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scaleThe LNAT is unlike any other exam you will have sat, at least in the last few years at school. It has two parts: the first is a series of 42 multiple-choice questions; the second is an essay. The LNAT is designed to test certain skills which make a good lawyer: logical analysis; attention to detail; following an argument; and comprehending unseen information quickly. It is also designed so that you cannot be coached through it. That said, like every test, preparation will help you maximise your chances of doing well and that’s what this week’s blog is about.

The multiple choice section

Exams in Britain, especially in the arts and humanities, do not have multiple choice questions. As such, students often feel very uncomfortable dealing with this section of the paper. In an essay, you can bluff or blag, even if you’re unsure of the subject matter. In a multiple choice test, you are either right or you’re wrong.

  • Time is off the essence: you have 42 questions and 95 minutes. As all questions are worth the same amount, you should divide your time roughly evenly between the questions. that gives you just over two minutes per question. In fact, the questions are allocated to passages – normally four or five per passage. You should allocate between 8 and ten minutes per passage. Once you’ve read the passage, you’ll probably spend slightly longer on the first questions and slightly less on latter ones. It is vitally important you do not spend more time than this. If you spend 20 minutes on a passage, you will not have enough time to tackle other passages.
  • Work backwards: there are five possible answers per question. Normally, three are obviously wrong, one seems like it could be correct but is in fact incorrect, and one is the right answer. Work on eliminating the three wrong ones first. This means that, even if you can’t see which of the remaining two is right and you need to guess, you have a one-in-two chance of getting it right rather than a one-in-five.
  • The first shall come last: you’ll be nervous and excited on the day and you’ll take a few questions to settle down into the test. You’re more likely to make silly mistakes in the first passage or two. If you keep to my suggested time, you’ll have some spare to go back and check. You should check the answers to the first two passages again, even if you found them OK.

You should practise some of the example tests on the LNAT website to familiarise yourself with the format. Do not be disheartened if your mark seems low. The LNAT is designed to distinguish between candidates who have achieved highly in their A-Levels and GCSEs. Marks in the low to mid twenties are common for candidates invited to interview.


Essay section

Base of Ionic Columns at Jefferson Memorial in Washington DCForget everything you know about essay writing from school for this part of the LNAT. This goes directly to the admissions tutors, and so gives them a good indication of your ability to analyse and argue. The questions are designed to require no prior knowledge. I would go further: too many facts can cause a bad essay. Students who have studied a topic (e.g. abortion or direct democracy) and find a similar question in this part of the LNAT inevitably do badly because rather than answering the essay question posed, they write the essay they studied in class.

  • Introduction last: it’s a common mistake to write the introduction first. Have you ever been in class when the teacher has asked a question and you put up your hand to answer, only to find halfway through your answer that you’ve changed your mind? Or indeed written an essay which, despite your rigorous planning, moves away from your original planned conclusion to something else? That’s because thinking does not happen in the mind, but on the page (or indeed verbally). The act of writing the essay is the act of coming to a conclusion on a subject. Writing the introduction first causes two problems: first, despite your best efforts, your essay will move away from the one you introduced as you come to terms with your ideas; secondly, the hardest part of an essay is getting started and an introduction should be short, not a rambling opening paragraph. You will write a crisper introduction at the end of the essay.
  • Question the question: you don’t have much time or space for your essay so it’s essential to set some limits on the question asked. You should begin your planning and your analysis by opening up the question. When you’re asked “in what circumstances is abortion right?” begin by defining the key terms of the question. What is abortion? Then, when you think that a word is difficult to define (e.g. “right” or “circumstances”) then start unpacking its possible meanings. What does “right” mean? Morally permissible? Morally desirable? Something which people should do or something they can do? Right according to whom? Many of the best essays simply come to a conclusion about how the question should be posed.
  • Think: be critical and analytical in your argument and do not rehash arguments you have heard previously. I often do an experiment when I tutor LNAT classes. I ask the students to write down all the arguments they can think of for and against abortion. I then put up a slide in which I try to predict their answers. The most common argument I hear for abortion is “parents from poor families can use abortion to stop children being born into poverty”. An interesting argument, but what about the converse? If being dead is preferable to being poor, why don’t more poor children and people kill themselves? When put like that, the argument is ludicrous. The LNAT is about showing accurate, focused and crisp reasoning. Whatever you do, do not be intellectually lazy. 

NB: The LNAT website has some good advice about the test which I would recommend reading.

Further Support

National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT) Seminar

A one-day course with an Oxbridge-graduate LNAT expert. Includes:

  • 4 unique LNAT mock papers, two marked by our experts
  • 3.5 hours of LNAT training in the multiple choice section and in LNAT essay technique
  • The opportunity to sit a mock test under real exam conditions, before the real thing

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