As an English teacher who prepares international students for their IELTS and TOEFL exams I have seen at first hand the dilemma facing these hard working, determined people once they reach university.
The problem is that the Universities accept students with a certain score in the aforementioned language tests but when at the university that has just welcomed them with open arms they find that their ability to write academic English is still not high enough to avoid losing marks through it. Even a student who achieved 8.0 in their IELTS is likely to have enough errors in their coursework that they could drop a grade.
A student’s cognitive ability and grasp of the essay topic often far exceeds their abilities in written English. Should these students simply let their language prevent them from getting the grade they deserve? Or is it fairer that they be put on a level playing field to home students?
Different universities have different approaches to students who get help with proofreading and editing their work before submission. Many clearly recommend it and even provide lists of proofreaders, others have their own in-house service. If in doubt the best advice is always to check with your tutor. For what it is worth having helped hundreds of students with proofreading I have never known one of them have a plagiarism related problem as a result.
21st Century word processing software like Microsoft Word enables the proofreader to mark up suggested changes on the document and the ultimate choice as to whether to accept them or not is down to the student.
The cost of following a three year degree at a UK university can easily exceed £25,000, a huge investment. Imagine then the frustration of not achieving the grade you deserve because English is not your first language! Even more infuriating because the university accepted your level of English based on your IELTS or TOEFL result. When a 3000 word coursework assignment can cost less than £30 to have professionally proofread it’s easy to see why more and more international students are choosing this option.
Knowing that your professional proofreader will ensure your English is clear and well written means they can focus on the content and the quality of their analysis.
Finally, a word on the difference between proofreading and editing: editing is what you begin doing as soon as you finish your first draft. You reread your draft to see, for example, whether the paper is well-organized, the transitions between paragraphs are smooth, and your evidence really backs up your argument. You can edit on several levels: content, overall structure, quality of evidence and analysis, clarity, style and referencing.
Proofreading is the final stage of the editing process, focusing on surface errors such as misspellings and mistakes in grammar and punctuation. Proofreading should only be undertaken after you have finished all of your other editing revisions.