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Examples of Counter-Arguments


In my last post on this subject, I talked about using counter-arguments in TOEFL Independent Writing. As I said before, a counter-argument is an explanation of an argument the writer disagrees with. The writer will acknowledge a counter-argument to argue against it. This is done so that the writer can develop and explain his or her opinion more fully.

Counter-arguments can raise your TOEFL score, but they need to be well-written and properly placed in your essay. Below are several sample essays. Each essay answers the TOEFL Independent Writing Question from page 25 of Quick Prep Volume 4 from the official TOEFL website.

Now, check out several different ways this question can be answered, with differently placed counter arguments, or with no counter-argument at all.

Sample responses:

    Sample Essay With No Counter Argument

    We live in an increasingly complex world, an Information Age. In this era where knowledge is key to survival, learning facts is very important, as is learning ideas and concepts. I would argue that learning ideas and concepts is at least slightly more important than learning facts.

    Ideas and concepts are especially important in formal education. The classroom style of learning requires certain study skills. These study skills are useful tools for learning facts, but the skills are not necessarily natural. The skills themselves must be learned. Students must “learn to learn,” learning the ideas and concepts behind education. Without first learning these ideas and concepts, they won’t be able to learn facts very effectively. So learning ideas and concepts is more important. Ideas and concepts are foundational to the learning of facts.

    The purpose of school is to prepare students for full participation in society. To hold down jobs and be part of a community, learners need ideas and concepts even more than they need facts. If someone studies to become an airplane pilot for example, it’s not enough to learn where all the controls are in an airplane and what they do. Airline pilots should have an idea of what it feels like to be in a plane before they can actually be trusted to fly a real airplane. Similarly, for doctors concepts such as safety, responsibility, and bedside manner are more
    important than knowing every single medical fact there is to know.

    While facts are important, it is skills and concepts that allow us to use facts. So skills and concepts are the most important thing a student must learn. There is an expression “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.” The facts teachers give students are like the fish. The skills and concepts are like the fishing. Students can’t stay in school forever. For life learning, they must be taught the skills and concepts they need to learn, think, and act on their own.

    Sample Essay With Counter Argument in Intro

    We live in an increasingly complex world, an Information Age. In this era where knowledge is key to survival, learning facts is very important. It is tempting to say that facts are the currency of the modern world, and that students must learn as many facts as possible. I disagree, and feel it’s more important for students to learn ideas and concepts, so they’ll be able to truly understand and use facts.

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    Ideas and concepts are especially important in formal education. The classroom style of learning requires certain study skills. These study skills are useful tools for learning facts, but the skills are not necessarily natural. The skills themselves must be learned. Students must “learn to learn,” learning the ideas and concepts behind education. Without first learning these ideas and concepts, they won’t be able to learn facts very effectively. So learning ideas and concepts is more important. Ideas and concepts are foundational to the learning of facts.

    The purpose of school is to prepare students for full participation in society. To hold down jobs and be part of a community, learners need ideas and concepts even more than they need facts. If someone studies to become an airplane pilot for example, it’s not enough to learn where all the controls are in an airplane and what they do. Airline pilots should have an idea of what it feels like to be in a plane before they can actually be trusted to fly a real airplane. Similarly, for doctors concepts such as safety, responsibility, and bedside manner are more important than knowing every single medical fact there is to know.

    While facts are important, it is skills and concepts that allow us to use facts. So skills and concepts are the most important thing a student must learn. There is an expression “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.” The facts teachers give students are like the fish. The skills and concepts are like the fishing. Students can’t stay in school forever. For life learning, they must be taught the skills and concepts they need to learn, think, and act on their own.

    Sample Essay With Counter Argument in the Beginning of the Body

    In this modern Information Age when knowledge is power, one could make a strong argument that facts are “king” and that people who know the most facts will do the best in society. After all, most students would say this is the biggest reason they pursue education— to learn facts that can help them understand their world. However, I would argue that learning ideas and concepts is at least slightly more important than learning facts.

    Allow me to explain. Ideas and concepts are especially important in formal education. The classroom style of learning requires certain study skills. These study skills are useful tools for learning facts, but the skills are not necessarily natural. The skills themselves must be learned. Students must “learn to learn,” learning the ideas and concepts behind education. Without first learning these ideas and concepts, they won’t be able to learn facts very effectively. So learning ideas and concepts is more important. Ideas and concepts are foundational to the learning of facts.

    The purpose of school is to prepare students for full participation in society. To hold down jobs and be part of a community, learners need ideas and concepts even more than they need facts. If someone studies to become an airplane pilot for example, it’s not enough to learn where all the controls are in an airplane and what they do. Airline pilots should have an idea of what it feels like to be in a plane before they can actually be trusted to fly a real airplane. Similarly, for doctors concepts such as safety, responsibility, and bedside manner are more
    important than knowing every single medical fact there is to know.

    While facts are important, it is skills and concepts that allow us to use facts. So skills and concepts are the most important thing a student must learn. There is an expression “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.” The facts teachers give students are like the fish. The skills and concepts are like the fishing. Students can’t stay in school forever. For life learning, they must be taught the skills and concepts they need to learn, think, and act on their own.

    Sample Essay With Counter Argument in Conclusion

    We live in an increasingly complex world, an Information Age. In this era where knowledge is key to survival, learning facts is very important, as is learning ideas and concepts. I would argue that learning ideas and concepts is at least slightly more important than learning facts.

    Ideas and concepts are especially important in formal education. The classroom style of learning requires certain study skills. These study skills are useful tools for learning facts, but the skills are not necessarily natural. The skills themselves must be learned. Students must “learn to learn,” learning the ideas and concepts behind education. Without first learning these ideas and concepts, they won’t be able to learn facts very effectively. So learning ideas and concepts is more important. Ideas and concepts are foundational to the learning of facts.

    The purpose of school is to prepare students for full participation in society. To hold down jobs and be part of a community, learners need ideas and concepts even more than they need facts. If someone studies to become an airplane pilot for example, it’s not enough to learn where all the controls are in an airplane and what they do. Airline pilots should have an idea of what it feels like to be in a plane before they can actually be trusted to fly a real airplane. Similarly, for doctors concepts such as safety, responsibility, and bedside manner are more
    important than knowing every single medical fact there is to know.

    Certainly, it is also very important to learn facts, which is why some would argue facts are the most important thing to learn. Using the pilot and doctor example again, no one would want a pilot or doctor who learned far fewer facts than their classmates when they were in school. But while facts are important, it is skills and concepts that allow us to truly use facts. There is an expression “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.” The facts teachers give students are like the fish.
    The skills and concepts are like the fishing—students need them to eventually leave school
    and learn on their own.

    Sample Essay With Counter Argument as Full Paragraph at the end of the Essay Body

    We live in an increasingly complex world, an Information Age. In this era where knowledge is key to survival, learning facts is very important, as is learning ideas and concepts. I would argue that learning ideas and concepts is at least slightly more important than learning facts.

    Ideas and concepts are especially important in formal education. The classroom style of learning requires certain study skills. These study skills are useful tools for learning facts, but the skills are not necessarily natural. The skills themselves must be learned. Students must “learn to learn,” learning the ideas and concepts behind education. Without first learning these ideas and concepts, they won’t be able to learn facts very effectively. So learning ideas and concepts is more important. Ideas and concepts are foundational to the learning of facts.

    The purpose of school is to prepare students for full participation in society. To hold down jobs and be part of a community, learners need ideas and concepts even more than they need facts. If someone studies to become an airplane pilot for example, it’s not enough to learn where all the controls are in an airplane and what they do. Airline pilots should have an idea of what it feels like to be in a plane before they can actually be trusted to fly a real airplane. Similarly, for doctors concepts such as safety, responsibility, and bedside manner are more important than knowing every single medical fact there is to know.

    Certainly, it is also very important to learn facts, which is why some would argue facts are the most important thing to learn. Using the pilot and doctor example again, no one would want a pilot or doctor who learned far fewer facts than their classmates when they were in school. Moreover, if someone has a strong understanding of the idea of airplane safety or the concept medical ethics, they still should not actually be a doctor or pilot unless they also know a lot of facts about these fields.

    But while facts are important and necessary, it is skills and concepts that allow us to truly use facts. There is an expression “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.” The facts teachers give students are like the fish. The skills and concepts are like the fishing—students need them to eventually leave school and learn on their own. Because you cannot make good use of facts without skills and concepts, it must be held that learning skills and concepts is more important than learning facts, even if
    both kinds of learning are very important.

These are the most common ways a counter argument can be structured and placed within a TOEFL essay. In general, if you use a counter-argument, you’ll want to put it near the beginning or near the end of your TOEFL Writing response. Read these examples carefully, and then start writing some counter-arguments of your own as you practice for the TOEFL.

And for more example TOEFL essays, see Magoosh’s complete guide to TOEFL Writing samples. This resource goes quite well with Magoosh’s collection of TOEFL Writing topics that you can use to practice additional essays of your own.

 

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