Skip to main content


The Basics: Teams




How Ethics Bowl Works

Ethics Bowl matches feature two teams meeting head-to-head to discuss and evaluate case studies which feature tricky moral questions or dilemmas. These cases typically come from one of the NHSEB’s annually released Case Sets—one for Regional Competitions, and one for the National Championship each April. Each match will also have three judges and one moderator in attendance, and spectators are encouraged to join in as well.


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. The first half then proceeds as follows:



  1. Moderator Period: A moderator will start the match by introducing a case from the set (which students have prepared with in advance) and asking a question that the discussion will address (which they have not).
  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 the time allotted.
  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, followed by 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.



This process will repeat in each respective half of the match, with the teams switching places (i.e., the team which presented in the first half will play the commenting role in the second, and so on). Upon the conclusion of each half of the match, judges will score each team based on the following criteria:

  • Team’s Presentation on the Moderator’s Question: Is the presentation clear and systematic? Does it address some central moral dimensions of the case? Does it indicate awareness of and responsiveness to opposing viewpoints?
  • Responding Team’s Commentary: Is the commentary constructive? Does it advance the conversation by offering opportunities for clarification, questions for the presenting team, etc.
  • Presenting Team’s Response to Commentary: Does the presenting team take seriously and adequately reply to the comments from their respondents?
  • Presenting Team’s Responses to Judges’ Questions: Are judges’ questions answered effectively, clearly, and responsibly?
  • Each team’s display of Respectful Dialogue throughout the match: Is each team committed to the central values of the competition—collaboration and the pursuit of truth, rather than, say, combativeness or belittling rhetoric?


Full Scoring Criteria   Sample Score Sheet




For a full account of all NHSEB procedures and guidelines, see the NHSEB Rules Manual. Or, check out a full Ethics Bowl match in action: 










Eligibility Rules

Students enrolled in grades 9-12 at accredited U.S. high school may join a team to participate in the National High School Ethics Bowl program. Ethics Bowl teams are composed of 3-7 students with up to 5 students seated on a team in any given match. The team must have the official endorsement of the school administration to participate in the program.

All teams must have a coach or advisor vetted and approved by school administration. If a team does not have an approved adult coach/advisor, the team cannot compete at the NHSEB Regionals or National Championship. Teachers from students’ high schools usually serve in this role. It is, however, permissible for parents to coach a team if this arrangement is approved by the school administration.

NHSEB Organizers may, at their discretion, allow a team or teams of home school students to participate. Regional Organizers should verify students’ age for eligibility, and encourage home school students to form a team from multiple families. Participants may not be otherwise enrolled in another accredited high school. The coach or advisor of a home school team should be vetted and approved by the Regional Organizer in conjunction with the NHSEB Executive Committee.




Team Registration

For official recognition and to get started competitively, an Ethics Bowl team should complete a two-step registration process. These steps should generally be completed in tandem:

  1. Teams should register with their geographically closest Regional Competition by contacting its Organizer(s). NHSEB Regionals typically occur between January and mid-February of a given school year. A full list of contact information for NHSEB Regional Organizers is available here.
  2. All teams participating in the NHSEB program must register with NHSEB HQ each season, and pay a yearly registration fee. The registration fee for 2022-2023 is $125, if schools register before December 1, 2022. After December 1, fees will increase to $175. NHSEB HQ is committed to ensuring that no students are prevented from participating because of financial need. Therefore, financial assistance and/or fee waivers are available for teams who qualify. For more information or to request a fee waiver, please contact us at


NHSEB School Registration







Preparing for Competition

For resources to aid in preparing for an NHSEB Competition, please visit NHSEBAcademy: an online space for learning about and around the National High School Ethics Bowl. There, you’ll find a library of static resources in various formats (print, graphic, etc.), a growing collection of informational and instructional videos produced and curated by NHSEB HQ, opportunities for live, on-demand coaching assistance or practice scrimmages with UNC-based Ethics Bowl coaches via our Studio Hours initiative, and an annual series of events for NHSEB students, coaches, and community members: NHSEBAcademy Live.