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LSAT Writing Sample: A Step by Step Example

Law School Writing Sample - image by Magoosh

Does the LSAT writing sample matter for law school admissions? Absolutely! First, you must have a completed LSAT writing sample on record in order to see your LSAT score and in order for schools to get your LSAT score.

But more importantly, even though the writing sample isn’t scored, it will be included as part of your law school application and admissions committees have the option to evaluate it as part of their decisions. So, make sure to prepare for the writing sample. By following these basic steps, you can write a clear and persuasive essay that showcases your argumentative writing.


 

Table of Contents

In this post, we’ll walk you through the basics of the LSAT writing sample, then show you step-by-step how to approach it using a real LSAT prompt from a past exam.


 

LSAT Writing Sample Basics

Since we’re talking about the writing sample, we thought it’d be helpful to give a brief overview of this section. You have 35 minutes to complete the LSAT writing sample portion of the test. Since the introduction of the Digital LSAT, you now take the LSAT writing section using a secure proctoring software. You’re able to choose the day and time you take this part of the exam (so yes, that means you can complete the LSAT writing sample at home).

As of July 2020, anyone taking the LSAT-Flex or any future tests must have a complete writing sample on file before they can get their scores. In other words, your LSAT scores won’t be released until you complete the online LSAT writing sample. So, we don’t recommend putting off your LSAT writing sample for too long after your LSAT test day. If you’re feeling dread at the thought of completing this step of your law school application process, don’t worry; our LSAT experts are here to show you exactly how to approach the writing sample!

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The Decision Prompt and Directions

The LSAT writing prompt is often called a “decision prompt” because it asks you to make a decision between two choices based on the information provided. These choices can be anything from what pet a person should get to what kind of community center a town should build. There will be pros and cons for each choice. These choices don’t require any special knowledge of the topic—just use the information provided. The test-writers also don’t necessarily prefer one choice over the other—the point is that you must make a decision with your limited time and defend your decision well.

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 are no right or wrong answers: 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.

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LSAT Writing Sample: How to Approach It

Example LSAT Writing Sample Prompt

Click here to view the LSAT writing sample prompt (taken from The Official LSAT Sample PrepTest of June 2007).

The June 2007 LSAT writing sample describes a decision that “BLZ Stores” have to make. They’re aiming to expand their stores and must choose a plan that should ideally accomplish two things. First, they want to increase their profits. Second, they want to ensure long-term financial stability.

We must choose between the national plan (to expand across the country in a short time) and the regional plan (to increase the number and size of stores in the company’s home region and upgrade their facilities, product quality, and service). Next, we’ll break down the decision-prompt structure and walk you through the key steps to writing a great LSAT writing sample.

Step 1: Brainstorm and Make an Outline

Click to show more about step 1

The first step for the LSAT writing sample is to brainstorm. Take a moment to think about which option you can defend most easily. Once you’ve decided, quickly outline the points you’ll make to defend it. 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:

  • Pros of your choice
  • Cons of your choice
  • Pros of the opposing choice
  • Cons of the opposing choice

Put these items in an order that makes sense to you, and then get ready to write. In this example, let’s go ahead and choose the “regional plan” because:

  • It’s the safer, more conservative option for the moment.
  • The national plan puts BLZ Stores at a greater financial risk.
  • It can be the first step towards national expansion in the future.

Step 2: Begin Writing & Briefly Summarize Your Choice

Click to show more about step 2

The second step is to begin your LSAT writing sample. Start your intro paragraph by briefly summarizing what you’ll be discussing. It can go like this:

BLZ Stores is facing an important decision for its business trajectory. In order to expand, the company must choose between a national plan and a regional plan. Ultimately, its aim is to maximize profits and ensure stability in the future. This is a challenging decision because one option, the national plan, offers the potential of dramatic profits. The other option, the regional plan, is significantly more conservative and may not produce as much profit.

Step 3: Make Your Choice and Give Support

Click to show more about step 3

Next, continue the essay by announcing the option you think is best and why. It’s very important that you give at least three solid reasons why you’ve made your choice. At this stage, you can mention how it fulfills at least one of the main considerations better than the other option. Even if it doesn’t fulfill both perfectly, it might do an okay job with one consideration and a great job with the second.

Lots of students try to make the LSAT 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.

Law school admissions committees want to see how well you can argue using the facts provided. Think of the facts given in the prompt like evidence in a trial. While you can and should make reasonable arguments and inferences based on the evidence, you don’t get to make evidence up on your own.

Despite the difficulty of the choice, one option is better than the other. BLZ Stores should opt for the regional plan. Firstly, the regional plan takes advantage of BLZ Stores’ favorable position in its local area. It is already a well-known and well-liked brand, so if it is to expand it should begin in an area where it’s most likely to succeed.

Secondly, since BLZ Stores is facing competition from other stores that can offer lower prices, the company should spend more time on its branding and marketing. It is important that if a company can’t offer the lowest prices, it offers ample reasons for customers to spend more at their store. For example, BLZ Stores can make its name synonymous with quality, luxury, or top-class shopping experience. This strategy will help defend the company against its increasing competition.

Most importantly, the national plan will place too much of the company’s focus on expansion. There will not be enough resources to fine-tune this marketing strategy. Thus, in the long run, it puts the company more at risk for huge financial losses.

Additionally, although the regional plan has less potential for immediate large profits than the national plan, it at least offers the chance of a fair amount of profits. It is a good balance of risk and reward.

Step 4: Acknowledge the Other Option’s Pros and Cons

Click to show more about step 4

Be sure to acknowledge the arguments in favor of the other option while discussing why those arguments don’t support your option as strongly. If you can’t think of a rebuttal to a particular point, that’s okay. You can always acknowledge that point and say that it doesn’t outweigh the factors in favor of the option you chose.

Next, it’s important to note that while the national plan offers the potential of higher profits, it is also a very high risk for BLZ Stores. Other companies in presumably better positions have failed at dramatic, national expansions. Since this company aims to ensure long-term financial stability, it’s not in its best interest to take such a significant risk. Plus, the risk is amplified by the fact that they are not well-known outside of their hometown.

Step 5: Reiterate Why Your Choice Is the Best and Summarize Your Argument

Click to show more about step 5

Make sure you leave yourself enough 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.

If possible, also try to leave yourself one minute at the end of the LSAT writing sample to go through your essay and check for errors.

In the end, BLZ Stores should choose the regional plan because it takes advantage of its good position in its community, offers a fair amount of profits, and can allow the company to improve its branding and popularity for the future. Although the national plan might produce higher profits if it succeeds, it does not satisfy the company’s objective of having long-term financial stability. With a solid strategy in mind, BLZ Stores are bound to fare better under the regional plan.

 
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How do I practice LSAT writing?

The best way to hone your LSAT writing skills is to write practice essays and compare it to our step-by-step guide. Did you clearly make a decision and back it up with evidence from the information provided? Did you lay out the pros and cons of your side and the opposition’s? Keep all this in mind as you review your practice essays.

To get you started, here are a few more LSAT writing sample topics for you to practice with. Click the arrow below each prompt to view an example writing sample response from our LSAT expert, Kevin.

1. A City Newspaper – Business Decision – Preptest 46

For its new Arts & Leisure column, the Tribune must choose between a theater review and a restaurant review. You must help them choose one over the other, considering two major concerns–increasing circulation/advertising and helping revitalize the Lakewood district.

Click to show LSAT writing sample response

The Tribune should add a theater review to its Arts and Leisure section, since it would be more effective than a restaurant review at increasing circulation, advertising revenue, and Lakewood district business.

A theater review would dramatically increase readership of the Tribune since, despite the presence of many major theaters in the city, there is currently no competing theater review column. The Tribune has an opportunity to hire a distinguished reviewer from another metro area’s newspaper, and she is likely to accept a job at the Tribune since she wants to return home to the city. The fact that she would be the only theater reviewer in the city combined with her prestigious background as a critic would allow the Tribune to dominate the theater review space, much like how the Standard has a significant advantage in the area of restaurant reviews. Although the Tribune’s current readers have not yet expressed demand for a theater column, it is clear that interest in theater in the city is growing, and would inevitably grow further still with an excellent column publicizing the musicals and plays staged by the city’s major theaters. Advertising in the Tribune from theaters is likely to follow once they see a growing audience, accelerated by the Tribune’s star reviewer.

Although Tribune readers are receptive to a restaurant review column, the only reviewer available is someone less prestigious than the Standard’s reviewer and unlikely to draw as large an audience. This potential reviewer is also non-traditional, and there is no evidence that Tribune readers would be receptive to a radically different approach to theater reviews.

Not only would a theater review attract more readers than a restaurant review, it would also revitalize the Lakewood district more effectively. The Lakewood district’s restaurant scene is already flourishing, so the marginal benefit of helping drive traffic to restaurants in the area is likely to be low. On the other hand, there is no evidence that the theaters in Lakewood district are flourishing to the same extent, so the potential impact of a great reviewer to increase interest is much larger. Furthermore, the audience at Lakewood theaters will almost certainly patronize the restaurants and bars in the area, since they will need to eat. This doesn’t work the other way. People who go to the Lakewood restaurants are unlikely to casually drop by the theater on their way to or back from dinner.

For these reasons, a theater review represents a better opportunity than a restaurant review for increasing circulation, advertising, and business in the Lakewood district.

2. An Architect Gets a Partnership Offer – Life Decision – Preptest 46

A landscape architect has to choose between partnering with a larger firm or continuing to work for himself, considering his reputation and interest in the work he’s doing.

Click to show LSAT writing sample response

Gunot should accept S-Scapes’s offer, since it would be more effective than continuing to work for himself at increasing his engagement with his work and at advancing his professional reputation.

At S-Scapes, Gunot is likely to work on a wide variety of interesting projects across the entire nation. Not only would he have the opportunity to work on public parks, an area in which he has a prior interest and demonstrated success, but he’d also work on gardens and private commissions, each of which is likely to be unique. The fact that Gunot would be working across the country on these projects is likely to create more engagement than a career focused only on more local projects, which is what he’d be doing by himself. Moreover, since S-Scapes has a dedicated office manager, Gunot could avoid the drudgery of administrative work and spend more time on the kind of work that inspires him.

Although there are aspects of working at S-Scapes that might decrease his engagement with work, those same drawbacks would exist even if Gunot worked for himself. For example, decisions on which projects to undertake would be made jointly by Gunot and the two other partners at S-Scapes, which could lead to projects that Gunot would not prefer. However, as a solo Gunot has already had to accept jobs he doesn’t like for financial reasons. In addition, if Gunot brings on another architect to his own firm, he is likely to have to take that architect’s preferences into account when deciding projects to work on; he’d be in a partnership just like he would be at S-Scapes.

Besides being a more interesting and engaging opportunity, the S-Scapes position would also dramatically increase Gunot’s professional reputation. S-Scapes is a nationally-known firm and has won national awards. Although Gunot may be successful locally, it will be difficult for him to attract customers in an entirely different part of the country without a platform like the one S-Scapes offers. In addition, Gunot is likely to improve his design skills at S-Scapes through close collaboration with his two partners, who are highly successful architects in their own right. On his own, Gunot’s skills might stagnate.

For these reasons, Gunot should accept S-Scapes’s offer rather than remaining a solo designer.

3. Summer Care for the Wang Family – Life Decision – Preptest 62

The Wangs must choose between two summer programs for their 10-year-old. They must consider how the summer care would add variety to their child’s experience and how easy transportation will be for them. Each of the two programs has pros and cons that may satisfy one consideration or the other.

Click to show LSAT writing sample response

The Wangs should choose Round Lake Camp for their child instead of City Summer, since, although both options are about equal when it comes to their ability to accommodate the Wangs’ work situations, the Camp has a clear advantage in providing more varied and unusual activities.

Round Lake Camp offers many activities that the Wangs’ child is unlikely to participate in during the regular school experience. Activities like sailing, archery, and wilderness survival are not among the regular activities at a normal elementary school. The Camp’s concluding camping trip is almost certainly something that would never happen at a normal school. Compare these with the offerings at City Summer: visual arts, drama, music, gymnastics, gym activities. Every elementary school class will have students draw, paint, and otherwise participate in arts and crafts activities. Similarly, a regular elementary school class is likely to put on small plays and skits and invite students to play a basic instrument. And, basketball and volleyball are extremely common activities that the Wangs’ child will have the option of doing during recess or P.E class. The only unusual activity offered at City Summer is gymnastics, but this does not outweigh the larger variety of uncommon activities at the Camp. The final activity at City Summer, a presentation of student work from the classes, is just like the dozens of presentations that the Wangs’ child is likely to do as part of regular school. Furthermore, the Camp will also add variety to the regular school experience through the fact that it’s outside the city. The Wang’s child will likely be more interested in the sights and sounds of nature than those of a standard city block, which is what you’d hear along the commute to City Summer. Given the distinct advantage of Round Lake Camp in offering variety to the regular school experience, it makes sense to choose the Camp over City Summer.

One might respond to this argument by suggesting that City Summer’s location and more-flexible pick-up and drop-off times make it easier for the Wangs to arrange for their child’s transportation. However, this is not the case. Although the pick-up and drop-off times of Round Lake Camp are fixed, Mr. Wang can reliably drop off their child at a pick-up location near his work in the morning. When Mr. Wang works late, Mrs. Wang, who has more flexible hours, can retrieve their child in the afternoon when the bus drops him off near Mr. Wang’s work. Or, since there are multiple drop-off locations for the Camp’s buses, the Wangs could look into a drop-off location closer to Mrs. Wang’s work when necessary. And, if both Mr. Wang and Mrs. Wang are unable to pick up their child, the child may be able to walk to Mr. Wang’s work from the nearby drop-off location and hang out there until Mr. Wang is finished. These arrangements, none of which are perfect, are not clearly worse than the arrangements the Wangs would have to make with City Summer.

For these reasons, the Wangs should choose Round Lake Camp for their child this summer.

 
Now that you’ve gotten a step-by-step LSAT writing sample example, you should be ready to try it on your own! Try to complete these practice essays within the 35-minute assignment time limit. For more advice on how to tackle this important LSAT section, check out these five tips for the LSAT writing sample.
 

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