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How Smart Grading helps students study more effectively

Quizlet HQNews · Posted by  November 17, 2022
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At Quizlet, our mission is to make students unstoppable. We want everyone to unlock their full learning potential and to us, there's nothing more powerful than that "aha moment" when students go from questioning themselves to believing in themselves, and realize that, with enough tenacity and guidance, they can learn anything.

We've also heard from our users that there is nothing more demotivating in a study session than seeing a written question assessed as incorrect because of a typo or because it wasn't phrased in a certain way; for example, being dinged for responding that the definition of elation is "showing feelings of pride and joy" rather than "n. Excited feelings of pride, triumph or happiness".

And with that feedback in mind, we developed AI-powered Smart Grading for Learn mode, which launched in 2020, has dramatically improved its patented technology since launch and today was named as one of Fast Company's Next Big Things in Tech for its cutting edge advancements and potential to impact students and society overall.

While we're humbled by this honor, we're even more proud of the positive effect it's had on student learning. Prior to Smart Grading, Quizlet required student answers to be a near exact match to a study set response in order to mark it as correct. As a result, students who answered correctly, but reworded the right answer, were being penalized.

Grading free response answers accurately on a digital platform is challenging, as overly flexible parameters result in positively grading incorrect answers, while overly strict parameters result in negatively grading correct answers. So, we set out to develop a solution that would reduce strictness without reducing accuracy. To accomplish our goal, we tapped into the power of Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to develop Smart Grading for our more than 60 million active monthly users.

With Smart Grading, we were able to decrease override rates of correct responses marked incorrectly by over 50% which led to more students finishing their studies rather than becoming discouraged and abandoning their sessions. The feature incorporates Semantic Textual Similarity (STS), a well-studied research area in the field of NLP, so students responding that the definition of elation is "showing feelings of pride and joy" are now being graded as correct, because their answer shows that they understand the material, regardless of how it's phrased.

Smart Grading also increased completion rate and study retention. In speaking with our users, we found that the feature helped students test themselves beyond rote word-for-word memorization, placing a greater emphasis on the concepts themselves, rather than the wording or spelling.

As we celebrate being named as one of Fast Company's Next Big Things in Tech, we wanted to thank you, our community, for your feedback and your trust in us to deliver best-in-class smart study tools that help make your learning experience more engaging, efficient and rewarding.

Our promise is that we'll continue to use emerging technology to make a positive impact on student learning and develop better, richer, and more delightful study tools.