20.1 Strategically conceding, rebutting, or refuting information

6 min readjanuary 22, 2023



AP English Language ✍🏽

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This is Topic 1 of Unit 9. Here, we’ll be looking at how to qualify your claim by acknowledging existing (opposing) claims and actively responding to them. This comes in three main forms, as described in the AP Lang CED. First is conceding to another claim. The second is rebutting that claim. Lastly, you can refute the claim.
You may not know what exactly the difference is between each of those three techniques yet, but that’s fine! You’ll learn in the coming sections. You’ll also learn when to use each, since that’s the skill you need. It’s not enough just to know what each entail.

Why Acknowledge Opposing Claims?

If you want to join the ongoing discussion on a subject with your own argument, you'll need to take into account what's already been said. Generally, evidence will either be in support of your thesis or against it. Thus, you can use it to back up your own views, or to challenge the ideas that other people have presented. It's a good idea to acknowledge the evidence and arguments that go against your own opinion. It shows deeper thinking about the topic at stake and enhances your trustworthiness as a scholar.

Concede vs. Rebut vs. Refute

Now, let’s define and distinguish conceding, rebutting, and refuting an argument. The first one you may know already. However, the difference between the last two is a bit more nuanced.
I’ll be using definitions from the AP Lang CED, since that is a primary source that AP Lang teachers refer to and details exactly what College Board expects from you.
Here’s the argument we’ll base our examples off of, so you can see how to use each technique :
Public libraries will become irrelevant in the future, and should be restructured to prioritize digital resources more.

1. Concession

College Board definition: “When writers concede, they accept all or a portion of a competing position or claim as correct, agree that the competing position or claim is correct under a different set of circumstances, or acknowledge the limitations of their own argument.”
At first, conceding your argument might feel like it goes against the point of an argument essay. Isn’t the whole point to make my argument seem stronger than the opposing ones? In actuality, conceding can benefit your argument by acknowledging the validity of and critically evaluating the opposing claim. By doing this, you demonstrate that you have a thorough understanding of the issue and have thoughtfully considered the other side of the argument. It tells the reader you can be objective while considering all sides of an issue. Additionally, conceding your argument to an opposing claim can help to make your essay more persuasive, as it shows that you are open-minded and willing to consider different points of view. 
Example concession: 
While I disagree that public libraries will become irrelevant in the future, I concede that they should be restructured to prioritize digital resources more. Libraries already offer access to technology, digital resources, and workshops to teach digital literacy skills, but they could benefit from more support and resources to help them further their mission. Libraries should also prioritize providing access to digital tools for those who may not have them, and create programs to help people learn how to use technology. By doing so, libraries can continue to be an important part of a technology-focused future.

2. Rebuttal

College Board definition: “When writers rebut, they offer a contrasting perspective on an argument and its evidence or provide alternative evidence to propose that all or a portion of a competing position or claim is invalid.”
In a rebuttal, you are offering a different perspective in order to try to prove that an opposing argument isn’t true. This doesn’t necessarily mean offering new or different evidence. Rather, you could be looking at the evidence that the opposing argument is using and extract a different conclusion from it.
Example rebuttal:
While it is true that public libraries need to keep up with the growing demand for digital resources, they should not be restructured to prioritize digital resources over traditional ones. Public libraries are still important for providing access to physical resources, such as books, magazines, and newspapers, as well as for preserving historical and cultural artifacts. Libraries are also important for providing access to reliable and trustworthy information, which can be difficult to find online. In addition, libraries continue to provide a safe and welcoming space for people to learn and explore, making them an invaluable resource in a technology-focused future.

3. Refutation

College Board definition: “When writers refute, they demonstrate, using evidence, that all
or a portion of a competing position or claim is invalid.”
This may sound very similar to the definition for rebuttal. However, the main distinction is that refuting an opposing claim involves explicitly presenting evidence to prove the opposing claim is factually untrue. So in summary: both involve attempting to prove an opposing argument is invalid. Refutation is the one where you actually prove it’s untrue.
Example refutation:
This argument is not supported by evidence. Public libraries remain important in the digital age, and they have adapted to the technological changes in a variety of ways. For example, many public libraries have created digital literacy programs and classes to help people learn how to use computers, tablets, and other devices. Additionally, libraries continue to offer physical resources such as books, magazines, and DVDs, and many libraries have started to offer digital versions of these resources. Additionally, libraries continue to provide a place for community members to gather and discuss technology, and they are often seen as a trusted source of information. Therefore, public libraries should be seen as an important part of our technology-focused future.

When+How to Use Each

Now that you know the differences between the three, let’s determine when to use each.


FRQ 1 (the synthesis essay) of the AP exam would be a great place to concede, given that you are given multiple sources that offer varying perspectives. After using the sources that are in favor of your argument, take inventory of the remaining sources. Are there any that you acknowledge the strength of? Maybe you thought to yourself “Darn, that source entirely goes against my argument.” Do any of them offer points that are difficult/impossible to refute? If so, a concession could be fitting. 
Begin by restating the opposing argument and bring up the source that relates to it. You can then choose to express agreement or acceptance of their argument. You can even refer to your own argument and acknowledge that the opposing source refutes it.


Contrary to a concession, you could use a rebuttal when you do know how to attack the opposing argument. If you saw an opposing source and immediately thought “I can actually use this for my own argument,” a rebuttal is the move.
Again, bring up the opposing argument and source. Then, offer your own view of the source. Maybe there’s a particular detail about it that weakens it, or there’s a phrase within it that is actually supportive of your argument. Look carefully! You may be able to find a valuable quote.


Refutation is probably the most extreme writing technique of the three to employ in your essay. It requires you to be able to solidly state and justify why an opposing claim is false. This may require background knowledge of a topic or an amazing ability to nitpick and expose flaws.
You should first restate the opposing argument in your own words, then identify the flaw in their argument. After this, provide evidence that refutes their argument and explain why the evidence disproves their point (an explanation is crucial!). This will weaken the opposing argument and show the reader your critical analysis skills.


This topic of Unit 9 focuses on how to qualify your claim by acknowledging existing (opposing) claims and actively responding to them. There are three primary ways to do this: conceding, rebutting, and refuting. Conceding involves accepting all or a portion of a competing position or claim as correct. Rebutting entails offering a contrasting perspective on an argument and its evidence or providing alternative evidence to propose that all or a portion of a competing position or claim is invalid. Lastly, refuting involves demonstrating, using evidence, that all or a portion of a competing position or claim is invalid. When considering which technique to use, consider the quality of the opposing argument and its sources, and provide evidence to support your point.
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🧠Exam Skills
📑Exam Review - Synthesis Essay
📝Exam Review - Rhetorical Analysis Essay
💬Exam Review - Argument Essay
🧐 Multiple Choice Questions
📆Big Reviews: Finals & Exam Prep
🔚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

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