Academic Debates

Debates for academic English students. This webpage discusses what is a debate, how to run a debate and practice debate questions.

Debates in academic English

What is a debate?

A debate is, basically, a for or against argument. You have to debate why your position is correct and why your opponents are wrong. You are allocated a time to present your arguments and add rebuttals to the opposing points. You need to support your ideas with evidence such as facts, figures, stats and sources.

The topic                                                                                                

The topic is often current issues of public importance (“Climate change should be taken more seriously”) or about general philosophies or ideas (“beauty is better than brains”). The team that agrees with the topic is called the AFFIRMATIVE and the team that disagrees with the topic is called the NEGATIVE (or the `opposition’). 

The set up

Usually, the debate consist of two teams of three speakers. There should be a time-keeper and a judge(s) (sometimes this is the audience). Each presenter has a specific time (4 minutes) to present ideas and their rebuttals and after each presenter has spoken, the  judge(s) evaluate the debate on the basis of the content, style and strategy of speeches.


                      A basic debate [4 minutes per person]


First speaker Affirmative

Definition / keywords.

Introduces team’s argument.

[time keeper rings bell once at 3 minutes & twice at 4 minutes = time up]


Second speaker Negative

Defines keywords / terms.

Introduces team’s argument.


[‘rebuttal’ means choose a point from the opposite team and prove why this is wrong]

Third speaker Affirmative / Fourth speaker Negative

Continue arguments and rebuttals.

Fifth speaker Affirmative / Sixth speaker Affirmative

Rebut opposition’s debate & summaries their key points.

The adjudicators / judges decide who won the debate.


The teams thank each other.

Advertisement: (Improve your listening skills: Amazon Audible Special Offer: 30 day free trial)

Debate Questions

Debate Questions


Debate Questions: twenty eight debate questions 

 Here is a range of debating question based around two topics of ‘public concern’ and ‘general’ debates. 

Free Download


Debate Language Phrases

Debate Phrases Sheet: a range of standard English phrases 

Suitable phrases to use when opening, building a case, summarising, rebuttals, rejecting, accepting and finishing statements.

Free Download


Top 10 Debate Tips from Wellesley College

The Wellesley College Debate Society offers a helpful list of the top tips you want to utilize in a debate. Watch this video to learn the best ways to prepare for, and successfully perform during a debate.

Debate Topics

Public importance  (this list is constantly updated Sept 2020)

  1. Can terrorism be prevented?
  2. Is Brexit economic suicide?
  3. Should developed countries provide aid to developing countries devastated by hurricanes?
  4. Should the US go to war against North Korea?
  5. Is Facebook too big to prevent grooming?
  6. Is nuclear energy the best investment for power in the UK?
  7. Can immigration from Africa to Europe be restricted?
  8. Are university vice-principals over-paid?
  9. Will white-supremacy ever be out-lawed?
  10. Should one-use plastics be banned?


  1. Does life exist on other planets?
  2. Is America’s ‘War on Terror’ justifiable?
  3. Does the death penalty prevent crime?
  4. Are single-sex schools better?
  5. Is cloning ethical?
  6. Is euthanasia justified?
  7. Does technology make us more alone?
  8. Do violent video games lead to violence?
  9. Can money buy happiness?
  10. Should Higher Education be free?
  11. Is it ethical to eat meat?
  12. Can politicians be trusted?
  13. Should gay marriage be legalized?
  14. Is CCTV an invasion of privacy?
  15. Can the news media be trusted in providing unbiased news reporting?
  16. Are we becoming too dependent on Google?
  17. Is gender inequality still prevalent?
  18. Should we colonize Mars?

      Memberships (Teacher / Institutional)

      Full access to everything -  £50 / £100 / £500

 Join today*x

More digital resources and lessons



online resources


online resources

academic Grammar by Academic English UK


online resources

New resources 2023

New for 2023

online resources


online resources


online resources

academic vocabulary


online resources

instant academic English Lessons by AEUK

Instant Lessons

online resources


online resources

argument essays AEUK


online resources

critical thinking

Critical Thinking

online resources

topic lesson Books by AEUK


online resources


online resources

SPSE Lessons by AEUK

SPSE Essays

online resources

free resources

Free Resources

online resources

AEUK The Blog

online resources