The LNAT Essay section requires you to write an argumentative essay within 40 minutes in response to an essay prompt.
1. Be precise with your writing
The LNAT advises against overly long and wordy essays, especially because you are limited to only 40 minutes in writing the essay. The LNAT in fact advises to write around 500-600 words and not more than that. Economy of expression and preciseness in writing are very important skills for a law student – a reader might become uninterested in or confused about what you are trying to say if you take too long to say it. If you find yourself tempted to write more than that, you might consider trying to spend more time to organise your thoughts into a clear structure, thinking more deeply about your ideas in the planning stage, or picking out the most important or most persuasive points to write about.
2. Do not sit on the fence – take a position on the question
Do not simply sit on the fence. Some students like to conclude their essay by essentially saying: ‘well, there are some good arguments and also some good counter-arguments – I don’t really know what to think’, and then end the essay there.
You don’t have to outright agree or disagree with the essay question proposed. However, you do have to reach some type of conclusion. For example, if the arguments and counter-arguments are finely balanced, perhaps you can consider the circumstances in which the essay question would hold true, and the circumstances it would not. Your conclusion would then be something like: “In circumstances A and B, the proposition raised by the essay question holds true, but in circumstances Y and Z, the counter-arguments seem to outweigh the arguments in favour.”
3. Have a clear structure for your essay (and lay it out in your introduction)
A good rule of thumb is to use a separate paragraph for each argument/counter-argument. The order of your arguments doesn’t matter too much as long as your argument flows logically from one point to the next. However, if you’re not sure of what structure to use, a good structure might be:
- Counter-argument (and your response to it)
- Main argument 1
- Main argument 2
Of course, you can include more arguments and counter-arguments as you wish.
To make your structure clearer, you could use adverbs such as “Firstly… Secondly… Lastly….” for each paragraph.
You also want to lay out your structure in your introduction – you might include a sentence or two mentioning the order in which you will explore your arguments/counter-arguments so the examiner knows in advance what you will be writing about.
4. Make sure you include arguments and counter-arguments, and make sure you include sufficient analysis on them
Even if you agree with the essay question raised, do not simply write all the arguments supporting your conclusion. Part of studying law is to recognise that the issue at hand is complex and nuanced, and that there are usually many arguments and counter-arguments for any single issue.
There is no point in making a grocery list of arguments and counter-arguments! If so, your essay becomes superficial. You must dedicate sufficient detail to exploring each of them. Use examples to show that the argument is correct/incorrect. If your argument has multiple steps, break it down and show how each step logically flows onto the next.
5. Respond to the actual question asked
Take the following LNAT-styled question, ‘We must be prepared to sacrifice human rights to defeat terrorism.’. It is not enough to spend the entire essay discussing the importance of defeating terrorism in the abstract or including a vague discussion about value of human rights. The essay question specifically asks you to consider the interaction between the two values – does defeating terrorism in fact require restricting human rights? Is defeating terrorism a more important value than human rights? How might we balance the two goals or values?
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