The e-rater® Engine in the Criterion® Online Writing Evaluation Service

When writers read a topic and craft an essay response for the Criterion® Online Writing Evaluation Service, they will receive a score that corresponds to a faculty test reader's evaluation based on the scoring criteria for that topic, as well as detailed feedback on possible errors made.

In some cases, the e-rater® engine generates both a score and an advisory message. These advisory messages are an indication that the essay is not typical of other essays submitted on the topic. Writers should consider these messages along with the overall score and other feedback when they analyze their essays. Advisory messages serve as alerts to writers that the e-rater engine can intercept many essays that are not authentic responses to the essay topic. Generating advisory messages and doing the ongoing work to improve the capability to detect nonsense or off-topic responses is part of our commitment to enhancing the value of the e-rater engine score.

The e-rater score and trait-level feedback provided through the Criterion interface will be most beneficial to students who use it to help improve their writing skills in the context of an instructor-led writing course.

The e-rater technology is an embedded real-time application that cannot read or respond to an essay as a teacher would. The computer learns to score essays on each topic by extracting linguistic features of writing based on regularities observed in a large group of "training" essays at each score point on the score scale.

It is important to emphasize that the e-rater engine is designed to be used in conjunction with a writing instructor or teacher. The role of the teacher as manager and guide of a larger program of writing instruction has been repeatedly mentioned in research on writing and cannot be overstated.

Learn more about the Criterion service.