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Ultimate Guide to the LSAT Writing Sample

The LSAT contains four scored sections (two logical reasoning, one logic games, and one reading comprehension), one unscored experimental section (which could be any of the previously mentioned section types), and one writing sample. This post will give you an idea of exactly what to expect on the writing sample and how to do well on it.
LSAT writing sample

The LSAT writing sample is given after all five of the other sections, and it is unscored. You will have thirty-five minutes to complete it, and you will be provided with one sheet of scratch paper and two sheets of lined paper to write on. You cannot write more than what will fit on the two lined pages, and you must write with a pencil. The LSAT writing prompt is often called a decision prompt because it asks you to make a decision between two choices. These are the current LSAT writing sample instructions provided by LSAC:
 

    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.


 
In most cases, one of the choices will be better at achieving one of the criteria presented, and the other decision will more effectively address the other criteria. Check out LSAC’s website for a couple of sample writing topics.

LSAT Writing Sample: The Approach

1. Analyze the prompt. Start by taking about five minutes to analyze the two choices looking specifically for the pros and cons of each choice. Use your scratch paper to take notes on the content. You don’t want to spend too much time analyzing the prompt since you only have thirty-five minutes. Many students find that they spend so much time thinking about the prompt that they run out of time to actually write about it. Thirty-five minutes goes by much faster than you think it will, so in your LSAT preparation, make sure you do at least one timed writing sample so you get an idea of how long it takes to write.
 
2. Make a choice. The two choices will be pretty evenly matched, and some students are tempted to make a choice that “splits the baby” by either coming up with their own compromise position or saying that either choice will work equally. Since the instructions tell you to “argue for one over the other,” you must pick one of the choices. Which one you choose doesn’t matter. You may even decide ahead of time to go with whichever choice is presented first (or second if that’s your fancy). That way you don’t waste valuable time analyzing which of two equal choices is better.
 
3. Make an outline. Admissions committees will be looking for a writing sample that is well organized, so make sure you set up a loose outline before you start writing. Your outline should include four major topics–the pros of your choice, the cons of your choice, the pros of the opposing choice, and cons of the opposing choice. Put these items in an order that makes sense to you, and then get ready to write.
 
4. Write. Start your writing with a simple statement outlining your choice. After that, stick to your outline. You will probably only have time to write about two to three sentences per topic for each of the four topics mentioned above, but make sure you cover them all. In addition to saying why your choice is so great, the best writing samples will include an honest presentation of what is wrong with your choice and then a reason why those weaknesses are not a big deal. Likewise, you need to acknowledge that the opposition is not all bad. After you acknowledge those strengths, make sure you downplay them.
 
Lots of students try to make the writing sample easier by bringing in new information that is either made up or comes from their own stored knowledge. This actually makes for a weaker writing sample, so be sure to avoid it. The people reading your sample want to see how well you can argue. Adding facts that support your position while leaving out additional facts that support your opposition does not show your ability to argue. It merely shows that you can write a narrative.
 
Make sure you leave yourself enough to time to close your writing sample with a concise conclusion. Writing samples that end mid-thought are weaker than those that end with a strong and concise statement of the position you argued in favor of.
 
5. Check for errors. If possible, try to leave yourself one minute at the end of the writing sample to go through your essay and check for errors. Correct any errors as neatly as you can by either erasing the offending language or striking through it with a single line.

LSAT Writing Sample: The Impact

Every law school you apply to will receive a copy of your LSAT writing sample, and they will all want to see that you have taken it seriously. Additionally, LSAC requires you to submit a writing sample and reserves the right to cancel your score if you don’t. However, admissions committees know that the writing sample is an unscored section given after a grueling test, and they don’t expect it to be the best example of your academic writing. Do your best on it, but don’t agonize over it. It is very unlikely to have a significant impact on your chances of getting into a certain law school.

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