What is Forensics in High School?

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Do you intend to join a high school forensics club? Are you a parent seeking more information about the club your child is always talking about? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you are in the right place. Before joining a forensic club, you’ll need to understand what the club is about.

Forensics is a competitive speech team set up for drama and debate activities. Forensics involves different categories with participating students choosing which activities they are better in. The overall aim of forensics is to build the confidence and skills needed to research and speak to an audience. This article focuses on reviewing what forensics is and the different high school forensics activities.

First Things First: What is Forensics in High School?First Things First: What is Forensics in High School?

To start the core of this conversation, it’ll be essential to understand what forensics is. Simply put, forensics is a competitive speech team. Think of it in the same way you’ll think of a team assembled for track and field events – but in this case, it’s for speech and drama activities. As part of their usual activities, forensics students choose from several different speech topics and prepare speeches and dramas to present at area school competitions. Events would typically include informative and persuasive speaking, individual and duet acting, debates, and storytelling activities. Forensics can pass both as a team and as a class, and individuals are seen to join a tradition of excellence by merely enrolling in it.

The UIL suggests that forensics’ main aim is to help participating students develop useful skills like analysis, research, and persuasiveness. These are skills that will help students in their current studies and civic participation. The Code of Honor adopted by the NFL in 2007 encourages and promotes humility, integrity, leadership, service, and respect among its members. Therefore, it’s easy to see that all these characters are the basics upon which the club is formed.

How Forensics Started

To understand the core of forensics, you’ll need a peep into its origin. Organized debates have a very long history in the United States. One of the oldest examples of organized debates in the United States was the Lincoln-Douglas contests in the 1850s. Since then, the structure and organization of debates have revolved greatly. In 1910, the desire for debates and declamation led to the creation of what is known today as the largest competitive academic programs in the United States, Texas’ University Interscholastic League (UIL). By the year 1920, Texas was ready to hold its first state high school forensics championship.

The NFL would later go on to create a national high school competition in 1930.

What Do You Learn in High School Forensics?

What Do You Learn in High School Forensics?

The primary purpose of high school forensics clubs is to provide student members with the opportunity to participate in activities that boost their intelligence and public speaking skills. Forensics is made up of different categories, and students get to choose the area they are comfortable with. Some of the most popular categories include prose, poetry, solo acting, and farrago.

Each category has its own basic set of rules, but they all follow the same basic grading system. Participating students get to learn several skills beneficial to them both in school and out of school. Here are some of the skills that students can learn in forensics.

Research Skills

Perhaps the most obvious skill that students learn from a forensics club is research. Irrespective of the category you choose to participate in, you’ll be given a topic to develop detailed explanations or arguments on. Developing this typically requires some research, and because students would always want to come out tops of any competition, they’ll pay more attention to detailed research. This might seem cumbersome and stressful for a start, but with time, you’ll begin to develop research skills, therefore becoming better at it.

Public Speaking Skills

Although it sometimes seems simple, public speaking is one of the most difficult skills to develop. It often requires constant practice to get better. Because of the stressful nature of high school works, students hardly have enough time to practice. But with clubs like forensics, students get opportunities during their weekend or leisure time to make important presentations in front of judges and a select audience. Doing this from time to time will sharpen your public speaking confidence.


One of the categories of forensics, forensic sciences, deals with science-related research and experimentations. Choosing to participate in forensic science for high school means that a student must get ready for extra work. However, participants get to learn several scientific skills that will be useful for them both in the short run and long run.

What are the Categories of Forensics?

What are the Categories of Forensics?

Forensics encompasses several categories, and a proper understanding of the different categories will help you understand which would fit your personality. Below are some of the popular forensics categories in high school.

Demonstration Speaking

This is one of the most popular categories. It is often joined by students looking to gain on-stage confidence and composure. Demonstration speeches typically explain how to to do something or how something works. Demonstration speakers have to use visual aids such as diagrams, graphs, charts, pictures, maps, and mannequins, to physically demonstrate what they are trying to explain. A demonstrative speech can be about anything, as long as it provides valuable insight and significant information to the listeners. Examples of demonstrative speaking topics include: How to make balloon animals and use a first aid box.

Extemporaneous Speaking

Another category of activity often engaged in by forensics is extemporaneous speaking. In this case, the speaker attempts to respond to questions drawn at the beginning of the competition directly. A problem is typically presented at the beginning, with the speaker tasked to find clear themes and supporting evidence and reasoning. In this case, participants are allowed to use resource materials from publications.


Also popular on the forensics categories list is farrago, an activity that challenges participants to select materials from various literary genres and interpret them through oral presentation. Materials to be analyzed usually include short stories, poetry, drama, speech, songs, and novels that address specific emotions and themes. In this case, the materials are read and not necessarily memorized. Materials are selected based on their levels of insight into human values, relationships, motivations, problems, and understanding. These materials have to be completely rid of violence and stereotyped characterizations to ensure that the right messages are passed. High school students are usually tasked to add introductions and transitions to help relate the pieces to the theme.

Group Interpretive Reading

This category of forensics is developed to encourage group participation and brainstorming. Under this category, a group of two to five people is usually challenged to present a literary piece in a manner that will trigger imaginations and actions among the audience. This activity features symbolic characterizations, as well as vocal and physical movements. Participants would usually memorize the introductions but read the performance from a book manuscript. Movements suggest feelings, changes, relationships, moods, ideas, and locations, without shifting the focus from the audience.

Moment of History

Although this category’s popularity has reduced over time, it is still practiced by a good number of forensic clubs in high school. Here, participating students are tasked to explore and explain history in the most detailed manner. Students may consider the following options as sources of historical fact, compiling their presentations: diaries, archives, newspapers, letters, interviews, internet pages, etc. Historical information is gathered and presented in a well-organized manner to inform.

Prose Reading

This typically involves selecting from several different prose literature being read to an audience. Selections include short stories, drama, essays, novel extracts, and other non-fiction works centered on a specific theme or emotion. Participants can read original materials, although they’ll need to memorize the introduction title, author’s name, and any other necessary transitions.

Play Acting

Play-acting is gradually gaining popularity among high school students. This category can feature between 2-5 actors, although all would need to have a sizable part in the selection. Participants can choose between presenting a short play, a scene from a published play, or a full section of a short skit.

The general rule is for the presentation not to surpass 12 minutes, including the introduction. Actors may need to memorize several lines, including introduction and transitions. Actors do not necessarily need lighting, costuming, or props. They can replicate the scenes on stage using just tables and chairs. However, all forms of sound effects are mostly prohibited. The emphasis is usually focused on how actors are able to cover the stage and their character development ability.

Participating students can also play more than one role, although it is subjective to the judge’s evaluation. During the introduction, the team must provide the title of their presentation and the author’s name. They would then familiarize the audience with the theme and yon of the presentation before starting.

Public Address

This is perhaps the most popular on this list, and it involves addressing a select audience on a particular issue. It usually involves a student-written speech on a contemporary issue being read on an issue. It is mandatory to have supporting materials that will substantiate your position. The presentation used for this purpose must be clear, compelling, and well-organized, seeing that it aims to educate, inform, or argue. The primary purpose of this activity is to build a student’s confidence level so that they can talk in front of a larger crowd when necessary in the future.

What is the Difference Between Debate and Forensics?

What is the Difference Between Debate and Forensics?

Because of the similar nature of debates and a part of forensics, several students confuse the two for each other. However, despite their seemingly identical classes, they vary in technique and structure. They are two very different activities despite often going hand in hand.

The debate involved creating a specific speech and a plan in an argument. Here, participants either belong to an affirmative side or a negative side. Forensics, on the other hand, is more like a track and field event. Students do not just speak to argue for a point. Instead, they engage actively in speaking and acting as two sides of the same event.

5 High School Forensics Activities

5 High School Forensics Activities

High School Forensics activities vary slightly based on school and region. However, a general outline of activities is presented below.

Introduction of judges and participants

Forensics competitions like the national forensics league are organized to test students’ ability to replicate certain academic and social skills in front of an audience. However, in this case, the audience usually includes the judges and a few guests. The event starts with a moderator introducing the participants and judges to the audience.

Preliminary round

Most tournaments have preliminary rounds in which all members of the school’s forensics club participate. The number of preliminary rounds varies by the tournament category. When organizing debates, the first two rounds are usually random, although the subsequent preliminary rounds are carefully planned to be power-matched. This means that students will be paired based on their strengths and winning records.

Playoff rounds

After the preliminary rounds, participants with the best records progress to the playoff rounds. The number of playoffs would depend on the number of students that started the competition. The judges will decide who advances to this round based on preset criteria.


The final is either held on the same day or rescheduled to another day. This is where the strongest participants from the playoff rounds meet to battle for top positions. It is usually the most challenging round, and students are expected to prepare to meet fierce competitions.

Declaration of results

In the end, the judges would take some time to compile the results. As unanimously agreed, a judge would announce the final result, declaring the winner of the tournament.

What is Forensic Competition?

What is Forensic Competition?

Forensic competition is a contest between individuals and teams in different skill areas. The American forensics organization is set up to train students in public speaking and intellectual discourse about life’s challenges. The body works with high schools and colleges to organize annual competitions to test students’ skills in public speaking and debate skills. The primary purpose of these competitions is to encourage students to become effective communicators and to develop other essential skills typically required by employers.

Wrapping Things Up: What is Forensics in High School?

There you have it, a detailed review of what high school forensics is. Forensics is one of the most important clubs in high school, and students are often advised to join in developing skills that they’ll need outside school. High school forensics is divided into different categories, and students are advised to pick a category that they are most comfortable with. Popular categories include public speaking, demonstration speaking, prose reading, and play-acting. Several other categories exist, so you can check with the club adviser in your school to find out what categories are available.

This article has also explained what forensic competition is and the different activities that take place in it. A proper understanding of all these will help you get more adequately prepared to participate.

Did you find this post helpful? Then you’ll love the other posts related to high school. Check them out below:

> What is a High School Baccalaureate?

> What is NHS in High School?

> What is Beta Club in High School?

> What is Key Club and Why You Should Join?

> What is National Youth Leadership Forum?

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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