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All in all, the main two skills you will need to master in order to write good-quality essays are:
To be able to do (a) you need to know what a good argument is and how it is structured.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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’.
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).
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].
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.
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.
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.
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.
You do not need to use ‘really’, or ‘very’ in every sentence. They add little to the meaning you want to convey.
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.
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.
Do not just repeat your argument in the conclusion, try to impress the reader and leave him with something to think about.
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’.
For example, ‘Dicey is one of the most important legal thinkers ever born.’ Everyone knows that. Especially a person practicing law.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Sample questions listed on the official LNAT website:
A sample answer to the question ‘What is ‘political correctness’ and why does it matter?’ can be found HERE.
More sample essay questions:
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.