LSAT Argumentative Writing Sample Prompt


The following task is designed to measure your ability to write an argumentative essay. You will be presented with a debatable issue (identified in the Key Question), along with different perspectives that provide additional context for the issue by introducing various claims that have been made within that debate. You will then write an argumentative essay in which you take a position within this ongoing conversation, while addressing at least one of the arguments and ideas presented in the other perspectives.

Before writing your essay, you will have 15 minutes for prewriting analysis. Use this time to read and analyze the perspectives in this conversation and reflect on the questions we’ve included to help you generate ideas for your essay. 

Your prewriting analysis timer will start when you select the “Begin” button above. You can move forward to the essay-writing screen after 5 minutes have elapsed, if you choose to. After you move on from the prewriting analysis, you will then have 35 minutes to write your essay. Your essay will be submitted automatically when the time has fully elapsed. If you finish writing your essay before the time has elapsed, you may select “Submit” and then follow the directions that appear on your screen.

No specialized background knowledge is required or expected for this writing exercise. How well you write is much more important than how much you write. 

A strong response will:

  • clearly state the thesis of your argument
  • develop your thesis throughout your essay by connecting specific examples to your overall thesis and explaining their relevance to the thesis with clear reasoning
  • address the complexities and implications of your essay's position (for example, by identifying and addressing one or more potential counterarguments)

Your essay should demonstrate your ability to:

  • clearly state a position on the issue and analyze the relationship between that position and one or more of the other perspectives
  • develop and support ideas with reasoning and examples
  • organize ideas clearly and logically
  • communicate ideas using clear and effectively chosen language

Purpose of College

The principal aim of an undergraduate liberal arts education has traditionally been to cultivate a student’s understanding of a broad range of important areas of knowledge, from the fine arts to the sciences, philosophy, language, economics—these things have been seen as crucial to understanding, and participating in, the larger world beyond the classroom. Some, however, believe that this kind of education has failed to provide students with the practical skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly competitive and career-focused society, suggesting we need to reconsider what university programs should look like. Such proposals are often framed as a pragmatic response to trends in the economy and predictions about the skills, knowledge, and training that will best serve students’ career readiness. Given this proposed shift in emphasis toward skills-based education, it’s worth considering what the overall goal of an undergraduate education should be.

KEY QUESTION: To what extent do colleges and universities serve their students’ best interests when they emphasize career preparation?

Read and carefully consider the following perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the issue captured in the Key Question.

Perspective 1 — an excerpt from a career advice blog

“Recruiting talent for a variety of organizations across industries, I’ve witnessed how the demands of today’s job market make the cultivation of practical skills and specialized training more important than ever. If a student’s time at university is an investment that ought to prepare them for the future, then surely career readiness must factor highly into what such institutions aim to provide. Schools that recognize this and adapt will produce graduates who are better equipped to explore a wide array of career paths, and who can adapt to changing job roles within ever-evolving industries. That’s the way for today’s student to make a meaningful contribution to society—by being well-equipped to grow and change within an economic reality that is itself always growing and changing.”

Perspective 2 — an excerpt from a university’s promotional brochure

“In college, I began making my way through this world and crafting a life for myself that reflects my values. But what are my values, and how did I come to hold these values rather than others? Once I realized I didn’t have to unquestioningly accept the norms and values that had been given to me, I was free to decide for myself which values I wanted to hold on to, which to leave behind, and even which new values I felt drawn to. College provided the context in which I could reflect on my values, the reasons and evidence for them, and whether they are the right values for me. Would my classmates and I have been able to test out our ideas and ideals so effectively if my university was only focused on practical career skills? I don’t believe so—such work requires a dedicated exploration of ideas and knowledge for their own sake.”

Perspective 3 — an excerpt from a textbook on the sociology of education

“Across cultures, higher education has served primarily to aid the process of socialization by instilling cultural values, norms, and behaviors, thereby integrating people into the fabric of their respective societies. A university degree provides more than just those so-called ‘soft’ skills necessary for making white-collar work function smoothly, like interpersonal communication and teamwork. This emblem of accomplishment, the college degree, also provides a social signal that one is befitted to the upper-middle class, if not higher. By serving as class membership badges, undergraduate degrees perpetuate social stratification and hierarchies, with the result that access to opportunity is determined largely not by merit, but more so by one’s ability to conform to a particular set of values—in short, to ‘fit in.’  In this manner, college places subtle constraints on students that go far beyond the more well-known problem of financial barriers to access.”

Perspective 4 — an excerpt from a journal on higher education

“The traditional structure of higher education needs a transformative overhaul. The modern university has its origins in medieval schools, which stressed rote memorization and obedience to the centralized authority of teachers, reflecting the broader civic and political context of those schools. But in today’s world, we don’t accept such a rigid, top-down system in our civic and political life. We expect citizens to be agents in the evolution of their communities.

Likewise, there’s no reason to accept it in our educational lives. Instead, we ought to honor the agency of students in orchestrating their own educational experience. Some colleges have begun to change in the right direction, emphasizing dialogue over monologue and problem-solving over sheer information retention. This new form of relationship between student and university is critical, where teachers collaborate with students to discover new truths together, where student learning is based on their own guided learning experiences, and where curricula are created around topics that engage students’ intrinsic motivation to learn. This moves us closer to creating the flourishing, diverse society we need.”

Prewriting Analysis: Generating Ideas for Your Argumentative Essay

Spend the remainder of your prewriting time working through the prewriting questions presented below.  These questions are intended to help you think critically about the issue and generate productive ideas for your essay. Record your thoughts in your digital scratch paper by making notes or lists, or by writing short answers to the questions.

Your notes in response to the prewriting questions will still be available to you while you write your essay, but they will not be evaluated or included as part of your essay. These questions are strictly provided to help guide your analysis of the perspectives and to help you develop your own argument in response to the Key Question.

Prewriting Questions

  • Which perspective(s) do you find most compelling?
  • What relevant insights do you see in the perspective(s)?
  • What principles or values do you see at work in the perspective(s)?
  • What strengths and weaknesses can you find in the perspective(s)? 

Your argument should incorporate or address ideas from at least one of the perspectives provided. In addition, your own knowledge, experiences, and personal values can be valid sources of evidence, and you can include these in your essay:

  • What knowledge do you already have about this issue? Consider information you have read or heard, including things you’ve learned at home or school, etc.
  • What values influence your position on this issue? Consider your worldview or belief system, as well as any guiding principles or convictions you hold.
  • What experiences do you have that might be relevant to this issue? Consider any personal experience you might have with this or similar issues, or other relevant lessons learned from your own life.

YOUR TASK: Write an argumentative essay in response to the Key Question

The various perspectives are presented to provide additional context for the issue and to give you ideas that you can react to or incorporate into your argument as you develop it. They also serve as a model for the types of arguments that various stakeholders are making as they debate the issue raised in the Key Question.

Your essay must directly address ideas from one or more of the perspectives presented in the task. You do not need to address each of the perspectives—use your own judgment in deciding which ideas to address (and how many), based on what you believe will be most effective for developing your argument. 

Use the ideas generated during your prewriting analysis to help you create and develop your argument as you see fit. You may incorporate any knowledge or experiences you might have regarding this issue, your own values, and your critical evaluation of the arguments and ideas contained in the other perspectives. Your position may be in full agreement with any of the perspectives, in partial agreement, or completely different. Whatever the case, your position should be supported with logical arguments and detailed, persuasive examples.