How To Ace LSAT Writing—Timing and Technique
Before we dive into the details, let’s talk about the big picture. There are three keys to acing LSAT Writing.
The Three Keys to Success
1. Don’t get fancy.
Your LSAT essay is not a personal statement. It’s an exam, and I would urge you to be boring. If you set out to compose the Gettysburg Address, you’re likely to overwrite or run out of time, and you won’t get a chance to revise. In any case, your readers don’t expect a rhetorical masterpiece. They just want to see if you can write something cogent and complete in thirty-five minutes.
2. Commit to a choice.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make on LSAT Writing is being indecisive. You’ll always be able to argue effectively for either choice, so don’t waste your time hemming and hawing. Pick the choice that feels better to you—or else pick the second choice because its facts will be slightly more fresh when you start outlining.
3. Write with blinders.
You might have heard the word “blinders” used proverbially, but do you know where it comes from? Blinders are horse tack. You fit them over a draft animal’s eyes to keep it looking forward, through cutouts in the front.
When you’re writing an essay, you’re both the horse and driver, and you’ve got to keep moving forward. There will always be a better way to express the sentence you just wrote, but if you spend too much time tinkering, you’ll never get to the end.
Timing and Technique
Now it’s time to dive into the details. I encourage you to figure out your own timing and technique, but here’s what worked for me.
1. Read the Prompt (2 minutes)
Walk, don’t run, through the prompt. Read actively, the same way you read an LR stimulus, and try to lodge the criteria in your memory. Think about how each fact seems to fulfill or fail the criteria.
2. State Your Position (30 seconds)
If you consider yourself a strong writer, it might be tempting to pick the side of the argument that seems “harder.” Don’t do that. No one’s going to give you extra points for performing a difficult routine. No one will even know that your routine is difficult. Just pick the side that seems more defensible and write your position in a single simple sentence:
Tyrone should choose the role in the play.
If you already know your main arguments, you can include them:
Tyrone should choose the role in the play because it affords him a bigger opportunity to show off his talents and because there are fewer downsides.
This sentence will become the first in your essay.
3. Make a Rough Outline (4 minutes)
Start your outline by writing your main arguments:
- The play will help Tyrone achieve his goals
- The TV show is too risky
After you state your main arguments, jot down your main points for each argument:
- The play will help Tyrone achieve his goals
- High-quality role
- Exposure to critics
You’ll notice that I didn’t bother using full sentences in the example above. All you have to do is cue yourself up so you know where you’re going.
You’ll probably need to consult the prompt as you outline, but at this point, you should not simply be perusing the facts. You should instead be mining them for information that supports your position.
4. Draft, Writing Over Your Outline (25 minutes)
I recommend that you write over your outline, replacing or deleting it as you draft. Keep in mind the need to press forward. Get to the end of it so that you have time to revise.
5. Revise (5 minutes)
It’s not the end of the world if you run out of time, but your essay will be much more impressive if you can clean it up and add polish at the end.
A Word about Timing
Treat all of my annotations about timing as suggestions. If you find that you’re finishing your practice exams, and especially if you’re able to revise your work, then you should ignore the suggestions altogether. Focus on the writing, not the timing!
You should also expect that some prompts will take you longer to process and understand than others. That’s natural and okay! Processing the prompt is an important investment. If you’re still processing after ten minutes, though, it’s probably time to get writing.
LSAC offers no guidelines on the length of your essay, but our former admissions officers have found that essays shorter than 300 words tend to feel puny, while essays longer than 600 words sometimes suffer from redundancy.
Ultimately, you should let your outline guide the length. If you make at least two sub-arguments and incorporate most of the facts—including those that seem to contravene your position—your essay will be long enough.
Speaking of sub-arguments and contravening facts, it’s time to talk about structure.
Learn about our LSAT Prep courses.
Click here to reset
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment. You can get a free account here.