5 Quick Tips to Help You Prepare for the TOC in Policy Debate

Jordana Sternberg

Stefan asked me to share some thoughts on how to prepare for the TOC.  By now, it is likely that you have already put a lot of work into new files and updated arguments, but here are five things that might help maximize your success:

Read the news

Having a grasp on what is actually happening in the world helps put surprises in context.  A lot of new arguments happen at the TOC, and not all of them make sense.  Even if you don’t have a file on Brazilian prolif, knowing that Dilma Rousseff (see – any idea who that is?) is under imminent threat of impeachment might make the CX fun for you, and also allows you to zero in on exactly what you can Google for a quick card.

Fix your files

Now is the time to fish or cut bait on half-finished files, partial articles pasted into a Word doc, tabs you left open in the browser, and files you should have prepped two tournaments ago.  Put things away where they belong within your desktop, check through files you don’t use as often — to make sure you can find things quickly, but also because you might find something useful that you didn’t know was in there – and get rid of clutter.  A minute or two spent because of disorganization or saved because you can find things can make all the difference when you’re under time pressure in a debate.

Give practice speeches

Understanding something yourself versus communicating it to a judge who may be hearing it for the first time – or who is expert and thinks you’re not explaining it properly — are two very different things.  Not only do you need to shake off the rust before Round 1, but it is a good idea to try out your new stuff in advance of actually breaking it.  If you can’t get a coach, teammate, or parent to listen to it (don’t scoff at the parent test – if you can persuade them, you’re ahead of the game), then record yourself and then listen to it with a skeptical ear, or pretend you are one of the judges you’d pref in the neighborhood of a 3.

Check old notes

If you went to camp, you probably took a lot of notes.  Odds are that you haven’t revisited them much since then.   If you were transcribing in the way that laptops allow (but pen and paper don’t), then chances are you typed in some good advice that you either didn’t process at the time or have forgotten to try out.

Get some sleep

Yes, you should be spending a lot of time doing debate work – new research, updates, reviewing files, highlighting – and that probably means some late nights and long days if you’re serious about it.  But showing up to the tournament exhausted hampers your ability to think quickly and clearly enough to use all that work to the best of your ability.  You’re certainly not going to catch up on sleep duringthe TOC, and remember that those mornings start early.