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What’s the Key to a Successful LSAT Writing Sample?

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Alex Convery
April 22, 2020

LSAT writing sample: A notebook with LSAT on the front cover

It's no secret that the law school admissions process can be a highly selective one. In fact, the most selective law schools in the country have acceptance rates that creep into the single digits. It doesn't come as a surprise, then, that many aspiring law students have questions about the application requirements.

One of the questions we hear most has to do with the LSAT writing sample. Just what is the LSAT writing sample and how can you ace it? Don't worry — we have all the answers you need.

What Is the LSAT Writing Sample?

LSAT writing sample: A student reads from a paper and types on her computer

The LSAT writing sample is a required piece of every law school application. Admissions committees will not review any application until it is submitted. The writing section of the LSAT serves as an example of your writing skills and logical reasoning ability.

In the LSAT writing section, you're presented with a specific scenario and are asked to make a decision based on the provided deciding factors. There is no right or wrong answer. Instead, your response will be evaluated based on your ability to organize a strong argument and explain it clearly in writing. On test day, you will have a total of 35 minutes to read the prompt, plan your response, and write your essay.

The format of the writing sample prompt is always the same. First, it presents a decision that needs to be made. Then, it offers two given criteria that need to be taken into account when making the decision. Then, it presents more information about each choice.

This may sound like a confusing format, but it will become clear once you've read a few examples. Start with the sample prompt from the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Here, you'll read about a clothing company called BLZ Stores that is making plans for expansion. It needs to choose between a regional plan and a national plan. Each has its own merits and potential risks that must be weighed against the company's priorities, which are to increase profits and ensure long-term financial stability.

You can find other sample prompts on Khan Academy, which is the official free prep partner of the LSAT.

When Does the LSAT Writing Section Take Place?

LSAT writing sample: An alarm clock on top of a Scantron testing sheet

It used to be that the LSAT writing section was administered along with the rest of the LSAT on test days across the country. This changed in 2019, though, and the writing sample is now available on demand online. When you pay to register for the LSAT, your registration fee includes access to one online LSAT writing sample, accessible through your online account with LSAC.

Before you take the online LSAT writing section, you'll be prompted to download a secure browser that records your test session using a webcam and proctoring software. You should install this software, available through LSAC, before the time when you intend to take the test. This way you can test its compatibility with your operating system in advance.

You may take the LSAT writing section any time after you've sat for the rest of your LSAT. Your writing sample becomes available to schools that you apply to as soon as you complete it. You will need to ensure that you complete the writing sample before application deadlines, as your application is not considered complete without it.

How Is the LSAT Writing Sample Scored?

LSAT writing sample: A student holds a piece of paper with an A+ grade on it

Many law school applicants are surprised to learn that the LSAT writing sample does not contribute to your overall LSAT test scores and, in fact, is not scored at all. That's right — your LSAT score doesn't include the writing section at all. Instead, each school you apply to receives a copy of it. It is then up to each individual school to decide how they will weigh it in their admissions process.

The jury is still out on how heavily this section of the application is weighed by most law schools. Some admissions officers may not read it at all, others may skim, and still more might consider it a determining factor in admissions. Because you can never be sure how heavily this part of your application will be weighed, test takers should prepare for it and execute it with the same mindful precision that you apply to the rest of your LSAT prep.

How to Prepare for the LSAT Writing Sample

LSAT writing sample: An online tutor gestures at her laptop

While most test takers know to study and prepare for the LSAT well in advance, a surprising number of them don't spend enough time preparing for the writing sample. Just as you may take many LSAT practice tests, you should also plan to complete at least a few sample essays. Here are three simple ways to prepare.

1. Use Khan Academy

Khan Academy is the official prep partner of the LSAT, just as it is the official partner of the SAT and Advanced Placement tests. In the writing sample prep section of Khan Academy's LSAT program, you'll find tips on how to organize your thinking, plan your writing, and structure your response. You'll also find top tips for making sure your writing sample highlights the skills law schools want to see.

2. Use Practice Tests

Another great prep strategy is to familiarize yourself with the test content and structure by using free practice writing prompts. You can find practice tests in most LSAT prep books. These include those published by Kaplan, Cambridge Educational Services, and even the LSAC themselves.

Although there's no official scoring rubric for the writing sample, taking practice LSAT writing sections can help you prepare in a few key ways.

First, you'll learn the format and instructions for the test. This is important because it means you won't have to read these instructions during the official test administration. You'll be able to skip straight to the planning and writing portion.

Second, taking practice tests allows you to get a good idea of effective pacing that works for you. Thirty-five minutes is not a lot of time, so you'll want to know how to use your time most efficiently to maximize your performance.

3. Hire a Virtual Tutor

The most effective way to prepare for this section of the LSAT is to hire an expert, but that isn't always easily done. Finding someone local to you, with a schedule that fits your own, may not be as easy as you'd think. This is why virtual tutors are a great option.

Companies like TutorMe offer on demand tutors in all subject areas with specialties including LSAT prep and LSAT writing. TutorMe's search function allows you to filter tutors according to availability and expertise, so you know you'll find an LSAT writing tutor who's a great fit for you.

LSAT Writing Sample: Keys to Success

LSAT writing sample: A student's hands type on a laptop

The LSAT writing sample is sometimes overlooked as an important piece of your law school application. Because it is not scored, some law school applicants may think it isn't important. In reality, though, you should take every piece of your law school application very seriously.

The LSAT writing sample is another chance to impress admissions committees. Becoming familiar with it in advance through practice, prep books, and virtual tutoring can ensure that you're ready to ace the writing sample when you sit down to take it at home.

To learn more about opportunities for virtual on-demand tutoring, don't miss the LSAT prep services offered by TutorMe where you can find top law school students and successful lawyers ready to help.

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