GPT-4 passes first Harvard semester in humanities and social sciences experiment


Harvard University student Maya Bodnick wanted to see if GPT-4 could pass Harvard’s first-year home essays in the humanities and social sciences.

Bodnick had GPT-4 write seven essays on topics such as economic concepts, presidentialism in Latin America, and a literary analysis of a passage from Proust.

She then gave the essays to the professors to grade, indicating for bias purposes that the essay had been written either by her or by GPT-4. In fact, GPT-4 wrote all of the essays using the essay assignment as a prompt.

The result: A. A. A. A-. B. B-. Pass. GPT-4 earned a “respectable” 3.57 GPA, according to Bodnick.


The student said she submitted GPT-4’s answers unedited, but with two caveats: She pieced together the essay from multiple answers to meet the word limit, since GPT-4 generates a maximum of 750 words at a time.

She also asked the reviewers to ignore the missing citations that GPT-4 could not provide. These would normally be part of the grade.

Great grades with special praise and little criticism

In addition to some excellent grades, reviewers gave special praise such as “beautifully written” or “well articulated paper.” In one paper on conflict resolution, the reviewer criticized a flowery writing style with too many adjectives and metaphors.

In terms of content, the reviews were also positive, for example, praising the high level of detail or the structured approach to each question. The lowest grade of “B-” was given to the paper on Latin American presidentialism, where the reviewer criticized the paper for ignoring positive assessments of presidentialism as well as economic aspects.

“I think we can extrapolate from ChatGPT-4’s overall solid performance that AI-generated essays can probably get passing grades in liberal arts classes at most universities around the country,” Bodnick writes. At Princeton or UC Berkeley, these grades might have been B’s and C’s instead of A’s and B’s. GPT-4 would still have passed. The seven essays can be viewed here.


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