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SAT Essay: Three Strategies for Writing a Great Conclusion

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve tackled the three parts of a great essay introduction and tips for making sure your body paragraphs make strong points. Today we’ll discuss the hardest essay piece for many students: the conclusion.

If you’re like many SAT essay writers, you struggle to come up with a great way to wrap up your essay. You might end things by repeating the thesis statement and main points, sometimes word for word. Or you might take the opposite route and bring up a bunch of new information in the conclusion, which will only leave the graders scratching their heads, wondering, what did that have to do with the rest of the essay? Neither technique is ideal.

The goal for a good conclusion is fairly simple: You want to demonstrate that what you’ve been arguing in the introduction and body paragraphs is a thoughtful, sound position to take on the topic. Using our old standby prompt of “Money can’t buy happiness. Do you agree or disagree?”, let’s look at three different strategies you can use to achieve that goal.

1. Circle back to your introduction. Have you ever noticed how stand-up comedians refer back to earlier jokes throughout their set? These references provide unity and show how the material flows together, and you can use this method in your conclusion. If you began your essay with a short, personal anecdote about how your family went into a panic when your father lost his job, and you mistakenly believed that money and happiness were connected, then finish that story in your conclusion. Here’s how it might look:

When my father lost his job, my parents cut back drastically on spending, canceling vacation plans, meals out, and other luxuries. While that may sound difficult, it was one of the best things that has ever happened to my family. Instead of mindlessly consuming food at restaurants, my whole family started making meals together. We didn’t miss our family vacations, as we found other ways to enjoy each other’s company, such as playing board games, visiting museums, and other things we didn’t have time to do before. While at first it seemed that this experience was going to prove that money and happiness were linked, it proved the opposite: lasting happiness has very little to do with money.

2. Pursue the real-life implications of the topic. Show your readers that you’ve been arguing more than an idea; the issue you’re addressing affects people in real ways. Leave your reader with a sense of why this topic is important beyond the scope of your paper:

If you turned on your television right now, chances are you would find a dozen shows profiling rich celebrities. You would see them smiling on the red carpet in expensive clothes and jewelry, showing off their gargantuan houses and cars, and posing with their impossibly good-looking mates. You would be likely to come to one conclusion: These people must be happy. You might even take the next logical step: If I had what they have, I would be happy. It’s an easy conclusion to draw in our money-obsessed society, but it’s a faulty one. You’ll notice that you won’t find any programs about the 20 happiest celebrities, and that’s because lasting happiness is elusive and deeply personal. It certainly isn’t dependent on something as simple as the size of one’s bank account.

3. Propose a solution. If you’ve framed the topic of your essay as a problem, then it might be natural to offer a solution in your conclusion. A word of warning: Of the three conclusion strategies, this one is the hardest to pull off. You’re dealing with complex ideas with many sides in these SAT essays, and you don’t want to sound as if you’re oversimplifying the issue. Still, offering a limited and modest solution can be an effective way of reinforcing the main idea of your essay:

Many young people mistakenly equate money with happiness and waste much of their lives before realizing this isn’t the case. To prevent this outcome, it is my belief that high schools should make a year of community service mandatory for all students. If students were allowed to pick a project they cared about, then they would learn to perform meaningful work without the results being tied to money. Furthermore, they would experience the satisfaction that comes with hard work and helping people. While this certainly wouldn’t eradicate my generation’s rampant materialism, it would help promote the idea that there are ways to find happiness that have nothing to do with making money.

While a weak conclusion won’t greatly affect the score on an otherwise strong essay, a thought-provoking, satisfying conclusion can give your score a nice boost.

Got a question? Drop it in the comments or email

Related Post: Three Parts of a Great Introduction