After the individual examinations of the LSAT are completed, a short written exercise is given to students calling for an essay response. The prompt is not scored as part of the exam; instead, a digital copy is made and included in the scores being submitted to the law schools that students identify as destinations for their information during the registration process.
The written portion itself consists of a decision prompt, which provides a problem for the student to examine and a pair of criteria that can be used to analyze the issue and come to a conclusion. The student must write an essay using one or the other criteria (usually a pro/con approach to the issue outlined in the prompt) and defend their decision. In general, the problem the student must analyze is a non-controversial issue, which is designed to allow students to dispassionately analyze the issue and present a coherent, reasoned argument. There is no word limit on the essay that students can write, but the time given for the prompt is limited to 35 minutes, the same amount of time given for the other sections of the LSAT. For a short time, LSAC included an alternate type of prompt called an argument prompt-wherein a student had to analyze a logical argument similar to those seen in the logical reasoning exams and critique the argument-but that prompt was retired as of June 2007. Only the decision prompt, a formal standard used since the LSAT’s inception, is used for the writing exam now.
Students should be aware that while the writing prompt is included with the LSAT score, not all schools place value upon the writing exercise. Since it does not carry a score and virtually all law schools require a personal statement as part of the admission packet, many schools consider the writing prompt to be superfluous and do not examine it. However, there are enough schools that place value upon the writing prompt as to make the prompt a vital part of the LSAT for the majority of prospective law students. According to a 2006 survey conducted by LSAC, 35.2% of law schools responding to the survey reported that they either frequently or always used the writing sample in admission considerations, while another 32.7% reported occasionally using the sample; only 6.8% of responding schools reported never using the writing sample as part of the admission process.