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The Optical Mark Reader

The Optical Mark Reader is a device the "reads" pencil marks on NCS compatible scan forms such as surveys or test answer forms. If that all seems overly technical to you, just think of it as the machine that checks multiple choice computer forms. In this document The Optical Mark Reader will be referred to as the scanner or OMR. The computer test forms designed for the OMR are known as NCS compatible scan forms. Tests and surveys completed on these forms are read in by the scanner, checked, and the results are saved to a file. This data file can be converted into an output file of several different formats, depending on which type of output you desire.

OMR Scanner ITC 101A

Sekonic SR-3500's ready to scan NCS compatible green and blue scan forms seen below.


NCS Compatible Scan Forms

(click on the forms for a larger image)

Green NCR Form
10 Question Green Form

NCS Compatible Scan Form - Blue
5 Question Blue Form


These forms can be purchased at the campus bookstore or the convenience store located in the union. The green form has ten choices for each answer and the blue form has five choices for each answer. When students fill out these forms it is important that the name field is filled out with the appropriate letters filled in below the name. See the Example of a Correct Student Scan Form for more information. If this is not done the scanner will report an error. Also make sure none of the forms are damaged. Damaged forms cannot be checked.   There are two sets of preprinted marks that help the scanner read the form. They are the "Skunk Marks" and the "Timing Marks". See the picture below for the location of these marks.

Location of Skunk Marks and Timing Marks

It is important that you use NCS compatible forms as the OMR is specifically designed to check these forms. The five and ten response NCS forms are the standard forms used for surveys and tests. If you wish to use other NCS forms, contact Information Technology at 766-2939 to find out what support we can offer.

Once you have the filled in the scan forms and wish to process them, here is what you must do. First complete a cover scan form. For test grading this will be an answer key, for teacher evaluations this will be a form filled out with the instructor’s information, and for surveys this may be general information about the survey.

Once this is completed you will need to go to the Information Technology Center to process the forms. The OMR is located in room 101A. When you come into the lab go behind the lab assistant’s desk. The OMR and the computer connected to it are located there on the table just left of the color printer. Printed versions of Test Grading, Generic Teacher Evaluations,  College of Education Teacher Evaluations, and A&S Teacher Evaluations pages explaining how to scan, process, and print are located in a folder near the computer. Also inside the folder is a printed version of Scanning Errors. It is a handy reference when problems occur. In the folder there should also be an End of Forms page as well as some blank NCS blue and green scan forms in the back. The blank forms are there in case someone removed the End of Forms page from the lab.  There is also a document that explains the numbers the scanner will print on the bottom of graded tests.

At this point you should determine what kind of forms you are going to process, test forms, 45 question teacher evaluations, Cafeteria teacher evaluations, or surveys. Those links will take you to the How To Pages of processing each type. Before you start it is important to note that the system is case sensitive. You will need to type in all responses exactly how they appear in the How To Pages for the type of forms you will be scanning. If you do not, problems will occur. Sit down at the computer and follow the directions for the type of forms you will be scanning. When you start, the computer prompt should be Count>. If not ask the computer lab assistant for help; they will correct the problem. In the second step of the How To Pages the directions specify to accept the defaults. Advanced users and users with more than one answer key may want to change these. For directions on changing these defaults see the Changing Scan Defaults page. Most users will not need to do this. We recommend pressing return on the keyboard at each prompt to accept the defaults. After completing the first few steps in the How To Pages for your form type, the computer will prompt you to PUT THE STACK OF FORMS IN THE INPUT TRAY. Meaning it is time to load the scanner with your scan forms.

There are a few things you should know about the Optical Mark Reader that will help you understand how to scan the forms. In the How To documents there are OMR related terms that may seem confusing. Use the following picture to guide you when you come across terms referring to the parts of the scanner.

Labeled parts of the OMR scanner

The Optical Mark Reader

The input hopper holds the forms to be scanned. The Sheet Guide is used to keep forms aligned in the hopper. This is important as forms not properly aligned will become jammed in the scanner. Actual scanning occurs on the Transport bed. Once a form is scanned it comes to rest in the Output Stacker. The Operator Panel displays the scanner status and any error messages. If the scanner stops scanning in the middle of a job check the Operator Panel for information.

To load the scanner place your forms in the hopper so that they are readable to you and the timing marks are on the same side as the Operator Panel. The picture above shows how to load the scanner. Never place more than 300 forms in the input hopper at a time as this causes the scanner to jam.

Loading The OMR

Make sure to place the forms under the bar (located on the same side as the Operator Panel) and that they are aligned properly. The answer key scan form should be on top of the stack. Next look at the Operator Panel. If the Operator Panel reads "Count", you may begin scanning. If it does not, ask the lab assistant for help. Once you press return on the keyboard forms will begin running through the scanner. If an error occurs (i.e. a form becomes jammed in the Transport Bed) read the error message on the computer console then consult the Exam Instructions or Survey Instructions for the solution.