBT politicians should only be allowed to serve in office for a limited period of time"
"THBT the media has become too powerful"
"This House believes that downloading music without permission is morally equivalent to theft"

This house would... (THW)
If a motion begins with THW it is about the practical applications of the statement. "Would this work if it was implemented tomorrow?". "Do the benefits of the proposal outweigh the downsides?". In order for this to be debated the proposition must provide a model. A model is simply you providing further information on how the proposal will be implemented
"THW legalise prostitution"
"THW ban gambling"
"THW not give development aid to non-democratic governments"



There are eight speeches in a World Schools debate, the first six are traditionally eight minutes long and the last two, known as reply speeches four minutesBelow is an overview of the eight speeches in chronological order with notes on what the speeker is expected to do in it. 

First Proposition Speaker

  1. Introduces the debate. All material coming from both sides will be an extension of this speech's material.
  2. Defines the words in the motion, in order to avoid confusion.
  3. Presents two arguments in favour of the motion.

First Opposition Speaker

  1. Takes contention with the proposition's definitions, if needed. This is very uncommon and only occurs in extreme cases. For instance "THW unarm the police" if the proposition defines "the police" as the rock-band The Police instead of law enforcement. 
  2. Rebuts the arguments of the proposition
  3. Proposes two arguments against the motion

Second Proposition Speaker

  1. Rebuts opposition's arguments
  2. Defends proposition's arguments
  3. Presents one new argument in favour of the motion.

Second Opposition Speaker

  1. Rebuts proposition's arguments
  2. Defends opposition's arguments
  3. Presents one new argument against the motion.

Third Proposition Speaker

  1. Rebuts oppositions arguments and defends propositions arguments, often in clashes*
  2. Presents no new arguments.

Third Opposition Speaker

  1. Rebuts oppositions arguments and defends propositions arguments, often in clashes*
  2. Presents no new arguments.

Opposition Reply

  1. Summarizes the debate, often in clashes. Presents no new arguments or rebuttal.
  2. Speaks in past tense
  3. Explains to the judges why the opposition beat the proposition and not the other way around. 

Proposition Reply

  1. Summarizes the debate, often in clashes. Presents no new arguments or rebuttal.
  2. Speaks in past tense
  3. Explains to the judges why the proposition beat the opposition and not the other way around.
  4. Concludes the debate

*The third speaker often will rebut in themes (known as clashes) instead of doing it chronologically. This could be dividing a debate into two clashes: The economic impacts of the motion and the social impacts of it. Then the third speaker starts by discussing the first clash and ends by discussing the second. Clashes vary depending on the debate. The reply speaker will often summarize the debate in clashes.

Points of Information

One minute into a speech the timekeeper will knock once. This signalises to the team not speaking that they are allowed to give Points of Information (POI). The team members will then be allowed to stand up and ask to give a POI, usually by saying "Point of information". If the speaker accepts they will be allowed to interject with a short statement or a question, which the speaker must respond to. It is recommended that a speaker accepts two or three POIs during his or her speech. After seven minutes the timekeeper will knock once again and POIs will no longer be permitted. Note that no POIs can be offered during the reply speeches.


Here are two example WSDC debates. The first one is the Swedish national debate team facing off against the team "BAD Maroon" from South Africa in the debate tournament Heart of Europe in 2014. They are debating "THBT violence is a legitimate tool for political opposition movements in authoritarian states". The second one is the New Zealand team against the England team debating the motion "THW expand the UN security council".

Feeling overwhelmed? Don't fret, the best way to learn how to debate is to actually debate. Join KDS weekly meetings, or join up with some friends and participate in debating tournaments such as KG Cup or the Swedish Schools Debating Championships. If you want further reading about WSDC try out this in depth guide and don't hesitate to contact us with any questions.