The LSAT Writing Sample: The Final Frontier
November 22, 2011
Some hard-nosed season savorers refuse to don cozy sweaters until the first technicolor leaves blaze from the trees, while others curse retail materialism as they abstain from trimming the tree until the day after Thanksgiving (or at least after the post-gorge nap).I do my part by dutifully (and barely) holding out until October 1 to buy and consume (often on the same day) my first bag of Autumn Mix candy: oh, the perennial pleasure of sugary candy corn and waxy, mellocreme pumpkins!This is nothing out of the ordinary for me, though, as I am a confirmed candy fiend- a dessert-first devotee.I must be reminded to eat a good, square meal, but I never forget to cap it off with some sort of cavity-inducing confection.
On Test Day, your treat at the end of the twisting-and-turning, brain-bending LSAT will be the Writing Sample, that final, unscored 35 minutes of argument and evidence. The Writing Sample is the sweetheart of many a test taker, largely because it is a breath of unpressurized air- the fact that this exercise is unscored provides a reprieve from points-obsessed plowing through the objective sections of the LSAT. But don’t make the mistake of treating the Writing Sample as a trifle, like so much marshmallow fluff:this section is a critical measure of your quick-thinking, reasoning ability, and writing skills, an assessment that law schools will see for themselves in black and white.
Paradoxically, flexibility and structure are the meat-and-potatoes of the Writing Sample. You must assess the pros and cons of each (equally valid) option under consideration by a decision-maker with a set of central criteria; these criteria must guide your confident, evidence-based recommendation of one option (not a wishy-washy compromise between the two).Your writing should rest not on your opinion, but on the option for which you can make the best argument: support methodically the best choice for that decision-maker’s needs. To do this best, you must be flexible enough to weigh the pros and cons of each option before choosing which to advocate, as well as to recognize (but then rebut) some strengths of the opposing argument. At the same time, in order to guide the reader strongly toward your favored conclusion, you must also stay organized and focused by designing and adhering to a structured outline before you begin writing; Kaplan provides our students with a template to accomplish exactly this, no matter the prompt.
But the Writing Sample isn’t a completely brittle exercise: the nature of the task allows creativity to sweeten the deal. You can draw upon human experience and common sense to support your case, even if that information isn’t listed in the prompt.Knowledge of semi-universal phenomena such as rush hours, weekends off, and supply-and-demand can add morsels of ingenuity to enrich your essay.Keep it reasonable, though: no venturing off into a fantasyland, just stir in a few bits of everyday life to make your argument more relatable and, thus, more convincing.
It is certainly tempting to give in to a buzz crash at the end of the 5th multiple-choice section of the LSAT, not giving enough credence to the unscored Writing Sample. But doing this would deprive you of the just desserts of the whole test experience:one more chance to show law schools that you’ve got what it takes to be a successful student and accomplished attorney. Consider the Writing Sample to be the (chocolate-covered) cherry on the top of the LSAT experience, one last opportunity to serve up your sweet lawyering-skills, but with a little personality sprinkled in.