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  • DTP Success Team

DSST Principles of Public Speaking: How to Prepare For Your Speech

Updated: Mar 5

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

DSST Principles of Public Speaking

To pass the Principles of Public Speaking exam, it's crucial to understand its two-part structure, as most institutions mandate passing both for college credit.

The initial phase comprises a multiple-choice test encompassing approximately 100 questions.

To pass, you must correctly answer 56% and 58% of these questions.

The second part necessitates a 3-5 minute presentation.

Your results for this segment will be emailed within 7-10 business days post-exam.

A successful speech involves various elements, including message clarity and delivery style.

Adhering to our straightforward guidelines can significantly enhance your chances of passing.


Table of Contents


Case Study: Jennifer's Experience

Student speaking into a microphone.

Jennifer's Background and Personal Notes

Given my background in writing and public speaking, I opted for minimal study for the multiple-choice portion, dedicating roughly 2 hours in total.

Having already completed three prior DSST exams, the Principles of Public Speaking exam marked my fourth endeavor.

Surprisingly, I finished it in approximately 40 minutes and scored 450.

For those with experience in public speaking or familiarity with literary devices, rest assured that you will likely perform well on this exam.


Preparing for the Speech

In readiness for the speech component of the exam, I undertook a structured practice regimen.

Initially, I researched approximately 40 controversial topics and crafted three concise bullet points outlining my stance.

This exercise proved invaluable for swiftly developing opinions on diverse subjects, a skill vital for effective communication.

Furthermore, I honed my speech-writing proficiency by practicing timed speeches.

Utilizing topics my husband chose, I imposed a strict 10-minute writing limit for each speech.

This time constraint facilitated the development of clear and concise arguments within a limited timeframe.

I recommend this approach wholeheartedly, as it ensures thorough preparation for the exam's time constraints.


When structuring my speeches, I adhered to the standard 3-point outline format:

Introduction: 30 seconds

Concisely state your thesis and outline the three supporting points.

Point One: 1 minute

Elaborate on the first supporting point, providing evidence and examples to bolster your argument.

Point Two: 1 minute

Expand upon the second supporting point, emphasizing its significance and relevance to the thesis.

Point Three: 1 minute

Discuss the third supporting point, reinforcing its importance and contribution to the argument.

Conclusion: 30 seconds

Summarize the key points of the speech and reiterate the thesis, leaving a lasting impression on the audience.


Sample: Speech Topics with Bullet Points and Opinion

Climate Change:

  • Increased frequency of extreme weather events

  • Melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels

  • Need for urgent global action to mitigate climate change

  • Opinion: Climate change is a pressing issue that requires immediate attention and concerted efforts from governments, industries, and individuals to address its impacts and prevent further environmental degradation.

Gun Control:

  • Stricter background checks for gun purchases

  • Ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines

  • Implementation of red flag laws to prevent gun violence

  • Opinion: Implementing stricter gun control measures is essential to reduce gun-related violence and ensure public safety while still respecting the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners.

Legalization of Marijuana:

  • Regulation and taxation of marijuana sales

  • Decriminalization of possession for personal use

  • Potential benefits of medical marijuana in pain management and treatment

  • Opinion: The legalization of marijuana would generate revenue through taxation, reduce the criminalization of non-violent drug offenses, and allow for research into its medicinal properties, ultimately leading to a more rational drug policy.


By adhering to this structured approach, I could effectively organize my thoughts and deliver compelling speeches within the allotted time frame.

I encourage all candidates to adopt a similar practice regimen to enhance their preparation and confidence for the speech component of the exam.

Pro Tip: 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.

Enhancing Your Speech with a Personal Connection

Student making notes for her speech.

Hypothetical Story

Incorporating a quick hypothetical story or sharing a personal connection to the subject matter can add depth and engagement to your speech.

Here's an example of how you can weave a personal anecdote into your presentation without relying on fake statistics or sources:

As I reflect on the topic of [insert topic], I'm reminded of a personal experience that resonates deeply with me.

While volunteering at a local shelter last summer, I interacted with individuals directly impacted by [insert relevant issue].

Hearing their stories and witnessing their resilience profoundly influenced my perspective.

Moments like these remind us of the human face behind the statistics and underscore the importance of [reiterate the critical message of your speech].


Alternatively, if you prefer to craft a hypothetical story:

Imagine a world where [insert scenario related to your topic].

Picture the potential impact on [affected individuals or communities].

While this scenario may seem hypothetical, it serves as a powerful reminder of the potential consequences of [reiterate the critical message of your speech].

By incorporating a personal connection or hypothetical scenario into your speech, you can create a memorable and engaging conclusion that leaves a lasting impression on your audience.

Remember to stay authentic and genuine in your storytelling, and play it safe by refraining from citing sources or statistics that cannot be verified.


Speech Do's and Don'ts


  • Aim to deliver your speech within the optimal time frame of 3 to 5 minutes, as deviating significantly from this range may fail.

  • Maintain consistency in your stance throughout the speech and avoid flipping sides or expressing understanding for opposing viewpoints.

  • Speak deliberately and slowly, ensuring clarity and comprehension while incorporating inflection to maintain engagement and prevent sounding robotic.



  • Exceed or fall short of the recommended time frame for your speech, as this could negatively impact your evaluation.

  • Contradict your stance or express sympathy for opposing viewpoints, as it may undermine the persuasiveness of your argument.

  • Rush through your speech or speak monotonously, as it may detract from your message and fail to captivate your audience effectively.

Adhering to these speech do's and do n'ts can maximize your effectiveness as a communicator and increase your chances of success in the Principles of Public Speaking exam.


Test-Day Experience

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

Step-by-Step Process

When you arrive at the testing center computer, you can purchase Public Speaking I (Multiple Choice Portion) or Public Speaking Part II (Speech Portion).

Rest assured, you won't be charged twice for both parts.

The speech portion is complimentary once you've paid for and successfully passed Part I.

I found myself in the same room as other test-takers for the multiple-choice portion.

Although it was longer than anticipated, I completed it within 40 minutes and received my score promptly.

After completing the multiple-choice segment, I notified the proctor, who escorted me to a different room for Part II.

This portion, conducted on a computer in a separate office, involved the speech component.

I received blank paper and a pencil during the speech portion to aid my preparation and delivery.

This setup ensured a focused and private environment conducive to delivering the speech effectively.

Pro Tip: It's a good idea to practice writing your speech and creating an outline to guide you.

Utilizing Recording Controls During the Speech Portion

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

Recording Controls

When you begin the speech portion, a 20-minute timer initiates to guide your speech duration.

On the left side of the screen, you'll find the familiar "Record/Stop/Playback" controls, facilitating seamless speech delivery.

These controls are identical to those on the equipment test screen, ensuring all users' ease of use and familiarity.

By leveraging these recording controls effectively, you can confidently manage your speech delivery within the allocated time frame.

Allocation of Time:

You're granted 20 minutes for both writing and delivering your speech, offering flexibility in time management.

While reserving 5 minutes to review your audio clip is suggested, some may find this unnecessary.

A practical strategy is to devote 14 minutes to writing your speech, ensuring clarity, coherence, and organization.

This allows 6 minutes of speech delivery and ample time for articulation, pacing, and audience engagement.

Maximizing Performance:

Once you hit record, a timer appears above, counting up to 5 minutes, starting at 0:00.

My speech lasted about 3.5 minutes, so I had nearly a minute left to play back and confirm the recording.

Challenging students to handwrite their speeches/notes is antiquated and cumbersome, adding little value and impeding speech production.

Those who struggle with handwriting face a distinct disadvantage in speed and efficiency.

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

Receiving Your Score

Student checking her DSST exam speech results.

DSST Exam Results

I diligently checked the status of my exam on the Prometric portal daily, eager for updates.

Each time I logged in, the status read "Submitted for Evaluation" or a similar message, indicating that my exam was in the evaluation process.

Despite the anticipation, I patiently awaited the outcome.

Then, one day, I received the much-anticipated notification in my email: I had successfully passed the exam.

The relief and joy of receiving that "PASS" notification were unparalleled, marking the culmination of my hard work and preparation.



Student taking DSST Speech notes.

Strategic Approach

In conclusion, preparing for the DSST Principles of Public Speaking exam requires dedication, practice, and a strategic approach.

By familiarizing yourself with the exam format, content areas, and speech preparation techniques, you can increase your confidence and readiness for success.

Remember to allocate your time wisely, utilize resources effectively, and practice delivering speeches within the allotted time frame.

With perseverance and determination, you can conquer this exam and showcase your proficiency in public speaking.

So, embrace the challenge, give it your best effort, and confidently step into the exam room.

Good luck on your journey!


Bonus: DSST Principles of Public Speaking Study Guide

DSST Principles of Public Speaking: Study Guide

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

Instructions Summary

  1. Research 40 or more debatable topics.

  2. Write three brief bullet points and your opinion on each topic.

  3. Perform timed practice: Write your speech within 10-15 minutes.

  4. Deliver your speech in front of a live audience or practice solo.


Sample: Speech Structure

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

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

  • Introduction (30 Seconds)

  • 1st Opinion (1 minute)

  • 2nd Opinion (1 minute)

  • 3rd Opinion (1 minute)

  • Conclusion (30 seconds - 1 minute)


The Day of Your Exam

 The Day of Your Exam - Test Day

Test Day

On the day of your exam, expect to conduct the speech segment in a separate room.

Upon arrival, you'll be provided with headphones for your convenience.

Additionally, a pencil and blank sheet of paper will be available for outlining your speech.

You'll have a generous 20 minutes to both prepare and deliver your speech.

Once you initiate the process by hitting "Begin," a timer will commence. A timely alert will notify you when only 5 minutes remain.

When you're ready to record, another timer will track your speech duration, allowing up to 5 minutes of speaking time.

It's crucial to note that you'll have only one opportunity to record your speech.

Once you halt the recording, you cannot revisit or make adjustments.

Ensure you're well-prepared and make the most of your allotted time. Good luck!


40 Controversial Speech Topics

40 Controversial Speech Topics

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

Exam Preparation

Preparing for the DSST Principles of Public Speaking exam demands dedication and strategic planning.

It's crucial to have a solid foundation before stepping into the exam room.

I urge you to review our study guide, which provides 40 contentious issues for speech preparation.

Take time to familiarize yourself with these topics and develop quick bullet points outlining your stance on each.

Now, let's dive into crafting your speech.

Remember, it's a persuasive speech, so avoid stating any support for opposing positions.

Be persuasive but also authentic and engaging.

Speak slowly, naturally, and enunciate when needed. Avoid using statistics or sources that you cannot cite.

As you prepare your speech, keep in mind that you have only 10 minutes to complete the entire process.

Allocate your time wisely.

If you find yourself under 3 minutes, have a quick hypothetical story ready.

While it may not be necessary, it ensures a seamless flow of your speech.

Once your speech is crafted, it's time to practice.

Stand up in front of a mirror, set a timer, and rehearse speaking out loud.

Get comfortable with the time required by the DSST Public Speaking Principles exam.

Practice delivering your speech with confidence and conviction.

As you approach the exam day, remember to review several practice exams to prepare for the multiple-choice section.

If you need personal confirmation, don't hesitate to ask your proctor to playback a portion of your speech.

In conclusion, preparing for the DSST Principles of Public Speaking exam is a journey that requires time, effort, and dedication.

But with careful preparation and practice, success is within reach.

Good luck with your DSST exams, and may you excel in your public speaking endeavors.


Student Resources

Principles of Public Speaking Study Guide
Download PDF • 2.64MB



Our 100 most popular student questions for debate and persuasive writing. James Estrin. (2016).  

Debate Topics. and-persuasive-writing/

Sigma Essays. (2018). 51 Controversial persuasive speech topics.


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