Automatically Evaluate Compare and Contrast Essays

Essays that compare and contrast help students reflect upon similarities and differences between two objects, two concepts, or two processes. Usually, the student will want to take a stance, claiming that one of the two items is superior in certain contexts. In short, compare and contrast essays are opinion essays that examine differences and similarities.

This discourse model benefits students by asking them to engage in thoughtful reflection on non-trivial differences and find target structures to express those differences clearly within an organized essay structure.

Writing compare-and-contrast essays takes time, but evaluating them need not rob you of your weekend. Labodanglais can provide formative feedback in a few seconds. Teachers can add this evaluation to any course or build their own course using the resources and power tools in the Sharing Cart. For teachers who use other platforms, you can direct your students to the 100% free automated compare-and-contrast essay evaluation system on the Virtual Writing Tutor. Try it there first.

The system evaluates each essay based on these characteristics:

Fluency 20%

Fluency means word count. An essay with 300-400 words earns 60%, a passing grade. 400-500 words earns an 80%. 500-700 words earns 100%. More than 700 words earn 80% and a comment about the importance of concision.

Writing quality 20%

Cohesion: transition words and cohesion devices in your essay to help your reader understand the relationship between your ideas. Some examples of transitions that you can use are as follows: along the same lines, because of this, as an example, as an illustration, take the case of, to illustrate, as a matter of fact, there is no question that, without a doubt.

Dynamism: Increase the variance in your sentence length by writing a combination of short sentences and long sentences to increase your score.

Provocativeness: words that could provoke an emotional reaction in your reader help to engage and sustain your reader’s attention. Here are some examples of words that provoke an emotional reaction in readers: awe-inspiring, brutal, children, danger, explode, fear, gorgeous, hoax, invasion…

Clichés: Tired old phrases that have lost their freshness have no place in good writing. So don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater or try to think outside the box. It’s boring, and you will get a penalty of -10% for each one.

Exclamation marks: Exclamations marks have no place in academic writing. They make you sound overly excited and immature. They are useless, and you will get a penalty of -10% for each one.

Essay structure and content 20%

Introductions should begin with a hook (question, bold claim, statistic, or quote), establish the importance of the topic, and end with a short, strong thesis statement.

Body paragraphs should start with a short, strong topic sentence. They should use words commonly used when comparing and contrasting, and should contain a variety of words used in compound and complex sentences.

Conclusions should restate the thesis in different words, compare and contrast, and use a variety of words used in compound and complex sentences.

Vocabulary 20%

The system scores the student’s vocabulary by checking the text for words used in argumentation, low frequency words (not just the most common words in the language), and for academic vocabulary.

Accuracy 20%

You will still receive 100% if the system detects 1 or 2 grammar errors to allow for the possibility of false alarms. Penalties are applied for 3+ errors.

Compare and Contrast Essay Instructions: 

Write a 5-paragraph compare-contrast essay of 300 to 700 words. Make sure to include a title in title case (capitalize every 4+ letter word).

Avoid stating the obvious. Instead, help the reader understand differences and similarities that readers might have overlooked.  Use FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) to link your ideas together and use these words and phrases to compare and contrast features of your two items:

  1. Like A…, B…
  2. In the same way, B…
  3. Similarly, B…
  4. Both A and B…
  5. One of the key differences between A and B is
  6. Neither A… nor B…
  7. On the other hand, B…
  8. In contrast, B…
  9. Unlike A…, B…
  10. While A…, B….

Here is some general advice for writing a well-structured essay:

  • Generate interest with a hook—first sentence of your introduction should ask a question, share a statistic or surprising fact, or quote a notable figure.
  • End your introduction with a strong thesis sentence that summarizes your opinion.
  • Start each body paragraph with a short, strong topic sentence. Elaborate on that topic sentence in the rest of the paragraph with examples and illustrations.  
  • Start your conclusion with a sentence that reformulates your thesis state, giving the same opinion but in different words.
  • Refer back to the hook with the last sentence of your conclusion.

Oral follow-up activity

Once the student has written a compare and contrast essay, now what? One choice could be to ask the student to use the text as the script for a short talk on the same topic. For students with significant pronunciation difficulties, asking them simply to read their text to our robot teaching assistant will encourage students to work on academic speaking skills as a kind of invisible form of writing. Labo’s webcam oral evaluation system will the words heard, and giving additional feedback on the quantity and quality of the talk, giving feedback on the use of compare and contrast vocabulary.

The webcam oral evaluation system can give oral feedback on the talk in the form of a video message. For example, when the system discovers that the oral is missing the target vocabulary, the system will show the video below.

Automatically generated feedback on target vocabulary

Final words

We’ve been working hard to provide teachers with power tools. Artificial Intelligence is changing industries everywhere we look. Brick and mortar education need not be the exception. Try this new evaluation robot with your students. Labodanglais and Virtual Writing Tutor can evaluate compare-and-contrast essays in seconds, hundreds at a time, draft after draft, promoting revision and better engagement. There is nothing stopping teachers from reading and scoring students’ final drafts. Human intelligence is paramount. Yes, robots can help, but they need supervision.

For more about the automated evaluation tools we’ve been developing, check out our automatically scored email evaluations, automated oral evaluation system, pronunciation scoring, and guided speaking evaluations.