What's the difference between BP & PF Debate?

Coach Andy
Post by Coach Andy
What's the difference between BP & PF Debate?

BP vs PF Debate

BP Debate (or British Parliamentary) and PF Debate (or Public Forum) are two of the most popular debate formats in the world – BP more so at universities around the world, PF mostly at Middle and High School level.

However, it can be tricky to understand the similarities and differences between these two popular debate formats. In this article, we will consider BP vs Public Forum – which one is best for you?


The first big difference between BP and PF Debate comes in the preparation for topics.

BP debate is always impromptu. Debaters will debate multiple topics and themes on a single day of competition, with just 15 minutes of prep for each one. (Note that this is different from World Schools, which often employs prepared topics in tournaments.) As such, preparation for BP debate involves lots of reading, being aware of current events, preparing cases for lots of different themes – and practice.

In Public Forum debate, on the other hand, debaters prepare on the same topic for two months at a time – and, in some countries, even the entire semester. Cases are prepared very carefully and painstakingly, with dozens of articles read, copied and excerpted for use in constructive arguments and prepared rebuttals.

Role of Evidence in BP vs. PF debate

Another big difference comes in the role of evidence in these common debate formats.

Public Forum is evidentiary debate. Every claim requires a warrant, and every warrant needs at least one (and ideally more) pieces of evidence to back it up. Evidence can be facts, statistics, quotes from experts, scientific papers, op-eds – anything that is authoritative, persuasive and relevant to the point in question. Many forms of PF debate now allow the use of internet during the debate itself.

In BP debate, conversely, the use of evidence is very limited. Finding evidence online during prep time or the debate is not only impractical, given the time constraints, but actively banned. Debaters are very much allowed to use any facts or statistics that they may happen to have in their head, and some forms of BP debate allow the use of printed materials in a “case file” or almanac, but debaters should not count on knowing or using any specific evidence in a BP debate. Instead, a warrant is composed of reasoning, with examples encouraged to illustrate the point in question, not prove it.

Debate Format

The last big difference between BP debate and PF debate comes in the format of the debate itself. PF debate speeches are quite short –4 minutes for a debater’s first speech, and then 3 and 2 minutes for the summary and final focus speeches respectively. There’s a crossfire after each pair of speeches to allow debaters to engage with each other directly.

In a BP debate, on the other hand, you have up to 7 minutes to present your case. This allows you to develop arguments in more depth, but you definitely need to prioritise just as much in a BP debate as in a PF debate – and start doing this right from the first minute of the first speech. And since each debater has only one speech in BP debate, they only have one shot at getting it right! Engagement in this style of debate comes in the forms of Points of Information (POIs), not crossfire – a different skill but one that’s equally vital to master.


These some of the key similarities differences of BP vs PF Debate – two fun and engaging forms of debating that you should definitely consider trying!

Interested in giving some different debate formats a try? Check out some of our competition opportunities to start debating today!

Start Learning For Free  » 

Coach Andy
Post by Coach Andy