Conclusions are a vital part of IELTS essays: the last thing the examiner reads tends to be the first thing they remember. So how do you go about writing better conclusions? This post focusses on the importance of making sure that your conclusion actually answers the question. It also shows you how to do this by balancing the conclusion with the introduction.
It is important to practise this before the exam, as very often when you get to write the conclusion you are short of time. With a little practice, you should be able to write the conclusion more quickly – letting you spend more time on the content paragraphs of the essay. To help you do this, you will find practice suggestions and sample conclusions on my conclusions page.
The conclusion is your answer to the question
The danger is that in your conclusion you don’t answer the question, or you only answer part of the question. Look at these 2 examples from my sample essay on salaries. The question is:
In many countries people working in sport and entertainment earn much more money than professionals like doctors, nurses and teachers. Why do you think this happens in some societies and do you consider it is good or bad?
In my opinion it is unjust that a sports star such as David Beckham earns far more money than a doctor whose work is invaluable in saving peoples’ lives. The principle reason for saying this is that the doctor clearly makes a much more valuable contribution to society than someone who is involved in the entertainment industry.
I personally believe that in the ideal world someone’s income would relate to their value to society. However, in the modern world, it is almost unavoidable the famous will have the highest incomes because of their media exposure.
Which do you prefer? For me, conclusion 2 is much better as it clearly answers both halves of the question; conclusion 1 only looks at the author’s beliefs.
Tip: before you write your conclusion, check the wording of the question and be particularly careful with questions that have 2 halves.
The conclusion balances the introduction
An essay can be seen as a sandwich. The content is the tasty bit in the middle and the introduction and conclusion are the two pieces of bread that structure the essay. Ideally, they should balance each other. There are different ways of doing this. Here are 2 main possibilites in each case you should see how the introduction somehow balances the conclusion:
1. The balanced essay
Here you discuss the question in the introduction, outline the different viewpoints without giving your own opinion. In the conclusion, you summarise the issue and then provide your own viewpoint. Typically, this approach is going to be most relevant when you are asked to look at both sides of an issue.
One very complex issue in today’s world is the funding of museums and art galleries. While there is an argument that they should be free to the general public and funded by governments, there is also a case for saying that they should charge an entrance fee like other attractions.
My personal position is that there is no clear answer to this question as there are such strong arguments on both sides. Perhaps it is possible for some museums and galleries to charge fees and for others not to. It will depend on the situation of the individual museum or gallery.
This approach has the benefit of simplicity. It follows the standard pattern of raising a question in the introduction and answering it in the conclusion. The danger with this approach is that you may not establish your own point of view clearly.
2. The opinion led essay
In this essay, you clearly state your own opinion in the introduction and in the conclusion you restate it in different language with supporting detail from the main body of the essay.
It is often said that if you want to succeed in life, you need a proper education. I would agree with this, but it is debatable whether having a proper education means staying at school until you are 18.
To my mind, everyone should be encouraged to stay at school until 18. However, I believe that it would be a mistake to make this compulsory.
This approach has the benefit of clarity in that you determine your own point of view early on – which is something that most examiners like. The difficulty is that it can sometime be hard not to repeat yourself when you write the conclusion. Typically, this approach is going to be most relevant when the question asks you for your own opinion.
Tip: whichever approach you choose, go back and read your introduction before you writing your conclusion. It is also a good idea to make a note of key vocabulary and try and find some variations so you do not repeat language unnecessarily in the introduction and conclusion