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Website essay fails to get an A

It seems foolproof: copy an essay from an online database, paste it into a word-processing program, and watch as an unwitting teacher awards A-grades.

But pupils who believe that is all it takes are deluding themselves - copying an A-grade essay off the internet does not guarantee an A grade.

The TES selected an English GCSE essay from the website, which claims to provide "hundreds and hundreds of A-grade essays". The essay, dealing with the role of Lady Macbeth in the Shakespeare play, was then submitted to Moyra Beverton, English consultant for Bedfordshire education authority, for marking.

The essay, she felt, was too inconsistent to be awarded the top grade:

"Some sentences seem quite mature. But some lack polish, and are not well-constructed. I'm being picky, but for an A you are picky."

It did answer the question, she said, integrating reference points and quotations well. Vocabulary use was broad and varied: "It shows a command of the language that is secure.

"But for an A*, there has to be more evidence of wider social, historical and cultural contexts, and a consideration of alternative interpretations."

There was an ingenuousness about the essay that suggested a genuine GCSE entry. But, at 4,500 words, or seven pages, its length would arouse immediate suspicion if submitted in the classroom.

Her final verdict, though, would probably satisfy most pupils seeking minimum-effort achievement: "It was a B. Probably a high B, but not an A."

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