So first off, I’ll tell you what I tell everyone about the writing sample: Don’t worry about it too much. As long as you take it seriously, give it your best effort, and demonstrate that you are capable of writing, in English, in a coherent manner, then the writing section of the LSAT is highly unlikely to help (or hurt) your application.
If in fact, someone actually reads your LSAT writing sample when reviewing your application, then they’re probably going to recognize that they are reading an ungraded essay that you wrote after an intense 3-hour period in which you took perhaps the most important exam of your life… and they’re probably going to read it (if at all) in light of that fact. I doubt that anyone has gone in there and written an exceptionally brilliant treatise so moving that it swayed an admissions decision.
On the other hand, if you blow it off entirely, or blatantly ignore the stimulus and write a diatribe against standardized testing, or something silly like that, well, that’s sort of thing might make an admissions committee question your character.
Ok, now having said that… here are a few tips on how to write a passable essay
Tip #1: Remember that “there is no “right” or “wrong” choice: a reasonable argument can be made for either.”
Don’t waste much time worrying about which side you argue for. The issue is designed in such a way that a reasonable argument can be made for either side. Read the prompt & pick whichever side you initially lean toward. Then focus on developing as strong an argument as possible for that side.
Tip #2: Be sure to follow the ‘rules’ given & stay on topic
Keep your argument on topic! In the example above, we’re asked to argue for either the “national” or “regional” plan on the basis of two criteria: the company wants to increase its profits & ensure its long-term financial stability. Stick to that task.
In reality, there are probably a million different paths that the company could take aside from the “national” and “regional” plans.
For example: don’t come up with and argue for an alternative “acquisition” plan in which the company buys other strong regional players, even if you think that is ultimately the best real-world answer. That’s not what the question asks of you. You’re asked to argue for the “national” plan OR the “regional” plan.Do just that. Stick to the script.
In reality, there are also probably a million different criteria that the company could take into consideration aside from “increase profits” and “ensure long-term financial stability.”
For example: don’t come up with and develop an argument around an alternative “environmental impact” criteria that the company should take into consideration when making its decision. Even if you believe that is ultimately an important real-world consideration. That’s not what the question asks of you. You’re asked to weigh the given plans on the basis of the given criteria. Do just that. Stick to the Script.
Tip #3: Consider organizing your response using a modified version of the “IRAC” methodology.
“IRAC (pronounced EYE-rack) is an acronym that stands for Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion. It functions as a methodology for legal analysis. The IRAC format is mostly used in hypothetical questions in law school and bar exams.” (thanks, wikipedia!)
Using IRAC is by no means required, so if you don’t find this tip useful, feel free to ignore it and write an otherwise well-organized essay. But you’re frequently going to be asked to argue using the IRAC method in law school… so using this general framework is a simple way to write a well-organized essay that will be familiar to anyone reviewing your law school application.
Issue: state the issue that you are being asked to analyze.
Rule: state the rule (criterion)
Application: apply the criterion to the facts presented in each alternative choice
Conclusion: conclude that the position you’re arguing for is the better choice, given how the stated criterion apply to the facts.
Writing an essay often seems to be a dreaded task among students. Whether the essay is for a scholarship, a class, or maybe even a contest, many students often find the task overwhelming. While an essay is a large project, there are many steps a student can take that will help break down the task into manageable parts. Following this process is the easiest way to draft a successful essay, whatever its purpose might be.
According to Kathy Livingston’s Guide to Writing a Basic Essay, there are seven steps to writing a successful essay:
1. Pick a topic.
You may have your topic assigned, or you may be given free reign to write on the subject of your choice. If you are given the topic, you should think about the type of paper that you want to produce. Should it be a general overview of the subject or a specific analysis? Narrow your focus if necessary.
If you have not been assigned a topic, you have a little more work to do. However, this opportunity also gives you the advantage to choose a subject that is interesting or relevant to you. First, define your purpose. Is your essay to inform or persuade?
Once you have determined the purpose, you will need to do some research on topics that you find intriguing. Think about your life. What is it that interests you? Jot these subjects down.
Finally, evaluate your options. If your goal is to educate, choose a subject that you have already studied. If your goal is to persuade, choose a subject that you are passionate about. Whatever the mission of the essay, make sure that you are interested in your topic.
2. Prepare an outline or diagram of your ideas.
In order to write a successful essay, you must organize your thoughts. By taking what’s already in your head and putting it to paper, you are able to see connections and links between ideas more clearly. This structure serves as a foundation for your paper. Use either an outline or a diagram to jot down your ideas and organize them.
To create a diagram, write your topic in the middle of your page. Draw three to five lines branching off from this topic and write down your main ideas at the ends of these lines. Draw more lines off these main ideas and include any thoughts you may have on these ideas.
If you prefer to create an outline, write your topic at the top of the page. From there, begin to list your main ideas, leaving space under each one. In this space, make sure to list other smaller ideas that relate to each main idea. Doing this will allow you to see connections and will help you to write a more organized essay.
3. Write your thesis statement.
Now that you have chosen a topic and sorted your ideas into relevant categories, you must create a thesis statement. Your thesis statement tells the reader the point of your essay. Look at your outline or diagram. What are the main ideas?
Your thesis statement will have two parts. The first part states the topic, and the second part states the point of the essay. For instance, if you were writing about Bill Clinton and his impact on the United States, an appropriate thesis statement would be, “Bill Clinton has impacted the future of our country through his two consecutive terms as United States President.”
Another example of a thesis statement is this one for the “Winning Characteristics” Scholarship essay: “During my high school career, I have exhibited several of the “Winning Characteristics,” including Communication Skills, Leadership Skills and Organization Skills, through my involvement in Student Government, National Honor Society, and a part-time job at Macy’s Department Store.”
4. Write the body.
The body of your essay argues, explains or describes your topic. Each main idea that you wrote in your diagram or outline will become a separate section within the body of your essay.
Each body paragraph will have the same basic structure. Begin by writing one of your main ideas as the introductory sentence. Next, write each of your supporting ideas in sentence format, but leave three or four lines in between each point to come back and give detailed examples to back up your position. Fill in these spaces with relative information that will help link smaller ideas together.
5. Write the introduction.
Now that you have developed your thesis and the overall body of your essay, you must write an introduction. The introduction should attract the reader’s attention and show the focus of your essay.
Begin with an attention grabber. You can use shocking information, dialogue, a story, a quote, or a simple summary of your topic. Whichever angle you choose, make sure that it ties in with your thesis statement, which will be included as the last sentence of your introduction.
6. Write the conclusion.
The conclusion brings closure of the topic and sums up your overall ideas while providing a final perspective on your topic. Your conclusion should consist of three to five strong sentences. Simply review your main points and provide reinforcement of your thesis.
7. Add the finishing touches.
After writing your conclusion, you might think that you have completed your essay. Wrong. Before you consider this a finished work, you must pay attention to all the small details.
Check the order of your paragraphs. Your strongest points should be the first and last paragraphs within the body, with the others falling in the middle. Also, make sure that your paragraph order makes sense. If your essay is describing a process, such as how to make a great chocolate cake, make sure that your paragraphs fall in the correct order.
Review the instructions for your essay, if applicable. Many teachers and scholarship forms follow different formats, and you must double check instructions to ensure that your essay is in the desired format.
Finally, review what you have written. Reread your paper and check to see if it makes sense. Make sure that sentence flow is smooth and add phrases to help connect thoughts or ideas. Check your essay for grammar and spelling mistakes.
Congratulations! You have just written a great essay.
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