The LSAT writing sample exercise takes only 35 minutes and is administered once you complete the regular four sections of the test.
This means that after 175 minutes of mental effort, you’ll still need to muster some energy and produce a short, persuasive essay. Below, you’ll find answers to the most popular questions you may have regarding the writing sample. Check them out one by one, and you’ll get a much better understanding of your task, as well as a higher chance of turning it into a success. Also, if you’re into getting a high LSAT score, invest in a solid LSAT prep course. After checking many options, I found that the courses from Princeton Review are the most attractive.
How to Complete the LSAT Writing Sample – Top 10 Tips
Tip 1 – What exactly is the LSAT writing sample and why should you bother with it?
The writing sample is supposed to test if you can form a persuasive argument, based on facts and materials you were given in the prompt. The task assesses the clarity of your language and your arguments. When you approach the writing section on your LSAT, you’ll receive a booklet with two lined pages, that you’ll need to fill up with a short essay. In the booklet, you’ll find a prompt, where you’ll need to choose either of two positions in a case (both of them are defensible, based on the materials given). Your job is to structure an argument in support of your decision and persuade the reader of the soundness of your reasoning. There is no good or bad answer here. It all depends on how well you support your decision and criticize the other.
Tip 2 – Does your writing sample count toward the overall LSAT score? Do law schools even look at it?
Nope. It doesn’t have any effect at all on your LSAT score. This means that after going through logical reasoning, analytical reasoning, reading comprehension, and the variable section (this last one is unscored as well), you’ll write something that doesn’t have any effect on your overall score. With that being said, you may wonder “What’s the point”? Do colleges somehow use it in the admission process? Here the answer is: “Probably not, but you never know”. After you finish the exercise, your sample will be photocopied (or sent as a computer file) and forwarded to the colleges of your choice, along with your actual LSAT score. But most probably, no one is going to read it anyway and it won’t influence your admissions process. Keep that in mind, and focus on the other four sections of the test until you find yourself in the 99th percentile of the exam takers. A word of caution: even if the writing task doesn’t contribute to your score, don’t completely ignore it. If someone reads it and finds out that you’re not serious, you may lose your chance to join a top college.
Tip 3 – Can you skip the writing sample part?
No, you can’t. Strangely enough, the writing part is mandatory, and if you don’t submit anything, LSAC has every right to cancel your overall score. So don’t risk losing valuable time and money and simply write the essay to the best of your ability. After the craziness of the regular test, you can take a moment to breathe, and write the essay with peace of mind (in 35 minutes, haha).
Tip 4 – How long should your LSAT essay be? Is there a word limit?
As stated in point no.1, you’ll receive a small booklet with two lined pages. Simply do the best you can and fill the whole thing up with coherent writing. Admissions officers rarely read the essay (especially if it’s written in unreadable cursive), but if they see you filled up the whole space, it will be interpreted as a sign of thoroughness and commitment. So basically, the word limit is the amount of space you are given to complete the writing sample. The space you have will be fine for around 500 words maximum but remember that you only have 35 minutes for the whole thing, so you probably won’t write as much.
Tip 5 – Does it have to be written in cursive (long-hand)?
There’s a big debate raging online about which format to pick for your writing sample. Some people say it has to be written in cursive. Others say that shorthand (or print) is just fine. Many students seem to forget how to write with their pens after leaving middle school. The answer is that either way is fine, but most of you will probably choose the printed word since it’s easier. A few stubborn old-school proctors insist on cursive, but worry not – shorthand is just fine. You’ll just have to write a quick statement that you didn’t cheat or anything at the bottom of your sample.
Tip 6 – How to structure your writing sample?
There are no strict rules regarding the format. But you should adhere to the tried and true essay formatting rules. It’s best if you break it down into four separate paragraphs. Paragraph 1: Start with an introduction, where you’ll pick your side and give the main reasons for your decision. Then acknowledge the complexity of the decision. It’s not an easy choice but… Paragraphs 2,3: Give reasons for your decision based on the facts provided in the prompt. Give reasons why the other option is not recommendable based on the situation. Paragraph 4: Write a quick summary of your decision. Pro tip: At the beginning of each paragraph, create a small indent to make it look professional. You can do it with the tab key on your keyboard.
Tip 7 – What materials can you use when writing it?
You’ll be given the booklet that will contain all the explanations you need. It will contain a prompt and some additional materials you can use to build your case. That’s it. Nothing else is necessary to start writing. When it comes to the actual hardware, you may use your laptop (recommended option). But if for some strange reason, you decide to write in cursive, make sure you do it with a pen and not a pencil.
Tip 8 – What are the sample questions (writing prompts) you might get?
The writing prompts can be quite long and take up to 200 words. First, you’ll get an overview of the situation, then you’ll be given a choice between two options, and finally, you’ll receive a good amount of supporting facts and information which you can use to decide. In the end, there’s no real “topic” you need to write about. Rather, it’s an evaluation of a scenario and arguing for one decision or the other. The structure of the question always looks the same.
1) What’s the situation – for example:
The corporation is in a time of turbulent change and explosive growth, etc.
2) The options – always two bullet points – for example:
- Should the corporation stay local?
- Should the corporation go global?
3) Additional information that will help you build your case – for example:
The competitors are moving overseas. The company has a new CEO. The domestic market is growing, but there’s a crisis coming soon. The laws are changing etc. Based on this information, you’ll need to pick your choice and build your case around it, without downplaying the other option. Pro tip: You can make up your mind more easily by listing the pros and cons of each choice. You will see that each situation isn’t perfect, but you’ll have a clear picture of what’s going on.
Here you can check a few writing prompts I could find online:
- Writing Prompt 1 – The Dawson Family
- Writing Prompt 2 – The BLZ Stores (this one is from LSAC itself)
- Writing Prompts 3, 4, and 5 (these come from Magoosh).
Tip 9 – How to write a great LSAT essay?
The first thing you should do is take a deep breath. You only have 35 minutes to complete the task, but this should be enough to get it done excellently. You should spend the first five minutes carefully reading the instructions and the writing prompt. Then spend two or three minutes organizing your thoughts and considering your response. This will make the whole rest of the process so much more effective.
Additional tips for crushing the writing sample:
- Make sure you stick to the topic. Making a skeleton outline will help to keep you in line.
- Take sides – this is crucial – you can’t be vague and vacillating. Pick your side and stick to it.
- Develop your thoughts and arguments to a full extent.
- Write only in the area provided on your response sheet.
- Make sure your writing is legible if you’re writing with a pen.
- Focus on quality instead of length.
- You’ll get an additional sheet of paper to sketch out your ideas. Use it during the preparation phase (first 5-7 minutes of the process).
- Watch out for grammar, punctuation, and syntax. You can use Grammarly for that.
- Review your writing sample before submitting it.
- Do not downplay the other option. As stated before, there’s no “right” or “wrong” option here. So it’s great to acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of both options, but ultimately, be firm and keep to your side.
Tip 10 – Don’t concentrate on the writing sample too hard. Focus on the test questions instead and get a high score
This one may seem quite obvious, but it’s true. Writing a sample is a nice exercise to complete, but it doesn’t get meaningful results when it comes to college applications. So don’t obsess over it.
I hope that after reading the answers above, you’ll be more than ready to crush the LSAT essay. Remember, it’s not only about the knowledge you gained from this article (although I hope it was helpful). It’s more about the daily practice of writing and the amount of effort you put in to become a better writer. Good luck with your test, and I hope that your essay will help you to get admitted into your dream school. Next up, you may want to explore a list of the top legal book publishers.
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