A graduate used a powerful artificial intelligence bot to write a university essay which a professor gave him a 2:2.
Pieter Snepvangers, who finished uni last year, used ChatGPT AI to write an essay to see whether cheaters could use the software to write coursework.
The software allows users to ask any question and receive a simple-to-understand answer in seconds.
ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, can explain complex concepts in ways people can actually understand and even make original ideas from scratch.
Pieter found a prestigious Russell Group university and convinced one of its lecturers to let him take a final year social policy assessment.
Under the premise of being a third-year social policy student completing a 2,000-word essay worth 75% of a module about climate change, he got to work.
He started off by asking the software the essay question and requested 2,000 words with references.
It managed to give back 365 words at first – only 15% of the requested number.
Pieter then asked the chatbot 10 separate questions all relating to the essay question, and eventually managed to get 3,500 words from the software.
Taking the best paragraphs the software had given, Pieter copied and pasted them in an order that ‘resembled the structure of an essay’.
He didn’t change or rewrite any of the words and the tech was able to write the essay in 20 minutes.
The professor scored it a mark of 53, equivalent to a 2:2.
Pieter was shocked the generative AI could create a university essay worth a pass.
He said: ‘The truth is the software doesn’t give you the answer in one go. You will have to structure its responses in a more coherent order.
‘But I spent 10 minutes doing this and got a 53, it wouldn’t have taken much longer to add a few references from the reading list and bump it to a high 2:2.
‘ChatGPT is only three months old. You wouldn’t bet against it being able to write an essay worthy of a 2:1 in another three months.’
The professor said the essay was ‘fishy’ but added it was closer to the work of a ‘waffling, lazy’ student than an AI.
He admitted: ‘You definitely can’t cheat your way to a first-class degree, but you can cheat your way to a 2:2.’
The full feedback included: ‘Basically, this essay isn’t referenced. It is very general. It doesn’t go into detail about anything. It’s not very theoretical or conceptually advanced.
‘This could be a student who has attended classes and has engaged with the topic of the unit. The content of the essay, this could be somebody that’s been in my classes. It wasn’t the most terrible in terms of content.’
The lecturer said if Pieter had some added references from the module’s reading list, he ‘might even have hit high 50s’.
He admitted 12% of essays marked so far seem to have been written by an AI tool.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected]
For more stories like this, check our news page.
Get your need-to-know latest news, feel-good stories, analysis and more by signing up to Metro’s News Updates newsletter