The National Admissions Test for Law, or LNAT, can seem like a formidable hurdle for many students applying to read law at university; this is particularly the case when one considers the historically low average scores (usually around 50%) and the fact that many students do not know what to expect. However, like most admission tests, the LNAT is simply examining one’s ‘aptitude’ for law and is a test of skills you should have been cultivating in many subjects over the past few years; no prior knowledge is required.
Whilst some may find this proposition comforting, others may recognise that ‘no prior knowledge required’ is not quite the same as ‘no preparation is required’! Indeed, the LNAT requires confidence with a kind of analytical thinking, a strong attention to detail and various reading and writing skills that can be practised and honed in the lead up to the test-day.
The test itself is a computerised, 2 hour and 15 minute written exam with 2 sections:
- Section A comprises 12 passages and 42 multiple choice questions. You have 95 minutes to complete it using reading, comprehension and critical thinking skills. This works out at about 7-8 minutes per passage.
- Section B provides students with three potential essay questions. You have 40 minutes to select and respond to one of these with a logical and persuasive argument.
At a first glance, this seems relatively straight forward but in practice the test is still quite challenging. The best way to deal with this is to understand exactly what skills each section requires of you and, therefore, how to prepare.
This section aims to test your ability to comprehend, analyse and deduce information from arguments quickly; skills highly relevant to the study of law. In essence this means:
- Can you understand and identify the various components of arguments within the passages presented?
- Are you able to identify the relative strengths of arguments made?
- Can you use the given reasoning in a passage and apply it to new contexts consistently?
Students who perform well in this section prepare by:
A. Ensuring they have a strong understanding of critical thinking and the vocabulary associated with this.
For example, they can identify and evaluate the strengths of the various parts of an argument like assertions, assumptions, premises and conclusions. They can also evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these elements. They might practice applying these skills by reading non-fiction passages and thinking about the issues raised, the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments and any counter-arguments that could be raised.
Common pitfalls for students to avoid include both not reading the text closely enough (thereby missing important detail) and reading the text too closely (losing the overall gist of the argument). Additionally, students must avoid using outside or general knowledge to affect their answer to a question, rather than relying solely on the information in the passage.
B. Using practice papers to hone their exam technique.
Some papers can be found on the LNAT website, but purchasing a preparation book with sample tests enables one to do more. Students should decide whether it works best for them to read the passage or the questions first. Additionally, familiarity with common questions and the reasoning of their solutions will be useful. There are issues with working both too fast or too slow and so getting used to the optimal pace is a key part of preparing.
Students often panic at the prospect of having to write an essay without research or preparation but the key to remember is that it is all about constructing a persuasive and well-reasoned argument; technically, no background knowledge should be required to excel.
A surprising number of students lack the ability to do this, however, and so proper preparation will really help you to stand out in the admissions process. Tutors are looking for:
- Content: a relevant, focused and original response to one of the proposed titles.
- Structure: a well organised argument in which the paragraphs ‘flow’ logically and the reasoning is convincing.
- Writing: a high standard of written english with a focus on clarity and efficiency.
Therefore, to prepare, students should:
A. Practice selecting, understanding and responding to a range of essay titles.
This could be done in note form, perhaps using spider diagrams or bullet point lists. This will familiarise you with the kind of topics that you feel most knowledgeable about (and, therefore, which ones you might want to read up on). The best students will select a title on which they can talk reasonably knowledgeably and with an interesting or original perspective. This is benefitted by some up-to-date current affairs knowledge, so make sure to read around the subjects and take an interest in the news. However, do avoid listing all you know about a subject without having a clear perspective or argument. Additionally, do not ignore any obvious counter-arguments to your opinion; instead acknowledge and try to defeat them.
Another benefit of this kind of preparation is that it will expose you to a range of differently worded titles. It is often crucial to read the title carefully and explicitly interpret or define the ideas raised. This helps your essay to be focused and manageable in the 45 minute time-frame.
B. Learn to plan a good argument.
It is likely that you already know to how to plan a reasonable essay. One should always include an introduction to the topic, body paragraphs which set out the content of your essay and a conclusion to summarise. Additionally, each paragraph should follow a Point, Evidence, Analysis structure.
However, with respect to creating a logical and persuasive argument, it is the organisation of the paragraphs that can make or break the essay in the LNAT. Each one should ‘flow’ logically from the last, providing a road map that can be followed by your reader.
C. Practise writing up your plan within the time constraints.
The students who perform best in this regard write using concise, simple and clear language in order to communicate effectively. They avoid over-complex language, poor spelling and grammar.
Results and Resits
Once you have prepared for and taken the LNAT test, you will receive the results of your Section A performance by email. You will not receive a score for Section B. Both sections are used by Universities in a range of ways and so their relevance to your admissions offers will depend on where you are applying. If you do not achieve your desired result, you will need to wait until the next application cycle to retake the test.
Please do get in touch with Keystone Tutors if you are looking for an LNAT tutor to further support your preparation for this test. Our tutors have extensive experience with the LNAT, both through having successfully sat the test and then gone on to tutor it.