This AI neural network writes college essays better than students

Since time immemorial, many students have invoked cliches to compose the most terrible essays. Maybe the GPT-3 text generator can help them. It certainly can't do any worse, right?

From The Next Web:

[Education resource site EduRef] hired a panel of professors to create writing prompts for essays on US history, research methods, creative writing, and law.

They fed the prompts to GPT-3, and also gave them to a group of recent college graduates and undergrad students.

The anonymized papers were then marked by the panel, to test whether AI can get better grades than human pupils.


GPT-3's highest grades were B-minuses for a history essay on American exceptionalism and a policy memo for a law class.

Its human rivals earned similar marks for their history papers: a B and a C+. But only one of three students got a higher grade than the AI for the law assignment.

GPT-3 also received a solid C for its research methods paper on COVID-19 vaccine efficacy, while the students got a B and a D.

EduRef has a lot more data and graphs comparing the results:

Even without being augmented by human interference, GPT-3's assignments received more or less the same feedback as the human writers. While 49.2% of comments on GPT-3's work were related to grammar and syntax, 26.2% were about focus and details. Voice and organization were also mentioned, but only 12.3% and 10.8% of the time, respectively. Similarly, our human writers received comments in nearly identical proportions. Almost 50% of comments on the human papers were related to grammar and syntax, with 25.4% related to focus and details. Just over 13% of comments were about the humans' use of voice, while 10.4% were related to organization.


For GPT-3, the feedback was more diverse. While GPT-3 was praised for some excellent openings and transitions, it was criticized for being vague, too blunt, and awkward. GPT-3 also slipped up with its citations, at one point not providing references at all. But the awkward writing, lack of citations, and bluntness didn't cause GPT-3 to fail – it's inability to craft a strong narrative did. GPT-3's F-rated assignment received comments calling the writing cliche, too personal, and bland. The AI failed to craft a strong narrative incorporating the five senses, and telling-not-showing essays don't cut it in creative writing classes.

How long until some savvy student finds a way to sell GPT-3 essays to their classmates?

Who writes better essays: College students or GPT-3? [Thomas Macauley / The Next Web]

Image: Mike Mackenzie / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)