Whenever I visit teachers, one of the most discussed GradeSlam features is Essay Review. I don’t always get to answer every question about how it works, so I decided to introduce the feature to my friend Ava (who is a teacher here in Montreal) and answer all of her questions.

(Alyssa shows Ava the how-to video about Essay Review)

So how does it work? Are tutors rewriting essays for students?

No, absolutely not. They don’t rewrite the essay for the student. Tutors help students learn from their own mistakes and improve their writing.

Okay, so if they’re not rewriting the paper, then what are they doing?

Think of them as human spellcheckers. Tutors proofread papers and markup spelling and grammar mistakes just like spellcheck in Word or Google Docs.

Why shouldn’t the students just use spell check then?

The difference between our tutors and the computer is that if a student consistently makes the same mistake, then the tutor won’t mark it every time. Instead, the tutor will clearly identify an error that is made frequently and suggest that the student review their essay for any similar mistakes. This way, the student has to dive into the essay and make the changes themselves. Of course, they’re free to resubmit the essay afterwards to make sure they’ve corrected all of their errors.

That sounds pretty good, but do they leave any other feedback?

Sometimes, yes. It depends on the instructions that students include when they submit their essay. Students are asked to included both their teacher’s instructions (like a rubric) and their own instructions (for example, asking to double check a student’s citations).  

Why do the instructions matter?

Tutors work with students from many grade levels who are taking many different courses.  Some students are submitting papers for 7th grade English and others are submitting for A.P. U.S. History. If the students don’t include the instructions, tutors will only mark up the basic spelling and grammar errors because they don’t know the level the student is at and won’t want to confuse the student.

Makes sense. So what kind of feedback do they leave?

Tutors leave comments on the content of the essay just like a teacher would in class. They provide students with feedback related to the content, structure, and organization of their essay. Tutors comment on the essay and ask questions to get the student to think critically about how to improve their work independently.

For example, they may highlight a sentence in red and ask the student questions about what they’re trying to say. Depending on the grade level, the tutor may also highlight more advanced grammatical errors (like sentences written in the passive voice or dangling modifiers) and explain why they need to be revised.

How do I know that the essay isn’t over edited?

Rest assured, every GradeSlam tutor is trained to use the same revision standard. Our service team also spot checks reviewed essays to make sure they’re up to par.  

Okay…but how do I know for sure?

Just like GradeSlam tutoring sessions (and unlike ther at-home resources), essay reviews are 100% transparent for teachers.  If you want to double check an essay, you can download both the original and revised version by clicking on the student’s profile and then clicking essays.

So can I have my entire class submit their essay before handing it in?

Definitely! Many teachers require their students to submit their essays to GradeSlam as part of their writing process because it means that the students receive feedback in less than 24 hours. This saves a lot of class time and helps the student improve their writing at every stage of the process.

Wait, let’s back up a second...the essays are reviewed within 24 hours?

Yes, exactly. Every essay is proofread and returned to the student with feedback in under 24 hours. The student receives an email notification when it’s been reviewed.

*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.