As we mentioned at the end of the last section, there’s no right answer to a writing sample prompt. However, there are right and wrong ways to approach the essay. The right approach is to consider each option in light of each of the two criteria given and draw a firm conclusion, while acknowledging that neither option is perfect and that both have strengths. Wrong approaches include:
- Introducing outside criteria that you think are important, though they weren’t listed as concerns of the decision maker;
- Waffling rather than stating a clear choice: neither option is “right,” but you are expected to pick one and defend it; and
- Ignoring the weaknesses associated with the option you’ve chosen and the strengths of the option you’ve rejected.
Your readers want to know that you can assess the options based on given standards, that you can create a clear and compelling argument, that you can organize your points in a way that’s logical and easy to understand and that you are able to see the possible arguments against your position and address them. Below, you’ll find two sample essays associated with the prompt you saw in the last section. Note the following key aspects of the essay above:
- The essay begins with a clear statement of the author’s choice;
- The introduction is brief: you don’t have time or space for a full paragraph introduction;
- The stated criteria are referred to specifically;
- A weakness in the author’s choice is acknowledged, but deemed less important than other factors; and
- The conclusion, like the introduction, is short and clear.
Here’s another sample based on the same prompt: Here, the author made the opposite choice. However, you’ll note that all of the bulleted points above, describing the characteristics of a strong LSAT writing sample, apply here as well. It truly doesn’t matter which option you choose, so long as you can build a strong, clear argument in favor of your choice. Between now and test day, use prompts from a few released tests to practice constructing a clear, well-organized essay that makes a logical analysis based on the stated criteria. Remember:
- Always practice under timed conditions, including reading the prompt and making your list or grid
- Begin with bullet points or a grid that shows quickly and clearly how each option does or does not fulfill each of the criteria
- Make a clear choice
- Stick to the stated criteria
- Whenever you practice, write by hand in the space provided in the test booklet