DingTalk tests new AI assistant with gaokao essay writing task

To show solidarity with students sitting China’s college entrance exams (called gaokao) this week, Alibaba-owned workplace communication platform DingTalk was put through its paces with an essay challenge.

After the exam papers were publicly released on June 7, the team at DingTalk put its new ChatGPT-like function to the test by asking it to answer real exam questions.

One such question asks examines to write an 800-word essay in response to the statement “As a result of technological developments, people have greater control over time, but some have also become servants of time.” Such philosophical quandaries are typical of the Chinese portion of the gaokao, which is one of the compulsory sections alongside English and Maths.

DingTalk shared multiple possible essay responses generated by its AI assistant to its official accounts on messaging service WeChat and microblogging hub Weibo. The hashtag “AI writes gaokao essay” garnered over 100 million views on Weibo, with commenters pointing out that the prompt fed to the chatbot should include the essay mark scheme in order to improve the output.

Others said DingTalk’s essays lacked the emotional logic to elevate them to top-scoring work. Another mocked the language quality saying, “It feels like something translated from English into Chinese!”.

DingTalk, which is similar to the app Slack, launched its AI function on June 1, making it one of the first workplace communication platforms to integrate generative AI. The AI assistant can reportedly generate summaries of conversations in a group chat, assist in creative writing, create surveys and forms based on simple prompts, and perform proofreading and editing tasks.  


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