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Most argument questions hinge, either directly or indirectly, on determining the conclusion of the argument. The conclusion is the main idea of the argument. It is what the writer tries to persuade the reader to believe. Most often the conclusion comes at the end of the argument. The writer organizes the facts and his opinions so that they build up to the conclusion. Sometimes, however, the conclusion will come at the beginning of an argument, rarely does it come in the middle, and occasionally, for rhetorical effect, the conclusion is not even stated.

The police are the armed guardians of the social order. The blacks are the chief domestic victims of the American social order. A conflict of interest exists, therefore, between the blacks and the police.—Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice

Here the first two sentences anticipate or set up the conclusion. By changing the grammar slightly, the conclusion can be placed at the beginning of the argument and still sound natural:

A conflict of interest exists between the blacks and the police because the police are the armed guardians of the social order and the blacks are the chief domestic victims of the American social order.

The conclusion can also be forced into the middle:

The police are the armed guardians of the social order. So a conflict of interest exists between the blacks and the police because the blacks are the chief domestic victims of the American social order.

It is generally awkward, as in the previous paragraph, to place the conclusion in the middle of the argument because then it cannot be fully anticipated by what comes before nor fully explained by what comes after. On the rare occasion when a conclusion comes in the middle of an argument, most often either the material that comes after it or the material that comes before it is not essential.


Summary: To find the conclusion, check the last sentence of the argument. If that is not the conclusion, check the first sentence. Rarely does the conclusion come in the middle of an argument.


When determining the meaning of a conclusion, be careful not to read any more into it than what the author states. You must read arguments with more care than you would use in your everyday reading.
For example, many people will interpret the sentence
“Every Republican is not a conservative”
to mean that some Republicans are not conservative. *The writers of the test do not use grammar (logic) that loosely. On the test, the above sentence would mean what it literally states—that no Republican is a conservative.


Note: To give the sentence that meaning, reword it as "Not every Republican is a conservative".


Read the words and sentences of an argument precisely, and use their literal meaning.

To illustrate further, consider the meaning of some in the sentence
“Some of Mary’s friends went to the party.”
It would be unwarranted, based on this statement, to assume that some of Mary’s friends did not go to the party. Although it may seem deceiving to say that some of Mary’s friends went to the party when in fact all of them did, it is nonetheless technically consistent with the meaning of some.


Some means “at least one and perhaps all.”

As mentioned before, the conclusion usually comes at the end of an argument, sometimes at the beginning, and rarely in the middle. Writers use certain words to indicate that the conclusion is about to be stated.
Following is a list of the most common conclusion indicators:

Conclusion Indicators



conclude that



as a result




follows that

shows that

means that

These conclusion flags are very helpful, but you must use them cautiously because many of these words have other functions.

All devout Muslims abstain from alcohol. Steve is a devout Muslim. Thus, he abstains from alcohol.

In this example, “thus” anticipates the conclusion that necessarily follows from the first two sentences.


Notice the different function of thus in the following argument.


The problem is simple when the solution is thus stated.

In this example, thus means “in that manner.”


Most often the conclusion of an argument is put in the form of a statement (as with every example we have considered so far). Sometimes, however, the conclusion is given as a command or obligation.


All things considered, you ought to vote.

Here, the author implies that you are obliged to vote.


Son, unless you go to college, you will not make a success of yourself. No Carnegie has ever been a failure. So you will go to college.

Here the conclusion is given as an imperative command.


The conclusion can even be put in the form of a question. This rhetorical technique is quite effective in convincing people that a certain position is correct. We are more likely to believe something if we feel that we concluded it on our own, or at least if we feel that we were not told to believe it. A conclusion put in question form can have this result.


The Nanuuts believe that they should not take from Nature anything She cannot replenish during their lifetime. This assures that future generations can enjoy the same riches of Nature that they have. At the current rate of destruction, the rain forests will disappear during our lifetime. Do we have an obligation to future generations to prevent this result?

Here the author trusts that the power of her argument will persuade the reader to answer the question affirmatively.


Taking this rhetorical technique one step further, the writer may build up to the conclusion but leave it unstated. This allows the reader to make up his own mind. If the build-up is done skillfully, the reader will be more likely to agree with the author, without feeling manipulated.


He who is without sin should cast the first stone. There is no one here who does not have a skeleton in his closet.

The unstated but obvious conclusion here is that none of the people has the right to cast the first stone.


When determining the conclusion’s scope be careful not to read any more or less into it than the author states. Test writers often create wrong answer-choices by slightly overstating or understating the author’s claim. Certain words limit the scope of a statement. These words are called quantifiers—pay close attention to them.

Following is a list of the most important quantifiers:

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