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ACT Essay

Teacher/Instructor Katie Aquino
Katie Aquino

Writing, Grammar, Literature, ACT Prep
Education: M.Ed.,Stanford University

Katie is an enthusiastic teacher who strives to make connections between literature and student’s every day lives.

We've talked about the seven indicators that the scores of the ACT writing test are going to use to score your essay. We really focused in on 'complexity' but since it's such a big one I want to spend some time talking about it. Now you remember 'complexity' there's two things that they're going to be looking for is that you consider the issue from all perspectives and that you insert a counter argument. And remember you cannot earn higher than a three out of six if you don't insert that counter argument. So in this episode we're going to talk about how to develop a strong counter argument and who knows by the end you might just be able to convince mum and dad that you want a later curfew.
In order to work on developing a strong counter argument, go ahead and go to the bonus materials, print out sample prompt number two and we're going to walk through the three steps of developing that counter argument. Alright the first thing that you want to do is you want to refute the main conclusion that you made in your position statement. After you refute it or oppose it you're going to then dismiss that counter claim that you just made and ultimately strengthen the argument. Alright so let's take a look at some examples that second sample prompt discusses the idea of year round schooling versus the traditional nine month schooling. So if we were going to come to the position that 'in light of increasing pressure to perform on standardized test and to compete globally, American high school should covert to year around schooling in order to decrease the length of time that students are out of school and maximize time spent on new learning during any given school year.' It's a really strong position but remember if we're going to create a counter argument we're going to try to refute that. So the first thing we're going to do is create a statement that opposes our position. And that statement might look like 'this year round schooling does not actually decrease the number of days students are out of school,' alright? So that's an argument against the traditional schooling or against the year round schooling.
The next up then is to dismiss the counter claim that you just made. And I know that seems kind of anti-logical but this is the way to strengthen your argument. So you started with 'year round schooling does not actually decrease the number of days students are out of school.' Now dismiss it 'the number of days in school may not be decreased by instituting year round schooling but the consistent length of time out school is decreased thus minimizing the chance students have to forget information learned in the previous classes.' Alright so it looked originally like you were saying that nine months schooling is the best because really year round schooling doesn't change the numbers of days. But now here you've dismissed that counter claim and turned it so that we see that actually year round schooling is better. Then what you do is strengthen that ultimate argument by actually adding in some transitions that make the sentence work. So you end up with a very strong counter argument that says: 'While some might argue that year round schooling does not actually decrease the number of days students are out of school over all, it is important to note that the consistent length of time students are out of school is decreased thus minimizing the chance students have to forget information learned in previous classes and maximizes the time students have for new learning.' So you can see with the use of just a few clever transitions 'while some might argue, it is important to note and thus'. You've really put together a really strong counter argument that you can insert that really supports the position statement that you've come up with.
Once you've created a strong counter argument now the dilemma becomes where do you place it? So you've got three basic choices the beginning, the middle and the end. So let's talk about some of those options. If you choose to place your counter argument in the beginning that would be in your introductory paragraph. Now this is best for a really controversial position so something where right off the bat your readers are going to disagree with you, so you've got to enter in that counter argument so that they know you're looking at all sides of this issue. If you don't have such a controversial position statement then you might choose to insert your counter argument within your body paragraphs. And that's where you actually pick out smaller ideas within your actual body to counter argument or to counter argue. The one thing you want to be careful with inserting the counter argument in the middle or in the body paragraphs is that you can't run the chance of inserting too many counter arguments. And too many counter arguments actually works against you because people might start veer off of your position and agree with the other side. The final choice you have is to insert the counter argument at the end which is not actually into the conclusion but you would want to save it for the last body paragraph. This works if you have a really super strong counter argument so that it's the last thing that's kind of ringing in your reader's ear and really hummers your position statement home.
Counter arguments are a difficult concept to kind of wrap your head around. So if you're struggling with this or think you might need some help with a way to develop a counter argument, you could go to the bonus materials and print out this developing your own counter argument chart. I want to walk through just a quick example with you to just show you how easy it can be. For easy sake and because I'm a huge cubs fun my position is going to be 'the cubs are the best in the NL'. Alright so if that's the claim that I'm making then next up is to anticipate what my opponents might say. So one thing they might say is well the cabs are not in first which everybody loves to remind me of. They also might say 'they've never won the world series'. Alright that's a valid argument and you know the last thing that I really don't like to talk about is somebody might say well 'they've chocked for the last two years'. Alright so there's what my opponents might say. And now we've got to talk about how would I dismiss those? Alright so now I'm looking okay if my argument is 'the cubs are the best' well somebody might say well 'they're not in first'. My response might be well 'they've got a lot of injuries'. Alright then they might say well 'they've never won the world series'. I might say well 'there's a first for everything'. Finally they would say well 'they've chocked for the last two years'. My argument response to that might be 'the third time's a charm'. Alright so I'm going to look at my chart and see which one of these is the strongest? I would probably my strongest counter is here, 'the cabs are the best team in the NL even though they're not in first they've had a lot of injuries.' So then what you're going to do is just move over to your transition bank. So like some transition that will help weave these ideas together and you've got a solid counter argument.
To review in order to construct a strong counter argument which is essentials of the ACT writing test, you want to first refute your main conclusion than dismiss that counter claim and finally strengthen your entire argument. Remember that a counter argument is a hallmark of any good argument who knows what you might be able to win?