Questioning During the Cross-Exam

Helping your team to come up with the cross-exam questions can be one of the most confusing parts of the debate (which is actually a good thing because it means they are thinking critically!) and so it is helpful to have some guidelines and question starters ready.

Here are some ways to start out a good cross-exam question:

“Isn’t it true that…?”

“Don’t you agree that…?”

“Do you think it is important/ Do you think it is more important…..”

“If….. then how can you say that…?”

Do’s and Don’ts:


  1. Keep questions simple!
  2. Have prepared answers to anticipated questions on index cards for students to use- all they have to do is identify the matching or similar question and deliver the response.
  3.  Use the two minutes allotted for the rebuttal conference to formulate and PRACTICE delivering the response before turning on the mic.
  4. Wrap up your response by restating your team’s position (for ex., “…and that is why the 25R Panthers stand by our position that students should not have homework”).
  5. Remember to practice the rebuttal strategies that we used at the PD (Deny/ Reverse/ Minimize/ Outweigh/ Turn). This may not happen for the first debate, but you are working towards incorporating these. The students do not need to be able to name the specific strategy, but rather be familiar with how to use them.
  6. Use vocabulary prompts in preparing for the cross exam. It is great to keep a reference chart in your classroom for easy access. (“actually,” “however,” “on the contrary,” etc.).
  7. Teach students to recognize when a team is asking a question that can actually help their side, and to say that as part of their answer (“your question actually proves our point that…).


  1. Yes/ no questions. If your team gets a yes/ no question, it is important that they elaborate on the answer and wrap up by saying …”and that is why we strongly agree/ disagree with… (restate the topic).
  2. Introducing new arguments or evidence into a question.
  3. Long or convoluted questions.


Good Questions

Below are a few examples of good questions from the 2016 “Schools should not give homework” debate. See if you can figure out which side was asking each question:

  • “Students need to learn independent thinking. If we get rid of homework, how do you promote independent critical thinking at home?”
  • “It has been proven that homework can cause some students to become sick and tired. Many experience headaches, stomach problems, weight loss, and sleep deprivation. Why then do you think it is a good idea for schools to give homework?”
  • “Do you think it is important for children to be able to play and enjoy time with their family and friends? Then please explain how they can do this with all of the homework they are given?”
  • “If students do not get homework, how can parents know what their child is working on at school?”
  • “If a student does not do homework leading up to college, how do you think they will handle the workload of a college student?”
And from the 2016 “Social media websites should be allowed to publish fake news” debate:
  • “How do you stop fake news without affecting First Amendment rights of citizens?”
  • “Don’t you think people are smart enough to know the difference between real and fake news?”
  • “Why should social media websites be forced to censor their news stories when it is their constitutional right to publish whatever they choose?”
  • “Wouldn’t you agree that most people do not fact check?”
  • “How are people supposed to know if a news source is real if we have many Americans that don’t fact check and never will?”

In Summary

The purpose of the cross-exam portion of the debate is to expose weak spots or “holes” in the other team’s arguments. In formulating the questions, the goal is to “corner” the other team into saying something that supports YOUR side’s point of view.

For the team responding to the questions (the rebuttal), their job is to hold down their side’s position and make sure they don’t say anything that helps the other team.


One Response to Questioning During the Cross-Exam

  1. Chi-Chi March 11, 2018 at 3:33 pm #

    I like the fact some people like homework I hope this helped you I am an experienced debater, and this helped me a lot if you don’t like homework I hope this helped too.

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