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About the Honor Society

The National Speech & Debate Association’s Honor Society recognizes middle school and high school students and coaches 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. Coaches simultaneously earn the points recorded for their students. Members are eligible to join the Honor Society once they have earned the required number of points. As members earn additional points, they also earn new degrees in our Honor Society, which offer distinction, recognize progress, and provide motivation. Over the past 90 years, we’ve celebrated the achievements of nearly two million alumni.

Members of the Honor Society are held to the Code of Honor, the highest standards of humility, equity, integrity, respect, leadership, and service. Character, personal accountability, and social responsibility have been valued by our organization since our founding in 1925. The Code of Honor, adopted in 2007 and revised in 2020, reflects the core values and behavioral expectations of our organization.

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 FAQ 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
Speaking Service Activity (5+ adults) 1-20pts/day, approx. 2pts/hr
Non-speaking Service Activity 1-20pts/day, approx. 2pts/hr

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?