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            About the Honor Society

            The National Speech & Debate Association’s Honor Society recognizes middle school and high school students for participation in speech and debate activities. Students earn distinction through speech and debate competition, as well as community service, public speaking, and leadership activities. Members are eligible to join the Honor Society once they have earned the required number of points.

            Members of the Honor Society are held to the Code of Honor, the highest standards of integrity, humility, respect, leadership, and service. These standards have been valued by our organization since our founding in 1925 and were officially adopted as the Code of Honor in 2007. Over the past 90 years, we’ve celebrated the achievements of nearly two million alumni.

            Students who are members of the National Speech & Debate Association honor society stand out in the college admissions process. Katie Byrnes

            College Counselor

            Merit Points

            To become a member of the National Speech & Debate Association’s Honor Society, student members must abide by the Code of Honor. High school and middle school students become members upon placement on their school roster.

            Middle school memberships are $10 and cover 6th through 8th grade participation. High school memberships are $20 for the student’s entire high school career.

            How to Earn Merit Points

            Students may earn points by participating in a number of speech and debate activities including interscholastic competition, public speaking events, and service activities. The following tables are only examples. For a complete explanation of Honor Society points, see the Unified Manuals. Coaches may also consult our how-to guides with step-by-step instructions and animated GIFs with tips on managing your school’s account and team roster.


            Debate Result Merit Points Earned
            Winning a round of Debate
            HS NSDA Events*: 6
            HS non-NSDA Events: 4
            MS: 2
            Losing a round of Debate HS NSDA Events: 3
            HS non-NSDA Events: 2
            MS: 1

            *NSDA "Main" Debate Events are Policy Debate, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Public Forum Debate, World Schools Debate, and Big Questions



            8-pt scale 30-pt scale 60-100-pt scale Merit Pts/speech Tourn. place Merit Points Earned
            8 28-30 97-100 6 1st 24
            6-7 23-27 90-96 5 2nd 23
            4-5 18-22 84-89 4 OR 3rd 22
            3 13-17 77-83 3 4th 21
            2 8-12 70-76 2 5th 20
            1 1-7 60-69 1 (and so forth)

            *MS earns 1-5 points per speech, up to 10 points/day


            Rank Rating Rating Rating Grade Merit Points Earned
            1 Superior 25 95-100 HS NSDA Events*: 6
            HS non-NSDA Events: 5
            MS: 3
            2 Excellent 24 90-94 HS NSDA Events: 5
            HS non-NSDA Events: 4
            MS: 2
            3 OR Good/Exceeds Expectations 20-23 71-89 A HS NSDA Events: 4
            HS non-NSDA Events: 3
            MS: 1
            4 Fair/Meets Expectations 15-19 42-70 B HS NSDA Events: 3
            HS non-NSDA Events: 2
            MS: 1
            5 or lower Average/Does Not Meet Expectations 10-14 10-41 C HS NSDA Events: 2
            HS non-NSDA Events: 1
            MS: 1
            0-9** 0-9 0

            *NSDA "Main" Speech Events are: Extemporaneous Speaking, Original Oratory, Humorous Interp, Dramatic Interp, Duo Interp, Program Oral Interp, and Informative Speaking

            **Severe deficiency, and therefore, not worth any points



            Service Activity Merit Points Earned
            Giving a speech to 25+ People (HS only) 5 (per speech)
            Judging a Novice/Middle School Round (HS only) 2 (per round)
            Coaching a Middle School practice (HS only) 2 (per hour)
            Acting in a High School play (HS only) 5 (per performance)
            Classroom Presentation (MS only) 1 (per performance, 1/day)
            Community Speaking (MS only) 1 (per speech, 1/day)
            Theater (MS only) 2 (per performance)

            Examples only. Additional rules and restrictions apply. See the unified manual for more details.

            Degree Levels

            The more points you earn for participating, the higher degrees and seals you will earn for your achievements.

            Coaches are also recognized for their hard work and expertise in the Honor Society. Coaches simultaneously earn the points recorded for their students. Coaches earn the same milestones as students until they earn 10,000 points and the Donus D. Roberts Coaching Excellence Award. Once coaches earn 15,000 points and have been coaching for at least five years, they will receive their First Diamond Award.



            Students & Coaches Degree Points Seal or Badge
            Member Less than 25 points None
            Merit 25 Merit
            Honor 75 Honor
            Excellence 150 Excellence
            Distinction 250 Distinction
            Special Distinction 500 Special Distinction
            Superior Distinction 750 Superior Distinction
            Outstanding Distinction 1,000 Outstanding Distinction
            Premier Distinction 1,500 Premier Distinction
            Coaches Only Degree Points Seal or Badge
            Donus D. Roberts Coaching Excellence Award 10,000 Donus D. Roberts Recognition
            1st Diamond 15,000 and 5 years 1st Diamond
            Additional Diamonds each 30,000 and 5 years Additional Diamond

            The Road to Premier Distinction

            Every student’s journey may be a little different, but whatever path you take, you should be proud of being a member of the National Forensic League Honor Society!

            We are part of something bigger than just the program at our school. Earning seals and degrees really provides an incentive for students to continue to work toward achieving their goals. Jeffrey Stoppenhagen


            What Is Strength?

            Learn how it’s calculated and why it matters!

            | ProTip |

            Induction Ceremony

            Group of Honor Society students posing for pic

            An induction ceremony is a great way to celebrate new members of your team as they build their confidence, tap into their creativity, collaborate with teammates, improve their communication, and increase their critical thinking skills. Check out tools for planning your event!


            Every day, the National Speech & Debate Association works to connect, support, and inspire a diverse community committed to empowering students through competitive speech and debate. A big part of our mission is centered on celebrating the incredible achievements of our members. Use the links below to see some of the ways we honor our students, coaches, and schools!

            Looking for more recognition?

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