ChatGPT can write university essays better than students, study finds

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A recent paper in Scientific Reports reveals that ChatGPT, a conversational AI developed by OpenAI, could write answers to university-level questions that are as good as, or sometimes even better than, those of actual students.

Researchers Talal Rahwan and Yasir Zaki teamed up with professors from 32 different courses at New York University Abu Dhabi to test this.

They compared the AI’s answers to questions with those written by students.

Surprisingly, ChatGPT scored similarly or higher than the students in nine of the 32 courses. The only subjects where students consistently did better were mathematics and economics.

Students Say Yes, Teachers Say No

The study didn’t stop at just grades. The researchers also wanted to know what people thought about using ChatGPT for academic work.

They surveyed 1,601 people from five different countries, including students and educators. The results showed a big gap between the two groups.

About 74% of students said they would use ChatGPT to help with their assignments. On the flip side, educators were less enthusiastic.

Most of them thought fewer students would want to use the AI, and a whopping 70% considered using ChatGPT for academic work to be plagiarism.

Can You Tell It’s a Machine?

Adding another layer to the debate, the study found that current tools designed to spot AI-written text sometimes failed to identify ChatGPT’s answers as machine-generated.

Two tools misclassified the AI’s answers as human-written about one-third to half of the time.

What Does This Mean for Education?

These findings could have a big impact on how we think about using AI in education.

For starters, if a machine can perform at the level of a college student in certain subjects, what does that say about the way we’re teaching these subjects?

It could also force schools to rethink their policies on plagiarism and the use of technology for academic work.

Lastly, if tools can’t reliably tell the difference between human and machine-written text, that adds another layer of complexity to the issue.

So, while ChatGPT showing off its academic skills might be cool, it opens up a whole can of worms that educators and policymakers will have to sort out.

The research findings can be found in Scientific Reports.

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