Computer Laboratory

Technical reports

Automated assessment of ESOL free text examinations

Ted Briscoe, Ben Medlock, Øistein Andersen

November 2010, 31 pages


In this report, we consider the task of automated assessment of English as a Second Language (ESOL) examination scripts written in response to prompts eliciting free text answers. We review and critically evaluate previous work on automated assessment for essays, especially when applied to ESOL text. We formally define the task as discriminative preference ranking and develop a new system trained and tested on a corpus of manually-graded scripts. We show experimentally that our best performing system is very close to the upper bound for the task, as defined by the agreement between human examiners on the same corpus. Finally we argue that our approach, unlike extant solutions, is relatively prompt-insensitive and resistant to subversion, even when its operating principles are in the public domain. These properties make our approach significantly more viable for high-stakes assessment.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Briscoe, Ted and Medlock, Ben and Andersen, {\O}istein},
  title = 	 {{Automated assessment of ESOL free text examinations}},
  year = 	 2010,
  month = 	 nov,
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-790}