All About the National Forensics League           

by Katharine Jackson


        Students competing in the National Forensic League attend competitions. Competitions as practice tournaments, PDQ (Pre-District Qualifying Tournaments), or official OHSSL (Ohio High School Speech League) or NFL (National Forensic League) competitions. In each category, contestants are divided into sections containing four to seven contestants. The number of contestants varies due to availability of judges and total number of entries. After every contestant has presented his/her piece, the judge ranks the contestant. The judge gives the top contestant a "1," the second best a "2," and continues until each contestant has a rank in order of the quality of performance.

    At certain tournaments, contestants are permitted to "double-enter." Double-entering involves registering and preparing pieces in two categories. Double-entering is permitted in National Forensic League tournaments but not in Ohio High School Speech League tournaments. As the rounds of every category are run simultaneously, a double-entering individual must present his/her first piece in the first category, then excuse him/herself before the round has finished, go to the room where the individual is scheduled to participate in the second category, and present the second piece.

    Awards are given based on rankings. In competitions with semi-final rounds, the top twelve contestants, based on preliminary ranks, advance to the semi-final rounds. Semi-final rounds have two sections of six competitors. The top three contestants in each section advance to the final round. In competitions with only final rounds, the top six contestants compete in one section. Semi-final and final rounds are judged by a minimum of three judges. In competitions where there are no final rounds, awards are based upon preliminary rankings. Ties are broken on the number of 1's. For example, if two students are tied, one student with ranks of 1-3-2 and the other with ranks of 1-4-1, the latter contestant wins because of the number of 1's. 

    With the exception of Extemporaneous Speaking, all pieces must be between eight and ten minutes. Contestants are allotted a grace period of 30 seconds beyond their ten minute limit, after which penalties for time are left to the discretion of the judge.

    P.D.Q. tournaments must have a minimum of 18 schools in participation and each category must have at least 34 entries. Contestants placing first, second, or third at these tournaments automatically qualify to the State tournament and are exempt from attending Little Districts (State Qualifiers.)

    High School Forensics consists of two organizations: the Ohio High School Speech League and the National Forensic League. The Ohio High School Speech League sponsors the State Tournament. Little Districts (also known as State Qualifiers or Littles) are held in early February and top competitors from each category are selected to attend the State Tournament. The number of contestants advancing to the State Tournament depends on the number of entries. The National Forensic League sponsors the National Tournament. Big Districts (also known as National Qualifiers or Bigs) are held a few weeks after Little Districts as a two-day, elimination tournament. In preliminary rounds at Bigs, three judges are present in each round. Based on the rankings of these judges, contestants in the top half of the round receive an "up," while contestants in the bottom half of the round receive a "down." Once an competitor receives two "downs," they have been eliminated from the tournament. At Bigs, rounds continue until six competitors are left. These individuals compete in a final round, whereupon their final round ranks are tallied with the outcome of their preliminary rounds. The top two competitors in each category are allowed to attend the National Tournament. Oratorical Interpretation, Prose/Poetry, Duet Acting, and 4-Person Policy Debate are not National categories and are not part of National Qualifiers.

    Contestants have the choice of nine categories in Individual Events or three categories in Debate.