Extemporaneous speaking

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Extemporaneous speaking (extemp) is a limited-preparation speech event based on research and original analysis. Extemporaneous speaking is a competitive speaking event in the United States in both high school and college forensics competition. Extemporaneous speaking provides 30 minutes of preparation time, followed by a seven-minute speech. When preparation starts, speakers are offered three questions to answer. Questions are based on current affairs, and topic areas generally include international and domestic policy, economic policy, and social or scientific issues. Speakers generally speak persuasively, though some areas of the US offer informative speeches.[1][2]


According to Pausanias (6.18.6), Anaximenes was "the first who practised the art of speaking extemporaneously." Extemporaneous Speaking was designed as an event to not be a memorized, rehearsed speech, but rather, a short, analytical speech spoken off the cuff, emphasizing critical thinking in addition to performance.123

Basic information and format[edit]

Extemporaneous speaking is a speech that is either persuasive or informative in nature, usually modeled off of a 5 paragraph essay. At top levels, extemporaneous is a smooth, dynamic performance that incorporates research, background knowledge, and opinion. A successful extemporaneous speech has an introduction that catches the listener's attention, introduces the theme of the speech, and answers the question through three, or sometimes two, areas of analysis, which develop an answer to the question. These areas of analysis are followed by a conclusion, which summarizes the speech. Extemporaneous speaking sometimes allows for the use of index cards, but many extemporaneous competitors forgo their usage, and many forensic leagues do not allow their usage. The use of the Internet is often not allowed during preparation.

Debate and public speaking (collectively called "forensics") are generally stratified into novice and varsity levels. A varsity level extemporaneous speech typically contains anywhere from 6 – 15 sources, while averaging 8-10, to provide a basis of fact for analyzing the question. References are often referred to as a "cite" or "citation." Quality sources include newspapers like The New York Times and Christian Science Monitor, magazines like the Economist and Foreign Policy and journals like The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs and Foreign Affairs. For a speech dealing with a certain region's issues, say Africa or the Middle East, it is good to include regional sources as well, like All Africa and Al Jazeera respectively.

The introduction is usually structured as a 1-minute, 30 second section, with an attention-getter to grab the attention of the audience, background information, which often includes a source to build credibility, a statement of significance, which tells the audience why the topic is important, before going into the basic overview of the structure of the speech, including the question, answer, and a preview of the three areas of analysis.

An individual point in Extemporaneous Speaking is typically structured like a basic warrant, with a claim, warrant, and impact with about 1 minute and 30 to 1 minute and 40 seconds of content. This usually incorporates two to four sources to build credibility and provide information for analysis, and a mid of both broad argumentation and specific examples. Finally, the end of a point usually links back to the speaker's answer to the question, which functions as an impact. Some schools of thought argue that the impact of a point should link to a scenario outside of the scope of the question,[3] but most competitive circuits in High School and Collegiate competition value a link back to the answer to the question instead.

The conclusion, which lasts for between 30 seconds and 1 minute, in Extemporaneous Speaking follows the basic format of the introduction, but backwards, starting with the speaker restating the question, answer, and review of the three points. Finally, the speech finishes with a basic reference to the attention-getter.


During the speech, competitors are evaluated by way of comparison to the other speakers in a "round" of competition. Generally, there are five to seven competitors in a given round. Judges give speakers time signals to help them pace their presentations, usually starting from five minutes remaining. Judges rank all students in a room in order, with the first rank being the best and the worst speaker ranked last (sixth, for example in a round of six competitors).

In High School competition, the National Forensic League (NFL), Stoa USA, the National Christian Forensics and Communication Association (NCFCA) and the National Catholic Forensic League (CFL) host most Extemp tournaments in High School. Both leagues have a national tournament at the end of every year, with the NFL tournament drawing a larger number of competitors. There is also the Extemporaneous Speaking Tournament of Champions, held each May at Northwestern University, along with the Tournament of Champions at the University of Kentucky, which has held a round robin since 2012. In addition, there are highly prestigious "circuit" tournaments, as in Policy debate, Public Forum, and Lincoln-Douglas. These include the Glenbrooks Tournament in Chicago, the Yale Invitational at Yale University, the Patriot Games at George Mason University, the Barkley Forum at Emory University, the Berkeley Tournament in University of California, Berkeley, and the Invitational at Harvard University. There are also two major round-robins, held at George Mason University and at Montgomery Bell Academy (MBA).

In collegiate competition, a myriad of organizations provide national competition in Extemporaneous Speaking. The American Forensic Association (AFA) and the National Forensic Association (NFA) are organizations responsible for Extemporaneous speaking at the four year level, with Phi Ro Pi[4] serving the two year, community college level. Other organizations which offer Extemporaneous Speaking competition are Pi Kappa Delta, Delta Sigma Rho-Tau Kappa Alpha, and the International Forensic Association. Collegiate competition is almost identical to High School competition, with most tournaments hosted by Universities. The AFA hosts a National Individual Events Tournament (NIET), usually in April. The NFA hosts a separate tournament with easier qualification requirements known as NFA Nationals. Additionally, collegiate competition consists of dozens of tournaments across the country, like the Norton Invitational, hosted by Bradley University, and the Hell Froze Over swing tournament.[5][6]

Current rankings[edit]

Rankings for High School Extemporaneous Speaking are maintained by multiple organizations, three of which are: Extemp Central,[7] the Institute for Speech and Debate,[8] and SpeechRanks.com.[9] All three use a points system which assigns points to tournaments on the national circuit based on the size of each tournament's field, and its prestige.

Extemp Central National Points Race Results 2015–2016[10][edit]

Ranking Name Point Total School
1 Esther Reyes Life
2 Marshall Sloane 637 Milton Academy (Milton, MA)
3 Vaikunth Balaji 546 Ridge High School (Ridge, NJ)
4 Marshall Webb 433 Saint Mary's Hall (San Antonio, TX)
5 Micah Cash 387 Tulsa Washington High School (Tulsa, OK)
6 Brian Xu 358 San Marino High School (San Marino, CA)
7 Jacob Thompson 331 Des Moines Roosevelt High School (Des Moines, IA)
8 Samhitha Sunkara 318 Ardrey Kell High School (Charlotte, NC)
9 Nathaniel Saffran 296 Trinity Preparatory School (Winter Park, FL)
10 Katherine Hu 229 Plano Senior High School (Plano, TX)

National Speech and Debate Association National Points Race Results 2017–2018[11][edit]

Ranking Name Point Total School
1 David Yue 1476 Texas Academy of Math and Science (Denton, TX)
2 Christopher Maximos 1440 Delbarton School (Morristown, NJ)
3 Rene Otero 1075 Hendrickson High School (Pfluggerville, TX)
4 Kate Fisher 1038 Saint Mary's Hall High School (San Antonio, TX)
5 Arjun Shanmugam 1037 Jackson High School (Massillon, OH)
6 Dominic DeRamo 1031 Canfield High School (Canfield, OH)
7 Byron Xu 1025 Tompkins High School (Katy, TX)
8 Jason Scheller 1007 Eagan High School (Eagan, MN)
9 Tristan Wertanzl 992 Cypress Bay High School (Weston, FL)
10 Juliette Reyes 983 American Hertiage School (Plantation, FL)

Past Champions in Extemporaneous Speaking[edit]

Past AFA Champions[edit]

  • 2017: Nathan Leys (George Mason University)
  • 2016: Carolyn Evans (Western Kentucky University)
  • 2015: Farrah Bara (University of Texas at Austin)
  • 2014: Collin Metcalf (University of Alabama)
  • 2013: Michael Scott (George Mason University)

Past NCFCA Champions in Extemporaneous Speaking[12][edit]

  • 2016 - Simon Sefzik (WA)
  • 2015 – Christopher Baldacci (IL)
  • 2014 – Clare Downing (FL)
  • 2013 – RJ Martin (AL)
  • 2012 – Brooke Wade (FL)
  • 2011 – Brooke Wade (FL)
  • 2010 – Grace Larimer (NM)
  • 2009 – Shane Baumgardner (CO)
  • 2008 – Alexandra Hebdon (GA)
  • 2007 – Betsy Woodruff (VA)
  • 2006 – Abraham Gerber (IN)
  • 2005 – Cody Herche (CA)
  • 2004 – Matthew McCorkle (OH)
  • 2003 – Ryan Herche (CA)
  • 2002 – Timothy Heggem (CA)
  • 2001 – Ryan Stollar (OR)

Past NFA Champions[edit]

  • 2017: Arel Rende (University of Texas at Austin)
  • 2016: Farrah Bara (University of Texas at Austin)
  • 2015: Farrah Bara (University of Texas at Austin)
  • 2014: Carolyn Evans (Western Kentucky University)
  • 2013: Alexis Elliot (Western Kentucky University)
  • 2012: Joshua Hiew (Northwestern University)
  • 2011: Joshua Hiew (Northwestern University)
  • 2010: Seth Peckham (Western Kentucky University)
  • 2009: Austin Wright (University of Texas at Austin)
  • 2008: Merry Regan (University of Texas at Austin)
  • 2007: Jill Collum (University of Texas at Austin)
  • 2006: Liz Coleman (New York University)
  • 2005: John Geibel (St. Joseph's University)
  • 2004: Michael Chen (Seton Hall University)
  • 2003: Jason Warren (Northwestern University)
  • 2002: Rob Barnhart (Ohio University)
  • 2001: Matt Ross (Ohio State University)
  • 2000: Greg Lipper (Northwestern University)
  • 1999: Chris Kristofco (St. Joseph's University)
  • 1998: Colin O'Brien (Ohio State University)

Past NCFL Champions[edit]

Past NSDA Champions in Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking[edit]

Past NSDA Champions in International Extemporaneous Speaking[edit]

Past NITOC Champions in Extemporaneous Speaking[13][edit]

  • 2015: Jaden Warren (TX Apollos)
  • 2014: Justin Holiman (CA Paradigm)
  • 2013: Branden Yeates (CO SALT)
  • 2012: Audrie Ford (CA Paradigm)
  • 2011: Ty Harding (TX Speak Out North Texas)
  • 2010: Jesse Herche (CA Envoy)

Past Extemporaneous Speaking Tournament of Champions winners[edit]

Past Montgomery Bell Academy Extemporaneous Round Robin Champions[edit]

  • 2016-Vaikunth Balaji, (Ridge High School, New Jersey)
  • 2015-Josh Wartel, (Lake Braddock Secondary School, Virginia)
  • 2014-Lily Nellans (Des Moines Roosevelt High School, Iowa)
  • 2013-Lily Nellans (Des Moines Roosevelt High School, Iowa)
  • 2012-Lily Nellans (Des Moines Roosevelt High School, Iowa)
  • 2011-Nabeel Zewail (San Marino High School, California)
  • 2010-Dillon Huff (Southlake Carroll High School, Texas)
  • 2009-Matt Arons (Millburn High School, New Jersey)
  • 2008-Becca Goldstein (Newton South High School, Massachusetts)
  • 2007-Tex Dawson (Plano West High School, Texas)
  • 2006-Alex Stephenson (Eagan High School, Minnesota)
  • 2005-Kevin Troy (Eagan High School, Minnesota)
  • 2004-Josh Bone (Milton Academy, Massachusetts)
  • 2003-David Tannenwald (Newton South High School, Massachusetts)
  • 2002-Rana Yared (Nova High School, Florida)
  • 2001-Andrew Korn (Syosset High School, New York)
  • 2000-Brian Garfield (Dowling Catholic High School, Iowa)
  • 1999-Jay Cox (Milton Academy, Massachusetts)


  1. ^ "NFL Competition Events Guide". National Forensic League. Archived from the original on 2013-12-02. Retrieved 2013-11-22.
  2. ^ "AFA Events Guide". American Forensics Association.
  3. ^ "Impacting – it's THAT Important". Extemp Central. Retrieved 2016-02-27.
  4. ^ "Phi Ro Pi – Official Website". Phi Ro Pi. Retrieved 2016-02-27.
  5. ^ "AFA Nationals Manual". American Forensics Association.
  6. ^ "NFA Nationals Manual". National Forensic Association. Retrieved 2013-11-22.
  7. ^ "Nat'l Points Race". speechgeek.com. 24 July 2009.
  8. ^ Sheard, Robert. "Debate Rankings – Extemp". Debate Rankings. Institute for Speech and Debate. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  9. ^ See http://www.speechranks.com
  10. ^ "Nat'l Points Race". 2009-07-24. Retrieved 2016-06-25.
  11. ^ . 2018-09-27 https://www.speechanddebate.org/rankings/. Retrieved 2018-09-27. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ Taken from NCFCA Hall of Fame https://www.ncfca.org/competition-results/hall-of-fame/
  13. ^ Taken from Stoa USA point system recorded at http://speechranks.com.