Could students really use AI to cheat in their exams? We put it to the test!

High Speed Training
June 19, 2023
Clock Icon 5 min read

Artificial Intelligence is everywhere at the moment, with AI generated songs, images and articles making headlines daily, it’s no surprise that leaders are speculating on how the technology could impact industries across the board. 

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What is AI?

What better way to define AI, than to ask Google’s new Bard platform. Bard says:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that deals with the creation of intelligent agents, which are systems that can reason, learn, and act autonomously. AI research has been highly successful in developing effective techniques for solving a wide range of problems, from game playing to medical diagnosis.

There are many different approaches to AI, but they all share a common goal: to create machines that can think and act like humans. Some of the most common AI techniques include machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision.

Machine learning is a type of AI that allows machines to learn from data without being explicitly programmed. Natural language processing is a type of AI that allows machines to understand and process human language. Computer vision is a type of AI that allows machines to see and understand the world around them.

AI is a rapidly growing field with the potential to revolutionize many aspects of our lives. From self-driving cars to medical diagnosis, AI is already having a major impact on the world. As AI continues to develop, it is likely to become even more pervasive and transformative.

From healthcare, to financial services, to marketing, AI is already causing a major shake up – but it’s not only businesses that are feeling the impact – education professionals have expressed concerns about how students might use AI platforms such as ChatGPT to their advantage. 

But how smart is AI, and can teachers tell the difference between tech generated-written content compared to real life students? 

To see whether AI is really a threat in the education sector, we put it to the test with a focus group of high school teachers blindly assessing both AI written and student written exam answers across various topics. 

We gave the GCSE aged students and ChatGPT the same questions to answer, and each teacher had to assess both responses. The teachers had to identify whether the answers were human or AI, and give them a grade from 1 – 5 (5 being the strongest). 

Concerningly, three in five (60%) teachers struggled to identify at least one answer correctly, with one in three (33%) failing to correctly identify both of the answers they reviewed. In total, nearly half (47%) of all of the answers reviewed by the focus group were wrongly identified – meaning that teachers either thought they were AI when they were actually student written or vice versa. 

When it comes to the quality of the content, the AI answers scored an average grade of 4 out of a possible 5 – a respectable grade which would roughly equate to a 7.5 in the current GCSE grade system, and between an A and a B in the old system1. Considering that the average GCSE grade is 5.22, this example shows that AI generated content can be to a high standard that is above the national average.

With this in mind, it is unsurprising that students might be keen to explore how the tech might help boost their GCSE grades – so teachers should be extra vigilant when it comes to educating themselves on how to spot tech-written content.

Whilst it’s definitely not an easy task, there are a few giveaways that make AI content stand out. Our expert and Head of Learning and Development, Dr Richard Anderson, has shared his top tips on spotting whether a student has used ChatGPT or similar platforms in their work: 

  1. Americanised language

One of the simplest identifying signs of AI use is Americanised spelling. Whilst this is easy for students to remove if they know what they’re looking for, they may overlook it, leaving the words as small clues a teacher can pick up on. 

  1. Lack of personal case studies

Students are instructed to use memorised and previously studied examples to help illustrate their points and reinforce their argument. A total lack of anecdotal evidence and a reliance on the information provided with the question, could suggest AI involvement. 

  1. Vocabulary used

Whilst the AI was instructed to answer questions in simplified language, several teachers spotted that some of the answers contained language that you would not expect to see from GCSE aged pupils. Students tend to use more informal language and a regular use of advanced vocabulary is not common. 

  1. Formulaic structure

AI will try to neatly package an answer and cover all points that it is asked to concisely. The teachers in the study pointed out that some answers seemed to try to fit everything in, whereas many students would be unlikely to address every single point in a question. 

  1. It’s a little too perfect

Even the best students make some small mistakes in their writing, whether it’s spelling, grammar, or a tendency to waffle and include unnecessary words. AI created content is unlikely to include any of these, and may stand out as being a little too perfect.

Of course, there are more obvious ways to tell if AI has been used!

So, following Dr. Richard’s expert advice – do you think you’d be able to spot the difference between an AI generated answer and a student written one? 

Here are two answers for this question from a previous English GCSE exam, which is human and which is AI?:

Write the text for a speech you will give to your peers persuading them to volunteer with a charity. 

In your speech, you could include: 

  • ways they can volunteer
  • what kinds of charities and people they can help 
  • reasons why it is important to volunteer as well as any other ideas you might have.

If you guessed that Answer 2 was written by AI then congratulations, you were correct!

Whilst many are apprehensive about what the new technology will mean for the education sector, there are of course some positives that it could bring. Experts have expressed that the main benefit at the moment is that the tech is able to create more personalised learning experiences for students, and also time-saving for teachers where processes are able to be automated.3

Commenting on the experiment, Dr Richard Anderson said: “Whilst it’s concerning that 60% of teachers struggled to correctly identify where AI had been used, many of the teachers involved had not encountered AI before, and we’re confident that with awareness and exposure, teachers will be able to correctly spot it more frequently. Free and easy access to software such as ChatGPT and other bots is still a relatively new phenomenon, so there is bound to be a period of adjustment for teachers and educators.

“There are positives from the experiment, including that there are several telltale signs that teachers can use to spot where a student may have used AI to create their work. As these technologies continue to evolve, educators will have to continue to develop their skills and training to ensure that children are still receiving the best education they can.”

What do you think? Are you concerned about AI posing a threat to the education sector? Let us know on Twitter!





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