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Match Format

Ethics bowl matches feature two teams meeting face-to-face to discuss and evaluate case studies which feature tricky moral questions or dilemmas. Each match has three judges and one moderator (spectators are encouraged to attend as well). 

While each team participating in a match may be composed of up to seven members, only up to five members may be seated for any given match. These team members must be selected and seated at the table before the match starts. Substitutions may not occur during a match. Throughout the match, judges will evaluate each team based on their performance. A moderator will be in charge of the room during matches. They keep time and move the match through its various components while ensuring that all participants and spectators comply with the rules.

1. Moderator's Period:

Each match begins with a coin toss. The team that wins the coin toss may elect to present first (designated as Team A) or to have the other team present first (in this situation, the winner of the coin toss is designated as Team B).

To open the first half of the match, copies of the first case and question will be distributed to the judges and teams. The moderator will then read the case number, title, and a question for competition. Neither judges nor the teams will know in advance which case will be presented or which question will be asked. We’ll refer to this as the Moderator’s Period.


The first half will then proceed as follows:

2. Presentation Period:

After the case and question are introduced, Team A will have up to two minutes to confer, after which any member(s) of Team A may speak for up to six minutes in response to the moderator’s question, based on the team’s research and critical analysis. Team A must address the moderator’s question during this time.

3. Commentary Period:

Next, Team B will have up to one minute to confer, after which Team B may speak for up to three minutes to comment on Team A’s presentation.

4. Response Period:

Team A will then have up to one minute to confer and three minutes to respond to Team B’s commentary.


5. Judges’ Period:

The judges will then begin their ten minute question and answer session with Team A. Before asking questions, the judges may confer briefly. Each judge should have time for at least one question, and may ask more questions if time permits.

Teams are allowed to briefly confer (20 to 30 seconds) before answering a judge’s question. More than one team member may respond to a given judge’s question. Judges then evaluate the Presentation, Response, and Responses to Judges’ Questions by Team A and the Commentary by Team B, and assess the teams based on the judging guidelines.

After the judges have made their scoring decisions, the moderator will read the second case number, title, and question to the same two teams, beginning the second half of the match. The second half will proceed as above, with Team B presenting, Team A offering commentary, Team B responding, and then Team B participating in the judges’ question and answer session.

Thus, in each match, each team will have the opportunity to present one case and to respond to the other team’s presentation of another case, for a total of 60 points possible from each of the three judges.

As each match concludes, moderators will help validate scores with the judges and tabulate, based on the scores, which team receives each judge’s vote. The winner of the match will be the team with the highest number of votes (out of three totals).

If a judge scores both teams equally (a tie), both teams are awarded ½ of that judge’s vote. A match can end in a tie—if all three judges score the match a tie, or one judge votes for Team A, one for Team B, and one scores a tie. Point differential is not a factor in determining the winner of an individual match although it is a criterion that is used as a tiebreaker when ranking teams at the end of the seeding rounds.

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