How to Do the New LSAT Writing Section
- May 29, 2019
You’ve undoubtedly been diligent in your LSAT prep, completing hundreds of practice LSAT questions and taking a few practice exams. One thing that you may have neglected in your LSAT studies up to this point is the writing sample portion of the LSAT. But we wish to leave no stone left unturned and no LSAT section left unexplained. Moreover, you won’t even receive your LSAT score if you don’t have a writing sample on file. So let’s take a quick moment to discuss the writing sample.
It’s especially important that we address this section, because the LSAC made some important changes to the writing section. For one, LSAC rebranded the section as, simply, “LSAT Writing.” It’s no longer is just a sample of your writing skills — it’s your writing, in all of its glory or ignominy. Second — and much more importantly — you will no longer be doing this section on test day or at your test center. Instead of having to spend thirty-five extra minutes in a sweaty classroom wracked with all the nervous energy and desperation that only a few dozens-worth of anxious pre-law types can provide, you get to go home early and, on a later date, do the writing section from the comfort of your home. In fact, LSAT Writing opens up eight days before your LSAT test date, so you can get it out the way sooner. Also, instead of having to actually handwrite out the essay like some dang Luddite peasant, you get to type it out on a laptop or desktop computer, using exam software that LSAC will provide.
So with these changes to the writing sample in mind, here are step-by-step instructions on how to best conquer the new LSAT writing section.
1. Make a Shrine
It’ll be much nicer to do the LSAT writing section at your home. But, since it’s your space, you can gussy it up to make it even more conducive to writing section success. Your LSAT writing should be short and to-the-point, so why not make a shrine of writers famed for their brevity and concision? A makeshift sanctum featuring the faces of Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Stevie Smith, Herman Hesse, Haruki Murakami, and Rupi Kaur should bring the right writing section vibes.
2. Clear the Space
If LSAC is going to let you use your home to do the writing section, it’s going to want to make sure your home is an appropriate writing section venue. So, with respect to the security requirements, they’re going full-Mafioso. Before taking the writing section, they’re going to pat you down — figuratively, of course — like you’re a low-level gangster a made-man suspects is cooperating with the feds.
So before you begin writing, you’re going to have to “complete a video check-in process,” according to LSAC. Your webcam and microphone will automatically turn on and record you upon logging into exam software. You’ll be recorded throughout the entire thirty-five minute section. You’ll display your ID to the camera, and show that both sides of your scratch paper are blank. You’ll take the webcam on a virtual tour around your room, to show that you’re alone, and that there isn’t anyone hiding away, lying in wait to provide vital assistance in the writing section.
So before you even log-on, make sure there isn’t anyone in your room. This means clearing the space of any roommates, stowaways, squatters, latchkeys, and the like. Make sure to check under your bed … you know how your friends are always hiding under your bed.
LSAC’s Nixon-in-’71-level of paranoia aside, it’s important to take a moment to remind yourself that the writing section really isn’t a big deal. You have to do it, sure. But it’s not like it’s going to retroactively change your LSAT score. And, yes, the admissions officials who view your application will have a copy of your writing sample. But it’s, like, the least important part of your application. The admissions official will, in all likelihood, do a cursory read-through of the writing sample, to make sure you followed the directions, more or less, and were able to write coherent sentences.
So, take a breath, remind yourself that this is isn’t a big deal. And then get to work.
4. Read the Prompt
First things first, you have to read the prompt. But these prompts are always the same. It will tell you that you must make an argument for one of two mutually exclusive options. They’ll describe what these options are. You will also be given two criteria to consider when making the argument. Then, you’ll be given a series of facts about both options that you can reference to support your argument.
5. Make an Outline
After reading the prompt, use that scratch paper to make a quick outline. Write out the two options, the two criteria, and a “pros” and “cons” list for each option. Using the facts described, jot down some reasons why option 1 is better. And then some reasons why option 1 is worse. Do the same for option 2. Make sure these pros and cons are related to at least one of the two criteria the prompt described.
Then, simply pick one of the two options to advocate in your essay. The facts provided should be roughly balanced, so there isn’t a “right” answer. Just pick the option you feel more passionately about. Or, failing that, choose one arbitrarily. Don’t do anything crazy, like make up some third option. Or write about how we should actually try to do both options. You’re not a political pundit in 2019. Don’t both-sides this. Just pick one, and go with it.
6. Write Your Intro Paragraph
Now that you’re done outlining, you can begin writing. The first thing you write should be the intro paragraph. Or, intro sentence, really. The first sentence should just be you telling the reader which option you’ll argue for.
“In order to eat both a nutritious meal and experience pleasurable taste sensations, Augustus would be well-advised to eat at the salad-themed Kale-in Me Softly rather than at the Southern restaurant 2 Legit 2 Grit.”
(This made-up example is only moderately dumber than the real example that you’re likely to get, btw).
7. Write the First Body Paragraph
The first body paragraph should explain why the option you chose will better advance the first criterion. Make it short — three to five sentences are all you need. And only use the facts the prompt provided — don’t makeup anything or use any outside knowledge.
To help you write this paragraph, just look to your outline and include the pros of your option and the cons of the other option. If you can, explain why the cons of your option aren’t that big of a deal, and why pros of the other option aren’t that impressive.
“Kale-in Me Softly will provide Augustus with a much healthier meal. Although 2 Legit 2 Grit has introduced healthier, vegan options in the last year, most items are still laden with unhealthy fats, sugar, and carbohydrates. On the other hand, Kale-in Me Softly features a number of low-carb and low-fat entrees for Augustus to choose. Although some of Kale-in Me Softly’s dressings have been criticized by health fanatics as ‘too sugar-y,’ the sugar-free dressings are clearly labeled on the menu, and will be easy for Augustus to select.”
8. Write the Second Body Paragraph
Onto the second body paragraph. This one should just describe why the option you chose will better advance the second criteria. Again, make it short, and emphasize the pros of your position and the cons of the other position.
“Southern food may be one of America’s culinary treasures, but Augustus will still have a more delicious meal at Kale-in Me Softly. Local food critics have described many entrees at 2 Legit 2 Grit as ‘pedestrian’ and ‘underwhelming.’ The same critics have lauded Kale-in Me Softly’s ‘innovative’ and ‘creative’ combination of fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Further, Kale-in Me Softly allows its customers to customize their salads, which will allow Augustus to choose the ingredients he enjoys the most.”
9. Write the Conclusion
Finally, write the conclusion. This should just restate the introductory sentence.
“In conclusion, eating at Kale-in Me Softly will provide Augustus with a more nutritious and delicious meal.”
Almost done …
10. Hit Submit
Now you’re done. Once you submit, you need to wait for your LSAT Writing sample to be verified by LSAC. This can take a few hours to a few days, which is why it’s incredibly important to complete the writing section well before the LSAT score release date; you don’t want your score release to be held up just because LSAC hasn’t gotten around to verifying your sample.
And that’s it! You don’t have to complete a new LSAT Writing sample every time you take the LSAT. One is all you need…unless you find answering random, vague prompts enjoyable. If so, more power to you!
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