LSAT Writing | How To Master It and Use It to Your Advantage
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Many law schools require students to take the LSAT (law school admission test) as part of the application process.
Administered by The Law School Admissions Council, LSAT has been used since 1948 and remains the most-recognized standardized test across the country. From 2019, the test is administered six times a year - once in January, March, June, July, September, and November.
If you plan to take the LSAT anytime soon, you’re probably aware that you need comprehensive reviewing done. Master the logic games, reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and the experimental LSAT sections in this article.
But aside from the multiple-choice sections, you should also learn how to rock the final part of the test: your LSAT writing sample.
This post discusses everything you need to prep for the LSAT's writing section.
LSAT Writing Sample: Does It Matter to Law Schools?
It is true that the most important things to law schools are your LSAT score and GPA. However, when you're competing against someone with the same score and GPA as you, the law school could use your personal statement and LSAT writing sample as a tie-breaker.
Even if your writing sample is not as crucial as the scored multiple-choice test sections, you should still prepare for your LSAT essay because law schools actually read your writing when reviewing your application.
Overview of the LSAT Essay
In the past, the LSAT essay was the last part of your test. It was compulsory, so everyone who took the LSAT would have to write it eventually. Traditionally, the LSAT section was also timed. You were given 35 minutes to complete writing your essay, after taking the exam.
Since June 2019, LSAT writing has been administered online from an examinee's own computer. The examinee can choose when he/she wants to take the written exam from the 9 dates LSAC publishes yearly.
The writing sample topic is not the same for everyone, but the format is the same. An examinee will be presented with a decision prompt and two options. After weighing the options and picking one, you have to write an essay arguing your chosen option over the other.
The decision prompt is often about something mundane, such as which two cities are better, or what business plan could have better results. There is no "right or wrong" answer to the question. What's being judged here is how well you argue your position.
How will the essay affect my LSAT score?
The essay won't affect your LSAT score because your writing will not be scored. However, this doesn't mean you should skip the LSAT writing section completely.
This last part of your LSAT will showcase your critical thinking skills, logical reasoning, and persuasive writing, all of which are characteristics essential to becoming a good lawyer. The way you formed an argument in support of your chosen option is going to be evaluated by whoever reads your LSAT essay.
LSAC makes a digital copy of your essay and attaches it to your LSAT score, so if you didn't write anything, there won't be anything attached to your LSAT record.
Is the LSAT Writing Sample used in law school admissions?
Yes, the LSAT writing sample is used in law school admissions. The Law School Admission Council sends copies of up to 3 of your most recent writing samples to the law schools you apply to.
Law schools use LSAT writing samples in different ways. For some, the LSAT essay will be the main writing sample of applicants who have no personal statement or other essays attached to their applications.
In other schools, this essay will serve as an authentication if the admissions office questions whether the applicant was the author of their personal statement or other submitted written work. It provides the admissions officer a way to compare the applicant's writing without the need to require additional samples.
Some law schools judge an applicant's ability to follow rules and personal determination by how much effort they put into the LSAT writing section. Some examinees only write a sentence or two, others decide to draw instead.
Do I need to prepare for the LSAT Writing Sample?
There is no way to know what question you'll receive during the LSAT.
However, if you feel that your skills in writing, argument-making or logical reasoning require work, you can practice by making up your own decision prompt and questions. You can get the help of your classmates, colleagues, or even family members.
You can also "try out" a sample writing prompt by going to your LSAC.org account and clicking the "Get Acquainted With LSAT Writing" tool.
Based on the experience of many former examinees, this tool is almost like the real thing, except that once you close the tool, your written essay will disappear and LSAC won't review what you wrote. This means you can use the "Get Acquainted With LSAT Writing" tool as many times as you want or until you feel confident of working on the real LSAT writing section.
What are law schools looking for in the LSAT essay?
Aside from checking how well you put your thoughts into words, your LSAT essay could also help law schools judge your:
- ability to use sound reasoning based from facts or evidence
- ability to weigh options with logic and create a compelling argument
- ability to include as many supporting facts as possible into your argument
- ability to do all these under stress and within time constraints
Note that the admissions office understands that examinees were timed during the writing section and take this into consideration. They don't expect a written masterpiece, but they don't want to read poorly-written essays either.
Is LSAT Writing required for applying to law schools?
Most law schools require would-be students to have their LSAT scores ready before the school's application deadlines.
The Law School Admission Council (LSAC), which administers the LSAT, only considers LSATs to be "complete" if there is 1 writing sample on their file. This sample could be the digitalized paper-and-pencil version, or the newer computerized version.
If you don't have a single writing sample on LSAC's database yet, you need to complete LSAT writing as soon as possible. Only then will LSAC share your LSAT score to the law schools to which you have applied to.
A few schools do not require LSAT scores as part of application, so better check requirements before taking the LSAT exam.
Do I have to take LSAT Writing if I have already completed a writing sample during a previous LSAT administration?
No, LSAC requires at least one LSAT writing sample in their file.
Note that LSAC could include up to 3 of your writing samples to your LSAT score. Up to April 2020, LSAC allowed examinees to take the writing section separately.
In the future, if you want to showcase more than one of your essays, you can, but you'd have to take the LSAT exam again and pay a new set of fees.
Will every candidate receive the same writing prompt?
No, candidates are presented with a randomly selected prompt.
For candidates taking the LSAT for the second or third time, LSAC guarantees that the candidates are given a prompt not seen during a previous LSAT.
How do I register for LSAT Writing?
All candidates who register for an LSAT are given one administration of LSAT writing. You will be automatically eligible to complete the writing section the same day you take the multiple-choice sections.
You can find your writing prompt when you access your LSAC.org account.
What are the fees associated with LSAT Writing?
The fees associated with LSAT writing depends on what requirement you need to fulfill.
When can I take LSAT Writing?
In the past, you had to take the LSAT writing portion right after the multiple-choice sections.
Now, you don't have to take the writing portion on the same day as the scored LSAT sections.
However, you do have to sign up for LSAT writing and choose a test date (listed at the official LSAC).
How long do I have to complete LSAT Writing?
Candidates are given up to a year from their current LSAT registration to complete their LSAT writing.
How many times can I take LSAT Writing?
LSAC allows candidates to complete the writing section up to 3 times in a year, but only up to 5 times within a five-year period.
Can I register to take LSAT Writing as a standalone whenever I want?
The Law School Admission Council will only allow candidates to retake standalone LSAT writing until the scheduled April 2020 test.
Those who were able to register from the April 2020 test would have one year to complete their LSAT writing sample.
LSAC has yet to announce if the standalone LSAT writing section will again be available in the future.
What kind of computer do I need in order to take LSAT Writing?
To be able to complete your LSAT writing sample, you'll need a computer (either a laptop or desktop) that runs on:
- Windows (Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, 32bit (x86), and 64bit (x64)) or
- Mac OS (Mac OS X 10.12 and higher)
Your computer must have at least 2GB RAM and 1GB free disk space. It should also have only one connected monitor with 1368 x 769 resolution or higher, a microphone and a webcam with at least 640 x 480 resolution.
It is important that your system has internet connection with at least 300 Kbps bandwidth, so that you can download and install software.
Be aware that you cannot write your LSAT essay on your smartphone, tablet or any other mobile devices since it is not compatible with Linux or Chrome OS.
How will I log in to take LSAT Writing?
Go to your LSAC.org account and launch LSAT Writing from there.
Note that this link to the LSAT Writing page will only appear at 12:00 a.m. (ET) on the date of your LSAT administration.
You also cannot access the page from previous secure browser installations. Instead, the LSAT writing exam will only be launched using an individualized link from within your LSAC.org account.
Will I be required to download any software to access LSAT Writing?
Yes, you have to download and install a secure browser.
To do this, you need to sign-in to your LSAC.org account. The installation begins as part of the sign-in process, which means you can't continue with the test without going through this step.
After installing the secure browser, you will be able to access the test and even record your testing session for possible review with a proctor.
Do I need any identification to take LSAT Writing?
Yes, all candidates will be asked to present a valid government-issued photo ID at the start of the exam. The acceptable identification include (but are not limited to):
- passport book and card,
- driver's license,
- National ID card,
- Consular ID card,
- U.S. Permanent Resident Card (Green Card),
- Canadian Permanent Resident Card
- State-issued or province-issued ID card
Note that US military IDs, employee IDs and student IDs are not acceptable forms of ID for LSAT Writing.
The name on the ID you used for scanning must match the name you used during LSAT registration for the exam.
What features are included in the LSAT Writing interface?
The interface inside the LSAT Writing dashboard is similar to most word-processing programs like Microsoft Word for Windows or iWork for Apple computers.
On the LSAT Writing interface, you can perform features like copy, cut, paste of texts of your essay.
Probably one of the most beneficial features of the LSAT writing interface is the spell-check ability, since you can only right-click to use this function and see all the misspelled words underlined. Edit as you please with a list of suggested spelling options.
Other interesting features include the speech-to-text compatibility, zoom and extra-space button.
Does LSAT Writing impose a word or space limit for the writing sample?
You won't be given a space or word limit when writing your LSAT sample.
However, if you're interested in how far you've gone, the LSAT Writing interface provides a word count just below the box where you're composing your response to the writing prompt.
Don't get intimidated by the word count. It was placed there for informational purposes. Continue writing your essay as well-argued and well-written as you can without worrying about the length of your written response.
How is test security managed for LSAT Writing?
The secure proctoring platform uses a candidate's webcam, microphone and computer screen to check if the candidate is actually writing his/her own essay and not receiving any assistance.
Before you begin your exam, you will undergo a video check-in process. During this step, you'll be asked to display your government-issued ID and both sides of your scratch paper in front of your webcam. You also have to turn the camera all around your workspace to ensure you are alone and only allowed items are near you.
When you're ready, the proctoring software will automatically close all messaging programs (Skype, Viber, and so on), as well as Word processors and web browsers. This software will also prevent any application from opening during the exam.
Candidates with special requirements due to a disability will only be allowed to use their tools after requesting testing accommodations. This is SOP, so better seek appropriate permits before the date of your LSAT writing.
Note that trained proctors will be reviewing your entire testing session through audio and video. Be alert because you will be prompted through all the stages, from showing your IDs, to recording your face, and even the start or finish of your exam.
What if I have technical difficulties during LSAT Writing?
The proctoring software essentially freezers your computer, except for the exam page. If at any point during your LSAT or writing section you experience any technical difficulties like internet connection failure or broken links, you can contact the 24/7 technical support line at 1.844.644.8248.
Those who were interrupted from taking the LSAT and were unable to complete their writing samples are given another chance to take the test again, but with a different writing prompt.
Will I be able to request accommodations for LSAT Writing?
Since the June 2019 test registration period, LSAC has been accepting requests for accommodations.
These LSAT Writing accommodation requests must be sent at the same time as the LSAT accommodation request form.
What accommodations are available on LSAT Writing?
You need to send a testing accommodation request form, wait for the request to be reviewed and a decision to be made. Sending a request doesn't guarantee your accommodation requested being granted.
Depending on LSAC's decision, you may be allowed accommodations for LSAT writing such as:
- Braille writer, Braille watch, Braille Note, Braille paper, or Braille graphics and figures
- Unified English Braille (UEB) version of the LSAT Writing section
- Use of a spell check
- Scribe use
- Use of adaptive writing instruments like pencil grips, felt-tip pen, digital pen, etc.
- Voice recognition software
- Extended test time
- Ability to walk around a couple of times between writing
- Use of spreadsheets
- Physical prompts for candidates with hearing impairments
- ...and so on
This is not an exhaustive list. If you ask LSAC about a testing accommodation, your request might be granted. Of course, this is on a case-to-case basis in accordance with the organization's policies.
Does it matter which web browser I use to launch the exam?
Yes, the link to access LSAT Writing section can only be launched with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Edge. You can use any of the three most-recent versions from these browsers.
Unfortunately, Safari and mobile browsers are not yet supported.
What items can I use during LSAT Writing?
People scheduled to take the LSAT writing section are only allowed to "bring" one sheet of blank scratch paper, tissues and writing tools. All of these items are to be shown to the camera during the security check-in procedure before starting your essay.
What electronic devices are prohibited?
Be aware that the LSAC prohibits a couple of electronic devices during the exam and writing section. These include:
- Digital watches (beeping watches, calculator watches, alarm watches, chronograph watches, and other similar watches)
- Fitness-tracking devices
- Cell phones
- iPods and other media players
- Electronic cigarettes
- Any kind of timer
- Recorders and other similar devices
- Listening and recording devices
Aside from these electronic devices, other laptops, desktops and tablets that are not being used should also be taken out of the room before taking the exam or writing your LSAT essay.
The reason for this is that the computer you're going to use for writing the LSAT essay is the only one accessed by the LSAC proctoring software and monitored via your webcam.
During the video check-in, your room will be scanned and if any of the prohibited electronics are seen, your testing session will be flagged. When this happens, your writing session will also be canceled and the recorded audio and video data from your session will be put under investigation by LSAC's Misconduct and Irregularities Subcommittee.
What other items are prohibited?
Some apparel and accessories are not allowed. For example, you can wear sunglasses, a hat, hood, or other headgear, except for religious apparel. You also cannot use handbags, backpacks, briefcases, or any other bags of any kind during the LSAT and writing section.
Non-electronic prohibited items, such as books, notes, and other similar materials, can be left inside your room, but put away and not touched throughout the duration of your testing session.
What if I need headphones, earplugs, or earbuds to take the exam?
You can only use a headphone, earbuds or earplugs if you sent an accommodation request form specifying your special needs and the LSAC granted your request. Otherwise, these items are prohibited.
Can I use other computer programs while I take LSAT Writing?
LSAT and the LSAT writing section will have its unique page on a secure browser. As such, external programs are not allowed during your testing session.
The only exception to this rule is if you've sent an accommodation request form to use a third-party program and if LSAC agreed to your request.
Where should I take the exam?
If you're using a laptop, choose a well-lit, quiet room wherein you can complete the exam and writing section without any outside noise or interruption.
If you're using a desktop and it is located in a public area (such as a living room), it is best to move it temporarily in a private work area where you can focus on the LSAT.
Either way, you should ensure that the location you choose has proper lighting. The virtual proctor should be able to see your face clearly throughout the exam. Once the LSAT begins, you won't be allowed to move out of the webcam's view until you finish the exam.
What if someone else enters the room while I am taking the exam?
Brief interruption, such as your mom bringing a glass of water, is okay as long as you ask them to leave the room immediately. LSAC will let you continue the exam once the person leaves you be.
Of course, this will still depend on a case-to-case basis. For example, a fire alarm went off and you have to go down your building for safety. During these cases, you may have to reschedule or restart the exam.
I’m ready to take my exam, but the link to launch the exam isn’t on the LSAT Writing page in my account. What do I do?
If you've been checking your LSAC.org account every day in hopes of launching the LSAT Writing page, don't worry if you can't see or access the exam just yet.
Note that the Law School Admission Council will only make the link to launch LSAT Writing available at 12am on the day of your scheduled LSAT administration.
If the day of your LSAT arrives and the link still doesn't appear on your account, you can contact LSAC for assistance by:
- Sending an email at LSATwriting@LSAC.org, or
- Calling 215.968.1001 and pressing 0.
Be aware that when you see the link and launch the LSAT writing, you will no longer be able to access it again. When this happens and you weren't able to submit your essay, you'll need to contact LSAC to reset the exam with a new writing prompt.
When will my writing sample from LSAT Writing be available for inclusion in my Law School Report?
If you need your law school essay examples soon for an upcoming admissions deadline, you have to be aware of the LSAT schedules available. In case you don't know, LSAC releases 6 to 7 LSAT dates annually and you can pick which date to take the test.
Once you've completed the written section of your LSAT, expect it to be processed within a week of completion. However, LSAC advised all examinees to allow up to 3 weeks for processing before their essay samples can be included for any law school report.
As soon as the LSAT writing has been processed, the writing sample will automatically be shared with you and the law schools you've applied to.
Are the writing samples from LSAT Writing scored?
LSAT scoring only refers to the multiple-choice sections.
The essays have never been scored throughout the history of the LSATs and the Law School Admission Council has no plans of scoring LSAT Writing at this point.
Can I review my writing sample after I have completed LSAT Writing?
Yes. After you complete your essay, you will be given time to read your writing sample immediately after completing the LSAT.
All candidates who have finished their LSAT will also have the opportunity to reread their writing sample after LSAC has processed them and before the organization sends it as part of the Law School Record.
Remember that you've signed a certifying statement promising never to discuss any part of your test, even the writing section and the decision prompt that you were given. Anyone who violates this agreement could be banned in future LSAC registrations or even face misconduct proceedings.