LSAT Engine Strategy Blog

The writing sample at the end of the LSAT, while often treated like an afterthought, is still important. Thankfully, we here at LSAT Engine have put together a crash course on the topic so you’ll be prepared on test day.

For a full video explanation of an actual writing sample prompt, where Justin walks you through each step of the essay planning process, click here!

How the Writing Sample Works:

  • It occurs at the end of the LSAT after the 5 multiple-choice sections. The proctors will typically collect your multiple-choice answer sheet before distributing the writing sample prompt.
  • You'll have roughly 1.5 pages of lined paper to write on, and almost a whole page to do some planning and outlining on.
  • It is 35 minutes long, and it is unscored. When you apply to a law school, your writing sample essay will be sent along with your LSAT score.
    • It's way less important than the multiple-choice part of the test.
    • Admissions committees might only skim it or not read it at all.
    • However, sometimes the writing sample functions as a check against your personal statement. For example, if you write an amazing personal statement, which is getting you into a law school that you may not have gotten into based on stats alone, then the admissions committee will definitely read your writing sample to verify that your personal statement is actually your writing.
  • Admissions officers know that your writing sample essay isn’t going to be your magnum opus; they are fully aware that you just took a mentally grueling 3-hour test.
    • A few misspellings can be overlooked, but make sure to avoid grammatical mistakes. Keep it simple and clear.
  • The prompt is always a “decision prompt” that requires you to choose 1 of 2 options and argue in favor of it.
    • Your goal is to be persuasive, not unbiased.
    • You should try to be as convincing as possible, though you can't make up facts to support your position. You've got to work with the set of facts that you are given.

Format of the Writing Sample Section:

  • Instructions – these explain how you should approach the writing sample.
  • Choice Overview – the situation and the 2 options are described broadly.
  • 2 criteria – your decision to choose one side over the other must be based solely on these 2 criteria.
  • Choice 1 details – all the pros and cons of choice 1.
  • Choice 2 details – all the pros and cons of choice 2.

The 2 choices are going to be pretty even in terms of their pros and cons. There is no right answer, you should just choose the position that you think you can do a better job of advocating.

Planning Your Essay:

  • Write down pros and cons for both choices, based on the 2 stated criteria from the introduction.
  • Pick the side that you think has the strongest pros or the slightest cons; they're usually pretty evenly matched.
  • Make it clear to your reader that you planned the essay ahead of time; make the structure obvious.
  • Keep it simple and straightforward; don't trip over yourself trying to impress the reader.

A Good Essay Format:

  • P1 Intro: Set the stage, re-establish the 2 given criteria, and say what choice should be made.
  • P2 Body: Base this paragraph on the given criteria that most strongly favors your choice. Include all your pros and the other side’s cons as far as that criteria is concerned.
  • P3 Body: Base this paragraph on the other given criteria. Include all your pros and the other side’s cons. You may concede an obvious shortcoming of your side, and then minimize it.
  • P4 Conclusion: Make it short and sweet. Similar to the intro, reaffirm the selected choice, but don't add any new support.

Again, if you would like to see Justin work through this process on video with a real LSAT Writing Sample prompt, check it out here!

We hope this post cleared up any confusion regarding the most ambiguous (and often forgotten) section of the LSAT! Happy studying!

Posted: 7-10-2018