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ChatGPT aces Harvard freshman writing courses

A Harvard undergraduate determined that ChatGPT-4 can get high grades in actual freshman essay assignments at her college.

“Two weeks ago, I asked eight Harvard professors and teaching assistants to grade essays written by ChatGPT-4 in response to a prompt assigned in their class. Here are the summarized prompts with links to the essays,” Maya Bodnick wrote Tuesday in the blog Slow Boring.

“I wanted to see for myself: could ChatGPT-4 pass my freshman year at Harvard?” she wrote.

She put the AI to the test, and it scored three A’s, one A-, one B, one B-, and one C.

Bodnick gave ChatGPT essay prompts for real Harvard courses in politics, microeconomics, intermediate Spanish, presidential history, and other topics. She informed instructors that the papers might have been written by either herself or the AI, though in fact ChatGBT-4 wrote all of them.

She submitted to the instructors “exactly what ChatGBT wrote.” Professors graded the submissions as normal.

“Not only can ChatGPT-4 pass a typical social science and humanities-focused freshman year at Harvard, but it can get pretty good grades, Bodnick wrote:

Several of the professors and TAs were impressed with ChatGPT-4’s prose: “It is beautifully written!” “Well written and well articulated paper.” “Clear and vividly written.” “The writer’s voice comes through very clearly.” But this wasn’t universal; my Conflict Resolution TA criticized ChatGPT-4’s flowery writing style: “I might urge you to simplify your writing — it feels as though you’re overdoing it with your use of adjectives and metaphors.” …

I think we can extrapolate from ChatGPT-4’s overall solid performance that AI-generated essays can probably get passing grades in liberal arts classes at most universities around the country. Harvard has a grade inflation problem, so one way to interpret my experiment would be to say “this actually just shows that it’s easy to get an A at Harvard.” But while that might be true, if you read the ChatGPT-4-generated articles (which are hyperlinked above), they’re pretty good. Maybe at Princeton or UC Berkeley (which both grade more rigorously), the As and Bs would be Bs and Cs — but these are still passing grades.

“I think artificial intelligence will completely upend how we teach the humanities and social sciences,” Bodnick wrote.

Read the whole post.

MORE: As ChatGPT-4 aces SAT and bar exam, some call for tech to be reined in

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