Computers Can grade CSAP

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Officials at Vantage Learning of Newtown, Pa., said the Graduate Management Admission Council chose the company to provide computer-based essay scoring for the Analytical Writing Assessment portion of the GMAT, used by business colleges to judge prospective graduate students.Vantage, a division of Vantage Laboratories Inc., was selected by ACT Inc., the not-for-profit organization that manages the development of the GMAT, to be used in conjunction with humans to develop prompts and to score the newly introduced writing portion of the GMAT. Amid some concern, officials from the council said the GMAT is not changing, despite the use of automated scoring. They stress that each person's score using the automated system will be comparable to every other person's score before the system was used. Vantage also provides computer-based essay scoring and feedback for the College Board's online Scholastic Assessment Test practice essays. The regular SAT remains a written test, which is not conducive to automated scoring.

"When students actually take the SATs, they write it on paper, and we're always looking at [automated scoring], but there's no timeline," said Brian O'Reilly, executive director of SAT information services for the College Board. O'Reilly said the SAT is taken by many more students, so any change would take longer to implement. "Because the test is taken by so many students and in a relatively short amount of time, there's not enough capacity to move to a computer-based test. You cannot score a handwritten essay electronically." The idea of computers grading essay questions may present ethical dilemmas for some, but the technology has been proven, said Harry Barfoot, vice president of marketing for Vantage. The technology uses a method that allows the program's scoring ability to evolve, or become more specific to individual needs, such as the needs of the GMAT exam,