GPT-4: The End of College Examinations and a Revolution in Higher Learning

Russell Kidson
Mar 15, 2023
Updated • Mar 15, 2023

The unveiling of GPT-4, the most recent advancement of OpenAI's robust language model, has generated significant excitement within the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) and beyond. Owing to its unparalleled capacity to produce text that closely mimics human writing, GPT-4 has sparked inquiries and apprehensions about the prospects of several sectors, including higher education. This issue was most recently emphasized in a tweet by Zain Kahn (@heykahn): 

‘It's scary how fast AI is evolving.

GPT-4 was released today and it can pass the bar exam with a top 10% score.

GPT-3.5 failed the bar exam with a bottom 10% score.

College exams are about to become obsolete.’

This article examines the prospective influence of GPT-4 on college assessments and the potential for an upheaval in higher education.

GPT-4: The End of College Examinations and a Revolution in Higher Learning

The current state of college examinations

For centuries, traditional college examinations have been a pivotal component of the higher education system. These assessments are generally composed of standardized tests, essays, and diverse other forms of evaluation, all of which are intended to assess students' knowledge, abilities, and competencies. However, as the education landscape continues to evolve, the limitations of traditional examinations are becoming more pronounced.

Related: Microsoft abandons ethics for advancement

One significant constraint of conventional exams is their inability to accurately gauge students' creativity and critical thinking skills. Such exams are typically based on rote memorization of facts and procedures, which do not necessarily reflect a student's innovative problem-solving abilities or their capacity to think critically in real-world situations. This shortcoming is particularly relevant today, as the demand for innovative and adaptable graduates in the workforce grows.

Furthermore, traditional examinations have been shown to induce stress and anxiety in students, especially when high stakes are involved. The pressure to perform well can be detrimental to students' mental health, leading to burnout and poor academic performance. This issue has been further exacerbated by the pandemic, which has amplified the mental health challenges faced by students worldwide.

Another issue is the prevalence of cheating and plagiarism, which can undermine the integrity of the education system. With the widespread availability of information online and the ease of access to essay writing services, it has become increasingly challenging to detect and prevent academic dishonesty.

In light of these issues, it is necessary in the long run to consider alternative methods of assessment that can better measure students' skills and abilities while mitigating the negative impacts of traditional examinations. However, just because it’s easy to write a scathing review of the higher education system, the correct response isn’t to use AI to circumvent higher learning - but AI could signal a change in how we determine aptitude and intellectual ability. 

The impact of GPT-4 on college examinations

As a sophisticated AI model, GPT-4 has exhibited an extraordinary aptitude for comprehending and producing text. This proficiency has prompted discussions about the potential use of the model to take examinations on behalf of students or even generate high-quality academic work with no human intervention. The implications of such a development are significant, as traditional assessment methods may become obsolete due to their inability to distinguish between AI-generated content and authentic student work.

The possibility of AI-generated content being used for academic evaluation poses a unique challenge for the education system. As GPT-4's ability to produce human-like text becomes increasingly sophisticated, it could potentially produce written work that is indistinguishable from that of a human student. This could result in a situation where academic work is not evaluated based on the students' actual abilities, but rather on the quality of the AI-generated text.

Furthermore, if students are permitted to use AI models such as GPT-4 to take examinations on their behalf, it could lead to widespread cheating and undermine the integrity of the education system. This could make it difficult for educational institutions to differentiate between genuine student work and AI-generated content.

In light of these challenges, it is crucial for the education system to adapt to these technological advancements and develop new assessment methods that can differentiate between AI-generated content and authentic student work. This may involve incorporating new forms of assessment that focus on skills such as creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving, which are not easily replicable by AI models.

The end of traditional examinations

The potential impact of GPT-4 on traditional assessments necessitates a reevaluation of the higher education system's reliance on such exams. If students and educators cannot have confidence in the authenticity of exam results, the current examination model may become unfeasible. This scenario could lead to a consideration of alternative assessment methods that prioritize learning and development over testing and grading.

The traditional examination model has long been a staple of the education system, providing a standardized measure of students' knowledge and abilities. However, the rise of advanced AI models such as GPT-4 poses a significant challenge to this model. The possibility of AI-generated content being used for academic evaluation undermines the authenticity of exam results and creates a need for new assessment methods that can distinguish between genuine student work and AI-generated content.

Moreover, as the limitations of traditional exams become more apparent, there is a growing need to explore alternative assessment methods that prioritize learning and development. This could involve a shift towards assessment methods that emphasize the acquisition of skills, rather than simply testing for knowledge retention. For example, project-based assessments that focus on real-world applications could better reflect students' abilities to think creatively and problem-solve.

The potential impact of GPT-4 on traditional assessments highlights the need for the higher education system to reevaluate its reliance on such exams. Exploring alternative assessment methods that prioritize learning and development could provide a more accurate reflection of students' abilities while mitigating the negative impacts of traditional exams.

Related: What is PaLM?

A revolution in higher education

The education system is flawed. But perhaps GPT-4’s shattering of the illusion that test-based education is the way forward has provided us with a chance to reevaluate how we evaluate competency. Here are some thoughts on alternatives to traditional test-based education: 

  • Competency-Based Education: Colleges and universities may increasingly concentrate on developing students' skills and competencies through practical, real-world experiences. This approach could emphasize internships, co-operative programs, and project-based learning to a greater extent.
  • Continuous Assessment: Higher education may move away from high-stakes, one-time exams and shift to continuous assessment methods. These can include regular quizzes, classroom discussions, and self-assessment exercises that provide students with ongoing feedback and support.
  • Collaborative Learning: By prioritizing teamwork and collaboration, higher education could underscore group projects and peer assessment to cultivate interpersonal skills and critical thinking.
  • Digital Portfolios: To maintain a comprehensive record of a student's progress, accomplishments, and learning experiences, students may be required to maintain digital portfolios. These portfolios can serve as a comprehensive record of a student's growth and development throughout their academic career.

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It’s time for a change

The unveiling of GPT-4 has triggered a vital discussion regarding the future of college examinations and higher education. With AI advancements continuing to evolve and test traditional assessment methods, it is imperative for educators and institutions to adapt and adopt innovative teaching and learning approaches. By doing so, they can guarantee that the higher education system remains pertinent, stimulating, and efficient in preparing students for the complexities and prospects of the 21st century.


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  1. Dr. Knowitall said on March 16, 2023 at 1:20 am

    Let’s see what GPTZero has to say about this essay: Your text may include parts written by AI. The parts flagged as possibly AI generated are the list of shortcomings and several paragraphs in the “impact” section. I had an intuition about AI generation because the essay is a generic recycling of what other educators are posting online. Also note that the writing style is quite different than the biography.

    In regard to the ideas, these are hot ideas in higher education, but a realistic educator will tell you that these are hard to accomplish in large groups due to being labor intensive. Many students dislike collaborative learning, unpaid internships, etc.

  2. Alex said on March 15, 2023 at 7:36 pm

    My take-away is different:

    If GPT-4 passes the bar exam with with a top 10% score, why do we need to pay lawyers $200-500 per hour when GPT4 costs 3-12 *cents* per 1K tokens?

    It just proves that the legal system is a protection racket.

    1. dostiers said on March 16, 2023 at 2:38 am

      There’s a big difference between passing a bar, or any other graduate examination and being a competent practitioner. That often takes years of experience which is what you’re paying for. The degree is only the first rung on the career ladder.

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