7.3 Examining how counterargument or alternative perspectives affect an argument

6 min readjanuary 17, 2023



AP English Language ✍🏽

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In this guide, we’ll discuss how to amp up your argument, strengthening its complexity and teaching you to be critical (in a good way!). Discussing a counterargument or an alternative perspective is one way you can earn the sophistication point on the Synthesis and Argument Essays, which represent two of the three total FRQs on the AP Lang exam.

Definitions of the Terms

Let’s begin by quickly defining a counterargument and alternative perspective in the context of AP Lang. A counterargument is an argument that is presented in opposition to the main argument (hence the prefix “counter”). It is used to challenge the validity of the main argument and can be used to identify weaknesses in the argument. An alternative perspective is a different viewpoint or interpretation of the same prompt. It may not necessarily oppose your argument. Rather, it provides a different kind of reasoning and rationale.
Here’s a simple example that illustrates each of the two methods.

Ice Cream Example 

  • Argument: Ice cream is the best summertime dessert.
  • Counterargument: There are many other delicious desserts that can be enjoyed during the summertime. For example, frozen yogurt, sorbet, fruit cobbler, and ice pops are all delicious and refreshing desserts that can be enjoyed during the summer months. Additionally, some people may prefer to avoid dairy products, making ice cream an unsuitable option.
  • Alternative Perspective: Some people may prefer savory snacks such as chips, or cold beverages such as lemonade in the summer.
Of course the above example is not something that you will see on an AP exam. However, hopefully it helps you understand what a counterargument and alternative perspective are.
Now, let’s move onto something more relevant to AP Lang. We can use the 2021 Exam FRQ #1 as an example. Click here to see the sources for this question yourself. The question prompts you to “write an essay that synthesizes material from at least three of the sources and develops your position on the place, if any, of handwriting instruction in today’s schools.” 

2021 FRQ #1 Example

  • Argument: “Even though it may seem old-fashioned, handwriting should still be taught in schools today.”
    • This argument is taken directly from the official scoring guidelines for this exam. It should give you an idea of what a proper, defensible thesis statement looks like.
  • Counterargument: Handwriting instruction takes up valuable time in the classroom that could be used to teach more relevant and useful skills.
  • Alternative Perspective: Handwriting instruction can be used to reinforce other skills. For example, handwriting instruction can be used to reinforce spelling, grammar, and punctuation, as well as help students develop their own unique writing style. 
Keep in mind that while writing your essay, if you want to include a counterargument or alternative perspective, you need to make sure you elaborate on it in some way. It is not enough to write a sentence or two about the counterargument/alternative perspective. You must prove that you can either refute it (in the case of a counterargument), or connect it to your own argument to strengthen it (in the case of an alternative perspective). You can see explanation examples in the next section.

Quick Self-Check Exercise

Develop a counterargument and alternative perspective for the following argument: Contacts are better than glasses in terms of convenience and effectiveness.
No need to write it down, just think about it in your head! Then, continue with reading the guide.

What’s the point?

Now that you understand what a counterargument and alternative perspective are, let’s discuss their relevance to your FRQ writing. It may seem counterintuitive to include arguments that don’t support your own. However, using these two methods can improve the comprehensiveness and sophistication of your argument. Read on to hear about three reasons it does so.

1. Tests the validity of argument

Often, it is easy to get wrapped up in your claims and develop confirmation bias. This is when someone only considers evidence that confirms their existing beliefs and ignores evidence that contradicts their beliefs. Not only is confirmation bias harmful to your critical thinking skills in general, but it damages your argument because you may not notice or properly value opposing evidence.
By considering counterarguments and alternative perspectives, you’re effectively forcing yourself to consider the underlying values and beliefs that drive the argument. Think to yourself: is my argument overgeneralizing? Is it too specific? Does my evidence all align? Are my claims actually supported by the sources given or did I only use my own knowledge of the prompt and make assumptions? 
Thinking critically about your own argument is what enables you to identify weaknesses and patch them up. You don’t want the AP grader to read an argument riddled with holes. It’s best if you catch them first.

2. Opportunity to refute/elaborate

Counterargument and alternative perspectives can also open up dialogue for further exploration and debate. By bringing them up in your writing, you’re giving yourself an opportunity to refute the opposition. This shows you have critical thinking skills, since you can dissect others’ arguments, and argumentation skills, since you can present your refutation in a clear and persuasive manner.
For example, let’s use the counterargument in the 2021 FRQ #1 example and refute it.
Here’s the counterargument again: Handwriting instruction takes up valuable time in the classroom that could be used to teach more relevant and useful skills.
One possible refutation is: Handwriting instruction does not necessarily take up a significant amount of time in the classroom. Handwriting instruction can be integrated into other lessons, such as language arts or writing, and can be used to reinforce other skills. Additionally, handwriting instruction can be used as a reward or a break from other activities, allowing students to take a break from more rigorous tasks. Therefore, handwriting instruction can be time-efficient and paired with other relevant skill-learning.
As you can see, with the refutation, you can build on your own argument while weakening opposing ones.
For alternative perspectives, you’ll find that they can potentially support your argument. Again, let’s look at 2021 FRQ #1.
Here’s the alternative perspective again: Handwriting instruction can be used to reinforce other skills. For example, handwriting instruction can be used to reinforce spelling, grammar, and punctuation, as well as help students develop their own unique writing style.
You can further develop this into a paragraph by adding: Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are essential skills no matter if a student is handwriting or typing their work. In addition, handwriting is much better for freewriting because it allows you to write more quickly and fluidly than typing. This can help young students brainstorm for essays more effectively and develop their unique writing voices. Given how multi-faceted the benefits of handwriting instruction are, it surely deserves a place in a modern child’s education.

3. Strategically qualifies/limits the scope of argument

Lastly, addressing alternative or opposing viewpoints creates an opening for you to strategically qualify your argument. 
Because arguments are usually part of ongoing discourse, effective arguments avoid expressing claims, reasoning, and evidence in absolute terms. You should be mindful of absolute arguments, since they prevent you from thinking outside your own argument and are difficult to defend.
Qualifying an argument involves modifying it with words, phrases, or clauses in order to limit or clarify its scope. This can be done by using words such as "some," "most," "all," "many," and "few" to indicate the degree to which a statement is true. Clauses such as "although," "despite," and "even though" can be used to introduce a limitation or qualification to an argument. By using these modifiers, writers can make their arguments more precise and effective.
By considering other viewpoints, you can update your own argument, adding qualifications to it so that counterarguments cannot effectively attack it. For example, instead of saying “Even though it may seem old-fashioned, handwriting should still be taught in schools today,” you can qualify it with the phrase “when paired with other relevant skills.” The final argument will look like this: Even though it may seem old-fashioned, handwriting should still be taught in schools today when paired with other relevant skills. Now you’ve created a more sophisticated argument!


If you have some extra time after writing the main paragraphs of your Synthesis/Argument Essay, think about adding an extra paragraph to discuss a different perspective or counterargument. Doing this can help you assess the validity of your argument, make your argument more complex by refuting or expanding on it, and strategically qualify your argument.
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🤔Exam Skills
🥇Unit 1 – Claims, Reasoning, & Evidence
🗂️Unit 2 – Organizing Information for a Specific Audience
👀Unit 3 – Perspectives & How Arguments Relate
🔚Unit 4 – How writers develop arguments, intros, & conclusions
🎀Unit 5 – How a writer brings all parts of an argument together
👥Unit 6 – Position, Perspective, & Bias
🥊Unit 7 – Successful & Unsuccessful Arguments
😎Unit 8 – Stylistic Choices
😈Unit 9 – Developing a Complex Argument
📚Study Tools

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