LSAT and Law School Admissions Blog
May 30, 2019
The Ultimate Guide to LSAT Writing
LSAT Writing is a mandatory writing sample that students complete on their own time in the days, weeks, or even months following the test. We put together this guide to explain what’s expected of you, how it’s administered, its general importance, and how to write the most compelling essay possible.
LSAT Writing is a 35-minute assignment that requires you to write a persuasive essay in favor of a particular choice among two possible options. We’ll explore the specifics of the task, known as a “Decision Prompt,” shortly. First, let’s discuss some notable aspects of LSAT Writing itself.
1. It i s mandatory .
Your file is not complete until you have submitted at least one approved writing sample. LSAC is serious about this! You will not receive your LSAT score, nor will your Law School Report (the compilation of your school records, test scores, writing sample, letters of recommendation, essays, etc.) be sent to any law school you’ve applied to until it’s done. You officially have one year from your test date to complete a writing sample. Our advice is to get it over with sooner rather than later. You don’t want to drop the ball and miss your application deadlines! Keep in mind that it may take up to a week or more to process your sample and update your file.
2. It only needs to be done once.
Candidates only need to have a single writing sample on file, even if it’s from a past, paper-based test. Re-takers do not have to complete additional LSAT Writing unless they want to, although there may be compelling reasons to submit additional attempts! Perhaps you’d rather have a typed sample on file rather than a handwritten essay. Or maybe you feel after reading this post that you could have done a better job. Schools will receive the 3 most recent writing samples as part of your Law School Report. Just keep in mind that if you already have a writing sample on file and do want to submit another one, you’ll have to pay a small fee.
3. It is unscored.
Yep, you read that right: your essay will not receive a number or value to indicate its quality. Unlike the multiple-choice questions on the LSAT, the difference between a “great” effort and something inarguably mediocre is more qualitative than quantitative. It comes down primarily to your ability to adhere to a handful of suggestions that I’ll outline in detail below.
LSAT Writing is sent to every law school to which you apply. Many will skim it, and some will read it carefully. So don’t blow it off!
The last thing you want an admissions committee that reads your essay to think is that you’re not serious about the process. Law school is brutal. It requires a Herculean level of dedication. Imagine what it says to a group debating your intentions and potential if you don’t commit yourself to a half-hour writing exercise. The risks of dismissiveness far outweigh the rewards. Plus, according to a few admissions directors we spoke with, they’re looking at the quality of your unedited and spontaneous essay as a further indicator of your writing chops. It’s a skillset central to law school success, after all.
In the text that follows, I’m going to dissect LSAT Writing piece by piece, from the General Directions to the specific essay Directions to the details of an actual Prompt. And I’ll even give you the perfect template to craft an essay that any board would be pleased to receive.
Using the Digital Interface
You’ll need access to a computer running Windows or Mac OS, not Chrome OS. It has to have a webcam, a microphone, a single connected monitor, and an internet connection. You’ll definitely want to run the proctoring software in advance and get some experience via the practice environment on the LSAC site by using the link to “Get Acquainted with LSAT Writing” in your LSAC.org account. That interface offers common word-processing functions, including a spell-check function and the ability to cut, copy, and paste. There are also accessibility features such as a font magnifier, line reader, and speech-to-text compatibility.
The proctoring platform will use input from your keyboard, webcam, microphone, and computer screen to ensure you’re not getting outside assistance. You’ll have a video check-in process where you show a government-issued ID as well as your workspace to the camera. The platform will close any outside messaging or web-browsing applications and your actions will be recorded and reviewed by proctors.
At the very beginning of the section, the following instructions appear:
“The timer will start when you select the ‘Begin’ button above. Read the prompt and the accompanying directions carefully. Your essay will be submitted automatically when time has fully elapsed. If you finish writing your essay before time has elapsed, you may select “Submit” and follow the directions that appear on your screen.”
Oddly, there is a second set of directions immediately before the essay topic screen. These are more specific to the nature of the essay itself. Be sure to know these directions prior to beginning your essay; your time starts once these directions appear on the screen, so re-reading them wastes precious seconds!
“You have the time displayed above in which to plan and write an essay in response to a prompt on the next screen. Read the prompt carefully. You will probably find it best to spend a few minutes considering the prompt and organizing your thoughts before you begin writing. In your essay, be sure to develop your ideas fully, leaving time, if possible, to review what you have written. Do not write on a topic other than the one specified.
No special knowledge is required or expected for this writing exercise. The exercise is intended to display your facility with reasoning, organization, language usage, and writing mechanics. How well you write is more important than how much you write.
Your essay will be submitted automatically when time has fully elapsed. If you finish writing your essay before time has elapsed, you may select “Submit” and follow the directions that appear on your screen.”
You Must Make a Choice
As we will see, the prompt presents two choices, either of which can be supported on the basis of the information given. Your essay should consider both choices and argue for one over the other based on the specified criteria and provided facts. There is no “right” or “wrong” choice: a reasonable argument can be made for both. So you’ve simply got an either/or decision to make based not on objective superiority, but rather on which decision you feel you can better defend. There’s information provided in support of both options and yet you have to choose one and stick to it.
This is critical.
You must take a side.
There’s no clear winner. Both options have advantages and disadvantages, but you can’t hedge here. You need to choose one and go all-in in your defense of it. However, as will be explained further below, that doesn’t mean blind devotion. The fact that you’re leaning one way doesn’t mean the alternative is without merit. Admitting to the occasional failings of your path while simultaneously acknowledging the upsides of the other is what great essays are made of!
Plan Beforehand, Review Afterward
It is a good idea to formulate a plan before you begin writing the essay itself, so budget some time up front to create a quick sketch of how you intend to structure your response. A recent policy change by LSAC prohibits the use of scratch paper, so any notes or outlines you wish to create at the outset must be done onscreen in the text field. Similarly, if you can wrap things up a minute or two early, you’ll have time to proofread your writing and make quick edits as needed. And, trust me, there will almost certainly be some mistakes to touch up.
Next, this essay is all about your interpretation of the information they give you. It is not about your specific knowledge of the topic, nor the volume of text you submit. Readers care about how persuasive your argument is and that’s it . So focus on crafting a convincing defense of your chosen path and worry less about subject knowledge and word count.
Consider This Example
Let’s examine the Writing Sample from the June 2007 LSAT for a detailed look at exactly how this plays out.
BLZ Stores, an established men’s clothing retailer with a chain of stores in a major metropolitan area, is selecting a plan for expansion. Using the facts below, write an essay in which you argue for one of the following plans over the other based on the following two criteria:
• The company wants to increase its profits. • The company wants to ensure its long-term financial stability.
The “national plan” is to open a large number of men’s clothing stores throughout the country over a short period of time. In doing this, the company would incur considerable debt. It would also have to greatly increase staff and develop national marketing and distribution capabilities. Many regional companies that adopted this strategy increased their profits dramatically. A greater number tried and failed, suffering severe financial consequences. BLZ is not well known outside its home area. Research indicates that the BLZ name is viewed positively by those who know it. National clothing chains can offer lower prices because of their greater buying power. BLZ currently faces increasingly heavy competition in its home region from such chains.
The “regional plan” is to increase the number and size of stores in the company’s home region and upgrade their facilities, product quality, and service. This could be achieved for the most part with existing cash reserves. These upgrades would generally increase the prices that BLZ charges. In one trial store in which such changes were implemented, sales and profits have increased. The local population is growing. BLZ enjoys strong customer loyalty. Regional expansion could be accomplished primarily using BLZ’s experienced and loyal staff and would allow continued reliance on known and trusted suppliers, contractors, and other business connections.
As you can see, you have to commit to one of two choices based on two criteria. In this case, the objectives are (1) increased (and one assumes somewhat immediate) profitability and (2) long-term financial stability. As is true of every LSAT Writing prompt, the dilemma is the same: each choice will presumably better satisfy one governing objective while simultaneously under-performing with respect to the other. In other words, there’s no clear winner. An odd situation for a test all about right answers, I think we can agree.
Here the two paths forward are particularly opaque: neither seems to clearly accomplish either goal. Still, you can expect to assign each option to an objective, and that provides a starting point. So let’s reconsider our objectives relative to the “national plan” and “regional plan”:
- Increase profits , meaning we need a way to generate income and hopefully as quickly as possible. Although the “national plan” mentions profits, it is also a costly and seemingly high-risk move in the short term. From a profit objective, it seems more prudent to pursue the “regional plan” where BLZ avoids serious debt by using its cash reserves to increase the size and number of its stores and quickly raise prices. Basically, this option requires little change in terms of infrastructure. Thus, it allows for some potentially speedy results, as previously observed in a trial store. It doesn’t offer much in the way of long-term growth/stability, however. It only applies to the stores in the company’s home region where we’re told competition is increasing. In a sense, this is a much more incremental, small-scale change than the alternative. But, with the potential to produce modest but fast financial gains.
- Ensure long-term financial stability , meaning we need a way to safeguard against potential setbacks on the scale of years, perhaps decades. With the talk of increasingly-heavy competition in BLZ’s home region, it seems as though the “national plan” offers the more appealing long-term, large-scale solution. Granted, there are greater risks than with the regional plan. BLZ will incur considerable debt, and devote significant resources to new staff and marketing/distribution efforts. They’ll also face an uphill battle of not-so-great odds given the historical consequences for other companies that adopted this strategy. But with a strong reputation and the need to expand beyond its home region, the long-term viability of the company may well depend on this big-picture approach.
Two things about those bullets. First, I’ve tried to categorize the two plans according to their likelihood of satisfying the criteria provided. Generally, it’s much more black and white to see which plan serves which objective. This particular Sample is annoyingly unclear. I also explained my reasoning for why I paired them as I did and mentioned the downsides of each. That’s roughly how you should embark on the planning phase of your essay. Consider how to partner a choice with the criteria it most satisfies and why. Simultaneously determine the ways in which it falls short of perfection. Second, I wouldn’t actually write that all out on the real thing, at least not as I did here. I listed it merely to demonstrate the thought process behind the assignments I’ve chosen.
Instead, what I suggest you do to keep this process organized is imagine an x-, y-axis type graph that consolidates the Pros and Cons of each choice. Without scratch paper you can’t draw this out explicitly, of course, but from an organizational, fully-cataloged standpoint these four quadrants cover everything:
Now you can easily list the advantages and disadvantages of the two plans according to the criteria on offer. So if I were to then fill in each of those quadrants, it would appear as…
Typing those out at the start of your essay—just four quick lists on the screen—will ensure that nothing gets overlooked, and will allow you to cut/paste each item into the text of your essay as you write it.
At this point, the only thing left to do before I get to writing is to pick a side. Again, there’s no right or wrong answer. Choose whichever option you feel you’re better able to defend based on the points you’ve just sketched out. Whichever happens to appeal to you or that you believe has more attractive pros and/or less detrimental cons.
For me, with this particular Prompt, I’d choose the regional plan. Here’s why. The regional plan seems to give better immediate prospects in terms of low-risk financial success. While it’s unlikely to be a permanent solution to the company’s long-term ambitions, it does generate quick profits with little investment. In turn, it would minimize the consequences associated with eventually pursuing a more nationally-oriented expansion. In short, employ the regional plan now, make as much money as possible from your loyal, local customer base before the competition gets untenable, then use those gains to offset the “considerable debt” associated with something more aggressive down the road.
Note that I’m not recommending “do both!” That would be a mistake. I made a decision in favor of one over the other. However, my reasoning can still allow for the possibility that doing one now doesn’t inherently preclude the other’s potential existence at some point in the future. Unless, of course, the initial choice craters the company entirely, a very real concern with the national plan in this case.
You have to make a decision between competing options with no right or wrong answer and contrasting points for and against each choice based on a pair of desired outcomes. You must choose , despite neither being a perfect solution. Spend several minutes determining which plan is better suited to the criteria provided, and make some notes of the pros and cons of each choice. Once you determine the plan you feel better equipped to support, you defend it while also acknowledging the less-problematic downsides of your choice and the potential, but less-favorable, upsides of the alternative.
And Now We Write
For a lot of students out there, the most familiar essay structure is the old, high-school-favorite five-paragraph response. That’s far too involved for this task. Instead, I encourage you to craft a simple, two-paragraph essay, as follows.
Paragraph 1: Your Choice
- Begin with a clear statement expressing which of the two options you’ve chosen. Then spend the remainder of the first paragraph in defense of that decision: explain why your pros are notable and relevant and the driving factors in the determination, and downplay the weaknesses that your selection contains. Again, don’t skip this part! You need to explicitly mention that your choice does in fact have failings, at which point you can then describe why their consequences aren’t a deal-breaker.
- One of the primary considerations of anyone reading your essay will be whether you were candid and fair-minded in your treatment of an imperfect plan. Remember, admitting a degree of weakness can ultimately be a strength, provided you proactively address it and mitigate its nastier effects. This is your opportunity to do just that.
Paragraph 2: The Alternative
- In your second paragraph, you’ll provide your reasoning for avoiding the other option, specifically by downplaying its advantages and emphasizing its shortcomings. As mentioned, you need to grant that this choice has some merit. Doing so shows that you’re not only equitable—diplomacy of a type goes a long way here—but it also allows you to then de-emphasize those attributes.
- Finally, conclude this paragraph with a sentence that quickly restates your choice and, in broad terms, how the information you’ve provided speaks in favor of it.
Of course, if you have a few minutes remaining—and it’s a good idea to pace yourself so that you do—reread what you’ve written looking for typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors that the word processing functions might miss. These things won’t keep you out of law school if you’re otherwise qualified, but they hardly serve to make a great impression. Clean it up if you can.
First, note that I’ve provided more of a template for how to write the essay, rather than an “ideal” sample essay itself. And that’s by design. While I strongly encourage you to adhere to the points and pattern outlined above, the reason a full, polished essay is absent is that I am not here to dictate your writing style. Your voice is your own, and it’s important that it rings true and reads authentically throughout your essay.
Are there soft rules you should follow? Yes. And the text here should give you a clear idea of what those are. But it’s up to you to fill in the gaps with prose—and reasoning—of your creation. Fortunately, by following this guide I’m confident you’ll have no trouble expressing yourself commendably when it counts.
Wow 🙂 Thank you for the details for conquering the writing sample. The last time I took the LSAT I made sure that I weighed the pros and cons of the situation. I also concluded why I thought one option was better than the other.
Just wondering if you recommend always doing the writing sample at the end of every practice LSAT? Thanks in advance!
Hi Nicole – thanks for the question! The answer: absolutely not! 🙂
Since it’s unscored and administered at the very end of your test day there’s no point is spending much time preparing for it, beyond understanding how it works and perhaps attempting a couple in the allotted time beforehand to get a feel for what it’s like to write for 35 minutes. Including one with each practice test (or even more than one or two practice tests in total) is definitely overkill–that time is far better spent working on the scored content instead.
I hope that helps!
Thank you so much for the quick response! Good to know, I’ve already done 4 following practice tests so I’ll definitely call it and not have the time needed to do one be so formidable.
Niloofar Farboodi says
November 3, 2021 at 2:11 pm
Dave and Jon, you two are LSAT giants! I resort to you, your posts and podcasts, every time I hit a deadlock. Same was true for the writing portion of the exam.
Jon Denning says
November 3, 2021 at 2:14 pm
Thank you so much! And I can’t tell you how happy it makes us to know we were able to help 🙂
June 16, 2021 at 11:59 am
Thank you so much for all the great info. I have a question about LSAC’s take on security/secrecy for the writing portion of the test. I’m clear on how restrictive they are on actual LSAT questions; what’s their stance on the writing part?
I just took the June ’21 flex and I’m registered for August as well. I completed my writing exam at the beginning of the month. They’ve already marked my essay as completed and I can see both the original prompt that I got, as well as my sample. Am I able to share my writing sample with others? I know I did well, but I low-key want it to be perfect, and I’m wondering if I can share it and get feedback from others.
Thanks in advance!
June 16, 2021 at 11:08 pm
Hi Amy – thanks for posting, and congrats on completing both the test and the Writing! Smart of you to take care of it early so your score release isn’t delayed 🙂
As for sharing it, I’d strongly advise against it!
The main reason not to share *any* details about your test is that LSAC is quite…sensitive when it comes to people discussing their materials in a way that could give others a clear idea on what was tested/presented. And I suspect if someone were to read your essay they could reconstruct a fairly accurate version of the essay prompt you saw, which violates LSAC’s disclosure policies.
Happily, since the Writing isn’t scored, even if a test professional (or someone at least knowledgable about the LSAT) were to review it in private there’s not much that could be said to quantifiably assess the essay’s quality or give you a sense of how admissions committees might “rate” it, assuming any read it in the first place. General writing suggestions are of course always possible, as is feedback on diction, grammar, structure, and the like, but in terms of trying to apply some objective, admissions-centric metric, it’s far less concrete.
So simply take comfort in the fact that you know you did well, along with the relief that comes from never having to do it again!
June 17, 2021 at 4:44 pm
Makes sense, thank you Jon!
January 20, 2021 at 1:57 pm
For Lsat writing, should we address every single point in our pros and cons chart or just a couple (maybe 3 per paragraph)
Dave Killoran says
January 20, 2021 at 3:06 pm
Depends on the time you have and the strength of each of your points. I’ve seen both approaches used, and it’s all about what makes you the most comfortable. So, while I wouldn’t advise throwing in the kitchen sink, you can certainly make more than 3 points 🙂
January 3, 2021 at 4:39 pm
Hi Jon! Thanks for this guide, it was straight to the point and made it extremely simple to understand, and master the basics of the LSAT writing section. I’m wondering if there’s any way you could re-upload the pictures you posted of the pro/con and x/y-axis graphs? I understand the general idea but they don’t seem to show up on any of my devices and would love the visual example. Thank you!
January 4, 2021 at 4:52 pm
Hi Christina – my pleasure, and thank you so much for taking the time to read it! Happy to hear it helped 🙂
Happy too to let you know those images have been re-added and should be visible for you now. But please let me know if not and I’ll give it another look!
November 8, 2020 at 3:45 pm
Hey Jon , I got a response from LSAC saying that my writing has been completed, so I’m hoping that this means that it did submit correctly. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. Thanks for your help!
Sounds like it, yeah! That’s great news 🙂
Samantha K says
November 8, 2020 at 2:30 pm
Hey there! I just finished my LSAT writing and unfortunately, the clock ran out as I was editing my essay. I was happy with it but I did not get the chance to click submit. Do you think this means that it in fact did not submit? I contacted LSAC but I’m still waiting for a response.
Also, this post helped me so much in preparing for this portion of the exam, you guys are the best!
November 8, 2020 at 2:43 pm
Hi Samantha – thanks for posting. I can’t say with certainty, of course—you’ll have to wait on a response from LSAC to get confirmation one way or the other—but my understanding is that unless you hit Submit the essay isn’t saved and uploaded into their system, so unfortunately you may find that you have to redo it. Fingers crossed that they can access the recording and salvage what you wrote from that, but I know in past instances when sessions have ended (time ran out, internet disconnected, etc) people have been forced to start from scratch.
Please keep us posted on what you hear from LSAC! Rooting for you!
October 26, 2020 at 11:12 am
Hi there, I just finished the writing portion of the LSAT and but couldn’t finish it. I’m happy with the overall product and was able to check for structure, grammar, flow, etc. I did select one choice right at the beginning of the essay and argued in favor of it in the second paragraph and against the other option in the third paragraph. I just couldn’t finish a sentence I wanted to add at the end to close the argument, something along the lines of “It is therefore in the best interest of X company to select Y option.” I was only able to type until “It is therefore in the best interest of X company to select -“. Do you think I should repeat the writing part? Thank you so much.
October 27, 2020 at 1:11 pm
There are mixed opinions on what to do here. At many schools it won’t make a difference, but at some it most definitely could. The problem is, there’s no list of schools that tell you how much they care about something like this :/ My feeling has always been that if you are looking at schools in the Top50, you really don’t want any issues (however minor) and I’d redo it.
October 3, 2020 at 2:37 pm
Just wondering if I can use an external monitor connected to my laptop keyboard to take the LSAT writing? My laptop is not functioning well lately.
October 4, 2020 at 1:21 am
Thanks for the message! If this is a second monitor attached to your laptop, it will NOT work. LSAC is very clear about no second monitors being allowed.
I’m sorry 🙁
July 23, 2020 at 6:37 pm
With the two criteria provided, do you recommend arguing that one is more important to support the choice made or demonstrating that the selected choice satisfies both criteria better?
July 26, 2020 at 8:06 pm
It’s about overall strength to me, but that said I could see shifting that depending on the context of the prompt. The good news is that almost all of these are built so one choice suits one of the two criteria better (and thus the other supports the other criterion better), so it’s most often balancing them two against each other and making an overall argument.
Please let me know if that helps. Thanks!
John Rosenfeld says
January 2, 2020 at 8:22 am
I’m about ready to take the writing section but I am having a little problem figuring out the formatting tools. I am used to indenting the beginning of each paragraph, as well as not having a double space between my paragraphs. Will the absence of either of those look bad? If so, using the tools they give me, how would I go about doing it? Also, should I include a heading or title? I know that format is not nearly as important as content, but I want to make sure the format looks as professional as it can with the constraints given.
January 6, 2020 at 3:33 pm
Thanks for the question! You won’t need to worry about the absence of those elements because everyone’s essays are designed to look the same as far as formatting. So, if you want a title, make it the first line of the essay and then space down form there, same with paragraph breaks. Aside from that there’s nothing to worry about as far as a “professional” look because law schools know this is a preset format that you can’t control 🙂
December 31, 2019 at 10:42 am
It seems like there are a lot of requirements for the room in which you complete the writing sample. Any suggestions on where to do it? I’m not sure how to find a space in which there are no other electronic devices, as described on the LSAC website. How strict are they about things like a television or a kitchen timer being nearby, if not in the immediate area?
December 31, 2019 at 12:33 pm
Yes, the requirements are kind of ridiculous, and even now they continue to have problem after problem with it. And of course, the issue you mention — a largely electronic-free environment — is basically impossible to come across these days! In the case of things like a TV, those aren’t specifically prohibited (but could fall under “media players”) and so far as long as the TV is off I haven’t seen issues arise; kitchen timer is pretty broad but if it is standalone you should remove it, otherwise it shouldn’t be an issue.
Do a thorough check and get rid of all the obvious items. That usually is good enough! Good luck!
November 10, 2019 at 8:53 pm
Hi, I took the LSAT exam in September and just finished the writing today. Apparently I wrote a bit too much (over 500 words) and ran out of sufficient time to edit. I felt okay with my arguments and content, but spotted 2-3 minor grammatical and formatting (double-spcaing) errors afterwards. Do you think I should consider re-taking it? How important are 100 percent accurate grammars and formats? Thanks!
November 13, 2019 at 2:31 pm
If this is minor stuff as you say, it won’t be a big deal. they know it’s timed, and so there’s a certain amount of “give” in the analysis that overlooks imperfections. They will really be looking for bigger picture elements like idea construction and phrasing, as opposed to nitpicky errors. So you should be good 🙂
October 22, 2019 at 3:43 am
Thank you so much for your article. I took the LSAT for the first time in June 2019 and I’m about take my writing test anytime now. I must say that you’ve been very helpful.
October 22, 2019 at 8:15 pm
Happy to help! Thanks so much for taking the time to give this a read 🙂
Gabriel Francisco says
September 14, 2019 at 8:58 am
I took the LSAT in June and July and just finished the writing sample yesterday. How long should my writing sample be? What is a suitable word count? I left as though mine was too short at 300 words…
September 14, 2019 at 6:36 pm
Hi Gabriel – thanks for posting, and great question!
You know, there’s not really a firm recommendation on word count per se, as LSAC has certainly never specified a preference and neither have schools. So let me offer instead two useful rules of thumb:
First, LSAC *does* make a point of encouraging people to be concise and efficient, where they even go so far as to point out in the directions: “How well you write is more important than how much you write.” ( https://www.lsac.org/lsat/lsat-prep/practice-test/writing-sample-general-directions )
So prioritize getting your points across without feeling the need to overly-elaborate or write more simply for the sake of bulk!
Second, that said, I think anything between 300-400 words is more than enough, again assuming it’s thorough and well-written. That comes to maybe 60-80% of the volume of a typical Reading Comp passage, to give you an idea of length by comparison to something familiar.
When I see passages in the 150-200 word range, or the 500+ word range (believe it or not some people write that much), I grow a little concerned: the former is awfully limiting in fleshing out your points/choice; the latter is almost certainly wordier than it should be. So something in between is generally the sweet spot 🙂
Nihal Singh says
July 8, 2019 at 10:58 am
Thank you so much! I just wanted to be sure before I started freaking out! Love the podcast and love the Bibles!
June 18, 2019 at 11:49 pm
I took the LSAT in June and preparing for the writing portion. Are we allowed to infer anything or are we strictly bound to what it provides?
For example: whether to excavate a site or not it discussed damage from excavating and theft from leaving the items where they are. Am I allowed to also state that as a con of leaving the times is that natural disasters like landslides could occur and the artifacts be lost?
June 19, 2019 at 2:31 am
Great question, Cydney! I’d say that the “assumptions” inherently permitted—i.e. those which no reader would squint at, judgingly—are of the same type considered reasonable on the test itself: real world likelihoods that don’t strain against common sense. So natural disasters (landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, wildfires, etc) are all regrettably plausible enough to merit consideration, and thus primed for inclusion as you weigh the most appropriate action(s). Just be mindful of speaking too absolutely about unpredictable events, particularly when it comes to nature/geography; it’s one thing to say it rains a lot in Seattle, and another entirely to promise August 6th will be wet.
Similarly, to say that we shouldn’t build a new stadium in, for instance, Phoenix, because an earthquake will likely level it is a bit extreme…to note that an open-air stadium in Phoenix is going to be subject to brutal heat in the summer, however, is entirely justifiable. Highrises in Tampa aren’t exactly tornado-prone, but Topeka…well, you get the idea.
And those are the kinds of real-life knowledge that you can safely allow to factor 🙂
June 17, 2019 at 8:00 pm
Just listened to the podcast episode where y’all talk about the online writing. June was my first LSAT and I thought I heard y’all mention that your test won’t be scored until you have a writing sample on file. Is it true that I won’t receive my score until I do the writing sample?
June 17, 2019 at 8:06 pm
Hey Jen – thanks for giving that a listen! The policy as I understand it—and I’ll have to relisten to the episode to see if maybe we could’ve done a better job making this clearer—is that you’ll receive your score on release day whether you have a writing sample on file or not, but LSAC won’t send your applications to schools (or at least schools won’t be able to see your full info) until you’ve done the writing.
So you’ll get your score on the 28th as planned. But you’ll need to complete the writing portion before schools are made aware of how you did!
Hope that helps, and thanks again for tuning in!
June 17, 2019 at 8:57 pm
June 19, 2019 at 2:16 am
You’re too kind! Thanks so much for sharing the encouragining feedback 🙂
May 31, 2019 at 5:27 pm
Good afternoon and thank you Mr. Jon. Just read this and I appreciate this.
My pleasure as always, Rain! 🙂
March 24, 2019 at 1:55 am
hi there, do you know what’s the new requirement for writing sample starting June 3, 2019? It won’t require writing to be completed immediately after the test. So they allow testers to finish the writing sample at home?
March 25, 2019 at 5:04 pm
That is correct! And you will only have to take a single time and no longer for each LSAT). LSAC has yet to release full details, but the sample will be administered online via secure proctoring software. Meaning, you can take it from home 🙂
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Top 5 Tips for the LSAT Writing Sample
If you’re taking the LSAT-Flex or regular LSAT and have realized that you need to submit your LSAT writing sample online before you can get your scores, don’t worry! There’s no need for the LSAT writing sample to stress you out. Follow these five simple LSAT writing sample tips in order to put your best foot forward and make your law school application shine.
1. Know what you are up against.
It is always best to be prepared and know what the test will ask of you before you even open the browser. In this case, you will be given 35 minutes to prepare a writing sample on a given topic. The format of the LSAT writing sample generally asks you to choose from one of two positions and then write a convincing essay in support of the side you choose. For more information on the basics of the writing sample, check out this article .
2. Pick a side, and go with it.
If the prompt asks you to pick between two sides, JUST PICK . The two sides will always be evenly matched, and there is no “right answer.” Wasting a lot of time trying to pick the “better” argument will hurt you in the end. You should be able to write equally well in support of both sides. If I were taking the LSAT today, I would go in with the plan to write about the first choice presented, no matter what it is. If you pick your side quickly, you will have more time to carefully craft a thoughtful essay. Thirty-five minutes goes by very fast, and you don’t want to waste precious time on a decision that really doesn’t matter much anyway.
3. Lead with your conclusion, and then stay organized.
The first (and last) sentence of your writing sample should lay out your conclusion very clearly. After that, your writing sample needs a cohesive structure. You should be able to outline each paragraph very easily, and the information in each paragraph should be on point.
4. Be honest by addressing the weaknesses with your argument.
Whichever side you choose, it will have a downside. You cannot ignore the potential downside of your choice. Rather, you must acknowledge the downside, and then downplay it. Likewise, you need to acknowledge the strengths of the opposing argument. Once you have acknowledged them, you want to downplay those as well. In a nutshell, tell the reader why the downside to your argument and the upside to the opposition are really no big deal. Ignoring these aspects of the scenario presented will make your writing sample weaker.
5. Don’t bring in outside information.
As tempting as it may be, do not bring in any outside information that you think supports your argument. Remember, admissions committees want to see that you can argue well ….no matter the argument. Bringing in outside information to bolster your argument while leaving out outside information that bolsters the other side, changes the nature of what they are asking you to do in the writing sample. It makes your writing sample less of an argument and more of a narrative.
Bonus LSAT Writing Tip: Practice Your Writing Sample!
Before you sit down to take the LSAT Writing Sample, practice writing it at least three times with different prompts. Don’t take it cold! While the writing sample is presented to you online, is unscored, and is generally not considered to be high on the list of admissions committees’ considerations, you never know if a good writing sample might give you a leg up on your competitors.
The University of Chicago admissions committee puts it this way: “Remember that you are applying for a professional program and it reflects very poorly on an applicant’s judgment when we see a writing sample that reflects a lack of effort or professionalism.”
For a detailed breakdown of the writing process, as well as some official LSAT writing prompts, check out this LSAT writing sample step-by-step example .
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Carey has an undergraduate degree from the University of Houston and a law degree from Harvard Law School. She scored in the 99.9th percentile on the LSAT and has been helping students succeed in their LSAT prep for the past 8 years. In addition to teaching the LSAT, Carey has held jobs as a Harvard economics instructor, a big-firm lawyer, a realtor, and a federal judicial clerk. However, her current lofty goal is mastering the NYT crossword puzzle.
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The Only 3 LSAT Writing Sample Tips You’ll Ever Need
I know the writing section isn’t scored and I’ve heard it doesn’t matter all that much, but I was wanting to get some overall suggestions on how to do it the way admissions people like. I’m taking the upcoming test and I haven’t given much thought to the writing portion. I’m confident in my writing skills so I would just appreciate any general advice. Thanks!
Thanks for the question! I think the best way to answer is to start by taking a look at a real writing sample prompt from a real previous LSAT. Here’s an example of a pretty typical writing sample (excerpted from the June 2007 LSAT ):
June 2007 Writing Sample Directions & Prompt
Directions: The scenario presented below describes two choices, either one of which can be supported on the basis of the information given. Your essay should consider both choices and argue for one over the other, based on the two specified criteria and the facts provided. There is no “right” or “wrong” choice: a reasonable argument can be made for either.
BLZ Stores, an established men’s clothing retailer with a chain of stores in a major metropolitan area, is selecting a plan for expansion. Using the facts below, write an essay in which you argue for one of the following plans over the other based on the following two criteria: • The company wants to increase its profits. • The company wants to ensure its long-term financial stability. The “national plan” is to open a large number of men’s clothing stores throughout the country over a short period of time. In doing this, the company would incur considerable debt. It would also have to greatly increase staff and develop national marketing and distribution capabilities. Many regional companies that adopted this strategy increased their profits dramatically. A greater number tried and failed, suffering severe financial consequences. BLZ is not well known outside its home area. Research indicates that the BLZ name is viewed positively by those who know it. National clothing chains can offer lower prices because of their greater buying power. BLZ currently faces increasingly heavy competition in its home region from such chains. The “regional plan” is to increase the number and size of stores in the company’s home region and upgrade their facilities, product quality, and service. This could be achieved for the most part with existing cash reserves. These upgrades would generally increase the prices that BLZ charges. In one trial store in which such changes were implemented, sales and profits have increased. The local population is growing. BLZ enjoys strong customer loyalty. Regional expansion could be accomplished primarily using BLZ’s experienced and loyal staff and would allow continued reliance on known and trusted suppliers, contractors, and other business connections.
So first off, I’ll tell you what I tell everyone about the writing sample: Don’t worry about it too much. As long as you take it seriously, give it your best effort, and demonstrate that you are capable of writing, in English, in a coherent manner, then the writing section of the LSAT is highly unlikely to help (or hurt) your application.
If in fact, someone actually reads your LSAT writing sample when reviewing your application, then they’re probably going to recognize that they are reading an ungraded essay that you wrote after an intense 3-hour period in which you took perhaps the most important exam of your life… and they’re probably going to read it (if at all) in light of that fact. I doubt that anyone has gone in there and written an exceptionally brilliant treatise so moving that it swayed an admissions decision.
On the other hand, if you blow it off entirely, or blatantly ignore the stimulus and write a diatribe against standardized testing, or something silly like that, well, that’s sort of thing might make an admissions committee question your character.
Ok, now having said that… here are a few tips on how to write a passable essay
Remember that “there is no “right” or “wrong” choice: a reasonable argument can be made for either.”
Don’t waste much time worrying about which side you argue for. The issue is designed in such a way that a reasonable argument can be made for either side. Read the prompt & pick whichever side you initially lean toward. Then focus on developing as strong an argument as possible for that side.
Be sure to follow the ‘rules’ given & stay on topic
Keep your argument on-topic! In the example above, we’re asked to argue for either the “ national ” or “ regional ” plan on the basis of two criteria: the company wants to increase its profits & ensure its long-term financial stability . Stick to that task.
In reality, there are probably a million different paths that the company could take aside from the “ national” and “regional” plans.
For example: don’t come up with and argue for an alternative “acquisition” plan in which the company buys other strong regional players, even if you think that is ultimately the best real-world answer. That’s not what the question asks of you. You’re asked to argue for the “national” plan OR the “regional” plan . Do just that. S tick to the script.
In reality, there are also probably a million different criteria that the company could take into consideration aside from “increase profits” and “ensure long-term financial stability.”
For example: don’t come up with and develop an argument around an alternative “environmental impact” criteria that the company should take into consideration when making its decision. Even if you believe that is ultimately an important real-world consideration. That’s not what the question asks of you. You’re asked to weigh the given plans on the basis of the given criteria. Do just that. Stick to the Script.
Consider organizing your response using a modified version of the “IRAC” methodology.
“ IRAC (pronounced EYE-rack) is an acronym that stands for Issue , Rule , Application , and Conclusion . It functions as a methodology for legal analysis. The IRAC format is mostly used in hypothetical questions in law school and bar exams.” ( thanks, Wikipedia! )
Using IRAC is by no means required, so if you don’t find this tip useful, feel free to ignore it and write an otherwise well-organized essay. But you’re frequently going to be asked to argue using the IRAC method in law school… so using this general framework is a simple way to write a well-organized essay that will be familiar to anyone reviewing your law school application.
I ssue: state the issue that you are being asked to analyze.
R ule: state the rule (criterion)
A pplication: apply the criterion to the facts presented in each alternative choice
C onclusion: conclude that the position you’re arguing for is the better choice, given how the stated criterion apply to the facts.
University of Chicago, J.D., 2012 -- CLICK HERE to find out how I got a 177 on the LSAT . Ready to Kickstart your LSAT Prep? Join the LSAT Mastermind Study Group
First, thank you for all the great resources.
I am interested in joining the your Mastermind course, but I’m just at the very beginning of my study process (I’ve ordered books and looked through lots of online resources). Would you suggest starting the course now, or once I’ve gotten a better feel for each section of the test? I want to get the most out of it. Thank you again!
Hi Jackie –
It’s great to join at the beginning of your studies as you get access to all of the study schedules with the membership. Plus it is a lifetime membership, so you never have to pay for more time to stay active in the group. You can really join at any stage of prep. Some people join right before their test for the extra push, some have been active for over a year as they prepare. I joined at the beginning and found it extremely helpful.
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LSAT Kung Fu Blog / How To Attack the LSAT Writing Sample
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How to attack the lsat writing sample.
Water-Lotta Fun (I know. Sorry).
No new post this week. Instead, I'm re-posting this one about the LSAT Writing Sample:
So we were at a key party last weekend with the usual crowd of professional wrestlers, dental hygienists who'd been hitting the nitrous pretty hard, Lil Wayne and T-Pain (AND ALSO T-Wayne, in an ironic twist), and the conversation came around, as it so often does at these things, to the subject of LSAT prep, and specifically, the LSAT Writing Sample.
It’s the sixth section of the test, it’s always administered at the end of the day (when your brain is mostly mush and all you really need to do is go to the nearest bar and order an Irish car bomb , stat), and it is not scored by LSAC.
Thing is, you’ve got thirty-five minutes, you’ve got nothing better to do, and it may be important to the admissions committee at the law school you really, really want to go to. We say “may be” because we’ve heard conflicting reports. Several admissions officers have told us (on background) that the LSAT writing sample isn’t that important in the great majority of cases. These sources say (reasonably, in our opinion), that (1) Because their staffs haven’t been trained to assess this sample, they don’t expect them to try, that (2) They’ve got a writing sample (the Statement of Purpose, or Personal Statement) that they do consider important, and that (3) Their admissions committees will sometimes look at the LSAT Writing Sample, but mainly to get a sense of whether the applicant in question is really capable of the brilliance on evidence in the SOP. For these reasons, many admissions officers have downplayed the role of the writing sample – you are to take it seriously, but not to stress overmuch.
On the other hand, we have heard from a small number of admissions officers who have indicated that the LSAT Writing Sample really is important to the admission decision. These few sources say (again, very reasonably, in our opinion), that (1) The excellence of an applicant’s SOP has been crafted over weeks or months, and really says more about the applicant as an editor than as a writer, and that (2) The one thing we all know for sure is that the applicant wrote the LSAT Writing Sample, and that she did so under timed conditions, so that (3) The LSAT Writing Sample is maybe the best predictor of a prospective student’s success in law school (which is, like, totally about writing cogently under time pressure). For these reasons, some admissions officers have stressed the importance of the LSAT Writing Sample.
We believe in taking people at their word. When a majority of law schools are saying to us that they don’t really care about the writing sample, our thinking is, “Hey, don’t sweat it; just do your best” (Also, we think you should always do your best no matter what it is that you’re doing). But when a few schools begin to say that they think the thing is important, we tend to reevaluate our stance. Since we’re getting conflicting information, we’re playing it safe; we advise that you take real care with your LSAT Writing Sample. Don’t get all overwrought about it, but do think about how you’ll approach it, and make sure that you give it your best effort on test day.
With that in mind, let’s talk our way through the thing:
It’s always the same format: Some person (or group) has a decision to make, and must take two factors into consideration in making that decision. One option will better fulfill one of the factors, and the other option will better fulfill the other factor. Your assignment is to make an argument in favor of one course of action over the other.
The residents of the Golden Streams retirement community have decided to make it a summer of fun for their members by taking the whole community on a series of day trips to end the summer (for some of them, to end all summers, but, go out doing what you love, we say).
The community has two requirements it must meet in order to keep the retirees happy on their trips:
- The trips must be near the retirement community. These people aren’t as young as they used to be, and they don’t like riding on the bus.
- The trips must be as expensive as possible. These community members all have ungrateful children waiting them out for inheritances they don’t deserve. They want to spend it all before they go to that final Golden Stream in the sky, and they want the last check they write to bounce.
The Golden Streams community planning committee has obtained two offers for the day trips:
The first offer is from the Tour-a-Lot tour company, which proposes to take the residents on a series of trips to local Indian burial grounds. The fun will include scavenging for federally-protected Native American artifacts, drinking small glasses of water at several conveniently-located aid stations, and of course trampling on what little still remains of the sacred grounds of a peaceful, advanced, harmonious society that we’ve decimated. Cost for the tours is $250 per day. Each day’s travel will include bus rides ranging from 4 to 6 hours (round-trip).
The second offer is from Water-Lotta-Fun tours, which proposes to take the senior residents on a series of trips to area water parks. These parks include such popular water amusements as “The Screeching Hurricane of Water Doom Flumes,” “Death Canyon Falls,” and of course, the Lazy River. Cost for the parks will average just under $100 per day, which includes meals from the snack stands and unlimited restroom use. Each day’s travel will comprise bus rides between 30 minutes and 1 hour, round trip.
Your job is to make the strongest argument you can in favor of one of these options over the other. To do this, let’s make use of the following template for writing an ass-kicking LSAT Writing Sample:
- Create a hierarchy of goals. You’ve been given two goals. Decide which one is more important. This is a judgment on your part - choose whichever you can mount the strongest argument for. Explain why that goal is more important than the other.
- Argue that the person (or group) from the prompt should choose the option that better fulfills the more-important goal.
- Mitigate the fact that the unchosen option (probably) better fulfills the lesser goal. Reiterate the hierarchy, and offer some reason(s) why the lesser goal doesn’t matter so much.
- Introduce other considerations. Think beyond the page - what might be important points in favor of your option - or against the other option - that haven’t been addressed by the info in the prompt?
- Wrap it up. Even if it’s just two sentences, leave the essay with a conclusion that reiterates your position.
Let’s put this into practice for the Golden Streams community decision:
The Golden Streams retirement community should conduct their summer day trips with the Tour-a-Lot tour company’s trips to Indian Burial grounds. In making their decision, the community’s members should consider that the stated goal of spending their ingrate childen’s inheritance before they get their greedy hands on it is likely more important to them than the desire to stay close to their residence. After all, the bus rides may last for a few hours at a time, but spending all your money and leaving your children penniless is forever. Given the hierarchical nature of these goals, the choice seems clear - with Tour-a-Lot, the community can spend nearly three times as much money each day as with the competing offer from Water-Lotta-Fun. The chance to spend that money will also come with the benefit of knowing that their time will be spent in dignity, without the need for bathing suits or water shoes. Of course, the competing offer has the inducement of a shorter commute, but the residents must ask themselves at what cost does this shortened drive come? Yes, they’ll spend less bus time with Water-Lotta-Fun, but the very fact of a reduced commute further exacerbates the problem of low expenditure engendered by this option. On the longer rides necessitated by the trip to the burial grounds with Tour-a-Lot, the residents will get a concurrent rise in rest stops, with each stop affording them additional opportunities to spend their children’s inheritances. In this way, even the initially-supposed detriment of the Tour-a-Lot option produces a net gain for the Golden Streams community. Further, the community members would be well-served to bear in mind that speedy travel and profligate spending are not the only considerations in choosing a summer trip. A water park day could prove disastrous for the community, with the threat of sunburn, incontinence, and broken hips brought on by the park’s long lines, frightening rides, and slick surfaces. These dangers must be weighed against the possible gain to be had from the shortening of travel times. As sober consideration is made, the community will doubtless conclude that the water parks, with their concomitant risks of injury and humiliation, would be a far less satisfactory choice than the Indian Burial Grounds. Taken on balance, the choice seems clear: The denizens of the Golden Streams retirement community should opt for the more-expensive, though slightly farther-away, Tour-a-Lot plan over the Water-Lotta-Fun water parks idea. In this way, they can best assure themselves of securing their most important goal, with fewer risks for greater rewards. And their children may never see a red cent!
And that essay took me about 25 minutes to write, which would mean I’d have ten minutes of waiting to get the hell out of that test center. Notice that we accomplished our five goals, and got out. Fast, easy, pattern-dependent, and strong.
And speaking of being fast and easy, tell us how we’re doing: Check us out online or drop us a line at [email protected] , and visit The Forum ( http://www.VelocityLSAT.com/Forum ) to join the conversation, to share your thoughts on Golden Streams or to tell us how we could’ve done better, or to suggest topics for future conversations.
Until next week, be courageous and be true.
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What To Expect on The LSAT Writing Section
By Mehran Ebadolahi Mehran Ebadolahi -->
The LSAT Writing sample is the last item you will complete before submitting your exam. You will likely be mentally exhausted from the stress and effort of completing the other five sections which are challenging and rigidly timed. Despite your exhaustion, powering through this last section to ensure you turn in a strong sample can only help you become a strong candidate for the law schools you're applying to.
In this guide, we'll talk a bit about what to expect on the LSAT writing section and what law schools want to see . Then, we'll show you how to prepare for the writing section , and give you a four-step process for writing a strong essay on test day.
What to Expect on the LSAT Writing Section
You will be given a detailed prompt that lays out a scenario or problem. The prompt will feature two options or solutions to choose from. There is no right answer. You simply choose the option you think best fits the scenario provided.
You can't argue for both or neither. You have to pick a side.
You will then have 35 minutes to craft a persuasive essay in which you argue why the option you chose is the best choice. Your arguments should be based solely on details provided in the prompt. Don't make assumptions and don't use outside examples.
There are no length requirements.
While it is mandatory to complete this section, it is not scored by LSAC. They simply send it to the law schools you listed along with your LSAT scores.
You can find more information about the writing section on the LSAC website .
What Law Schools Expect from Your Writing Sample
As you prepare for this section, you're going to hear some conflicting reports. Some will say the writing section isn't that important. Admissions officers care much more about your personal statement or statement of purpose as a writing sample than your LSAT essay.
This is reasonable. That personal statement shows what you're capable of when given adequate time and resources to craft something really meaningful.
However, other admissions officers argue that the LSAT essay is very important. Your statement of purpose is what you can do when you're not in a rush, when you have friends and family who can edit and provide feedback; in short, when you have time.
The LSAT essay shows how coherent you can be when you're under pressure and have only your own mind to work with. It's a better measure of raw writing talent as well as your own logic and argument skills.
To succeed in law school, you need to be prepared to write lots of essays, including some timed essay exams. For a career in law, your ability to be organized, coherent, and convincing even when you're speaking off the cuff is an important skill.
This LSAT essay is one way to demonstrate that you're capable of successfully completing law school and successfully navigating a career in law.
In the end, you shouldn't worry whether the admissions officers at the schools you're applying to care about the LSAT writing sample. You have to complete it one way or the other so you might as well give it your best effort. After all, this could end up being the item that tips the scale in your favor between you and a similarly strong competitor.
What Makes a Strong LSAT Writing Sample?
This is a spontaneous essay. That means you did not have the resources to do research or thoroughly prepare a perfect essay. It also means you had little to know time to edit or even reread the essay before submitting. The admissions board is not going to be looking for top quality or anything close to perfection.
They are going to be look for evidence of your raw talent. They want to see evidence that you have some fundamental abilities to organize and express a coherent chain of thoughts in written form.
The most important qualities your essay should have include:
- Clear, grammatically correct writing
- Logical, organized structure, including paragraphs that are focused on single, relevant topics
- Arguments that are grounded fully in evidence, not on personal opinions or assumptions
- Clear thesis statement
- Logical conclusion
How to Prepare for the LSAT Writing Sample
Even if you understand the importance of taking some time to practice for the LSAT writing section, it can be hard to know where or how to start. In this section, we'll give you a few tips to make sure you're ready for the writing sample come test day.
Set Your Study Schedule
Because this is an unscored section, it can be hard to justify taking precious study hours away from the scored sections of the LSAT to practice writing short essays. While it shouldn't be the main focus of your study time, devoting an hour or so a week to this will pay off.
Use the 5% rule. If your current LSAT study schedule is 20 hours a week, spend maybe one hour of that time on the writing section. If you're only studying 10 hours a week, spend about half an hour on writing.
Since the section is only 35 minutes, this 5% rule gives you time to practice 1-2 essays each week. That's enough to make sure you have a good rhythm established and you've solidified your approach to organizing your thoughts and managing your time. But it still leaves the majority of your time to study for the scored sections.
Practice Essay Construction
Writing this essay isn't like the normal essay writing process. You won't have any time or resources for research or editing. When you practice writing essays, mimic these conditions as much as possible. Don't rely on outside research. Don't write as if you have all the time in the world to edit and review.
Use only the writing prompt material and make sure you spend enough time clearly defining the requirements and planning out the structure of your essay. Use the following process to craft an essay.
- Read the prompt and create an outline of the requirements and the details. This should include what the problem or scenario is, what your two options are, and what the details of each option are.
- Create an outline. Your outline should include your introduction paragraph, at least three body paragraphs, and your conclusion paragraph. The introduction paragraph should include a clear thesis statement. Each paragraph should have a clear main topic with 2-3 supporting details or examples. The conclusion should simply summarize the argument you made in the essay.
- Write your essay. Take it one paragraph at a time. Refer to your outline to make sure each paragraph stays on topic and follows logically from the one before it. Also make sure you aren't including any of your own assumptions or opinions not grounded in specific details from the prompt.
- Edit your essay. Take a few minutes to read through your essay and correct spelling, grammar, and sentence structure.
- Critique your essay. Since this is a practice essay, read through it as if you were an admissions officer. How clear is the thesis statement? Do the body paragraphs really help support the thesis? Are all of the details and examples from the prompt? Do the arguments make sense?
For your first couple practice essays, time yourself but don't cut yourself at 35 minutes. Take the time you need to complete the process fully. Just use the timer to get a base measure of how long it currently takes you to finish an essay.
After those first couple sessions, work on completing the process a little faster each time until you get it down below 35 minutes.
Once you've successfully completed a practice essay that you're proud of in under 35 minutes, you're ready for the test! You don't need to continue practicing after this unless you feel like you'd benefit from a couple more sessions.
Find Writing Prompts
In your LSAT study guides, you will find some example prompts that you can use to practice writing your LSAT writing sample. If you run out of sample prompts, you can give yourself prompts based on other material.
For example, you might look at the business or politics section of a news site. Find an article discussing a policy debate in congress, a potential business merger, or a similar issue that has multiple sides. Based solely on the information provided in the article, identify two potential options, pick a side, and write a persuasive essay defending your decision.
Say you find an article about your local city council deciding whether to fund the construction of a new elementary school by either raising property taxes on residents or pulling funding from the parks department. Choose which option you prefer and write an essay explaining why, using evidence pulled only from that article.
If you find an article about a company that's deciding between either developing its own new product or buying out its competitor, decide which of those options you would choose as CEO of that company and write an essay about it.
Plan Your Test Day LSAT Writing Schedule
To create a strong LSAT writing sample in just 35 minutes, time management is key. If you spent enough time practicing the skills, you should be able to do all the necessary planning and execution within that time frame. Here's a sample of what your test day schedule might look like:
- 3 minutes: Read the prompt and breakdown the topic.
- 7 minutes: Write out a paragraph by paragraph outline
- 20 minutes: Write your essay. Referring to the outline to create each paragraph.
- 5 minutes: Quickly read through the essay to clean out any glaring errors or mistakes.
You can alter the timing based on the results of your practice writing. For example, if you find that you need less time for outlining but more time for editing, adjust to reflect those needs. If you tend to edit as you go and would rather use more time to write and then just do a quick final read-through, go for it.
4 Step LSAT Writing Process
Let's take a look at that schedule in action. For this sample, we'll use the prompt example provided on the LSAC website.
In the prompt, you are asked to use the details provided to choose either a "national plan" or the "regional plan" proposed to help a fictional company meet two goals: increase profits and ensure long-term financial stability.
Here's how the process might look:
Step 1: Read and breakdown the prompt (3 minutes)
The breakdown of the prompt might look like this:
- Increase company profits
- Ensure long-term financial stability
- Only well-known in home region
- Has a strong positive reputation among those who know it
- Facing increasing competition in home region
- Has strong customer loyalty
- The plan: open multiple men's clothing stores nationwide
- Ability to offer lower prices due to savings from buying at scale
- Would improve company's ability to compete with the national chains that are moving into its home region
- Dramatic increase in profits, if successful
- Requires taking on a lot of debt
- Require spending a lot on additional staff, marketing, and distribution
- High risk of failure and expensive if it does fail
- The plan: Increase number and size of stores in current region and upgrade service and product quality
- No need to take on new debt
- No need to hire lots of new staff or investing more in marketing and distribution
- Ability to charge higher prices for higher quality
- A test run of this plan in one store showed increased sales and profits
- High population growth in current region means growing customer base
- Doesn't address price competition from the competitor chains in their region
- Limited growth potential since the company isn't expand into new regions
Every single bullet point above was stated in the prompt. No outside information or assumptions were made. Your breakdown of the prompt should be an outline of the facts that were presented to you, free of personal opinion.
You'll use this as a reference when creating your outline to make sure your supporting arguments are directly founded on details in the prompt. Creating this breakdown will help cut down the time you spend referring to the prompt for details.
Step 2: Write your outline (7 minutes)
From the above, we can see that the choice is between the high risk, high reward national plan or the low risk, low reward regional plan. For the sake of the essay, let's go for the high risk, high reward option. Now, let's outline our argument:
- 2-3 sentences describing the issue stated in the prompt and the company's current position.
- Thesis: The national plan is the most suitable choice to meet both of the company's stated goals of increasing profits and ensuring long-term financial stability.
- National plan allows company to maintain prices that are the same or lower than their competitors
- Increases the number of potential customers
- Potential to decrease per unit cost by buying at a larger scale will also increase profit margin
- Company will be better protected from regional market fluctuations (e.g.- local recessions)
- Opportunity to expand into regions with lower competition will hedge against potential profit loss from the high competition in current region
- Positive local reputation suggests their business model is already strong
- Existing customer loyalty will provide stability while they get established in new regions
- The national plan may come with higher risk and higher costs but the company is currently in a strong position and this plan better satisfies both of the company's stated goals.
As you can see, the introduction simply restates the prompt in a couple sentences and then briefly states your response to the prompt.
Then, each paragraph focuses on one specific argument that supports your thesis. The arguments were each pulled from the prompt. You're not using any outside information or examples to support your thesis. You're just using what you know from the details provided in the prompt.
Three supporting paragraphs is a good number to aim for. It's enough to show that your argument is well thought-out and evidence based. But it's not so much that you won't have time to write them all out in the 35 minutes you have to complete the assignment.
If you have clear ideas for 4-5 supporting paragraphs, and each one directly relates to the prompt, go for it. However, any more than that, your essay will likely be too long to finish in time.
Finally, the conclusion summarizes the key points you discussed in the essay and restates your original thesis that the national plan is the preferred choice.
Step 3: Write your essay (20 minutes)
With an outline like the one above, your essay is already mostly written. For this step, focus on one paragraph at a time, turning each bullet point into a complete thought in 1-2 sentences. Make sure to include smooth transitions between each paragraph.
Don't concern yourself too much with language. Focus on getting your point across and packing in evidence to support your claims. You don't need to use the most advanced or academic sounding words you can think of. You just need to be convincing.
Often, the most convincing arguments are the ones that are most clearly and concisely stated. So, skip the thesaurus and just write naturally, using grammatically correct sentences.
Step 4: Edit your essay (5 minutes)
After you've fleshed out your outline into a full essay, use any remaining time on the clock to read through it and fix any major errors. Don't read too closely or get too finicky about perfecting the word choice.
Instead, just skim through it looking for obvious spelling errors and grammar mistakes or sentences that just don't make any sense.
If you end up finishing all four steps in less than 35 minutes, don't turn it in early. Just use the extra time to do a closer edit. While the admissions officers won't be looking for polished perfection, it won't hurt to get as close to polished as you can.
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LSAT Writing ®
Write for success in your legal education journey
Persuasive writing skills are key to law school success. Law school faculty care about their students’ ability to organize evidence into a position and argue logically in writing that is structurally sound. In fact, in LSAC’s most recent LSAT Skills Analysis Study , law school faculty identified these writing skills as among the top 10 skills needed for success in law school.
LSAT Writing is included in the LSAT ® to give law school candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their persuasive writing skills. Although LSAT Writing samples don’t receive a score, they are considered by law school admission committees when reviewing individuals’ applications. Each law school uses LSAT Writing in its own way. However, most law schools view LSAT Writing samples as an integral part of their admission decisions.
LSAT Writing is a proctored, on-demand writing exam that is administered online using secure proctoring software that is installed on the candidate’s computer.
LSAC’s approach to this section has shortened the LSAT test day and provides more flexibility for candidates taking the exam by letting them complete the writing portion at a convenient time and place of their choosing. LSAT Writing opens eight (8) days prior to every test administration. Candidates must have a complete writing sample in their file in order to see their LSAT score or have their score released to schools.
LSAT Writing uses the same decision-prompt structure that schools and candidates are already familiar with from previous LSAT administrations. This structure is specifically designed to elicit the kind of argumentative writing that candidates will be expected to produce in law school. Candidates will still be given 35 minutes to write an essay in response to the prompt that is presented to them.
Quick Facts about LSAT Writing
LSAT Writing is a remote-proctored online writing exam, delivered through LSAC LawHub ® . The test lasts 35 minutes and can be taken on-demand, anywhere in the world with a strong and stable internet connection.
LSAT Writing becomes available to first-time LSAT takers 8 days prior to the start of their LSAT administration. To ensure your LSAT score is released on time, we recommend completing your writing sample as soon as possible.
Required for LSAT Scoring
LSAT Writing samples are not scored, but LSAT Writing is a required part of the LSAT. Your LSAT score cannot be released to you or to law schools if you haven’t completed an LSAT Writing sample.
Take a Practice Writing Prompt
Through your free LSAC LawHub account, you have access to an official Writing Sample Practice Prompt that can help you prepare for exam day. This writing prompt was part of a real LSAT administration in 2016 and is representative of the kind of prompts currently used in the LSAT Writing assessment. Since LSAT Writing is being administered through LawHub (starting in late May 2022), you can use this prompt to get familiar with both the content and the interface of the LSAT Writing exam.
You can sign into LawHub with your LSAC username and password.
Learn How to Verify Your ID on Exam Day
valid, government-issued photo ID . We’ve compiled a list of tips, so you’ll know what to do (and not do!) when it’s time to photograph your ID on exam day. If your LSAT Writing sample is flagged due to ID issues, it could delay the release of your LSAT score.-->To begin your LSAT Writing exam, you’ll need to take a photo of your valid, government-issued photo ID. Please ensure that the photo of your ID is clear and recognizable. Images of IDs that are blurry, out of focus, or unrecognizable will not be accepted and your writing sample will be canceled. Please review the image of your ID on your screen for clarity before capturing the image.
Review ID Requirements
Let Us Know If You Don’t Have the Necessary Equipment or a Quiet Place to Test
LSAC is committed to ensuring test takers have the equipment and other resources they need to take the LSAT and LSAT Writing. If you don’t have the required equipment, internet access, or a quiet place to take the test, please complete the Assistance Request form in your LSAC online account by the assistance request deadline associated with your test administration. We will work with you to try to address your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions About Testing
How do i register for lsat writing.
One administration of LSAT Writing is included in your LSAT registration. By registering for the LSAT, you will be automatically eligible to complete the writing section as of eight (8) days before you take the multiple-choice portion of the LSAT. You can access LSAT Writing from your LSAC online account.
NOTE: The LSAT registration fee includes both the multiple-choice portion of the LSAT and LSAT Writing. There are no additional fees associated with LSAT Writing.
When can I take LSAT Writing?
Candidates are eligible to take LSAT Writing starting eight (8) days prior to their LSAT administration. For your LSAT to be considered complete, you will need to take the LSAT Writing section of the test if you do not already have a writing sample on file from a previous LSAT administration. Most law schools require a writing sample as an integral part of their admission decision, and therefore, you should take the writing sample immediately to meet schools’ application deadlines. Your writing sample will be shared with you and the law schools to which you have applied as soon as it is complete. Candidates will be required to have a completed writing sample in their file in order to see their test score or have their score released to law schools.
How long do I have to complete LSAT Writing?
Candidates will be given 35 minutes to write an essay in response to the prompt that is presented to them.
If you do not have a writing sample on file, we encourage you to complete LSAT Writing as soon as you can. LSAT Writing opens eight (8) days prior to every test administration. Candidates must have a complete writing sample in their file in order to see their score or have their score released to schools. Most law schools require a writing sample as an integral part of their admission decision, and therefore, you should take the writing sample immediately to meet schools’ application deadlines.
In case you are not applying in the current cycle, please note you have a maximum of a year to take LSAT Writing. For questions, please contact LSAC’s Candidate Services team at [email protected] or 215.968.1001 .
What can I use to write notes since scratch paper is prohibited?
Unlike the multiple-choice portion of the LSAT, physical scratch paper and writing utensils are not permitted during the standard administration of LSAT Writing. Instead, the LSAT Writing interface includes a built-in, digital “Scratch Paper” section where you’ll be able to type notes, instead of writing them on a physical piece of scratch paper.
How is test security managed for LSAT Writing?
The secure proctoring platform uses input from the webcam, microphone, and screen of the candidate’s own computer to ensure that the writing sample is the candidate’s own work, and that the candidate is not receiving any inappropriate assistance.
Prior to the exam, candidates will complete a video check-in process. As part of the check-in process, candidates will be required to clearly display a physical, valid government-issued photo ID issued by the United States of America, U.S. Territories, Canada, or Australia or an international passport for the camera to capture. This image must not be blurry or out of focus. Candidates will also be required to show their workspace using their webcam, to ensure that only permissible items are in that space. The room will be scanned to make sure no other people or prohibited items are in the room. Candidates who require additional items in their workspace due to a disability may seek appropriate accommodations through the standard procedures for requesting testing accommodations .
The proctoring software will automatically close any messaging, word-processing, or web-browsing applications before the exam begins and prevent such applications from being opened during the exam.
Audio and video from every testing session will be reviewed by trained proctors.
Please review the Test and Test-Taker Security FAQs for more information.
View more LSAT Writing FAQs
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Unit 1: Lesson 2
- A brief introduction to the LSAT
About the writing sample
- How to take a practice LSAT
- Digital LSAT and LSAT-Flex
What's the LSAT Writing Sample?
What’s the task, what’s a good approach.
- Language usage
- Ability to defend a position
- Writing mechanics
Directions: The scenario presented below describes two choices, either one of which can be supported on the basis of the information given. Your essay should consider both choices and argue for one over the other, based on the two specified criteria and the facts provided. There is no “right” or “wrong” choice: a reasonable argument can be made for either. Prompt: Two pediatricians are deciding whether to relocate their small practice 10 miles away, to a large medical pavilion downtown, or to keep their present office and also open a second office about 20 miles away across the city. Using the facts below, write an essay in which you argue for one choice over the other based on the following two criteria: The doctors want to attract new patients. The doctors want to keep their current patients. The Laurel Medical Pavilion is a new collection of medical office buildings adjacent to the city’s major hospital. The pavilion is convenient to public transportation. It offers ample free parking space. Although office space in the pavilion is expensive, it is going fast. The space the pediatricians would lease includes five examination rooms, sufficient office space, and a large waiting area that the doctors would be able to furnish as they like. The pavilion leases space to doctors in a wide variety of fields. It contains facilities for a wide range of laboratory and diagnostic testing.
The space the doctors are considering leasing as a second office is, like their present premises, a 100-year-old Victorian house in a largely residential area full of young families. The house has a large fenced-in yard and off-street parking space for five vehicles. The first floor of the house was recently remodeled to suit the needs of a small medical practice. Like their present premises, it contains three examination rooms, a small waiting area, and ample office space. The second floor has not been converted into suitable working space. The option of doing so is available to the doctors.
How might we start?
- Relocate 10 miles away (large medical pavilion downtown)
- Keep present office and open second office about 20 miles away across the city.
- Attract new patients
- Keep current patients
- Less chance of losing current patients since they can continue to go to the present office
- Largely residential area full of young families (good for attracting new patients since they’re pediatricians)
- Two offices should attract more new patients than one office would
- One weakness of chosen decision: It’s true that the space the pediatricians are considering for their second office is less spacious than the downtown office would be, but there’s a whole second floor that could be converted into working space in the future, which could allow the pediatricians to expand the number of examination rooms and the waiting area.
- One strength of rejected decision: While the downtown office does have immediate proximity to health services such as laboratories and diagnostic testing,
- It comes with the steep literal price of renting the office space, and
- The steep figurative price of losing current clientele who don’t want to travel 10 miles downtown.
- The doctors would lose out on the thriving market of young families that the second office would represent.
A few final thoughts on the writing sample
- Spelling matters. As a general rule, if you aren’t sure how to spell something, it’s best to use a different word that you do know how to spell. That said, on Test Day, LSAT Writing's interface includes a spell check feature!
- Choose a side and stick with it. Be confident in your decision— don’t ride the fence and try to make a strong case for both decisions.
- Write clearly. Practice writing legibly in pencil if you don’t feel confident about your ability to do so.
- Don’t get fancy. This isn’t a “law school essay.” Everything you need to draw upon is in the writing prompt, so you shouldn’t be pulling in any outside knowledge beyond what’s common knowledge.
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Writing The LSAT Writing Sample (10 Best Tips)
The LSAT writing sample exercise takes only 35 minutes and is administered once you complete the regular four sections of the test.
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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, tip 2 – does your writing sample count toward the overall lsat score do law schools even look at it.
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.
Tip 3 – Can you actually 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.
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 almost never 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.
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.
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.
Tip 7 – What materials can you use when writing it?
Tip 8 – what are the sample questions (writing prompts) you might get.
The corporation is in a time of turbulent change and explosive growth, etc.
3) Additional information that will help you build your case – for example:
Tip 9 – How to write a great LSAT essay?
Additional tips for crushing the writing sample:
Tip 10 – Don’t concentrate on the writing sample too hard. Focus on the test questions instead and get a high score
You will probably find it best to spend a few minutes considering the prompt and organizing your thoughts before you begin writing. In your
Top 5 Tips for the LSAT Writing Sample · 1. Know what you are up against. · 2. Pick a side, and go with it. · 3. Lead with your conclusion, and
Don't waste much time worrying about which side you argue for. The issue is designed in such a way that a reasonable argument can be made for
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How To Attack the LSAT Writing Sample · Create a hierarchy of goals. · Argue that the person (or group) from the prompt should choose the option that better
What Makes a Strong LSAT Writing Sample? · Clear, grammatically correct writing · Logical, organized structure, including paragraphs that are focused on single
Step-by-Step Instructions for Launching LSAT Writing · Agreeing to exam rules, terms, and conditions. · Installing the ProctorU extension. · Performing the
LSAT Writing · Quick Facts about LSAT Writing · Take a Practice Writing Prompt · Learn How to Verify Your ID on Exam Day · Let Us Know If You Don't Have the
One simple structure for the writing sample is to make a decision in the first paragraph and defend it, then address one potential strength of the decision you
Tip 9 – How to write a great LSAT essay? · Make sure you stick to the topic. · Take sides – this is crucial – you can't be vague and vacillating.