If you’re an A level student, there are very good reasons for accessing online example essays to support your learning. A good examplar can help establish what makes a good essay and what doesn’t – how should you structure an argument? How many examples should you cite? What sort of key facts are examiners looking for? There will be many tutors on this website who can provide excellent examples to draw on, and there are lots of legitimate sources of information on the web to help with writing and revision.
But it’s clear from research published recently by no less than the exam regulator itself, Ofqual, that students are paying for essays which are complete rubbish. Companies can charge over £200 and purport to be selling ‘research guides’ – never actual essays of course – which are supposedly written by people who are undertaking research on the topic in question.
Ofqual purchased some of these ‘A grade’ essays from three companies, and marked them as if they were part of A level coursework. Most of them scored a C or lower, with several attaining an E or even a U. Many were, Ofqual says, “barely literate”, and appeared to be at the level of “an unengaged, untutored, floundering student”. They were full of factual errors, with little in-depth understanding of the subject-matter. They were full of spelling and grammatical errors, and some appeared to have been written either by American writers or by those who were merely lifting chunks out of formally-written textbooks.
A writer who worked for one of these outfits reports that only a tiny part of the fee came from the company to the writers, and so in order to survive they had to produce at least one essay a day, usually on topics about which they had no knowledge at all. If they didn’t have time to check a citation, they made it up.
A cheating culture
What’s worse is that Ofqual says that students are passing these essays off as their own work, submitting them as part of A level coursework. The regulator points out in no uncertain terms that this is cheating. There are ways that teachers and examiners can spot these ghost-written essays – and pupils could have their results quashed altogether if caught.
It seems that the internet – such an incredible resource for learning – has created a culture where cheating has become easy, and some pupils simply can’t resist the idea of getting somebody else to do the work, especially if they have the money to pay. The problem of plagiarism doesn’t stop at school level. Universities now insist on receiving essays electronically so that the work can be run through special software to detect sections lifted from the internet.
There will always be slackers looking for an easy way out of doing any work – and who didn’t have a night in the uni bar and wish they could magically conjure up an essay from nowhere for next day’s deadline? But surely, for the majority of students, there must be some level of understanding that the point of studying at A level or at university – or at least part of it – is to learn something?
Now both teachers and examiners are on the lookout for ghost-writing, perhaps students will make more effort to find legitimate sources of information and to use their own brains, not somebody else’s, to create their coursework.