The university admissions cycle begins again this year, and for students applying to study Law, the National Admissions test for Law (LNAT) will be the first door to unlock on their path to higher education.
The LNAT is an obligatory part of many universities’ admissions process – so today we tackle the question of how best to prepare for and complete it.
The LNAT is split into two parts: a multiple choice section, and an essay-writing section. The skills employed for each will tend to overlap so we’ll discuss them simultaneously.
1) One newspaper a day keeps confusion at bay…
You’ve probably already been told to read the broadsheets, The Economist, and all sorts of grown-up informative stuff. That’s all well and good, but there’s no use doing that if you don’t know why.
So how might reading about the latest turn in the housing market enable you to tackle the LNAT effectively?
Well, in reading such items you will be learning more about the world and how it works. That’s helpful for any social science degree (and the older you get, just helpful in general). However, the key is, that given the pieces you read will often be written by skilled journalists or professionals you will gain access to a high level of argumentation and discussion. This will be essential to providing you with LNAT essay success.
When it comes to your LNAT essay, Law tutors are not particularly interested what what you know – they are more concerned with how you think.
Take that sentence to heart.
Don’t get bogged down in learning this or that detail of the Court appeals process of England and Wales. Instead, focus on developing the ‘shoots’ of legal skills that will impress tutors and provide you with a good foundation for future study.
Dissecting an opinion piece, or an extended piece of analysis, will enable you to access and appreciate a more sophisticated level of argument. This will be helpful for the multiple choice section. In turn, you will instinctively begin to reflect this more sophisticated approach in your own writing, which will provide flair and stimulation in your LNAT essay.
So for newspapers, think quality reading, not quantity. It’s not advisable to read each newspaper cover to cover. You would be best served by taking a couple of pieces that seem interesting to you and sit down to examine them critically. Ask yourself: is the writer being objective or do they have a certain opinion? How are they using statistics, other information and arguments (as well as counter-arguments) to build up their case or explain their analysis? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
The last two questions will be particularly important for you to consider. It will be incredibly beneficial for you to develop the skill to identify key arguments on all sides of a debate and explain, after honest examination, why your opinion (whether real or simply for the purposes of the essay) falls with one side. This is the kind of skill you will often employ as a law student, so if you can do this in your LNAT essay you will catch the eye of admissions tutors. They want to see if you would do well as a law student – make their job as easy as possible.
Reading newspapers will also serve you well for the multiple choice section of the LNAT. In asking yourself the questions above you will inevitably start noticing rhetorical techniques: inferring, implying (if you don’t know the difference between the two then look it up – it will be important for the LNAT) and all sorts of other things. The key here is that you are developing critical reasoning skills which will allow you to read a passage or piece and understand not only what the author is saying, but how they are saying it. This will be key to grasping the purpose of, and successfully tackling, the multiple choice section.
2) Help from the big-dogs
Buy an LNAT prep book.
It will do wonders for any residual anxiety. Don’t go overboard and buy 3, 10 or 20. One will suffice. What you want to get out of it is as follows:
a) A clear indication of exactly what will be required of you in the LNAT
b) A breakdown and exploration of the variety of questions you might be faced with in both sections of the test
c) Practice questions
d) A reasonably helpful explanation of how to tackle certain questions in both the multiple choice and essay section
Two points on d).
i) The book may provide some very good advice but don’t take its words single-mindedly, like a sort of checklist. You need to be comfortable with your own approach – this will create a much more fluid essay. Take pointers from the book that catch your attention and let your intelligence and rationality do the rest.
ii) Don’t go overboard on practice. As with newspapers, think quality not quantity. Take a test. Mark it. Go through it and ask yourself where you went wrong, whether there are any patterns arising in your mistakes or weak areas, why these are arising, and how they might be resolved. Maybe even seek advice from a friend or teacher.
One final point about the big-dogs. Don’t forget the LNAT website. It will provide you with everything you need to know for the practicalities of taking the test and has a very sensible page of advice. (http://www.lnat.ac.uk/)
A final note about the practicalities of the test – it will all be done on the computer so if computer literacy and typing are not your strong points, start working a bit on them now. Build it up over time so that by the test-day it shouldn’t form an additional worry.
3) You, the student, and intrepid intellectual explorer
Ultimately, this whole process is about you and not meeting targets. It’s easy to forget that in the flurry of test preparation, UCAS faffing and general common room chat. Just bear in mind, in preparing for the LNAT, you’ll begin to learn about and hopefully develop skills that will prove very useful when you begin your course of study. And remember, think quality, not quantity.
Anita Subedi, 3rd year Lawyer, Oxford.