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With the time that’s invested in preparing and setting up exams, it’s a relief when they’re over and have run smoothly. However, the task of processing the exam papers still lies ahead. With Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) scanners and software, then it should be as simple as scanning the sheets in. And with scanners capable of scanning thousands of sheets per hour it will be done in no time at all.

However, in reality, things don’t always run to plan. And there’s nothing more frustrating than encountering problems – turning what should be a quick and easy task into a hugely frustrating issue.

In this post, we’ve collated some of the more common issues and provide some helpful advice on how to get the best results and ensure seamless OMR scanning.

Ensure sheets are loaded correctly

It might seem obvious, but it’s something that can easily be missed when in a hurry. The OMR scanner needs to be able to read the sheet track marks (the black lines that will be printed across the top and the side of a sheet). So, it’s imperative that the sheets are placed into the loader with the marks facing the left-hand side. This ensures that they are in the correct position to be read.

We recommend loading sheets in small batches, gently tapping them on the table or desk and blowing on them before loading. This will remove any static and ensure that the sheets run smoothly.

Not all sheets are the same

Sheet quality issues can have a huge impact on scan-ability. If a sheet is poorly printed, the track marks not accurately placed or the wrong type of ink is used then problems can occur. The same is true for the cutting of the sheets, with the worst-case scenario being that they won’t scan at all. Imagine having to manually input all of that data.

If you buy your exam sheets from us, they come with a guarantee that they’ll scan with our software and on the OMR Scanners we supply. Sheet issues are extremely rare, however, if there are ever any problems our print team will ensure they’re rectified promptly. We support your process from start to finish giving you less to worry about.

Dealing with and minimising damage

Hole punching and stapling are prime examples of how whole batches of sheets become damaged. Staples can rip and tear the sheet when they are removed. There is also the potential of them getting jammed and causing harm to the scanner.

If a hole is punched through the track marks the OMR Scanner cannot read the sheet. Plus, take extra care with double-sided papers, as the track marks could be in a different place on the reverse.

To avoid disaster, the safest option is to ask us to pre-drill the sheets. This way you can be assured that the hole will not be in a place that will cause any problems.

It’s probably inevitable that at some point a sheet will become damaged – and damaged sheets cause problems. If it’s torn or crumpled it may not feed into the scanner very well and get rejected. In this case, the best course of action is to either transfer the information onto a fresh sheet or input the results directly into the software. This is not a problem if it’s only one or two sheets, but if the whole batch is damaged it becomes a bigger problem.

Rejected sheets

There are a number of reasons that can lead to sheets being rejected by an OMR Scanner. However, there are some common issues that occur time after time. For example, are the marks dark enough? Or has the form been filled in correctly? – these are probably the most frequent culprits.  If the mark is not dark enough, and it is an isolated case, you can darken the affected sheet yourself. If many sheets are not getting scanned because of this issue then you may need to adjust the read head sensitivity in your scanner settings. This should help ensure that the marks are picked up.

Minimise the potential for candidates to incorrectly fill in the sheets by including clear and simple to follow instructions on the exam sheet.

Ensure the sheets are at the right temperature

Yes, this really makes a difference. If a sheet is too cold, it won’t scan as efficiently. Commonly, this is seen in colder months, either because sheets are stored in cold rooms or being scanned as soon as they have been delivered. For optimal scanning, we recommend that you let the sheets come up to ambient room temperature before starting to scan.

Jammed OMR scanner

Unfortunately, it’s probably not possible to avoid a jam completely. However, when it does happen, you should gently lift up the read head, clear the jam and then gently lower it down again. This should ensure that you avoid any inadvertent damage.

OMR Scanner maintenance

As with any piece of machinery, it’s important that the OMR scanner is properly serviced and maintained. You wouldn’t expect a car to keep running year after year (sometimes with long periods of inactivity) without any issues, or replacement of worn parts. The same is true for an OMR scanner. The good news is that we offer support contracts for both the OMR software and the hardware. This, along with the sheet guarantee means if you buy the scanner, software and sheets from us you’ll benefit from a comprehensive, joined-up support system. So, you can contact us for troubleshooting, maintenance and if necessary, repair. We’ll even send you a loan scanner if required, so that you are not without whilst yours is being repaired.

Talk to us

If you would like to find out more about our software, OMR Scanners or support contracts, then get in touch. Contact us on 01223 851703 or e-mail