After discussing the strategies of writing an introduction and a body paragraph, I shall also talk about how to write a conclusion for a GCE-A’Level General Paper essay. Candidates tend to overlook the significance of a conclusion because it is the last paragraph in an essay, and most of them are running out of time. Still, the conclusion is the place where candidates can impress their markers for the one last time instead of irritating them for one more time, hopefully. It should be handled with care, just like how the rest of the essay has been carefully attempted.
Two tasks need to be fulfilled in a conclusion. The first task is to summarise the arguments brought up in the body paragraphs and re-state the thesis statement. The key here is to have a balance: do summarise both sides of the argument. The most common problem here is that candidates copy exact words or phrasing from the question and their body paragraphs. There is nothing wrong copying the exact words, but it reflects badly on one’s linguistic capability and frustrates the marker, meaning that the language component of the essay may be marked down. It is recommended to rephrase the key ideas in a succinct manner and connect these points in one or two sentences. There is no need to re-elaborate on each point again since body paragraphs already include detailed elaborations.
Most candidates stop here and ignore the second task which is to offer an afterthought. Just like writing a hook in the introduction, one has many options regarding how to end with a punch. The key here is to offer some personal, reasonable insight – what the essential conflict embedded in the issue is, how this conflict may be solved, what the possible future development of the issue is, and who should be responsible for the change etc. Do think about why this particular question is set in the first place, and address that motive with insight. There are many ways to achieve this; some strategies include discussing a quotation, including a famous literature/movie plot, proposing solutions to the issue, and addressing the nature of the topic.
There are mistakes to be avoided as well. First, never finish an essay with no conclusion! It is one of the most serious structural errors one can make. If candidates really runs out of time, they should at least write one or two sentences for the conclusion (at least fulfil the first task). Second, do not introduce new arguments or controversies in the conclusion. It can be very confusing as readers may finish reading the essay with much doubt. Third, do not include irrelevant details that logically deviate from the question. The conclusion is the last few lines before a marker judges the quality of an essay, so please do not remind the marker how irrelevant the essay is.
Here are some well-written conclusions for a GP essay:
In conclusion, environmental protection need not be a futile pursuit if nations and communities avoid being bogged down by international politics and instead focus on effecting change within the limits of their ability and control. Political will and public support can make national environmental protection a fruitful pursuit. As former US President Ronald Reagan once said, “There are simple answers; they just are not easy ones.” While environmental protection may be difficult, it can and will produce positive outcomes if we stop dwelling on what we cannot accomplish and instead channel our efforts towards what we can do.
——Adapted from ‘Protecting out environment is a futile pursuit. Discuss.’, RJC KS Bull 2013 Issue One
The structure of this conclusion is very clear. It summarises the key ideas raised in the essay, re-states the thesis statement, and offers insight using Ronald Reagan’s words. It proposes a possible solution: ‘we stop dwelling on what we cannot accomplish and instead channel our efforts towards what we can do’.
In conclusion, a belief in the supernatural, be it God or ghosts, continues to form a core tenet of our lives, regardless of the progress we have made. Advanced as we may be, there is community and comfort that we derive from the supernatural, and from the notion that we are protected and loved. Belief brings us together, makes us here, and is unlikely to ever leave the human consciousness.
——Adapted from ‘Is it foolish to believe in the supernatural today?’, RJC KS Bull 2014 Issue One
A short and sweet conclusion. It may not include a full afterthought, but it reinforces the thesis statement successfully using short but powerful phrases inside the sentence ‘Belief brings us together, makes us here, and is unlikely to ever leave the human consciousness’.
In the final analysis, there is value in preserving minority language in the world given their inherent values as a part of human civilisation and in the role they play in charting the development of human society across the world. Even though the cost of preserving such minority languages may be prohibitive, falling upon both speakers and non-speakers alike, these costs may be mitigated, especially if the aim of preservation is not to make the language a widely-spoken one but to preserve it among a small community, in which case the financial cost of preservation would be reduced. Furthermore, such costs may not outweigh the inherent value of preserving a part of human civilisation, which is priceless.
——Adapted from ‘Is there any value in preserving minority languages in the world?’, RJC KS Bull 2014 Issue One
The conclusion identifies the root problem, proposes a possible solution and re-emphasises the cultural significance of minority languages.