Minnesota High School Speech

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Minnesota High School Speech refers to the competitive forensics system in the state of Minnesota. These activities are currently coordinated and organized by the Minnesota State High School League, otherwise known as the MSHSL.

There are thirteen categories of Minnesota High School Speech, many of which differ greatly from their National Forensics League counterparts. Minnesota High School Speech and Minnesota High School Debate, while both organized by the Minnesota State High School League, are independent activities with different tournament schedules, seasons, awards, and procedures.

Minnesota High School Speech, as organized by the MSHSL, is composed of thirteen highly varied categories both interpretive and public address style.


The thirteen categories offered are: Creative Expression, Discussion, Duo Interpretation, Extemporaneous Reading, Extemporaneous Speaking, Great Speeches, Humorous Interpretation, Informative Speaking, Original Oratory, Serious Interpretation of Drama, Serious Interpretation of Poetry, Serious Interpretation of Prose, and Storytelling. There are also two categories that were tested in the 2015-2016 season. The two categories were Program Oral Interpretation and Improv. As of 30 April 2016, it is unknown if these categories will return in the 2016-2017 season.

In Creative Expression, the speaker presents an original, creative piece. They are judged on writing as well as delivery.

In Discussion, students are given up to an hour to discuss in a small group, and come to a cooperative agreement or compromise on a given prompt.

In Duo Interpretation, a pair of speakers present a piece together. Body contact is not allowed and speakers are only allowed eye contact with each other during the introduction and transitions.

In Extemporaneous Reading, the speaker draws three "cuttings" (a portion of a story) from a selection of around twenty short stories. The speaker chooses one of the three to read, and is given thirty minutes to practice it and memorize and introduction.

In Extemporaneous Speaking, the speaker draws three national or international current event questions, and is given thirty minutes to prepare a seven-minute speech on the drawn topic of their choice.

In Great Speeches, the speaker presents on a historically great speech, including an analysis and sections of the original speech.

In Humorous Interpretation, the speaker presents a humorous selection from a play, prose, or poem.

In Informative Speaking, the speaker presents an original, unbiased speech on the topic of their choice with the purpose to inform. They are also permitted to use posters or other visual aids to enhance their presentation.

In Original Oratory, the speaker presents an original speech with the purpose of persuading the audience.

In Serious Interpretation of Drama, the speaker presents a serious monologue, or selection from a play.

In Serious Interpretation of Poetry, the speaker presents a serious poem, selection of poems, or portion of a poem.

In Serious Interpretation of Prose, the speaker presents a serious selection from a novel or short story.

In Storytelling, the speaker draws three from a selection of fifteen folk tales, and presents their interpretation of it.

In Improv, the speaker writes a story before the round. Before they speak, they receive a quote and have two minutes to integrate it into their speech.

In Program Oral Interpretation, the speaker presents a speech that is a combination of at least two of the following categories: Poetry, Prose, and Drama.


The Minnesota State High School League organizes only three divisions of competitive speech tournaments; all other invitationals and tournaments are organized by schools and teams themselves and are without central coordination.

Independent Competition[edit]

Independently organized tournaments, for the most part, adhere to Minnesota State High School League-sanctioned rules, although many schools now host tournaments specifically ruled by those set by the National Forensics League, whose rules and categories differ wildly in many areas. Invitational speech meets usually follow a certain form, with three preliminary rounds. The top six, seven, or eight will advance to a final round, which is judged by three judges. If a final round is judged, the final round scores are usually the only scores counted when determining final placement.

MSHSL Competition[edit]

The MSHSL currently divides all Speech teams into two classes:

  1. Class A, which is composed of schools with enrollments of 0-610 students.
  2. Class AA, which is composed of schools with enrollments of 611 or more students.

Some sections, either A or AA, chose to run a subsection meet. Others chose to run what is called a "Supersection" which is described below.

The MSHSL currently coordinates three levels of competition:

  1. Subsections: At Subsections, all Class A or class AA (respectively)competitors are invited to compete for a place at their Section tournament. The best six, seven, or eight competitors in each category at the subsection are chosen to move on to a final round, out of which the best-performing four to six competitors move on to the Section tournament.
  2. Sections, or "Super-sections" decide the top 3 competitors that will compete from the section at the State Tournament. For the sections that chose to run subsection competition, the top competitors are invited to compete at their section tournaments, although each competing school may enter only three competitors per category.(For sections running super-section competition, the limit is 4.) Class A or AA students selected by their subsection compete at separate section tournaments. In Super-section competition, the entire field competes in 2 preliminary rounds. The top 12 speakers go to a semi final. In either regular or Super-section competition, The top six, seven, or eight competitors from each category travel to a final round where their performances are critiqued and reviewed, with the top three competitors from each Class A and each Class AA Section in each category moving on to the Class A and Class AA State Tournaments, respectively.
  3. State, at which Class A and Class AA competitors compete on separate days in their respective categories. (Class A and Class AA students never compete against one another in MSHSL competition, and their tournaments are held on separate days.) Owing to the limit of only three competitors per class section, and the fact that Minnesota is divided into only eight sections, each category has exactly twenty-four competitors. The top eight in each category travel to a final round where they are scored and placed in accordance with their performances. The final rounds at the State tournament are the only rounds not critiqued.

Rule change at State Competition[edit]

For many years, if a student had qualified to speak at the State level but was unable to attend, an alternate was used from their section. The rules have been changed to state that" A. Substitution:

If a qualified contestant is unable to participate in the State Contest, no alternate contestants will be placed into competition." [1]


In each round, students typically compete against 5-8 other speakers. The judge will rank each speaker in the round (Note: at invitationals, no ranking lower than a 5 is awarded; 6th, 7th, etc. will receive a rank of 5). The judge will also give each speaker a rate or percentage (typically no lower than 90, but sometimes 85). When scores for placements are being tabulated, the students are first placed by the total of their ranks. The students with the lowest sum of their ranks place highest. If a tie occurs, it is, if possible, first broken by Judge's Preference. If the tied speakers faced each other head to head in a round, the student that ranked higher in the round places highest. If a tie cannot be broken by Judge's Preference (i.e. the speakers never faced each other in a round, or they faced each other more than once with judges disagreeing on their ranks relative to each other), it is then broken by rate. The student with the highest sum of their rates places highest. If the students have equal rates, a tie is then broken using Reciprocals. The speakers' ranks are reciprocated (i.e. 1=1, 2=.5, 3=.33, etc.) and the reciprocals are added. The student with the highest sum of these reciprocals places highest. This places more weight on higher rankings. If a tie is still unable to be broken, the winner will be decided in a coin toss (Or rock, paper, scissors).