• SAGrader

    Automated Essay Grading


SAGrader is a learning tool that engages your students with interactive writing activities guided by immediate, personalized feedback.

Unlike other automated essay grading tools, SAGrader is built for low-stakes writing in content area courses such as biology, psychology, business, and history. It works best for high school and college students. Every SAGrader writing assignment is designed to guide students to an accurate understanding of specific content knowledge. For example, in a biology class SAGrader can see how well students understand the process of photosynthesis or determine how well they know the difference between plant and animal cells. Our goal? To promote deep content understanding in content area classes by making writing assignments more convenient.

Promote better learning

Encourage deep content understanding through informal writing and revision guided by frequent feedback.

Perfect for your class

Designed for high school and college content area classes like psychology, biology, business, sociology and more.

Efficient and accurate

Saves grading time, easy to set up and rigorously tested to agree with human scorers.

Benefits for students

  • Writing engages students with content and refines their thinking skills.
  • Frequent feedback guides students toward better learning outcomes.
  • Students have the opportunity to revise and improve their performance.
  • Encourages more frequent writing practice in science, social studies, and history courses.
  • Disadvantaged students have the opportunity to overcome initial deficits.
  • Easy to use and available 24/7.

Benefits for instructors

  • Reduce grading time by eliminating hand grading.
  • Assure objectivity and comparability of every writing assessment.
  • Easily monitor student learning by tracking individual and classwide performance.
  • Get a window into your students' learning by comparing their revisions over time.
  • Add your own comments to any student submission.
  • Maintain complete control over final grades.
  • Fully-hosted, web-based service. No software to install.

How It Works

Students are scored based on an answer key created by a subject matter expert.

An expert builds the answer key


For each assignment, a subject matter expert creates an outline of the correct content knowledge. For example, here's a very simple science assignment about the Earth.

Planet Earth

  • part of the Milky Way Galaxy
  • between two other planets:
    • Venus (the hottest planet)
    • Mars (red color)
  • contains 21% free oxygen

We build the semantic network

We add this outline to SAGrader, where it is represented as a semantic network of concepts and relationships.

SAGrader analyzes student submissions

When a student submits, SAGrader uses several artificial intelligence strategies to measure the student's ability to accurately identify, explain and organize the required knowledge. This goes well beyond keyword recognition. SAGrader can model hundreds or even thousands of ways students may express a concept, and we also make sure students are correctly explaining the relationships between concepts.

SAGrader checks for:

Concepts / Ideas

Recognizes variations of the same answer.

"protect" = "guard" = "cover" = "watch over"


Students must organize their ideas correctly.

"The retina contains cones and protects the eye."

"The retina has cones. The cornea protects the eye."


Students won't get credit for saying the opposite.

"The iris does not dilate and constrict."

Feedback and Scoring

Assessment is fast, personalized, content-focused, consistent and accurate.

SAGrader improves the writing process by providing immediate feedback to guide revision. Below is an example of the feedback one student received from their psychology assignment on Gestalt psychologists.

Explain how Gestalt psychologists understand perceptual organization, including a discussion of form perception, depth perception, and perceptual constancy.

SAGrader feedback is:

  • Immediate. Students get feedback in just a few seconds.
  • Specific and actionable. Students know exactly how they need to improve in future revisions.
  • 100% consistent and unbiased. Students are always graded according to the exact same standard.
  • Accurate. Studies have shown SAGrader agrees with human scorers 93% - 98% of the time.
  • Content-focused. To encourage deep thinking about content knowledge.
  • Personalized. No pre-packaged comments.


SAGrader supports writing assignments designed to assess content knowledge.

SAGrader works best for high school or college-level content area classes. If you teach biology, psychology, sociology, business, or history, you're in the right place. SAGrader emphasizes the assessment of content knowledge. It's great for homework assignments that check for students' knowledge and understanding of your course content. It doesn't work as well evaluating general writing skills, creative writing, or persuasive skills. Use SAGrader for short answer questions, term papers and anything in-between. Writing activities can cover a range of cognitive levels from factual recall and analysis to interpretation and argument.

SAGrader is great for:

  • A short answer question that asks students to describe the parts of a plant cell.
  • An essay describing the contributions of Sigmund Freud.
  • An essay outlining each branch of government and its primary function.

But not a good fit for:

  • A persuasive essay about the death penalty.
  • An essay you want to evaluate using 6-trait writing.
  • A short story about the student's earliest childhood memory.

Assignments that work well in SAGrader

The following examples are actual SAGrader writing prompts taken from a variety of disciplines. These prompts demonstrate just some of the types of assignments SAGrader can handle well.

U.S. Government (The Fed)
Describe the structure and function of the U.S. Federal Reserve. What is its most important function? Why have some people called it 'the most powerful branch of government'?
Sociology (Social Deviance)
Read the following description of Warren's life. Identify 6 social deviance concepts that are illustrated in the story. For each concept that you identify, provide a definition and quote the passage of the text that illustrates that concept.
Psychology (REM sleep)
Discuss in detail the characteristics of REM sleep. Identify both the neurological and physiological effects caused by REM sleep. Describe the stages of the sleep cycle that occur before REM sleep. What distinguishes REM sleep from othe sleep stages?

Reuse an existing assignment

You're welcome to browse the assignments other classes are using. We can often modify assignments to include your lecture or textbook content.

Build a new assignment

We just need an outline of your answer key and we'll take it from there.

Download the Customized Assignment Template for detailed instructions and examples.

Case Studies

SAGrader is loved by instructors and students all over the country.

Pam Thomas
Biology at University of Central Florida

Pam Thomas

"This program has absolutely saved my life this semester, if I didn't have it I would have died with my teaching load. When teachers realize what this can do — they will be hooked!"

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Lloyd Chia
Sociology at Spring Arbor University

Lloyd Chia

"I believe students are more motivated to grasp concepts and theories … through SAGrader they have to engage these concepts as 'producers' of knowledge."

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Andrew Johnson
Psychology at Park University

Andrew Johnson

"The SAGrader system adapts to the student and gives the less prepared student more learning opportunities without taxing the instructor."

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Joe Swope
Psych at Montgomery County Public Schools

Joe Swope

"SAGrader allows teachers to focus their efforts on students that need help rather than spreading their attention too thinly on everyone."

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Testimonials from students

Research / Whitepapers

Our studies show that SAGrader increases learning and supports effective teaching.

Time-Shifted Online Collaboration: Creating Teachable Moments Through Automated Grading

Chapter appearing in Juan, A.A., Daradournis, T., and Caballe, S. (Eds.) 2009. Monitoring and Assessment in Online Collaborative Environments: Emergent Computational Technologies for E‐learning Support. IGI Global.

"Changing the timing of feedback creates a powerful teachable moment when students have motivation, information, opportunity, and feedback. They are motivated to improve their grade, they are told what they did right or wrong while the relevant information is fresh in their minds, and they have the opportunity to revise and resubmit."

Read Time-Shifted Online Collaboration


Students Improve Learning by 20% with SAGrader

"An analysis of 1,595 student essays submitted in a college-level introductory course found that essays revised based on feedback from SAGrader achieved final grades 20 percentage points higher than the grades assigned to first drafts of those essays."

Read Improves Learning Whitepaper

SAGrader Benefits Can Outweigh Costs in First Semester

"SAGrader... pay[s] for itself within the first semester... Expected costs for subsequent semesters or when pre-constructed assignments are used should be substantially lower than the costs for comparable hand-grading."

Read Cost Efficiency Whitepaper

SAGrader Helps Disadvantaged Students Overcome Initial Deficits

"An analysis of essays submitted in introductory sociology assignments finds that SAGrader levels the playing field, giving disadvantaged students the opportunity to overcome initial deficits."

Read Disadvantaged Students Whitepaper

What Do Students Think About Using SAGrader?

"Virtually all students like the immediate feedback, the detailed comments, and the opportunity to revise and improve their paper. Most think it is fair even in its first assessment. They prefer automatic essay grading over traditional multiple choice tests by almost two to one."

Read Student Opinions Whitepaper

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Answers to the most commonly asked inquiries.

SAGrader focuses on assessing the content of students' writing, but you can also add metrics to your assignments that evaluate general writing skills. These metrics evaluate things like spelling, grammar, reading ease and word count. It's worth noting these metrics are currently experimental, which means we're still ironing out some rough edges.

Generally, if you teach a college course, students will pay for SAGrader as a course supplement. There's no charge for instructors. We can work with your bookstore to sell enrollment codes through them, or students can pay us directly online. We can also work out payment from your school or department, but we still charge per student.

High school classes are a bit more complicated since you generally cannot charge students directly. We charge per student, but we can arrange payment from you or your school in whatever manner works for you.

Most other essay grading programs base their scoring and feedback on statistical models of human-graded papers. This allows them to provide fairly generic advice across broad dimensions, like style or focus.

In contrast, SAGrader uses linguistic strategies like Natural Language Processing (NLP) to assess the specific ideas discussed in a submission. This enables us to deliver incredibly specific, topic-based suggestions for improvement. As a result, SAGrader is the only program ideally suited for content area classes concerned with teaching students substantive content through writing assignments.

For a more detailed comparison between SAGrader™, MYAccess!™, WriteToLearn™, and Criterion™, download the SAGrader comparison document.

SAGrader is not useful for grading broadly defined essays with no specific content focus. SAGrader is designed to assess a student's knowledge about a substantive topic as expressed in a specific writing assignment. In other words, we don't recommend using SAGrader in a creative writing class or to assess general writing skills in an English class.