LSAT Writing: What You Need to Know

Tips to Ace Your LSAT Writing Sample

Focused adult education student using laptop

Hero Images / Getty Images

The LSAT Writing sample (aka LSAT Writing) is the last part of the exam that law school hopefuls must complete. It is taken online with a specific, secure proctoring software used on the student’s personal computer. This allows students to complete the section whenever it’s convenient and shortens the overall LSAT testing day, as it is not administered at the LSAT testing center.

Key Takeaways: LSAT Writing Sample

  • The LSAT Writing sample shows admissions officers how well students can organize their writing into a logical and easy-to-follow argument. 
  • Although not factored into the overall LSAT score, the writing sample is sent directly to law schools as part of the student's application report.
  • Students are given a prompt and 35 minutes to complete their writing sample. This portion of the test is done at home.
  • In the LSAT Writing section, there is no right or wrong answer. All that matters is how well you can support your decision and reject the opposing view.

For the writing sample, students are given a prompt presenting two options in a given situation. They must then choose one option and write an essay arguing for that choice. There is no specific suggested word count. Students can write as much or as little as they want, but it must be completed within the 35-minute allotted time.

The LSAT Writing section is not factored into the overall LSAT score, but it is still a very important requirement for law school admissions. This section must be completed for a student’s Law School Report (compilation of undergraduate/graduate school records, test scores, writing samples, letters of recommendation, etc.) to be sent to any law schools they wish to apply to.

LSAT Writing and Law School Admissions

Even though LSAT Writing is not part of the final LSAT score, it is still a very important part of the test and should be taken seriously. Law school admissions officers use it to gauge students’ writing skills and determine how well they can argue and express themselves. Specifically, it shows them how well students can organize their writing into a logical and easy-to-follow argument. 

There is a myth among many potential law students that the writing section doesn’t actually matter. The truth is that it can matter, but not nearly as much as the scored sections of the LSAT. Many law schools won’t even look at the writing sample. However, if they do and you wrote something horrible, it can hurt your chances of getting accepted. Law schools aren’t looking for the perfect essay. Rather, they just want to get a sense of how good your argumentative and writing skills actually are when you don’t have the opportunity to have anyone else edit or read it over. 

Also, remember that they only need one writing sample and it doesn’t need to be recent. For example, if you’re taking the LSAT again, you don’t need to do the writing section because LSAC still has your previous writing sample on file and only needs one to submit to law schools.

Writing Prompts

LSAT Writing prompts follow a simple structure: First, a situation is presented, followed by two positions or two potential courses of action. You then choose which side to support and write your essay explaining why your chosen side is better than the other. Various criteria and facts are also provided to help you advance your argument. There is no right or wrong answer, as both sides are equally weighted. All that matters is how well you can support your decision and reject the other. The writing prompts vary between students and are all completely randomized. If you’ve taken the LSAT before, you will not be given the same writing prompt. 

The new digital interface provides you with common word-processing functions like spell-checker, cut, copy, and paste. For students who have trouble reading, functions like font magnification, a line reader, and speech-to-text are available. The platform also records input from the keyboard, webcam, microphone, and computer screen. This is to ensure students aren’t receiving outside help or cheating in any way. Any outside web browsing pages will automatically be closed. All of the information recorded is later reviewed by the proctors. Before starting the test you must show the webcam a government-issued ID, your workspace, and both sides of any papers you are using to take notes and outline your essay.

How to Ace the LSAT Writing Sample

Law schools aren’t looking for big vocabulary words or a fully-polished essay. They simply want to see how well you write and organize your argument to come to a convincing conclusion. This is actually very simple, and if you follow these tips, you’ll write a great essay.

Read the Topic and Directions Carefully

To write a good essay, you first need to understand the prompt fully. If you skim over the situation and criteria/facts, chances are you’ll miss an important piece of information and end up writing an essay that doesn’t make sense. Take notes on scratch paper and write down any questions or ideas that come into your head while reading. It’s also beneficial to go back and skim the prompt quickly as you’re writing. This will keep the information fresh in your mind and allow you to keep track of your argument points.

Make a List/Outline

Generally, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes to plan your essay before you start writing. This will help you organize your ideas into a logical order and make your writing much easier and faster. First, list the decisions and criteria. Then, make a list with two or three pros and cons for each decision. Once you feel comfortable with the facts, make a decision and organize your points. Some students also find it beneficial to write a quick draft of their essay, but this isn’t necessary.

Don’t Forget the Other Side of the Argument

When writing the essay, it's important to remember that you are also rejecting the opposing side. This means you will have to provide arguments as to why the other side is wrong and explain why you rejected it. Law schools want to see how well you can support your decision, but they also want to see how well you can discredit the opposition. 

Basic Essay Structure

If you have trouble organizing your ideas or don’t know how to structure your writing, you can always follow this simple template. Just remember, following a template too closely can box you in and make your argument sound formulaic. Writing in your own voice is much more important than writing “correctly.”

  • First paragraph: Begin by stating your decision. Then, defend it by presenting a summary of your argument. Mention its strengths but also remember to mention its weaknesses.
  • Second paragraph: Discuss the strengths of your choice in detail.
  • Third paragraph: Mention your side’s weaknesses, but downplay them or at least explain why they aren’t especially important. Also emphasize the weaknesses of the other side and downplay its strengths.
  • Conclusion: Restate your position and how all of your argument support that choice. 

It may seem counterintuitive to mention your position’s weaknesses and the opposing side’s strengths, but it’s important. Law schools want to see your reasoning skills. Recognizing strengths while admitting weaknesses shows just that.

Follow these tips and organize your arguments so they logically arrive at your chosen conclusion, and you’ll have a great essay that shows law schools your argumentative skills.  

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Schwartz, Steve. "LSAT Writing: What You Need to Know." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Schwartz, Steve. (2020, August 28). LSAT Writing: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from Schwartz, Steve. "LSAT Writing: What You Need to Know." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).