In policy debate, preparation time (prep time) is the amount of time given to each team to prepare for their speeches. Prep time may be taken at any time in any interval. Preparation time is also referred to as alternate use time.
Although preparation time varies from tournament to tournament, in high school each team is generally given between 5 and 8 minutes of prep time depending on the state and tournament; in college, each team is generally given 10 minutes of prep time. At some collegiate tournaments, for example the University of Texas at Dallas, alternate use time is used giving the debaters a total of 16 minutes and eliminating the mandatory cross examination periods. This time can be used as preparation time or to ask questions during the normal cross examination periods.
Some judges will allow the team taking preparation time to continue asking questions of their opponent. However, because most judges will not require the other team to answer, these questions are generally clarification-oriented rather than combative, unlike those asked in cross-examination. Many judges disapprove of using alternative use time for non-alternate use activities—for example, asking questions of the other team or presenting more arguments.