OMR and Testing Software: Saving Time and Getting Results

Article excerpt

Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) automates numerous manual tasks, from attendance to testing, evaluations to scheduling. Virtually all OMR readers ship with software that takes the information culled using the scanner and saves it into the universal ASCII file format.

In this raw form, data can be imported into an unlimited number of applications and subsequently manipulated. Standard database or spreadsheet programs help organize data. Statistical programs help researchers dissect and analyze data to a much greater extent. And administrational packages accept ASCII data to compute grades, take attendance and organize class schedules.

We will focus on grading and scoring software here, one genre that works well with OMR data.

* On the Hardware Side

Two companies have new developments in their OMR hardware lines. Scantron Corp.'s latest addition to their 8000 family of OMR scanners, the Model 8600, accepts standard or custom-designed forms; a built-in Forms Translator converts scanned data into ASCII text records.

Features include the ability to specify which output hoppers processed forms are sent to and an LED display. The machine can calculate and print either a score or message on a form based on information read from it.

Also just in, Scanning Systems' (formerly HEI) newly enhanced SR-360X and SR-380X models include a second communications port, have an optional ink and pencil readhead, and are plug-compatible replacements for NCS' 3000 scanner--software modifications are unnecessary.

The company now offers high-volume scanners, the SR|7100 and SR-7700, which process up to 7,200 forms per hour, boast a select stacker and printer, and offer both ink readhead and barcode reader options.

* OMR & Testing Suites

Many full-featured testing and scoring packages not only develop tests, but also score them and generate reports that break down the effectiveness of specific questions and/or the performance of a class or individual.

An integrated suite of programs is offered from Economics Research, Inc. Their ParSYSTEM software includes ParTEST, an item banking and test generation program; ParSCORE, a test scoring and analysis program that also includes grade book and reporting features; and ParGRADE, which provides ParSCORE's grade book and reporting functions. All are designed for the DOS platform.

Teachers start by developing exams in ParTEST, which boasts a built-in spell checker. ParTEST creates up to four different versions of a test, each with up to 250 items, by scrambling answers and/or questions.

A Scantron optical reader is used to input student data and test responses. Student scores are automatically posted to the gradebook module, which performs numerous computing options such as dropping lowest scores or weighing rosters by percentage. Classes of up to 2,000 students with up to 90 test scores per student are supported.

ParSCORE 4.00 sports many enhancements, including new facilities for subtesting and subtest report generation, enhanced item analysis and barcode support. The latter prints and reads student data in barcode form.

Teachers using any of the eight lecture halls at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif., use ParTEST and ParSCORE to generate multiple versions of tests as well as score and record them. Detailed item analysis and the ability to rescore any test are highlights.

During a typical semester, 85 to 90 instructors teach over 100 classes in the large lecture halls-over 15,000 students are enrolled in such classes each semester. Many other instructors also use the system for their classes.

Another package, the MicroCAT Testing System from Assessment Systems Corp., develops tests, analyzes answers, and creates and maintains item banks from which tests are generated. Of special note is the assessment subsystem, comprising six data-analysis programs. …