Section B of the LNAT will require you to write an essay. Timing is extremely important because you only have 40 minutes to plan the essay and write about 500-600 words. The essay section gives you an opportunity to impress university admissions boards with your excellent command of English and your ability to persuade the reader. The planning should take you around 15 minutes, then type no more than 20 minutes so you still have 5 minutes to proofread the essay.

1. What do I need to do to write a good LNAT essay?

All in all, the main two skills you will need to master in order to write good-quality essays are:

  • constructing a good argument;
  • communicating your argument in a well-structured, convincing manner.

To be able to do (a) you need to know what a good argument is and how it is structured.

2. What is an argument and how do you construct a good one?

According to”Learning Legal Skills and Reasoning” by Sharon Hanson, ‘an argument is a series of statements, which are purposely presented in order to prove, or disprove, a given position’. The main difference between an argument and an opinion is that the latter is a subjective perception of a particular person, for example: ‘All blonde people are intelligent’, whilst the former includes reasons for or evidence to back up one’s claim.

The anatomy of an argument

An argument consists of a set of premises (a premise can be any statement you believe to be true). A conclusion must naturally follow from those premises. For example:

Premise one: It rains in London on every Thursday.
Premise two: It is Thursday today.

Therefore, it must be raining in London today. This is true in the light of the principles above.

Try to critically assess your argument and reflect on it. One of the most important skills that you will need in order to construct good arguments is critical thinking. It means that you should be as analytical and observant as you can get. For critical thinkers nothing is certain, there are no absolute truths. Even if they hold a strong view on some topic they are also aware of the arguments against their thesis.

There is a clear distinction between descriptive writing, and critical writing. Whilst writing your LNAT essay you should be as critical as possible (of course without it getting too far; you cannot question everything). You should refuse to accept the ideas of other writers without evaluating them. Furthermore, you ought to state why those ideas may be convincing, or alternatively, why they are not compelling.

3. How to communicate your argument in a well-structured, convincing manner?

To be able to do (b) you will need to be familiar with current affairs, so you have some arguments that can back up your thesis. Reading a quality newspaper every day would be a good idea. You should also be prepared to present counter-arguments and state why they are – in your view – less important/irrelevant/wrong.

What you can do is create a folder on your computer where you will collect all of the interesting articles that you have read. This will give you the chance to read them again just before the LNAT, which can prove very useful. Choosing a topic may be a daunting part for some, but the question bank is designed in a way that if you have a good grasp of current affairs you will be able to answer at least one of the questions.

It is suggested that you go over the list of sample questions presented at the end of this article and try to come up with arguments both in favour and against your thesis. Try doing some research, if you are unfamiliar with a particular issue, or cannot come up with at least three arguments on each side of the debate.

Furthermore, in order to write a well-structured essay you should follow a model explained below:

The basic structure of most essays can be identified as:

  1. Introduction
  2. Main body – arguments for and against
  3. Conclusion

The introduction is an easy way to impress the reader from the very beginning. First impressions really do matter. If your introduction is too long and boring, the reader is likely not to enjoy the rest of your essay, even if your main body is extremely good. An introduction should also always include your main thesis.

The main body should consist of arguments for (one argument for each paragraph), and then a counter-point with an explanation of why it is wrong. A good model to follow is to start each paragraph with a sentence that summarises its main idea and then to provide evidence. The main body should be characterised by:

  • analytical approach to the arguments you make
  • academic style of writing
  • clear and concise thinking

In the conclusion, you should restate your thesis and note the difficulties arising from the question. Make sure your conclusion is short and strong. Once again, this is your opportunity to impress the reader. The conclusion should include:

  • summary of your main ideas
  • reference to the larger issue
  • highlighting the most vital parts of your argument

A good structure is vital. You are mainly assessed on the basis of how persuasive and well-structured you essay is – this is why it is crucial to plan your writing beforehand. The most difficult parts of the essay writing for most student are a) understanding the question and b) answering the exact question that is being asked (not any other, even if very similar). Before you start, you may ask yourself the following about the question that you have chosen: ‘What?’, ‘Why?’, ‘What if?’, ‘What if not?’. Let’s consider a possible essay question: ‘Parliamentary sovereignty is no longer absolute. Discuss’.

  • The answer to ‘what?’ requires identifying what parliamentary sovereignty is and trying to notice any possible ambiguities in the essay title.
  • The answer to ‘why?’ would include writing about the possible implications of the statement, arguments for, arguments against.
  • The answer to ‘how?’ will require you to consider the practicalities of the motion (not all questions require this).
  • Answering both ‘What if’ and ‘What is not?’ makes your essay more analytical. It shows that you can think about the possible implications of the motion and its impact. If you can show that the question is in itself flawed in some way you will impress the reader even more.

4. What are the mistakes commonly made by students?

  • Wordiness, using too complex sentences

    Using more words that are needed to communicate your ideas is not something you should do whilst writing your LNAT essay. It makes your writing unclear and difficult to understand. Remember that you are not writing a poem! If the reader cannot follow your train of thought, he will easily lose interest in what you have written. What is more, if you do not know how to use semicolons you will be better off using simple sentences, rather than trying to use them anyway (and possibly failing).

  • Providing opinions rather than constructing an argument

    Do not give your opinions, for example (I think abortion should be legalised), without backing it up with a compelling argument. An example of how you could support that opinion would be [I think abortion should be legalised, because there is evidence (you should provide some reference for this), that in countries where it is completely banned abortion rates do not fall – instead, women need to undergo dangerous medical procedures at home, whilst they should be able to seek help at a hospital. Therefore, banning defeats it primary purpose of lowering the rates of abortion].

  • Being too emotional

    It is understandable that you may be passionate about the topic you have chosen, but being too emotional is just not professional. Try to always start with arguments based on facts and evidence.

  • Using circular arguments and other fallacious arguments (See the Article on Multiple Choice Questions)

    A circular argument is a type of reasoning fallacy that involves using a conclusion of an argument as its premise. The argument would not work if the conclusion wasn’t assumed to be true. For example:

    Women should be allowed to choose to have an abortion, therefore it should be legal.

    Fallacies undermine your credibility as a writer, therefore you should not use them if possible. Sometimes the fallacious arguments seem to be more persuasive than the normal ones, but the person who is able to spot them is not going to see your essay in a positive light.

  • Under-emphasising logos

    Good writing balances ethos (appeals to authority), pathos (appeals to emotion), and logos (appeals to logic). Too often, student writing focuses on pathos and ethos, treating logos as of a secondary importance. For example, if you are writing an essay on whether the pay gap exists, you should not use many arguments like (I think it must exist because my mum is earing much less than her male counter-parts, therefore we barely make a living), or (It must be real because Emma Watson said so). Instead, try to appeal to the reader using evidence and compelling arguments based on logic.

  • Choosing the wrong essay title

    You should definitely choose a topic you have some factual knowledge about over a topic that interests you. If you want to score highly, you will need evidence to support your thesis.

  • Using ‘empty’ adverbs

    You do not need to use ‘really’, or ‘very’ in every sentence. They add little to the meaning you want to convey.

  • Trying to discuss to many topics

    Before you start writing, you need to filter through your arguments and choose the best one. You simply cannot use all of your ideas in a 500-word long essay. Try to discuss those ideas in depth, it will make your essay more analytical.

  • Not using any strong objections

    As discussed above, your main aim is to show that there are some strong objections to the view you hold, but they are still incorrect, based on the evidence you provided. If you cannot think of any worth-mentioning objections, it is going to seriously undermine your essay.

  • Simply restating your argument in the conclusion

    Do not just repeat your argument in the conclusion, try to impress the reader and leave him with something to think about.

  • Not using topic sentences

    You should start each one of your paragraphs with a summary of your main argument. Do not start a paragraph by simply stating, for example: ‘This argument will revolve around the issue of morality’.

  • Using too many obvious statements

    For example, ‘Dicey is one of the most important legal thinkers ever born.’ Everyone knows that. Especially a person practicing law.

  • Excessive use of first person

    You are not writing a speech, but an argumentative essay. It is appropriate to use first person in some instances (after all it is your essay) but in most cases it is safer not to.

  • Not being able to accept that your argument can be wrong

    A critical thinker will always try to find the limitations of their own argument, evidence, or conclusion. If you are not prepared to do so, your essay will not be as good as it could possibly be.

  • Misuse of the apostrophe

    Remember that is it ‘the doctor’s car’ and ‘the doctors’ cars’. Seems easy, but many students still make that mistake whilst in a rush.

  • Spelling mistakes

    The most common of all mistakes, yet too many students still make them whilst rushing to finish their essays. This is why, proofreading is so important. Examples of this type of mistakes include typing ‘their’ instead of ‘they are’, ‘rite’ instead of ‘right’, etc.

5. General tips for Section B

  • Make sure you know a lot about the current affairs – the more you know, the greater the chance you will get an essay title you wholly understand. Reading a quality newspaper (‘The Guardian’, ‘The Financial Times’, et cetera) every day can help and it also broadens your understanding of the current issues. There are sample essay titles with commentary available on the official LNAT website, which is a useful practice tool.
  • Plan your essay ahead to avoid running out of time and not being able to finish it – this happens to a lot of students.
  • Pick the question you understand the most and have some factual knowledge about. Make sure you can identify the counter-arguments as well as the arguments supporting your thesis.
  • Think outside of the box, make your essay interesting, thought-provoking and persuasive.
  • Do not give your opinions solely. You need some secondary evidence to back up your claims, otherwise, your essay will not score highly.
  • Practice writing essays on the subjects you are not familiar with.
  • You should clearly state your central position and make sure everything you have written relates to your main point (delete the irrelevant parts if necessary).
  • Use ‘topic sentences’ at the beginning of each of your paragraphs. A topic sentence will summarise your principal ideas and make it easier for a reader to understand your reasoning.
  • Make sure you write a conclusion. It is of a prime importance; even if the rest of your essay is good a lack of conclusion will leave a bitter taste.
  • Your sentences should be clear, grammatical, and precise. If your writing looks clunky, it will not leave a good impression on the reader (even if your arguments are compelling and based on evidence).
  • Your essay needs to be analytical. What it means, is that you need to analyse different positions, even if you hold a strong view on a particular matter. If you do, then give your reasons for why other positions are categorically wrong but be smart about it, as you want to sound intelligent.
  • Try to avoid the repeating the same phrases – aim for variety. The more interesting your essay is, the better.
  • Make sure your ideas progress throughout the essay.
  • Do not forget to proofread for spelling mistakes and errors.

6. Useful words and phrases for essay writing

For contrast:

on the other, in comparison, in contrast, rather, in fact, nevertheless, in spite of, despite this, yet, instead, although, all the same, another possibility, but, rather, another way of viewing this, alternatively, even is Z is true, on the other hand

To show a cause:

therefore, accordingly, to conclude, in all, so, thus, this suggests that, for this reason, because of that, it follows that, therefore it can be seen that a result is, due to, the consequence is

To show another step:

first and foremost, secondly, thirdly, next, another, afterwards, ultimately, after, to begin with, to conclude with, last but not least, moreover, additionally, yet another, in addition

7. Recommended reading

Books you may want to use whilst preparing for the LNAT essay are:

‘Learning Legal Skills and Reasoning’ by Sharon Hanson: A well-written piece containing sections on how to construct a good argument, how to write problem essays, how to improve your writing skills and how to do legal research.

‘Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish your Thesis, Book or Article’ by Howard S Becker – A book recommended by the University of Oxford in their preliminary readings section for Law students, a very interesting and entertaining piece, regarded by many as one of the best book on the topic, contains sections on how to common mistakes and how to avoid them, how to construct an argument and how to become a good writer.

Further reading:

  • ‘The Art of Always Being Right: Thirty Ways To Win When You are Defeated’ by Arthur Schopenhauer – a guide listing a number of popular fallacies (so that you can avoid relying on them).
  • ‘How to Think Straight’ by Antony Flew – an introduction to critical thinking, this book will help you master the art of creating good arguments and understanding logical fallacies.
  • ‘Legal Writing’ by Lisa Webley – a step by step guide on how to write legal essays and how to reference your work.
  • ‘Legal Skills’ by Emily Finch – one of the best-selling legal skills books, contains practical activities throughout, as well as advice on how to write good essays and argue in an intelligent way.

8. Sample LNAT Practice Essay Questions

Sample questions listed on the official LNAT website:

  • How should judges be appointed?
  • Make the best case you can for public funding of the arts.
  • Does it matter if some animal and plant species die out?
  • ‘It is right that students should contribute to the cost of their degrees.’ Do you agree?
  • What disciplinary sanctions should teachers be allowed to use?
  • ‘We must be prepared to sacrifice traditional liberties to defeat terrorism.’ Discuss.
  • Should the law require people to vote in general elections?
  • What is ‘political correctness’ and why does it matter?
  • In what circumstances should abortion be permitted and why?
  • Would you agree that tourism benefits only the richer nations and exploits the poorer ones?
  • The Olympic Games, today, are less of a test of personal athleticism and more a measure of national investment and authority. Do you agree?
  • Wearing a burka in Western countries is just as offensive as wearing a bikini in Arab countries. Do you agree?
  • ‘Women now have the chance to achieve anything they want.’ How do you respond to this statement?
  • In a Western society arranged marriages should no longer be tolerated. Discuss.
    ‘Modern society is too dependent on debt: we should all pay our way.’ Do you agree?
  • The Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed should never have been published. Do you agree?
  • The internet and instant communication technologies are profoundly changing our world for the better. Do you agree?
  • What is your response to the view that the purpose of education is to prepare young people for the world of work?
  • ‘There is nothing more worthy of a young person than the study of law: Discuss.
    Should assist suicide to be lawful? Please state the reasons for your answer.
  • ‘The government should pay obese people to lose weight,’ Do you agree?

A sample answer to the question ‘What is ‘political correctness’ and why does it matter?’ can be found HERE.

More sample essay questions:

  • How can history influence the growth of totalitarianism?
  • Discrimination on the grounds of gender is still widespread. Discuss.
  • Should art galleries ban far-right artwork?
  • Voting rights should only be given to the people who are educated. Discuss.
  • In what circumstances should abortion be lawful?
  • Should the government force people to use seatbelts?
    Studying an undergraduate law degree is the best possible route to becoming a lawyer. Do you agree?
  • Should fast food be banned at school?
  • Is first past the post system working? What could be done to improve it?
  • What could be a reason for the rise of populism in 2016?
  • The Supreme Court should be more diverse. Discuss.
  • Is a wage-gap a real issue nowadays?
  • The world is becoming more and more globalised. Discuss the possible implications of that.
  • The right to protest is the cornerstone of democracy and cannot be curtailed. Discuss.
  • When does free speech become hate speech?
  • Does a policy of isolationism have a place in the present world?
  • Should we be able to laugh at religion (for example using satire) or is it unacceptable because it is offending religious feelings of some people?
  • The rise of populism nowadays is the fault of the left-wing movement complacency.
  • Should fights be allowed if all of the people concerned consent?
  • Should the government tax sweets in order to reduce obesity?

9. What to do if I am still having problems with essay writing?

If you are still having problems with essay writing our tutors at the Advisory Circle will be more than happy to assist you. We provide world class help with essay writing and we will make sure you feel comfortable with Section B by the time you have to sit the LNAT.