Although unscored, the writing sample is a part of your official LSAT record and is copied and forwarded to law schools along with your score report. Opinions vary on how important the writing sample is: some test prep companies treat it very seriously, while others advise not to worry about it at all, suggesting that admissions reps are unlikely to read it.
The sensible course of action lies in moderation. It’s certainly true that the writing sample doesn’t carry as much weight as the scored sections of the LSAT, and you shouldn’t take time away from picking up points to fine-tune your writing sample performance.
On the other hand, there are some good reasons to take the writing sample seriously. While it won’t carry as much weight as your LSAT score, admissions officers are called upon to make decisions about borderline applicants every day. While your writing sample won’t be the first thing they look at, it could be the thing that tips the scales and pushes you into the “yes” pile…or the “no” pile. LSAC says that of 129 U.S. and Canadian law schools surveyed in 2015, nearly all indicated that they used the writing sample in making at least some admissions decisions.
The prompts are designed to showcase the same skills you’ll use in assessing fact patterns based on statutes and case law in law school and beyond.
In addition, you’ll be submitting a personal statement and other essays in which you’ve invested significant time and effort. But, the admissions committee has no way to be sure that those essays are your own work—there are plenty of unscrupulous companies and individuals out there who will create them for a price. When they’re in doubt, the writing sample provides a quick and logical checkpoint: since it was written under timed conditions in the testing room, they know you wrote it without outside help.
Fortunately, the writing sample is relatively easy to prepare for, since there’s a clear formula for crafting your response. A few practice essays will suffice for most students, meaning that the time investment required is relatively small.
The Writing Sample Section
The writing sample section is administered at the end of the LSAT, after all five multiple choice sections. You will have 35 minutes to complete the section.
Your writing sample will be hand written. It’s important that you practice in the same way, writing out your responses by hand in a space-limited format. Hand writing will impact your timing, and you must get comfortable fitting a complete, cogent argument into the allotted space. And, while you won’t be evaluated based on your handwriting, the admissions committee must be able to decipher what you’ve written if you’re to get any credit for it.
In addition to the limited space provided for your response, you’ll have a small amount of “scratch paper” space in which to plan your essay.