Scantron Hints, P. Conrad, UD CIS Dept.

A picture is worth a thousand words

So here is the picture you need the most.

A picture of the full sheet is also available.

And now, several thousand words.

The IT department at UD will provide automated test scoring using Scantron sheets (those "fill in the bubble with your #2 pencil" sheets).

The purpose of this document is to first explain my philosophy about the role of such testing, and then with that out of the way, to provide some quick hints and tips for getting started with using scantron sheets.

The IT department has a nice brochure that explains everything. You can pick it up at the counter in the basement of Smith Hall; it is called Test Scoring (for multiple choice examinations) There are also online instructions: here is a link to the main online web page, and a direct link to the detailed test scoring instructions.

However, the printed documentation is long, wordy, and can be a bit intimidating if you just want to get something done quickly. This tip sheet is intended to hit the high points, not to replace the full documentation.

First, philosophy: should we really be using multiple choice tests at all?

I've factored out the philosophy into a separate web page.

I just want to score some multiple choice problems in the simplest way possible... what do I do?

The following instructions are a simple way to get started fast. They do not include every possible option; just a set of simple options that "works".

Later, there are tips for what to do if you need to deviate from simplicity.

Assumptions for this simple version:

  1. Either questions worth the same number of points (or varying point values between 1 and 5).
  2. No omitted questions.
  3. Only one "big section" (scores not broken out by section).
  4. The multiple choice part need not be the entire test (it can be, for example 32% of the entire test.)

What to assemble

  • The "Test Scoring (for multiple choice examinations)" brochure from the basement of Smith.
  • 3-4 blue sheets. You probably only need 1 or 2, but its good to have a few extra.
  • Enough brown sheets for all of your students, plus a few extra.

    Preparing the instructor's blue sheets

    See the picture for an example of a filled in sheet.

    1. Fill in your name (instructors name) in the first 16 columns (ignoring the division between last and first), and your department in the last 4).
    2. Lower left, bubble in "Control and Key" and "First Section".
    3. Bubble in "last number used", showing the problem number of the last problem on your exam.
    4. Bubble in a "5" for standard option 3. This will produce a "narrow-format" computer file containing all the students names, raw scores, and all their responses to each question.

      (I think "narrow format" just means "no wider than 80 columns", a throwback to the old days of 80 column wide terminals, punch cards, etc.)

      As an alternative, you can use "4" for standard option 3 to get a "narrow-format" computer file that you can use with the ITEMAL program (see: The command to run the ITEMAL program is:

      ~consult/scanning/itemal < input_filename > output_filename 

    5. Bubble in a "1" for standard option 5. This will produce a "grade file" with section number, student names, "raw score" and "score"
    6. Bubble in a "1" for standard option 7. That way, even if some students forgets to bubble in his/her name, the exam will still be scored.
    7. If the multiple choice part is only part of the total exam, bubble in a "1" for standard option "10", and then bubble in the number of points that the multiple choice part is worth in columns 7,8,9 of the "extra options".

      Note: the instructions from User Services for option 10 indicate that if you use a weight sheet, you don't need to do this step, but that's a bit misleading. (The misleading instruction is in the instructions for the standard options. Scroll down past standard option 10, and see the "Additional Note").

      The instructions for filling out the weight sheet) (which, to be fair, they instructions above indicate that you should read for "more information") make it clear that if your multiple choice part is only a portion of the exam (e.g. 75 points on a 100 point test), you should fill this in anyway (see the formulas such as X/Y, and Z*X/Y for details.) Otherwise the total score will be reported as a percentage out of the total of the weights, rather than as raw score (e.g. out of 75).

    8. Bubble in the answers on the blue sheet.
    9. Point Values (weights). If the questions have different point values, or point values other than 1, fill in a second blue form. On this form, fill in only the "weight" bubble at the lower left, and fill in the A-E values for each question, A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4, E=5.

      You cannot assign point values other than 1 through 5. So keep that in mind when designing your exam.

      (Actually, a single exam question worth more than 5 points with no option for partial credit probably doesn't make sense anyway, so this is no great loss.)

    Giving the exam

    1. Tell the students to mark and bubble in only their names. They don't need to mark anything else except their names and the answers. In particular, they don't need to mark the section, the course, the student id number, though if you want them to mark in section number, that's fine.
      • A Tip if you are using WebCT : Have them bubble in their UDelNet account (i.e. udel username) instead of their last name. This makes importing the results file into WebCT a bit easier
        • Though you'll still have to do some manipulation in a program such as Excel or Emacs.
        • Or, use my handy dandy C++ program:
      • Emphasize: NO SSNs!!! Soon the test scoring center will reject any pages with SSNs.

    After the exam

    1. Put the blue control sheet on top. Write the word "CONTROL" in the course/section area at the upper right hand corner.
    2. If there is a weight sheet, put it second. If there is an alternate key, put it third.
    3. Put the brown sheets stacked underneath all the blue sheets.
    4. Take the stack down to the basement of Smith.
    5. Obtain a Test Scoring Request Card at the desk. Fill it out, and give it to the clerk. They will give you a receipt that you can use to pick up the package when it is finished.
    6. If you requested it, a file with the results will show up in your home directory on copland/strauss in files with names such as and You won't get an email, so don't bother looking for that; you just have to keep checking your home directory.
    7. After the file shows up in your directory, there may still be some lag before the papers are available in the basement of Smith; the actual scanning is done over on South Chapel Street, so there is some round-trip-delay involved.

    The special HOW TOs

    How to omit a question

    1. Leave each omitted question line blank on the answer key
    2. Mark a "1" for standard option 6.
    3. Fill in the number of omitted questions in extra option columns 4,5,6

    How to provide for more than one correct answer (alternate key)

    1. Include an extra blue sheet in your stack. On that sheet, bubble in "alternate key". This blue sheet goes behind the main blue Instructor Control form and Weight Sheet (if there is one).
    2. Fill in one of the correct answers on the main Instructor Control form and the alternate answer on the Alternate Key sheet. Do NOT fill in answers on the Alternate Key sheet for questions that have only one correct answer.


    A C++ program to import Scantron data into WebCT

    The program can be used to convert the file you get back from the scanner into a CSV files that can be imported into WebCT. See the program source code comments for instructions on how to use it.

    You'll need to use "Unix redirection" to store the resulting output in a file with a .csv extension, to make WebCT happy.

    Sorry if these instructions are overly technical—they were originally written for an audience of Computer Science faculty. If the need arises, I can try to re-write them in a more accessible form.

    Phillip T Conrad

    Last modified: November 15, 2006