May 30, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
If you want to be able to access the higher level marks in economics A-level essays, an effective conclusion is important. Although conclusions are written after all of the key knowledge, understanding, application, analysis and evaluation has been demonstrated, they allow you to show the examiner just how well you have answered the question. They don’t need to be long, should not contain anything new, and most importantly what they contain shouldn’t come as a surprise to the examiner.
The conclusion should not be long: All you need to do in it is to state the answer to the question that you have been asked, state the key argument you have made that has led to that conclusion, and, if it helps, state on what variables your conclusion has depended, and 6-8 lines is enough. For example – if the question is whether mergers are good for the consumers , you could write something like –
Mergers are good for consumers primarily if they lead to price falls as a result of the economies of scale gained, but also through increased choice from resulting investments in dynamic efficiency and a possible challenge from the merged firm to an already dominant firm. Whether this actually happens though depends on the behaviour and objectives of the firms involved, the success of any regulation connected to the market, and contestability of the market in which the merger took place.
Never introduce anything new into your conclusion: The key arguments you are bringing into your essay are supposed to be within the essay, not thrown into the conclusion. The conclusion is a wrap-up, into which you say what your answer to the question is and re-state the strongest argument you have that led to that conclusion. If you don’t mention an argument or an issue or a policy until the conclusion there is no way you can successfully analyse or evaluate it, which means it cannot be effectively used.
Your conclusion should not come as a surprise to the examiner: one of the best ways I can assess whether a pupil has written an essay with a strong sense of direction and high class evaluation is whether I could cover up their conclusion and ‘guess’ successfully what they have written. I put the ‘guess’ in speech marks as the whole point is that for level 5 you need to have a ‘fully justified conclusion’ – and if you have signposted what your conclusion is going to be in your introduction and assessed the strengths of the arguments, issues or policies you have made towards the conclusion you are going to write as you go along, it should be no surprise what your conclusion is. The key to this is good planning of the essay before you write.
Some people have questioned the importance of conclusions, given that if you have done excellent analysis and evaluation of different economic issues a conclusion would be unnecessary. All I can say to that is that I have found that pupils who haven’t written conclusions have lost a considerable amount of marks. I have also found that whatever the exam board, examiners for long essays just prefer to have a conclusion to wrap up the arguments you have been making. So make sure you leave time to do it.
So, forget the conclusion at your peril. It is an extremely effective tool you can use to show off how adeptly you have risen to the challenge of the question asked. Remember also that it needn’t be long, shouldn’t contain anything new, and that a conclusion will not come as a surprise to the examiner. It is no substitute for knowing the basics in terms of definitions and diagrams and for doing proper economic analysis and using the data well. But it is the icing on your cake, and in some respects the cherry on top of that icing!