The best way to prepare for the LNAT, as with any exam, is to practice past papers. Practising allows you to gauge your strengths and weaknesses, practice timings, and eliminate any element of surprise. This blog post encourages practising past LNAT papers as the main method of preparation, but also includes more specific guidance and advice which can be followed to develop a technique in answering the questions. The multiple-choice section of the exam will be considered first, addressing the technique of close reading both the passage and the questions. Secondly, the essay will be discussed alongside a method you could use to compose a comprehensive, thorough and persuasive essay in the limited exam time available. Importantly the exam is not simply about having an amazingly vast knowledge of different subject matters; it is about techniques which can be learned.
Multiple-choice questions (‘MCQs’)
The MCQs are designed to be very difficult. As such, it is important to develop and practice various skills and techniques needed to approach them. Firstly, you should practice close reading. Close reading is more than just reading slowly and attentively; you must also read with a critical eye. This means reading beyond the actual text and understanding things such as: why the text has been written, who the target audience is, and what the text is trying to achieve. This can be practiced by reading texts similar to those in the LNAT exam (broadsheet newspaper articles, academic journals/blog posts, etc.) and summarising the article’s main purpose, the author’s intentions when writing it, and any linguistic methods or evidence supporting those conclusions. It is necessary to be able to decipher these ideas from passages as the LNAT questions often focus on subtext and unstated ideas/themes.
For example, a question asking a text’s main purpose can be very misleading if not approached carefully. The main body of the extract may be addressing one subject in particular, seemingly pointing to that subject being the ‘main purpose’. However, the introduction may indicate a different overall purpose, suggesting the discussion is merely prefatory and secondary (remember: the text given will often be merely an extract from a larger piece of writing!). This is why I also advise to read not only the introduction to the passage more closely in a question about overall purpose, but also any title given to the text, which is typically located at the bottom of the passage. The title can sometimes help determine the main idea of a text.
Along with reading the passage closely, it is essential to read the question closely. Often the answer options will seem very similar, or you may consider them all to be potentially right! You job is to find the answer that is most right. The question itself will often indicate specifically what you should be looking for. This why it is important to highlight the key operative word in the question. For example, a question asking, “what does this passage imply?” is a very different question asking, “what does this passage suggest?”. An implication is a ‘conclusion that can be drawn from something although it is not explicitly stated’. In contrast, as suggestion seems to be something stronger, perhaps an idea explicitly put forward in the passage. In answering a question about an implication made by the passage, it would be an easy mistake to select the answer which you can see is directly taken from the text, especially in the stressful exam environment. This is why it is extremely important to understand what exactly the question wants you to find or deduce from the passage, and often it will hinge on the specific choice of one word. Have look at the following questions and consider what the key operative words are:
‘Which is the following statements is explicitly supported by the passage?’
‘Which of the following is an unstated assumption?’
‘What can be inferred to be the writer’s opinion on x?’
‘Which of the following is not suggested in the text?’
‘It can be gathered from evidence in the passage that:’
Lastly, as a general approach, a process of elimination technique can help in answering questions which are not immediately obvious. Again, the LNAT multiple-choice questions are often about finding the most right answer, so eliminating the answers which are most wrong to begin with leaves you with fewer answers which you might need to guess between, therefore increasing your chances of picking the correct one! The multiple-choice questions are very difficult, but you can definitely decrease the number of mistakes made by practising close reading.
The essay tests your ability to write a comprehensive and balanced persuasive essay. Practising writing timed essays will again be the best method of preparation. Below I will discuss what I consider to be important features in any LNAT essay, and then I will outline a method that can be used in practice and in the actual exam, in order to write a strong essay in the limited time available.
Firstly, a persuasive essay should not conclude with simply “there are arguments on both sides of the debate.” You should not sit on the fence; a persuasive text should try to persuade the reading of something. This does not mean you must agree with every argument on one side of the debate. In fact, a sophisticated and nuanced argument will make concessions to the opposing side in some places. However, it should clearly be aiming to persuade the reader as to predominantly one side of the debate. Secondly, whilst arguing for its main proposition, the best persuasive essays are balanced and appreciate the strongest arguments in opposition. Including counterarguments allows you to rebut them and create an even more convincing and persuasive piece. This will show the examiner you have considered the arguments both for and against and have justified your final conclusion. One method to ensuring this is done will now be outlined.
Read the essay question, for example: ‘should performance enhancing drugs be legalised in sports to create a level playing field?’. Decide if you will answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (there is no right answer in the essay as long as the answer is well-argued). Let us suppose you will argue for the use for drugs in sport. Split your paper in two. On one side write down as many arguments as you can to support the proposition, and on the other write down opposing arguments. Next, try to find links between the points on either side. For example, an opposing point might that the use of drugs could cause negative physical side-effects to athletes. A supporting argument that links directly and rebuts this point might be that legalising the use of drugs could allow for more regulation by a singular and authoritative body which could reduce the risk of harm. These two points would be included in one paragraph together as they both address a similar point (i.e. ‘physical risk of drug use’) and would show consideration of both arguments on either side, and ultimately a rebuttal of the side you are opposing. Repeat this using all of the points written down.
Practising essay plans using the method outlined above should enable you to quickly construct essay plans which include a range of arguments and rebuttals of counterarguments, resulting in a well-argued, well-balanced, well-justified and persuasive essay.
The LNAT is less about lots of general knowledge and more about technique. The best method to prepare is to practise past papers. Hopefully the more specific guidance and techniques outlined in this essay will help you acquire a set of skills and techniques to use, and more confidence entering the exam. Good luck!