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Step-By-Step Guide To Completing the New LSAT Writing Section

First Logic Games, and now the Writing Section? What is going on in the LSAT world?! If you haven’t heard, LSAC is making substantial changes to the LSAT Writing Section, effective July 31, 2024.

August 2024 test takers and beyond – I’m looking at you! Let’s discuss what those changes are, why LSAC claims they are changing the Writing Section, and advice for students moving forward. We’ll even share an LSAT Writing prompt example at the end. 

Table of Contents

LSAT Writing Section Changes

New LSAT Writing Prompts

Gone are the days of picking between two solutions to a problem and arguing the criteria given to you by LSAC. With the new LSAT Writing Section, the test makers forego the hand-holding. Now you can let your argumentative creativity roam free. 

Rather than picking a solution to a problem, you are building an argument about a debated topic in the real world. You’ll get a brief synopsis of the issue, the key question in the debate, and four different perspectives. Your job will be to construct an argument that answers the key question.

If the task sounds somewhat vague, that’s the point. Your choice of argument is completely up to you. It just needs to answer the key question and address at least one of the perspectives. You can incorporate your own experiences, values, or evaluations of the perspectives.  

More Time

Given the additional reading and analysis required, LSAC will give test takers 50 minutes to complete the section. That’s 15 minutes more than the previous 35-minute limit.

Here’s the catch: you won’t be able to use the entire time for writing. The “Start Essay Button” will not enable until at least 5 minutes pass on the initial prewriting screen.

So, you can take up to 15 minutes prewriting and collecting your thoughts using their electronic scratch paper. However, you’ll only have 35 minutes to write regardless of how much prewriting time you used

How Many LSAT Writing Samples Do I Need?

Thankfully, the new Writing Section won’t be a complete overhaul of all we know. You still only need one writing sample on file, even if it’s in the old format, to receive your LSAT score. You still won’t need any specialized knowledge, minimum word count, or maximum length to complete the essay.

Plus, the section will still be unscored for 2024-2025 LSAT dates. It took years to get rid of Logic Games once the idea came about. So we can’t imagine a scored Writing Section happening any time soon.

Why is LSAT Writing Changing?

We’re all too familiar with the priority placed on the previous Writing Section by students and admissions teams alike. That being…not a very big one.

An update to the Writing Section means making it a more effective tool in the admissions process. It can better evaluate a candidate’s argumentative skills, rather than just a formality to get your LSAT score. 

LSAC explained this reasoning in their release of the new format: “These changes will help schools better understand the writing capabilities of applicants for the purposes of their admission decisions…When test takers have an opportunity to construct an original thesis and defend it based on their own judgment and analytical evaluation, rather than following pre-ordained lines of reasoning, we can better assess a broader and more complex range of decision-making skills that writers engage in.”

The new structure of the Writing Section is much more akin to assignments and exams that you will face in law school. As a law student, you will rarely (if ever) have just two answers and the criteria on which to argue given to you.

Rather, you will be asked to develop your own conclusion based on the materials from the class you have at your disposal – just like crafting an argument based on the perspectives LSAC gives you. Thus, this new structure provides much more value to both admissions teams and students in predicting law school success. 

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How to Complete the New LSAT Writing Section

If you’re testing in August 2024 or later and have yet to complete the Writing Section, here’s our advice for tackling this new format. 

1. Complete a Practice Section Before the Real Thing

Just like with the old Writing Section, getting exposure to the format is key. Because the section is still unscored, there’s no need to go overboard on practice. Getting in one or two reps using example prompts under timed conditions should be plenty of preparation to get you ready for the real thing.  

2. Use All the Prewriting Time

No matter how much prewriting time you end up using, you’ll still only have 35 minutes to write your essay. So, taking the entire 15 minutes given to you to thoroughly read the materials and outline your thoughts will help ensure your writing is as organized as possible.

This is especially essential when we take a look at the skills LSAC is testing:

  • Clearly state a position on the issue and analyze the relationship between that position and one or more of the other perspectives.
  • Develop and support ideas with reasoning and examples.

So, take those 15 minutes to develop your thesis, think of arguments and counterarguments, and outline the topic of each paragraph with its corresponding evidence. 

3. Structure Your Essay Around What LSAC Is Looking For in Answers

That brings us to structure. What should our prewriting outline even look like? To determine that, let’s take a look at what LSAC says a strong essay will do:

  • Clearly state the thesis of your argument.
  • Develop your thesis throughout your essay by connecting specific examples to your overall thesis and explaining their relevance to the thesis with clear reasoning.
  • Address the complexities and implications of your essay’s position (for example, by identifying and addressing one or more potential counterarguments).

That being said, we recommend a 4-5 paragraph essay just as in the previous Writing Section. While there is no one way to structure your essay, consider this sample LSAT Writing outline as a starting point:

LSAT Writing Sample Essay Outline
  1. Introduction
    1. State your thesis.
    2. Explain any necessary background information.
    3. Keep it brief: 1-2 sentences will do the trick.
  2. Affirmative Arguments
    1. Develop 1-3 of the strongest arguments that support your thesis.
    2. Here is where you should bring in evidence from the perspectives and your personal experience to support each argument. 
  3. Counterarguments
    1. Address the strongest counterarguments. What’s will be in the reader’s mind as they listen to your arguments?
    2. This section should lay out 1-2 of the strongest counterarguments, but spend the majority of the space rebutting those points to explain why your argument is nevertheless the stronger one. 
    3. We suggest rebutting each counterargument right after explaining it, rather than listing all the counters and then all the rebuttals. 
  4. Conclusion
    1. Brief 1-2 sentences to restate your thesis and wrap things up. 

4. Save a Few Minutes to Proofread

LSAC expressly states in the prompt that they are looking for students to, “communicate ideas using clear and effectively chosen language.” So, save yourself 3-5 minutes at the end to read through your essay for potential spelling, grammar, and sentence structure improvements.

Inside Look at the New LSAT Writing Prompt

Luckily, LSAC provided a sample prompt to clarify these changes and give students some practice in the new format. You can check it out on the LSAC website, LawHub, or just a few scrolls below. 

LSAT Writing Prompt: Purpose of College

LSAT New Writing Sample

KEY QUESTION: To what extent do colleges and universities serve their students’ best interests when they emphasize career preparation?

Perspective 1: An excerpt from a career advice blog

“Recruiting talent for a variety of organizations across industries, I’ve witnessed how the demands of today’s job market make the cultivation of practical skills and specialized training more important than ever. If a student’s time at university is an investment that ought to prepare them for the future, then surely career readiness must factor highly into what such institutions aim to provide. Schools that recognize this and adapt will produce graduates who are better equipped to explore a wide array of career paths, and who can adapt to changing job roles within ever-evolving industries. That’s the way for today’s student to make a meaningful contribution to society—by being well-equipped to grow and change within an economic reality that is itself always growing and changing.”

Perspective 2: An excerpt from a university’s promotional brochure

“In college, I began making my way through this world and crafting a life for myself that reflects my values. But what are my values, and how did I come to hold these values rather than others? Once I realized I didn’t have to unquestioningly accept the norms and values that had been given to me, I was free to decide for myself which values I wanted to hold on to, which to leave behind, and even which new values I felt drawn to.

College provided the context in which I could reflect on my values, the reasons and evidence for them, and whether they are the right values for me. Would my classmates and I have been able to test out our ideas and ideals so effectively if my university was only focused on practical career skills? I don’t believe so—such work requires a dedicated exploration of ideas and knowledge for their own sake.”

Perspective 4: An excerpt from a textbook on the sociology of education

“Across cultures, higher education has served primarily to aid the process of socialization by instilling cultural values, norms, and behaviors, thereby integrating people into the fabric of their respective societies. A university degree provides more than just those so-called ‘soft’ skills necessary for making white-collar work function smoothly, like interpersonal communication and teamwork. This emblem of accomplishment, the college degree, also provides a social signal that one is befitted to the upper-middle class, if not higher. By serving as class membership badges, undergraduate degrees perpetuate social stratification and hierarchies, with the result that access to opportunity is determined largely not by merit, but more so by one’s ability to conform to a particular set of values—in short, to ‘fit in.’  In this manner, college places subtle constraints on students that go far beyond the more well-known problem of financial barriers to access.”

Perspective 4: An excerpt from a journal on higher education

“The traditional structure of higher education needs a transformative overhaul. The modern university has its origins in medieval schools, which stressed rote memorization and obedience to the centralized authority of teachers, reflecting the broader civic and political context of those schools. But in today’s world, we don’t accept such a rigid, top-down system in our civic and political life. We expect citizens to be agents in the evolution of their communities.

Likewise, there’s no reason to accept it in our educational lives. Instead, we ought to honor the agency of students in orchestrating their own educational experience. Some colleges have begun to change in the right direction, emphasizing dialogue over monologue and problem-solving over sheer information retention. This new form of relationship between student and university is critical, where teachers collaborate with students to discover new truths together, where student learning is based on their own guided learning experiences, and where curricula are created around topics that engage students’ intrinsic motivation to learn. This moves us closer to creating the flourishing, diverse society we need.”

Prewriting Questions

  • Which perspective(s) do you find most compelling?
  • What relevant insights do you see in the perspective(s)?
  • What principles or values do you see at work in the perspective(s)?
  • What strengths and weaknesses can you find in the perspective(s)? 

Your argument should incorporate or address ideas from at least one of the perspectives provided. In addition, your own knowledge, experiences, and personal values can be valid sources of evidence, and you can include these in your essay:

  • What knowledge do you already have about this issue? Consider information you have read or heard, including things you’ve learned at home or school, etc.
  • What values influence your position on this issue? Consider your worldview or belief system, as well as any guiding principles or convictions you hold.
  • What experiences do you have that might be relevant to this issue? Consider any personal experience you might have with this or similar issues, or other relevant lessons learned from your own life.

YOUR TASK: Write an argumentative essay in response to the Key Question.

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