The LSAT Writing Sample (the Essay Section)

The last of the six test sections you'll encounter on the LSAT is a 35-minute writing sample exercise designed to gauge the following:

  • Your ability to formulate a reasoned, persuasive argument

  • Your ability to compose an organized, coherent essay

  • Your facility with the English language and the conventions of standard written English

You'll be given a writing prompt that presents two alternatives and asks you to compose an essay in which you argue for one alternative over the other.

The LSAT Writing Sample is not scored. But it will be provided to each school you designate as a score-report recipient. If you're a borderline candidate for admission to a particular school, your writing sample will probably be read and evaluated by at least one admissions officer at the school.

Procedural Aspects of the Writing Sample Section

  • You'll be given a separate booklet for the Writing Sample. The booklet will contain the writing prompt and one lined page for writing your response. Attached to that page will be a carbonless copy page, which you can remove and keep as a personal copy of your writing sample.

  • The time limit is 35 minutes — the same as for each of the other exam sections.

  • Scratch paper is provided (but only for this portion of the LSAT).

  • You must use only the black-ink pens that are provided for writing your essay in the Writing Sample booklet (but pencils are allowed for note-taking and outlining on your scratch paper).

Example of an LSAT Writing Sample Topic

Following is an LSAT-style Writing Sample topic. If you wish to write a practice essay that responds to this topic, be sure to follow the testing rules listed above. Further down this page you'll find a sample response to the topic.

WRITING SAMPLE TOPIC

The Dawsons, a recently retired couple, would like to move from a large metropolitan area, where they have lived and worked for many years, to a smaller, slower-paced community. They are selling their three-bedroom house and plan to buy a smaller, two-bedroom condominium wherever they relocate. They are considering two possible destinations. Write an argument for either of the following two choices, keeping in mind two guidelines:

  • The Dawsons' income will be substantially lower than when they were working, and so they would like to reduce their living costs.

  • The Dawsons would like to spend their retirement enjoying a wide variety of cultural and recreational activities.

The city of Haven Hill is a popular winter resort community located about a two-hour drive from the nearest major metropolitan area. Tourists from around the world flock to Haven Hill during the winter months for downhill and cross-country skiing, and residents can enjoy hiking the trails and fishing during the quieter off-season. Haven Hill boasts a vibrant fine-arts scene and hosts a small but growing annual film festival. The average price of a condominium is about the same as the value of the home that the Dawsons are selling. During the winter season, Haven Hill condominiums can be rented to tourists on a short-term basis at a substantial premium above off-season rental rates.

The town of Brookville, about a 45-minute drive to the nearest metropolitan area, is home to Swanson College, a four-year liberal-arts institution with a prestigious music and performing arts program. The college hosts a year-round concert series featuring many well-known professional artists, and it boasts an impressive library and art gallery — both open to the general public free of charge. The city itself is a typical college town, with an extensive network of bike paths and a wide variety of low-priced eateries and retail shops catering to college students and local residents alike. Swanson College now offers a variety of inexpensive non-degree extension courses that are open for enrollment to Brookville residents. The average price of a Brookville condominium is significantly less than the home that the Dawsons are selling.

Sample Essay in Response to the Writing Sample Topic

Following is a sample essay response to the topic involving the Dawsons (see above). This response argues for Brookville and is brief enough for most test takers to write in 35 minutes.

Although the sample is of high merit, it is intended merely as an illustration and not as a model. Other outstanding responses to the same topic might be organized differently, emphasize different points, or argue for the other alternative (Haven Hill).

    NOTE: The highlighting is intended to help reveal the essay's rhetorical structure.

Sample Response (470 words):

Of the two communities, Brookville would better serve both of the Dawsons' objectives.

With respect to their first objective (reducing living expenses), Brookville is far and away the better alternative. By moving to Brookville, the Dawsons could apply a significant portion of their home-sale proceeds toward funding their retirement, whereas in Haven Hill they could not. Moreover, their property tax bill would probably be higher in Haven Hill.

Even aside from housing costs, resort communities are notoriously expensive places: restaurants are often upscale and pricey, and products such as gas and groceries often cost more because tourists are willing to pay more and because the costs to transport to these isolated spots are greater. The main recreational activity in Haven Hill, skiing, is notoriously expensive as well. By contrast, the sorts of amenities that Brookville has in spades — for example, bike paths, a good library, and an adult education program — are all either inexpensive or free.

Turning to the second objective, the Dawsons might find Haven Hill's local arts scene and Swanson College's performance program and art gallery equally attractive. However, Brookville holds more potential in terms of the entire array of cultural opportunities available to the Dawsons — who after all seek to enjoy their golden years largely by engaging in as wide a variety of cultural activities as possible. A good library is a cultural cornucopia, and the extension courses that Swanson now offers will in all likelihood serve to round out the Dawsons' continuing cultural education nicely.

Moreover, should the Dawsons seek other cultural activities — ones not available in Brookville — a major metropolitan area is only a short drive away. Haven Hill is far too isolated, and since it has no college or university and no continuing education courses for older adults, the Dawsons may soon tire of Haven Hill's local arts scene and find themselves culturally isolated and starved.

As for recreational opportunities, of the two choices Haven Hill might seem to have more to offer: skiing, hiking, and fishing. Yet it is entirely possible that Haven Hill is too crowded during the winter for the Dawsons to enjoy skiing on a regular basis, and they might soon grow to old or frail to ski or, for that matter, to go on rigorous hikes up and down mountain slopes. Leisurely strolls and bike rides around a college campus might very well suit them better, especially over the long term.

In sum, the Dawsons should move to Brookville because of the two choices it better meets both of the Dawsons' objectives. Owning a condominium and living in Haven Hill might very well drain them financially, while the more affordable Brookville would provide the broadest possible array of the sorts of cultural and recreational activities that the couple not only would like to but would be able to enjoy for the rest of their lives.

Widely recommended for LSAT prep:

LSAT book    The Official LSAT SuperPrep
Law School Admission Council

From LSAC (the producers of the LSAT), this book provides vital test-taking information and tips, review questions with in-depth analyses, and three complete, previously administered LSAT exams.