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How to write a perfect LSAT essay

Updated: Feb 7

The prompt for the LSAT essay will always be formatted in the same way: 1) an introduction paragraph setting up the premise, 2) two competing criteria, and 3) a description of each choice. From using the given information you must devise a response deciding which option best fits the authors criteria/requests. Each choice could justify the two competing criteria; there is not a “right” or “wrong” answer. However, you must answer the question with a logical, cohesive argument in order to prove which choice you believe is best. This response must be written and proofread in 35 minutes, unless you have received accommodations. Additionally, this response will not be scored, but it will be scanned and sent with the rest of your scores to the laws schools you have chosen.

Suggested LSAT Study Plan

I suggest that you use this blog post as a study guide for the essay. Follow these steps below to learn how to write the best LSAT writing piece.

  1. Read the example prompt to understand how the prompts are typically structured
  2. Read the step-by-step-process about how to write the best essay and pick the format that you feel most comfortable with
  3. Write your own essay to practice
  4. Finally, read the sample prompts and the “what makes a great essay” section of this post to see how those essays compare to your essay and see if there is anything that you could add or change to your essay to make it better.

Example Prompt

“Cutters,” a contemporary hair-care studio for men and women owned and operated by Jim and Joan Baxter, has been operating from the same downtown location for several years. However, the Baxters must move their studio when their lease terminates next month. They are considering two possible locations. Write an argument for one of the two following choices. Two considerations should influence your decision:
1. The Baxters wish to minimize the time and expense involved in starting up business
in a new location.
2. The Baxters seek maximum potential for business growth and for return on their
financial investment.
The Baxters are considering a location on Frye Street where a contemporary-style men’s hair salon has recently failed. The Frye Street storefront is only a few blocks away from the Baxters’ present location. Although the space would be just large enough to support the Baxters’ current operation, they could expand to an adjacent retail space in the same building. While the Baxters’ present location is on a busy thoroughfare, Frye Street is a quiet side-street lined with quaint older houses and a few neighborhood stores. Most Frye Street residents are either senior citizens or young couples in their twenties.
The Baxters are also considering a location in the new Fashion Place suburban mall, located about three miles from their present location. The space, which is positioned next to one of the mall’s department stores, is large enough for the Baxters’ current as well as potential future needs. The monthly rent is approximately twice that of the Frye Street location. Although parking at the mall is ample, no public transportation is available between the mall and the downtown area.

Step 1: Understand the Pros & Cons

A perfect way to start your response is to make a table while reading the prompt. This will help you break down the prompt and see all the pros and cons for each side of the argument. By blatantly noting the pros and cons you will be able to have a better understanding of the argument and have a clear stances on your choice.

Step 2: Start Your Response 

First, you must devise a thesis statement. A thesis is a statement that notes your own opinion and your own stance on a certain subject matter. For example, in reference to the prompt above, a effective thesis statement could be: The Frye Street location is the better choice for the Baxters.

Step 3: Write Your Essay

Combine step 1 and 2 in order to write your essay. Step 2 should be your introduction to your essay which provides the reader with an understanding of your point of view and what you will be writing about. Then, use the pros and cons devised in step 1 to create your body paragraphs. Keep in mind your paragraphs do not need to be long. Most people can only fit about 250-300 words in the space allotted. You only have 35 minutes; therefore, your introduction paragraph can merely be your thesis statement and your body paragraphs can only be a few sentences. As long as you prove your point, it doesn’t matter the length of the essay. Additionally, there are two general formats in which you can write your essay.

Format 1:
As mentioned, your LSAT essay does not need to be a 5 paragraph standard essay. Therefore, the three paragraphs below would be sufficient.
  • Paragraph 1: Argument: State your choice (thesis statement) and give the main reasons for it.
  • Paragraph 2: Counterargument: Explain the main issues with the other choice.
  • Paragraph 3: Conclusion: Conclude by restating your choice and the strongest reason for it.
Format 2:
Additionally, “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.” Thus, you can use this method to also write your essay for the LSAT.
  • 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 by explaining that the position you are arguing for is the better choice, given the facts provided.
Format 3: (RECOMENDED)
Do keep in mind that you can modify each of the above formats. Meaning, you can combine them by creating a third format, which is the format that I recommend.
  • Paragraph 1: Introduction – Includes the Issue, Rule/Criterions, and Thesis Statement
  • Paragraph 2: Argument – This paragraph states why your choice is the best choice. it includes the pros but also counteracts the cons.
  • Paragraph 3: Counterargument – This paragraph states why the alternate choice is not good. Meaning, it states the cons, but also it tells why the pros are not as good as we think.
  • Paragraph 4: Conclusion – This can be short and only a couple sentences, but it will recap the thesis
NOTE: Before you read the examples essays, take a pause and write your own essay so you can compare.

Example LSAT Essay

Sample Response 1 

(in favor of the Frye Street location)

The Frye Street location is the better choice for the Baxters. The time and cost of renovating the Frye shop would be minimal, since the store is already set up to accommodate a hair studio. Its close proximity would minimize the time and expense of moving as well as providing for uninterrupted business from current clients. A continued stream of business and a low initial rent would ensure short-term survival as well as making it financially feasible to expand to the adjacent space, thereby achieving long-term growth. Although the prior salon failure on Frye Street might suggest poor growth potential, that failure may have been due to other factors—such as mismanagement or a narrow male-only client base.

The mall space’s high-traffic location might seem to provide more long-term profit potential. However, the Baxters may face greater competition in the suburbs from franchise salons. More importantly, the Baxters’ primary concern should be with short-term survival, since otherwise they cannot achieve their longer-term profit goals. The additional expense of equipping a new retail space, along with a high initial rent, may jeopardize that survival, especially since it may take considerable time to develop a new clientele.

In sum, Frye is the better location; it would allow for a fast and inexpensive start-up and an uninterrupted flow of business, in turn ensuring both short-term survival and long-term success.

Sample Response 2 

(in favor of the Fashion Place Mall location)

The mall location would better meet the Baxters’ objectives. The strategic high-traffic position next to a department store offers greater opportunity for long-term growth and profit. While the initial expense to equip the new space might be substantial, renovations at Frye Street to convert that space from a men-only salon may be just as costly and time-consuming. Even if not, the Baxters’ primary concern should be with long-term investment return, as additional startup costs will prove insignificant over time.
Admittedly, the relatively close and quiet Frye Street location might help the Baxters retain current customers, thereby offsetting moving expenses. However, failure of the previous hair studio suggests an insufficient demand among nearby elderly residents for a contemporary hair studio. This factor, along with the location’s low visibility, is likely to prevent growth. Although low rent would appear to help the Baxters to meet their objectives, any expansion at Frye would come at greater expense, thereby undermining long-term profit goals; the mall location allows for expansion without additional rent.
In the final analysis, the mall is the better choice; while the relative start-up costs are uncertain, the mall location is more certain to achieve the Baxters’ overriding objectives of long-term growth and profit.

What makes a great essay?

  1. Both essays effectively prove their thesis statement.
  2. Both essays include a counter argument. Meaning they explain the apparent strengths of the opposite argument, then quickly discuss their weaknesses.
  3. Both responses are clear, concise, and well-rounded.
  4. Both essays use effective language, syntax, and dictation.
  5. Both essays include transitional phrases and main shifts in the argument by using words like: “however”, “in sum”, “admittedly” and “in the final analysis”.

About the Author

Samantha Carney
Samantha is the co-founder and COO of Prep For Success Tutors! She has been tutoring in the LSAT essay section as well as assassinating students with Law School Applications for over 10 years and is passionate about helping her students. Never hesitate to reach out to her to get support in your LSAT studies or application process. She would love to teach you her tips and tricks!

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Prep For Success has a team of amazing LSAT tutors, who have all scored in the 99th percentile. Additionally, all of them have been rigorously trained on all of our tips, tricks, and strategies to obtain a high score! Each tutor takes the time to understand your specific strengths and weaknesses so you don’t waste time in your studies and have the most effective study plan! Feel free to reach out to get assistance on the LSAT or Law School Admissions.
Citations: The above sample responses and prompt are from the LSAC website.

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