Advanced Substructure Part 3: The Finale

Hopefully, by now you’ve read the first part and second part of this substructure series. If not, I recommend that you do that before going any further into this article, where we’ll take a deeper dive into the last three specific & advanced substructure formats you can use in extemp.

Format #1: Problem-Solution-Impact

This is probably the most intuitive substructure format just because it is so clear cut. A go-to for questions about solvency (“how” or “what”), you lay out a problem, a solution to that problem, and the impact that solution will have — pretty easy as far as substructure goes!

At the same time, this format can still allow for tons of depth, both in your analysis of elaborate solvency mechanisms and the problems of the status quo. In other words, you can really be creative with this format. That said, with that depth and flexibility can come time management problems. This format tends to run the longest, so watch out. Still confused? Let’s look at an example from Olivia Shoemaker’s 2017 IX Final Speech, courtesy of the NSDA.

What can be done to alleviate Venezuela’s economic crisis?

Point 2: Paying back international creditors

Maduro owes more than $56 billion to foreign creditors;
Venezuela could default

B. IMF and other international orgs. would benefit from a debt
restructuring, and Maduro would get political leverage

C. Improve international reputation

  • Analysis: There isn’t much to say here — the organization of Olivia’s arguments makes a lot of sense, but at the same time she can explore a complex solution (debt restructuring with the IMF)! This is a truly versatile format.

Format #2: Theory-Application-Impact

This is another fairly versatile format and a great way to introduce book citations or, at the very least, qualified authors into your speech. You start with some sort of theory (it can be a political theory, IRC, etc) that establishes a general principle, then you explain how that principle interacts with the question, before finally impacting out to one of the 3 P’s talked about in the first substructure article.

One other thing that’s important to add: while this format requires some familiarity with political and economic theories, those theories don’t have to be complex! Sometimes, the simplest analysis is the best analysis, but let’s look at an example, courtesy of Extemp Central, to truly understand this.

Is Nepal’s young democracy developing effectively?

Point 1: The government has failed to instill institutions necessary to ascertain social justice.

A patriarchal state is inherently undemocratic → “Women’s rights remain critical to the idea of democracy as becoming the will of the people…without appropriate education for women they cannot engage effectively in an advanced economy crippling hopes of being legitimate democratic state.” – Sex and Social Justice, Martha Nussbaum

B. Nepal has failed to provide women with adequate voting rights.

C. Resultantly, women are poorly educated – perpetuating a cycle of undemocratic and socially restrictive practices.

  • Analysis: Nussbaum’s theory is fairly obvious from a logical standpoint, which serves as further proof that your “A” point doesn’t require dense theory (I would actually advise against that!). After laying out the theory, the example from above clearly applies Nussbaum’s theory to Nepal and then impacts it to women’s education and its subsequent impact. Very clear? Yes. Still sophisticated? Yes. My favorite format? Also yes.

Format #3: Premise-Rebuttal-Impact

The most sophisticated extempers can acknowledge the concerns another side may have while defending their position. How? By using the premise-rebuttal-impact format! For this one, an example is most illustrative of what this format looks like.

Should the United States end its arms trade with Saudi Arabia?

Point 1: Results in greater civilian casualties

A. US arms in Yemen result in mass suffering

Will only lead to Saudi purchase of more Chinese/Russian weapons, which are less precise/more faulty → more accidental deaths

C. Loss of geostrategic partner while failing to alleviate humanitarian crisis

  • Analysis: While I personally am not a fan of this argument, it does a good job of acknowledging the doubts many people (including your judge) may have, while still defending (if not actively strengthening) your own argument. Again, a truly sophisticated format — this is a great way of preemptively addressing any doubts your judge may have, especially if you have a “hot take.”


While most extempers unfairly treat substructure as a bogeyman, it can make your job of crafting convincing arguments a lot easier. And while there are no hard and fast rules for substructure, there are sets of guiding principles to help you get started.

After reading the past three articles on advanced substructure, you should hopefully be able to 1) list the 3 C’s and 3 P’s of extemp 2) explain the ABC format and 3) understand the 6 more advanced substructure formats that we went over. And if not? Don’t worry. Substructure takes practice, so try to actively incorporate some of these newly-learned formats into your speeches from here on out. Happy practicing!

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