TOEFL Independent Speaking and Writing: The Counter-Argument

Many TOEFL classes do not teach “the counter argument” (otherwise known as the “opposing argument”) for students tackling the independent speaking and writing section.  What is it?  How is it used?  If incorporated into responses effectively, the counter argument for independent speaking and writing sections of the TOEFL exam will strengthen your argument and help raise your score insurmountably.  Let’s look at this example of an independent speaking response with a brief counter argument:

Independent Speaking Sample Question: Some people prefer one long vacation once a year while others prefer short vacations spread throughout.  Which do you prefer and why?  Include details and examples to support your explanation.

Sample Response: “I prefer shorter vacations spread throughout the year more than one long vacation because shorter vacations are more rejuvenating.  During the year, I am able to take four to five short trips to smaller towns and beaches in the surrounding area of where I live and I feel so much more refreshed when returning to work after one of these short vacations.  Also, with short vacations I am able to sometimes go by myself or take friends, so there is always a sense of variety with each trip. Some people might think one long vacation a year is better because it gives you more time away from your life and allows you to really be on vacation, but I think one long vacation can be tiring and at times quite boring. Over all, I prefer shorter vacation over longer vacations because for the above reasons.”

The sentence in bold is the counter argument in this sample response.  Basically, is an argument stating the opposing view of your own and countering it with your own argument.  This strengthens your overall opinion by acknowledging an opposing view.

Is the counter argument always necessary?  No.  You can get a great score on your TOEFL writing and speaking sections without it if you have a strong opinion and supporting details.  However, if you are able to incorporate the counter argument into your response it will garner you more credibility as an English speaker, and give your response extra weight.  (Extra good weight!)

Tip: If you’re worried about time on the speaking section, combine your counter argument with your conclusion, making them both in the same sentence. You can even bypass a conclusion and end your response with a counter argument, so long as you’re clear to argue back around it, ultimately favoring your own opinion.

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Posted on November 3, 2009 by Manhattan Review

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