Essay Robo-Graders Reward Form, Not Content

If you were appalled by the recently released study results that computers can score test essays as well as humans, take heart.  Machines are fast, but they’re superficial.

As NY Times reporter Michael Winrip notes in “Facing a Robo-Grader?  Just Keep Obfuscating Mellifluously,” ETS’s e-Rater can grade 16,000 essays in 20 seconds.  But as an MIT’s director of writing discovered, the computer falls for cheap tricks–big words, long sentences, empty transitions, and outright lies.

Instructors of writing still have to face the stack, but at least they have some job security.