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  • DTP Success Team

DSST Principles of Public Speaking & How to Best Prepare For Your Speech.

Updated: Apr 10

You'll have around 100 multiple-choice questions to answer, and a 3-5 minute presentation is required.

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The Principles of Public Speaking will consist of two parts, and most institutions require that you pass both to receive credit.

You'll have around 100 multiple-choice questions to answer, and a 3-5 minute presentation is required.

You'll receive your speech exam results via email within 7-10 business days of your exam date.

Public speaking can be an intimidating and daunting task.

Many things go into a successful speech, from the message to the delivery style.

However, if you follow these simple guidelines for your address, your chances of passing your exam will increase exponentially.

I would like you to understand how much time should be allotted for writing the speech versus delivering it.

You must give your speech within three to five minutes.

You’ll automatically be disqualified and receive a failing score if you're under or over.

Case Study: Student Experience

Case Study: Student Experience

The most detailed experience found was from a DSST candidate from Texas.

We summarized her experience below.

The Details

You'll do fine if you have any experience with public speaking or literary devices.

Principles of Public Speaking is the first DSST I've taken that is worded clearly and fairly, and I completed it in about 40 minutes with a score of 450.

Since my background includes writing and public speaking, I studied minimally for the multiple-choice portion - about 2 hours total.

Practicing for the Speech

I looked up about 40 controversial topics and then wrote out three quick bullet points covering my stance on each one.

This was great practice for developing opinions quickly on subjects you need to learn about.

I also practiced writing timed speeches and delivering them using my husband's chosen topics.

I highly recommend practicing with a 10-minute writing limit.

You'll be more than prepared when you have more wiggle room on time during test day.

My speeches were structured using the standard 3-point outline.

Introduction (30 seconds).

Could you state your thesis and three supporting points?

  • Point #1 (1 minute)

  • Point #2 (1 minute)

  • Point #3 (1 minute)

  • Conclusion (30 seconds)

TIP: Have a quick hypothetical story on standby for the end of your speech.

You can scrap it without derailing your speech if you notice you're under 3 minutes.

Could you make a story or state why the subject is connected to you?

I did not use fake statistics or sources.

The scoring mentions nothing regarding citing sources, so I played it safe.

Speech Do's and Don'ts

Do speak between 3 and 5 minutes; more or less than that time is grounds for failure.

Don't flip sides or express understanding with the opposite point of view.

Do speak slowly, but include inflection, so you don't sound like a robot.

My Test-Day Experience, Step-by-Step

The speech portion is free once you pay for and pass Part I.

When you get to the testing center computer, you'll have the choice to purchase Public Speaking I (Multiple Choice Portion) or Public Speaking Part II (Speech Portion).

Don't worry; you won't be charged twice.

The speech portion is free once you pay for and pass Part I.

I took the multiple-choice portion in the same room as other test-takers. It was longer than expected, but I finished in 40 minutes. I received my on-screen score immediately.

Once I completed the quiz, I flagged down the proctor, and she took me to a different room for Part II.

The speech portion was conducted on a computer in a separate office. I was given a piece of blank paper and a pencil.

Once you click "Begin," a 20-minute timer starts.

The left side of the screen has the "Record/Stop/Playback" controls.

Note that these controls are identical to those featured on the equipment test screen.

Once you click "Begin," a 20-minute timer starts.

You have 20 minutes to write and deliver a 3-5 minute speech.

How you use that time is up to you.

They recommend leaving yourself 5 minutes to review your audio clip, but this is a waste of time.

You can use 14 minutes for your writing, then the remaining time for your speech.

A grey box will pop up when you have 5 minutes left.

Once you click the record button, an additional timer appears above it that counts up to 5 minutes, starting at 0:00.

My speech was about 3.5 minutes, and I had almost a minute left over, so I play-backed a bit of the audio to ensure it was recorded.

Requiring students to handwrite their speeches/notes is antiquated and laborsome, and it doesn't add any measurable value to the process and slows down speech production time significantly.

You're at a distinct disadvantage if you're slow at handwriting.

Getting Your Score

Then, I received my PASS notification via email.

I logged in to Prometric daily to check the status of my exam.

Each day, it said "Submitted for Evaluation" -- or something like that.

Then, I received my PASS notification via email.


I passed! Yay.

DSST Principles of Public Speaking: Study Guide

DSST Principles of Public Speaking: Study Guide

If you're preparing for the DSST Public Speaking Principles exam, download our Principles of Public Speaking Study Guide or continue reading - we’ve included 40 contentious sample issues for you to practice with.

Our examples should provide plenty of material to get your creative juices flowing and give you some practice writing speeches on controversial topics in public speaking.

You can also try this with friends or family willing participants - it's fun!

Remember that not everyone will agree with what you have to say, but if they do, then great -- chances are others will too!

We hope these tips help you ace this section of your exam while still having an enjoyable experience doing so.

Speech Preparation - General Overview

Speech Preparation - General Overview

Research at least 40 or more debatable topics (see below).

Could you write out three brief bullet points and your opinion for each?

Timed Practice: write your speech within 10-15 minutes.

Timed Practice: deliver your speech in front of a live audience.

Speech Structure - Sample

Your speech should be at most 3 minutes and under 5 minutes.

Thesis and briefly mention your supporting opinions (30 seconds - 1 minute).

  • 1st Opinion (1 minute)

  • 2nd Opinion (1 minute)

  • 3rd Opinion (1 minute)

  • Conclusion (30 seconds - 1 minute)

The Day of Your Exam - Test Day

 The Day of Your Exam - Test Day

You will most likely take the speech portion of your exam in a different room.

You will be given headphones.

You will be given a pencil and a blank sheet of paper (preparation for the outline for your speech).

You will be given 20 minutes to prepare and deliver your speech.

A timer will start once you hit "Begin."

It will alert you when 5 minutes remain.

Another timer will time you up to 5 minutes once you hit "record."

There will only be one opportunity to record your speech.

If you stop your recording, you will not be able to go back in.

40 Controversial Speech Topics

40 Controversial Speech Topics

  1. Should parents or other adults be able to ban books from schools and libraries?

  2. Are cell phones safe?

  3. Is human activity a substantial cause of global climate change?

  4. Is a college education worth it?

  5. Should adults have the right to carry concealed handguns?

  6. Should Corporal Punishment be used in K-12 schools?

  7. Should the death penalty be allowed?

  8. Should the drinking age be lowered from 21 to a younger age?

  9. Should performance-enhancing drugs (e.g., steroids) be accepted in sports?

  10. Should felons who have completed their sentence (incarceration, probation, and parole) be allowed to vote?

  11. Should marijuana be a medical option?

  12. Should police officers wear body cameras?

  13. Should students have to wear school uniforms?

  14. Are social networking sites good for our society?

  15. Is the use of standardized tests improving education in America?

  16. Should student loan debt be easier to discharge in Bankruptcy?

  17. Do violent video games contribute to youth violence?

  18. Does technology get in the way of learning for K-12 students?

  19. Do we give children too many trophies?

  20. Are children of illegal immigrants entitled to public education?

  21. Should k-12 students be barred from taking cell phones to school?

  22. Should companies collect information about us?

  23. What is more important: our privacy or national security?

  24. Should the private lives of famous people be off-limits?

  25. Do photoshopped images promote unrealistic expectations of beauty and body image?

  26. Should texting while driving have heavier legal repercussions?

  27. Should public college be free?

  28. Is cloning ethical?

  29. Should polygamy be legalized?

  30. Should single parents be allowed to adopt?

  31. Are media beauty standards harmful to teens?

  32. Do chemical weapons have the right to exist?

  33. Can the development of alternate forms of energy help us?

  34. Purchasing prescription drugs online: is it okay?

  35. Should euthanasia become legal?

  36. Is blood donation dangerous?

  37. Should athletes go through mandatory drug testing?

  38. Should obesity be a government concern?

  39. Should the human population be controlled?

  40. Should our country take on any responsibility to end global hunger?

Pro Tips

Pro Tips

Practice the entire process in 10 minutes instead of 20.

Have a quick hypothetical story in case you are under 3 minutes. Whether or not you need to use it, it should not affect the flow of your speech.

Speak slowly, naturally, and enunciate when needed.

Using statistics or sources that you cannot cite is not recommended.

It is a persuasive speech. Do not state any support for the position opposing yours.

You cannot edit your speech, and there is no point in replaying your entire speech. You can use those extra minutes to fine-tune your written outline.

Please ask your proctor to playback a portion of your speech for personal confirmation if you need it.

Preparing for a speech takes time and effort.

Please look at our study guide to get 40 contentious issues for speech preparation.

Remember to practice speaking out loud and try your speech with a timer to get used to standing up in front of an audience for the time required by the DSST Public Speaking Principles exam.

Check out our practice exams if you need help preparing for the multiple-choice section.

Good luck and happy testing.


James Estrin. (2016). Our 100 most popular student questions for debate and persuasive writing. and-persuasive-writing/ (2019). Debate Topics. Sigma Essays. (2018). 51 Controversial persuasive speech topics.

Student Resources

Principles of Public Speaking Study Guide
Download PDF • 2.64MB

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