On the day of the test, you will be asked to write one sample
essay. LSAC does not score the writing sample, but copies are
sent to all law schools to which you apply. According to a 2015 LSAT survey of 129 United States and Canadian law schools,
almost all use the writing sample in evaluating at least some
applications for admission. Failure to respond to writing sample
prompts and frivolous responses have been used by law
schools as grounds for rejection of applications for admission.
In developing and implementing the writing sample portion
of the LSAT, LSAC has operated on the following premises:
First, law schools and the legal profession value highly the
ability to communicate effectively in writing. Second, it is important
to encourage potential law students to develop
effective writing skills. Third, a sample of an applicant’s writing,
produced under controlled conditions, is a potentially
useful indication of that person’s writing ability. Fourth, the
writing sample can serve as an independent check on other
writing submitted by applicants as part of the admission process.
Finally, writing samples may be useful for diagnostic
purposes related to improving a candidate’s writing.
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 each test taker’s response is a function not of which
choice is made, but of how well or poorly the choice is supported
and how well or poorly the other choice is criticized.
The LSAT writing prompt was designed and validated by legal
education professionals. Since it involves writing based on fact
sets and criteria, the writing sample gives applicants the opportunity
to demonstrate the type of argumentative writing that is
required in law school, although the topics are usually nonlegal.
You will have 35 minutes in which to plan and write an essay
on the topic you receive. Read the topic and the accompanying
directions carefully. You will probably find it best to spend
a few minutes considering the topic and organizing your
thoughts before you begin writing. In your essay, be sure to
develop your ideas fully, leaving time, if possible, to review
what you have written. Do not write on a topic other than
the one specified. Writing on a topic of your own choice is
No special knowledge is required or expected for this writing
exercise. Law schools are interested in the reasoning,
clarity, organization, language usage, and writing mechanics
displayed in your essay. How well you write is more important
than how much you write. Confine your essay to the blocked,
lined area on the front and back of the separate Writing Sample
Response Sheet. Only that area will be reproduced for law
schools. Be sure that your writing is legible.
The two example topics below are typical of decision prompts
that have been administered with the LSAT in the past.
The scenario presented below describes two choices, either
one of which can be supported on the basis of the information
given. Your essay should consider both choices and
argue for one over the other, based on the two specified criteria
and the facts provided. There is no “right” or “wrong”
choice: a reasonable argument can be made for either.
Denyse Barnes, a young country music singer who has just released
her debut CD, is planning a concert tour to promote it.
Her agent has presented her with two options: she can tour as
the opening act for Downhome, a famous country band that
is mounting a national tour this year, or she can be the solo
act in a tour in her home region. Using the facts below, write
an essay in which you argue for one option over the other
based on the following two criteria:
- Barnes wants to build a large and loyal fan base.
- Barnes wants to begin writing new songs for her next CD.
Downhome is scheduled to perform in over 100 far-flung cities
in 8 months, playing in large arenas, including sports stadiums.
This ambitious schedule would take Barnes far away from her
home recording studio, where she prefers to compose.
Downhome’s last concert tour was sold out, and the band’s latest
release is a top seller. Many concertgoers at large arenas skip the
opening act. But it is possible that Barnes would be invited by
Downhome to play a song or two with them.
The solo tour in her home region would book Barnes in 30
cities over a 4-month period, including community theaters
and country-and-blues music clubs, a few of which have reputations
for launching new talent. These venues have loyal
patrons; most shows are inexpensive and are well-attended,
even for new talent. Barnes would have a promotion budget
for her solo tour, but it would be far smaller than that for Downhome’s tour.
The City of Ridleyville must decide whether a decommissioned
military base now owned by Ridleyville and located on
its downtown riverfront should be developed as a business
complex or converted to park and open space. Using the
facts below, write an essay in which you argue for one option
over the other based on the following two criteria:
- Ridleyville wants to address a growing budget deficit.
- Ridleyville wants to increase the amount of parkland and
open space in the city, especially in the downtown riverfront area.
Ridleyville is considering selling the property for development
as a business complex. Through tax incentives, the city could potentially
preserve a small portion of the property as open space.
The business complex would generate substantial tax revenue
from the new businesses that would locate there. Before it realizes
any of these revenues, Ridleyville would need to pay for a
variety of costly infrastructure improvements, and these revenues
would be partly offset by ongoing costs for increased municipal
services. The city would likely incur greater environmental
cleanup costs converting the base to a business complex than
converting it to a park.
Ridleyville has no parks on its extensive river frontage, which
is otherwise developed, and no parks in its downtown area.
Several corporate sponsors are willing to underwrite the cost
of converting the property into parkland. These corporations
are also willing to contribute toward ongoing operating costs.
The park could host revenue-generating events like concerts
and the popular “Taste of Ridleyville,” an annual food festival.
Fees could be charged for boat launching. These combined
revenues could enable the park to pay for itself.
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