Schoolchildren who try to cheat in exams by buying essays online are only cheating themselves – because the works are littered with spelling mistakes, factual errors and poor grammar.
But according to exams watchdog Ofqual, many essays are 'barely literate'.
It said pupils were attempting to buy work billed as the equivalent of an A grade from online ghost writing services - only to see it awarded an E or even a U.
Essays were 'riddled with typos and misspellings', used clumsy sentences, failed to answer the question and even employed 'pompous' phrases that were clearly not written by an 18-year-old.
Now Glenys Stacey, Ofqual's chief regulator, has now told teachers and exam boards to be extra vigilant to pick out coursework suspected to be the work of online essay writing companies.
She told the Telegraph: "My message to students is quite clear: these essays are poor quality. Anyone who buys them isn't getting value for money. "And more importantly, while there can be valid reasons for students buying these essays, such as essay practice or research, any attempt to pass this work off as the student's own is cheating."
She added: "One of the more shocking findings was that the essays supplied by these companies are not even the grade they claim to be. For example essays that claimed to be grade A quality were purchased and when they were analysed by our experts, the majority were only a C or even a grade D."
Some of the examples include:
• A history essay supplied by UK Essay Writing Service. It was supposed to be of A grade standard but actually achieved an E.
• Another appeared to have been 'written by someone outside England and Wales' because of the use of American spelling and phrases. This included 'realized' instead of 'realised'.
• One sentence read: "They benefited from sick leaves to higher extents".
• Another said: "It is important for the people to be engaged with work to keep them busy so that they cannot have time to terrorize other people in the society."
• One used the phrase 'UK nationals', which the report said was not a 'phrase commonly used by A2 students in England and Wales'.
• A history essay by the firm UK Essays was graded a C/D in the report. It told how some phrases 'read like a teacher, eg. 'A seminal aspect of the social reforms...'".
• In another case, it used the advanced phrase, "...a political tool that would limit the personal agency of the working class", even though there were minor grammatical slips or clumsy sentences elsewhere in the essay.
• An essay in history by Custom Essays was 'riddled with typos/misspellings and has clumsy sentences'. This included spelling Lloyd George as 'Llyod'. It also used phrases that 'read like a teacher', including 'scholarly misconception' and 'why, one asks, is the Act so important?'. The report said the latter phrase 'does not sound like an 18-year-old unless they are rather pompous'.
• Custom Essays supplied an English essay that was graded E or U. The essay read like the 'work of an unengaged, untutored, floundering student"' the report said. It said that 'at times the language of the essay becomes barely literate'.
• The same essay described a newspaper article about Mandela's funeral that started by 'explaining the mood that was expected'. But the consultants said 'this is complete rubbish - the article begins with a statement/announcement of Mandela's death'. The Ofqual report said: "The essay is crudely structured, poorly written and almost entirely descriptive. The weaknesses in expression and the errors in punctuation, spelling and grammar would restrict it to a GCSE D/E grade."