Imagine being back in school and seeing your grade jump from F to A+ after typing a selection of specific words into a box during an online test. These words have no cohesive structure, nor do they create a sentence. You'd think it was madness!
But after discovering their online tests were being graded by AI algorithms, a number of students in the U.S. found a way to trick the system and go from low grades to top ones.
The Verge was the first to report on the story.
A concerned parent, Dana Simmons, watched her kid Lazare take an online test as quickly realized an AI algorithm was grading it, per the Verge. The grade was provided as soon as Lazare had submitted his test, something no human could do.
After looking at the correct answers, Simmons figured out that Edgenuity, the online auto-grading system, was scanning through students' answers looking for keywords — if these didn't show up, the grade was low, but if they were there (no matter if they were written out in full sentences), the grade was high.
Simmons and Lazare figured out a way to trick the system. To answer a question, Lazare now writes two regular sentences followed by a string of potentially relevant keywords. As Lazare explained to the Verge, he typically writes words that are written in the question or mentioned in the question's video.
Algorithm update. He cracked it: Two full sentences, followed by a word salad of all possibly applicable keywords. 100% on every assignment. Students on @EdgenuityInc, there's your ticket. He went from an F to an A+ without learning a thing.— Dana Simmons (@DanaJSimmons) September 2, 2020
Lazare is just one of many students who figured out this method.
Given the number of online classes and tests taking place online at the moment, this type of AI algorithm may be cause for concern. Students no longer have to actually study for their tests so long as they figure out a way to trick the AI system by using keywords.
Another way to look at it, perhaps, would be to say that this could be good learning and practice for the future, as kids will be well placed in the future if they understand computing systems well from a young age.