I have never met a SAT student who enjoyed writing essay conclusions. I understand that conclusions are important and I appreciate a well-written one, but at heart I’m in the same boat; even though I’ve been a writing tutor for several years now, I still think that writing SAT-style conclusions feels redundant, uncreative, and boring. Fortunately, conclusions aren’t quite the monster that we tend to make them out to be.
Over the years, I’ve figured out a few pieces of advice that have made writing SAT-style conclusions more tolerable, for both myself and my students:
1. Watch the clock: and be sure to leave yourself at least a couple minutes to write your conclusion. Too many students omit conclusions—and lose points for poor essay structure—purely due to poor time management.
2. Make them short: Extra length and depth belong in your body paragraphs, not in your conclusion. Just a sentence or two is almost always enough.
3. Plan, and apply, a simple conclusion formula–even before you see the prompt: Because conclusions are so simple and short, they can be templated (see SAT 2400 for details) in advance.
4. Be aware of the most common conclusion mistake: poor rewording. Nearly every strong SAT conclusion will involve some rewording of the essay’s thesis. Make sure that any rewording of your thesis does not change its meaning. This is more difficult than it sounds; even one missed detail or one misused word can change your argument, confuse your reader, and create inconsistency in your essay.
5. Recognize how important conclusions are: Your job as a SAT essay writer is to make every step of your argument crystal clear for your reader. If your reader has to analyze, infer, or draw conclusions in order to understand your argument, you haven’t explained your argument well enough. Conclusions go a long way towards clarifying your argument by reminding your reader of the most important parts of your essay, and distinguishing important details from core statements.
Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.