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law | opinions & advice | positioning yourself for admission to law school
LSAT Writing Sample
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You most likely know that the LSAT has a 35-minute essay section. What you might not know is that the essay section has absolutely no effect on your overall score. Actually, there's a chance it won't even be read.
What's the lowdown on the LSAT essay section?
The writing prompt presents a decision problem. You are asked to make a choice between two positions or courses of action. Both of the choices are defensible, and you are given criteria and facts on which to base your decision. There is no "right" or "wrong" position to take on the topic, so the quality of your response is a function of how well your choice is supported and other choice is criticized.
I don't remember being told that we can bring a laptop, how are we going to type this?
You are not going to be typing the Writing Sample. This essay will have to be handwritten on the two pages of paper provided. So forget carpal tunnel worries; hand cramps will be your new problem.
How will the essay affect my LSAT score?
It doesn't. Yes, you read that right; you have to spend 35 minutes composing an essay that has no effect on your overall score. The essay itself isn't even scored separately. Only four sections of the LSAT contribute to your score: one Games section, two Arguments sections and one Reading Comprehension section.
Well, then, the essay must have some use?
Not really. There's a chance that your essay just may go totally unread. When you're done with your LSAT, the writing sample is photocopied and shipped off to the law schools you designated to receive your test scores. Do they actually read this essay? Most likely not. LSAT writing samples are rarely used to evaluate law school candidates, so no matter how well or poorly you did, this exercise will most likely not affect your admissions chances.
Are you saying that that I have to spend time writing an essay on one of the most stressful days of my life, and this essay is not even scored or used to evaluate me when I apply to law schools?
In a word, yes. You won't want to totally blow it off since the Writing Sample is quite easy to master, plus there's always the chance that a newbie law school admissions counselor acting all ambitious will read it, so it doesn't hurt to put some effort into it. By the same token, by no means should you sacrifice study time from other sections of the LSAT to work on the Writing Sample. So unless you're scoring in the 99th percentile, 99% of your study time should be spent mastering the sections that contribute to your score.
Okay, I won't totally blow it off. Tell me what I need to know.
When you are writing an essay for any type of standardized test, don't ever get it confused with writing a paper for an English class: They are not even on the same playing field. And even though they may not admit it, standardized test makers want only one thing: gaudy excess. They appreciate quantity more than quality, so keep it long and shoot for filling up all the lines. They also seem to enjoy paragraphs, so any crazy thoughts of condensing language into more efficient prose should disappear. And finally, they have developed a Pavlovian response to big, pretentious words. So when they come across a world like "Pavlovian," expect sheer enthusiasm.
I need to sit down and prepare for this test. What should I do?
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