November 28, 2008

Easiest Way to Study for the LSAT Writing Sample

The writing sample portion of the LSAT is not something you need to worry about. In fact, reading this article is all you need to do to prepare for it. First, let's dispel with some myths.

Myth: The writing sample affects your score.
Fact: The writing sample has no impact on your LSAT score.

Myth: Admissions committees care about the writing sample.
Fact: Many admissions committees don't even look at it. However, this doesn't mean they won't. Some people believe admissions committees compare it to your personal statement to determine if you actually wrote your personal statement.

When is the Writing Sample given?

At the very end of the exam. Law schools know your brain is fried after taking a full LSAT exam, which is one reason the Writing Sample is considered less important than it otherwise would be.

What does the Writing Sample ask?

The prompt is written differently for every exam, but it's always similar in several important respects: every prompt presents a scenario. It asks you to choose between two different options based on a number of considerations. Each option will have some pros and cons, so you can't go wrong by picking either option. As long as you weigh the pros and cons of each, and you pick one option or the other, you've done your job.

How do you start writing it?

Put your conclusion in the first sentence. Don't make the reader dig for it. Say something like: "I believe Option A is the best course of action for an individual presented with scenario X." Scenario X might be choosing a teacher to hire for a school district or choosing one of two marketing plans for a corporation. Then make a statement about the scenario in your own words to show you have a clear understanding of the situation. End your introduction by demonstrating how Option B is worse than Option A for a person in this scenario.

But that's only a few sentences! How do I fill the page?

Begin a second paragraph by weighing the benefits of each option. Show you recognize each one's redeeming qualities. Proceed by arguing that the pros of your choice significantly outweigh the pros of the other. You can also argue that the inferior option's cons far outweigh its benefits.

How do I conclude the Writing Sample?

Rephrase your original sentence (the conclusion of your argument) and demonstrate why it's better when taking the organization's larger objectives into account.

What should I actually do to prepare for this between now and test day?

Well, now that you've read this blog post, your work is almost done. Re-read it and make sure you understand it, look at a few writing sample prompts (they're at the end of each PrepTest), and you'll be ready for whatever they throw at you!

I'd rather take a look at your example. Can you write a fake writing sample prompt for me?


Steve's Entirely-Fabricated Writing Sample Prompt

Steve has been tutoring all day, so he is now very hungry. As such, he is trying to decide what to eat for dinner. Consider the following, and then write an argument in favor of one of Steve's dinner options:

-He wants to eat something delicious.

-He wants to eat something close to his apartment.

Option A: Happy Taco serves delicious chicken tacos, but it is five blocks away.

Option B: Taco Kitchen serves halfway-decent chicken tacos, and it is only one block away.

After reading the above, you'll see I can't go wrong choosing either option. It all depends upon which consideration is more important to me. Option A is delicious but not close. Option B is close but not delicious. I can easily choose one option or the other, and they're both reasonable choices.

Every Writing Sample prompt is written with this structure, although they're a bit wordier. All you have to do is simply pick one option or the other and make a decent argument for it.

That's all for this week, folks. Send me any more questions by email, and I'll post an answer for you next week!

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  1. I know this post is a little old, but I was wondering if fabricating information is acceptable for the writing section. For example, can one mention that Steve lives on the tenth floor in an apartment complex with no elevator to express a difference of four blocks is insignificant. (or that the population of the city is too small to fill a stadium, taxes are higher, the organization is non-profit, etc)

  2. No, I don't think that fabricating facts is a good idea. The writing section specifies that you are supposed to make an argument based on the GIVEN facts and maybe some inferred information.

  3. thanks...This really helped a lot.... I feel better about the writing portion of the test now...:-)



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