Page 1 Writing Sample Study Guide for the LSAT®
Preparing for the LSAT Writing Sample
At the end of your LSAT testing sessions, you will be given 35 minutes to plan and write an essay on a given prompt. Even though your writing will not be scored, the sample will be sent to every law school to which you apply, along with your LSAT scores. Also, while there will be no low score to keep you out of a law school, law schools have been known to reject applicants who fail to respond to the prompt or who have done so in a frivolous manner.
For the writing sample, you will be asked to choose between two courses of action or two positions on a problem. Your job will not be to make the “correct” choice, because there is not one. It will be possible to defend both of the choices given. You will, however, need to make a choice, support that choice well, and discredit the other choice with substantial evidence.
Your writing for this sample will be limited to the front and back of a separate response page. Keep in mind that the paper you submit will be copied and sent to law schools. Write neatly and stay within the space provided. Words written outside the lined space will not be copied.
Spending some time on this part of the LSAT would be to your advantage for several reasons. Doing well on it could boost your chances of law school acceptance and a poor response could harm them. It will be assumed by law schools that this sample is a true indication of your writing ability and it will be compared to other writing you submit. Additionally, law schools may use your performance on this essay to plan any remediation studies that are necessary to improve your writing. So, it is important to do your very best on this, as well as on other sections of the test.
Professionals in legal education designed and validated the LSAT writing sample prompt. The topics are generally of a nonlegal nature, but the type of writing being sought is much like that you will be required to do in law school. The Writing Sample is designed to test your ability to do these things:
communicate effectively in written form
write in an argumentative form that is typical of writing required in law school
Writing Skills to Practice
As you practice writing in this format, ask the following questions about your work. It may be helpful to find a “study buddy” and take turns evaluating each other’s writing. This can give you some objective feedback.
Have you supported each of your statements with given facts, evidence from the prompt, or commonly known information?
Do the supporting facts clearly relate to your statements and are they sufficient to support them? If you cannot find enough relevant facts to support one side of the argument, you may need to consider switching sides. Remember, the point is not which side you take; it is how well you support it.
Are your statements very clear to the reader? Avoid the use of overly long sentences in which the meaning becomes muddled. Try restructuring sentences so the meaning is more clear.
Clearly, the author, not being raised in this country and not having the knowledge of history here, was mistaken when he made the statement he did about the early settlers, and thus, his premise was unfounded.”
This text could be rewritten more clearly as follows:
Clearly, the author’s premise concerning the early settlers was unfounded. This is probably due to his heritage, which failed to provide background knowledge of this country’s history.
Does your essay follow a logical sequence and are topics separated into paragraphs that address one at a time? Before you start to write, you need to take a few minutes to sketch out an outline of points you want to cover. Leave time at the end of the writing period to quickly review what you have written and correct any errors.
Did you use varied and pertinent language in expressing yourself? Sentences should be as descriptive as possible. Practice finding synonyms for typically overused words and learning the meanings of unfamiliar ones that could enrich your writing.
huge could become expansive or tremendous amazing could become astonishing believable could become credible or plausible
Are there capital letters and appropriate punctuation marks throughout your piece? If you are at the point of applying to law school, you have certainly been taught all the basics concerning punctuation and capitalization. But in this age of texting and abbreviated written language, it is easy to slip into the habit of omitting standard writing conventions. The LSAT writing sample is not a good time to let your memory lapse on these.
Be very sure you know how to use:
common but confusing words, like your and you’re
other words that sound alike but are spelled differently, such as role and roll
Are all of the words in your document spelled correctly? If spelling has been one of your less-developed skills, take a little time to practice. Finding a list of commonly misspelled words would be a good place to start. There are also some helpful (and, actually, fun) games online that could help you seem more adept to the readers of your essay. Some particular things on which to focus are:
vowel order, such as ie and ei
word endings like ing and what happens to the base word when they are added (does the consonant double, is the e dropped, etc.)
what happens to words when you add certain prefixes or suffixes
At the present time, we tend to rely on keyboarding skills more than handwriting acumen to communicate. If you are not in the habit of actually writing with a pen, this would be a good time to practice. Make sure your letters are clear and that you leave spaces between words and between lines. If the person who receives your essay cannot read it, all that great writing will be pointless.
One More Tip
Be very careful that you seriously respond to the given prompt. If you choose not to write to the prompt, your work will be discredited by the very people you want to accept you into their school.