LSAT Test Prep: How to Formulate An Argument for Either Side of the Writing Prompt
As you learn when you study law, there’s always another side to the story. You can write equally cogent arguments on the LSAT for either position presented by the writing sample prompt. You will see two ways of responding to the same essay task.
Here’s a writing sample topic of the type that appears on the LSAT:
Marilyn, a widow, wants to buy a pet and is trying to decide between two available dogs. Write an argument for Marilyn’s choosing one dog over the other, keeping in mind the following goals:
Marilyn wants a dog to guard her house.
Marilyn wants a dog that’s affectionate and inexpensive to feed.
The first dog is a German shepherd. This dog is large, strong, and well trained and is particularly recommended for use as a guard dog. It weighs 85 pounds and eats several pounds of dog food a day. It is neither vicious nor particularly affectionate toward humans.
The second dog is a Pekingese. This dog is small, has a long, silky coat, and makes an excellent lap dog. It formed a strong attachment to its former owner and is a devoted companion. At 20 pounds, this dog does not require much food. Its small stature makes it somewhat ineffective as a guard dog, though it will growl aggressively when angered.
The pro-Pekingese approach
Say you decide to argue for the Pekingese. Here’s how the essay could go:
Marilyn should choose the Pekingese to be her canine companion. She’s a widow living alone on a fixed income, and what she needs most is a friendly dog that won’t eat her out of house and home. She has found a loving Pekingese and a protective German shepherd.
Because it will be more affectionate than the German shepherd and more friendly to her pocketbook and because its barking would in fact make it an effective guard dog, the Pekingese would be the best choice to offer the widow both friendship and protection.
Every week, the television news runs stories about the dangers of the elderly living alone; they suffer depression, don’t eat enough, and decline much faster than their biology would dictate. The news has also run stories on the benefits of pets to old people; people with pets take much more interest in life and remain healthier themselves.
To protect her health and ensure her general well-being, the widow requires an affectionate companion, and the Pekingese would be the best choice for companionship.
Widows are also prone to financial hardship. They must often make their husband’s pensions and Social Security stretch for years without much additional income. The last thing Marilyn needs is a dog that would be a major expense to her. The Pekingese eats very little in comparison to the more voracious German shepherd and therefore would be cheaper to maintain.
A Pekingese is a small dog and therefore would likely be less effective than the German shepherd at offering defense in the unlikely event of a home invasion. Realistically, Marilyn has little need of a guard dog. People tend to exaggerate the likelihood of their homes being invaded, which is really a very uncommon event.
In addition, the Pekingese could actually pass muster as a guard dog. A Pekingese can bark and growl ferociously, alerting Marilyn to potential intruders and frightening off criminals who hear it. The Pekingese has a growl much bigger than its stature and teeth. An angry Pekingese may be all the defense the widow needs if a stranger calls with mischief on his mind.
Marilyn most needs a loving pet that won’t eat all her savings. A Pekingese would meet her needs perfectly, providing companionship for a reasonable price and actually guarding her home quite well. For this reason, she should choose the Pekingese.
Going with the German shepherd
What if you decide that the German shepherd is the better choice? Bigger teeth, fiercer growl, and all that? That’s fine. Here’s an example of how you could argue that point:
Life is very unsafe for older women living alone. A widow like Marilyn is virtually defenseless against burglars and ne’er-do-wells. She needs a dog that will make her feel safe. She also needs a dog for company. Because the German shepherd is by far the better dog for striking fear in the hearts of criminals and would also make a fine companion, Marilyn should choose the larger dog.
German shepherds make excellent guard dogs. They’re large, imposing, intelligent, and have lots of big teeth that they’re not afraid to use. The police often use German shepherds for work with criminals because they are so well suited to this task. These qualities would make the German shepherd an excellent choice as a guard for Marilyn.
This German shepherd will also make an excellent companion. It won’t curl up in her lap while she watches television, but it will spend every possible minute in her presence.
She will get exercise by taking it for long walks, which will improve her health and her bone density, possibly forestalling osteoporosis and hip fractures. And because the German shepherd is more intelligent than the Pekingese, Marilyn will find it easier to keep out of trouble in and out of her house.
The only drawback to the German shepherd is its size and appetite. This is a minor consideration; even the most expensive dog food is hardly ruinous, and Marilyn can always buy food in bulk at a discount warehouse, achieving substantial savings.
Marilyn’s needs are clear: safety and companionship. The German shepherd is the better choice on both counts.
Do your best to make your essay fill both sides of the lined response sheet. way, if an admissions officer looks at your essay to compare you to a similar candidate, at least your writing sample will be as long as anyone else’s could possibly be.