The LSAT Writing Sample
The LSAT Writing section is a 35-minute assessment in which test-takers must compose a single essay on a provided topic. The Writing sample may currently be completed in either of two formats: digital (essays are typed into a computer word processor) or paper and pencil (essays are written by hand). The latter test format will soon be discontinued. LSAC began allowing students to use their own computers to take the Writing section remotely in 2019, and the Writing test is also available at official test centers. The LSAT Writing sample is separate component of the examination, and it may be completed anytime between the student's official test day and one year later. Writing samples are not scored by LSAC and do not contribute to the total LSAT score of 120–180.
LSAT essay prompts give students two distinct views on some issue. Students must write essays that advocate for one of these positions and explain why they have made their choice. Strong essays are typically well-structured, presenting clear viewpoints and arguing both for the chosen position and against the other option. Essay prompts are about 350 words long, and they have a consistent structure. First, a situation is briefly described in a short paragraph, and two accompanying conditions are then listed in bullet-point format. The two possible positions on the situation described are then presented as separate paragraphs. Official examples of essay topics published by LSAC include the merits of outsourcing versus using in-house workers at a media company, finding the best childcare option, and deciding which aspects of a business to spend limited funds on upgrading.
At least one Writing sample is required to complete a Law School Report, and LSAC will not send incomplete reports to law schools. Most law schools require prospective students to apply via LSAC's Credential Assembly Service, which must include a complete Law School Report. This means that first-time LSAT test-takers cannot have any of their LSAT scores reported to institutions until they submit their Writing samples. LSAC specifies a three-week processing period for Writing samples, which law school applicants should keep in mind for application deadlines. Test-takers who have completed the Writing sample multiple times will have their three most recent essays sent to institutions. Students are allowed to later view their Writing samples, both immediately after the exam and after the essays have been appended to their Law School Reports.
Although the LSAT Writing sample is unscored by LSAC, law schools receive and review copies of student essays. LSAC surveys indicate that essays are important to law school admissions committees and helpful to the screening process. Many institutions explicitly list strong writing skills (as reflected in the LSAT Writing sample) among their admission requirements, and some schools have even created Writing sample scoring systems of their own. With the introduction of the digital LSAT in 2019, essays are now typed and therefore easier for admissions officers to read, making it much more likely that student Writing samples will receive close scrutiny. In sum, it is in all students' best interest to prepare adequately for the LSAT Writing assessment and to make every effort to write the best possible essay.
Students are allowed to use their own computers to complete the LSAT Writing sample remotely, but LSAC has implemented a number of security features. Student computers must be approved in advance, and they must be able to accommodate the proctoring technology. This technology allows proctors to see the student's computer screen, monitor the student himself or herself via the computer's webcam and microphone, and observe the student's written work through a secure word processor. All of these interactions are recorded and preserved, but these recordings are kept secure and will not be shared with third parties (LSAC records Writing assessments in case there is a need for later investigation). The proctoring technology automatically disables all other applications on student computers, and proctors remotely scan workspaces before the assessment to ensure that there are no other persons or materials present.