"I'm getting ready for the oral exam. I'm sure the teacher will ____ me with a lot of difficult questions."


7 Answers 7


"Grill" would be appropriate here.

Grill (verb): to subject to severe and persistent cross-examination or questioning.

I also thought of "give me the 3rd degree," but that generally implies that the questions are hostile or uncomfortable. "Grill" can be used for that as well, but is also appropriate for questions that are academically difficult.

  • 1
    This is better than bombard because it directly implies someone being questioned while 'bombard' is a bit more general. You could be bombarded by a flurry of questions that were all very easy to answer - the bombardment might just be due to the excitement of the crowd, for example, but if you're being grilled then there is no ambiguity - there is no other interpretation other than being subjected to a rigorous and challenging line of questioning.
    – J...
    Sep 3, 2020 at 18:42
  • 3
    Grill is also "better" because grill can be used by itself. You don't say the committee grilled you with questions. Grill also implies the Q's are difficult -- you feel like you're being cooked on a grill. Sep 3, 2020 at 19:59
  • 1
    I think third degree works better here only because OP is asking for an idiom in the title, but both answers are solid.
    – Michael W.
    Sep 3, 2020 at 20:43

You could say:

I'm getting ready for the oral exam. I'm sure the teacher will bombard me with a lot of difficult questions

Bombard someone with something: to direct so many things at someone, especially to ask them so many questions, that they find it difficult to deal with them.

Example: The children bombarded her with questions.

[Cambridge English dictionary]

Or the teacher will shoot questions at me.

To shoot questions at somebody: to ask someone a lot of questions very quickly, one after the other.

Example: He shot questions at me so quickly that I didn't even have time to answer.

[Cambridge English dictionary]

  • Or simply "face".
    – BoldBen
    Sep 3, 2020 at 9:15
  • I feel that bombard/shoot/pelt/... imply that asker is not necessary waiting/expecting answers. Since the question is about "oral exam" some word (grill/interrogate as suggested in other answer) may be better to express expectation of anwer. Sep 3, 2020 at 19:50

You could also say "the teacher will pepper me with questions" (mentioned by the commenters too).

Pepper (verb): to direct something suddenly and repeatedly at someone, as if attacking the person.

Example: The mayor was peppered with questions from reporters about the municipal corruption scandal.

[Cambridge English Dictionary]


The perfect word would be drill.

To drill someone with questions: to intensely or vigorously interrogate someone
[The Free Dictionary]


The question reminds me of a story detailed in Edward Frenkels Love and Math when as a young Jewish teenager in the former Soviet Union he sits an oral exam.

At that time there were quotas for Jewish students attending technical universities whilst the more prestigious ones were completely banned - not officially - but unofficially. (Actually, I was surprised to learn from Feynmans popular memoirs that there were such quotas at US universities when he attended university - it made me think).

This means that the examiners had to make him fail whatever his merits were. So of course they asked him questions off the syllabus, as well as 'twisting' questions in mid-questions, so throwing him off his stride, and other tricks - he was too young I suppose to tell them where to go - but then, where was he to go? This was the former Soviet Union after all).

He called it 'sadistic' and indicative of the brutal 'totalitarian' regime they had in the former Soviet Union. (Of course no such system could ever be used in the free and liberal West - perish the thought. Otherwise - what would we call the West?)

So I'd go for

sadistically interrogate


sadistically bombard

It depending upon the intentions of the teacher and the educational situation of whatever country or state you're setting this sentence in.

Context counts.

Come to think of it, there are probably a lot of British kids who think maths tests are just sadistic anyway. And the examiners and governing boards are sadists for setting them...especially now.


You could say (if willing to change structure):

"I'm getting ready for the oral exam. I'm sure the teacher will put me through the wringer"

put through the wringer
put (someone or something) through the wringer

While more commonly used in a passive construction, it could still work well here.


As Mark mentions in the comments, the more common spelling is "wringer" instead of "ringer" - and is more accurate given the etymology(or history, not sure if etymology applies to phrases). However, both are used, and I wouldn't say ringer is incorrect (from cursory research, it's actually what I found first)

  • 1
    The more-common spelling is "wringer".
    – Mark
    Sep 3, 2020 at 22:09
  • Good call, I actually typed that first but the link I found used ringer. I'm updating to include both now.
    – TCooper
    Sep 3, 2020 at 22:10


1. To disturb, distress, or exhaust by repeated demands or criticism; harass.thefreedictionary.com

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.