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LSAT Writing Sample: Purpose, Timing & Scoring

Instructor: Jessie Hemmons

Jessie has a master's degree in clinical psychology.

Learn about the essential factors involved in completing the (Law School Admissions Test) LSAT writing sample. Discover the significance of the LSAT writing sample as part of a law school application and explore resources to improve your writing skills.

About the LSAT Writing Sample

The purpose of the LSAT writing sample is to assess a law school applicant's ability to effectively communicate and defend an argument, both of which are essential requirements for successful law students. Test-takers will have 35 minutes to develop and execute an essay for the LSAT writing sample portion of the exam.

Interestingly, the LSAT writing sample is not scored by the administrators of the exam, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). Instead, the essays are sent as part of law school applications, and are reviewed by the admissions department of the law schools chosen by the applicant.

Writing Sample Prompt and Structure

The writing sample requires the writer to make a decision about a particular topic, and then effectively detail the arguments that support the decision. Generally, the writing sample will be about a nonlegal topic that does not require specialized knowledge. For example, the prompt could be related to a contemporary hair salon having to move and deciding between two different locations for its new shop.

Prompt Content

The writing prompt will include a few facts about each of the options, in order to help the writer make a decision and formulate an argument. In regards to the hair salon example, goals of the shop owners will be provided, such as:

  • Maximize growth and profits.
  • Minimize the time and costs associated with opening at a new location.

The prompt will describe the two choices, and the impact each choice will have on the decision-maker. Referring back to our salon example, the choices might include:

  • A location blocks away from the current shop on a quiet, residential street, with the option to expand in the future.
  • A storefront in the shopping mall a few miles away, which costs twice as much per month as their current shop, with the option to expand in the future.

The test-taker will be provided 35 minutes to decide which option will be more beneficial for the contemporary salon owners and formulate a persuasive argument to defend the decision.

Resources

There are a few examples of writing sample prompts available on LSAC's website, which you can use to practice for the LSAT writing portion. Additionally, Study.com offers coursework to help you prepare for the LSAT writing sample. Video lessons are included as well as quizzes to help you gauge your progress.

What Law Schools Look For

The LSAT writing sample is copied and sent along with your law school application for schools to review. In 2015, the Law School Admissions Council surveyed 129 law schools in the United States and Canada and found that almost all of the schools used the LSAT writing sample for evaluating at least some of their applicants. Therefore, it's extremely important to take the writing sample seriously.

There are several important elements to the writing sample that law schools consider. Because the practice of law requires a significant amount of written communication, schools want to feel confident in their applicant's ability to write well. The writing sample also helps law schools identify applicants with the ability to write effectively within a set of controlled parameters. Additionally, schools may use the writing sample as a way to check the integrity of the rest of the application.

Resources

Because the writing sample can have implications on the success of a law school application, it's important to write in an effective and coherent manner. Study.com offers writing courses with chapters dedicated to helping students improve their writing and grammar skills.

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