Replace specialist DRS/OMR scanners with data capture software

Awarding bodies seeking to scan OMR sheets may believe they need to purchase specialist optical mark reader software and OMR scanners (including DRS scanners and Remark Classic OMR) to process high-stakes exams.

Advances in OMR technology and the availability of image scanners mean expensive OMR software and hardware are now obsolete and no longer covered by vendor support contracts.

As a result, awarding institutions are decommissioning OMR scanners and investigating alternative solutions for 11+ entrance examinations, MCQ exams, and tests with short answer questions (SAQs).

One solution is automated data capture software and an image scanner from mainstream manufacturers such as Canon, Kodak, and Fujitsu.

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Automated data capture

Automated data capture solutions such as TeleForm offer several benefits over old DRS document scanning infrastructure for high-stakes exams including the 11 plus entrance exam taken by year six pupils and MCQ exams.

In addition to exams, organisations that use an OMR scanner in the following scenarios can benefit from replacing their OMR scanning hardware with automated data capture software and a mainstream document scanner:

Flexible form design

Flexible form design

Academic institutions have found many design constraints with OMR exam answer sheets created for use with DRS scanners and other OMR scanning hardware with a key challenge identified as the rigid grid-based system for form design.

The TeleForm software offers a more flexible and cost-effective form layout process with multiple layout possibilities available. In addition to optical mark recognition (OMR) scoring answers to multiple-choice questions (MCQ), intelligent character recognition (ICR) reads short written responses and optical Character Recognition (OCR) captures machine-printed text.

Equally important, a TeleForm template includes cornerstones and ID blocks to reduce manual intervention and barcodes that can be used to identify candidates.

Use existing OMR sheet

Use existing OMR sheet

We understand some awarding bodies may want to maintain their existing OMR sheet design despite being informed their DRS scanner(s) is no longer supported.

To support this requirement, ePC can implement a solution to capture legacy DRS forms through TeleForm. This involves ingesting colour and black-and-white images, interpreting header marks, extracting candidate responses, and exporting data to onward systems.

If you prefer, you can choose to design new answer sheets.

Double-sided and multi-page answer sheets

Double-sided and multi-page answer sheets

Optical mark reader scanners are limited to single page forms.

TeleForm allows you to create forms of any length. It may be that you cannot fit all your questions for your entrance exam OMR sheet onto one side of A4, especially where longer written responses are expected, and the form needs to spill over onto the reverse. Or you wish to combine multiple components of an exam into a single test paper, so they can be handled as one answer paper.

TeleForm provides advanced tools to enforce page-linking, via barcodes or candidate written values, to ensure that your multi-page OMR sheet for entrance exams cannot become separated or mixed up.

Handprint recognition

Handprint recognition

In addition to capturing MCQs with optical mark readers, TeleForm can capture short handwritten responses (e.g., candidate name/number, date, venue) with intelligent character recognition (ICR).

ICR is also used to read short written answers (e.g. short answer questions (SAQs)) from constrained print fields (one character per box) on an answer paper. Common examples include reading the answer to 13+10 or the missing letters in words from a spelling test.

Variable data printing

Variable data printing

You can pre-print answer papers (APs) with variable data added to a TeleForm template, including barcodes.

Common examples include candidate name/number, test date/location, date of birth, and school. This information can be encoded into a two-dimensional (2D) barcode to enable instant recognition of completed answer papers.

Document scanning

Flexible deployment

Document scanning bureau

TeleForm is available as an on-site installed forms processing system, or ePC can provide a scanning bureau service to replace your DRS/OMR solution with zero capital expenditure. Our document scanning services include:

  • Design/print APs including OMR sheets for entrance exams
  • Deliver pre-printed/blank APs and other exam preparation materials
  • Collection of completed APs
  • Capture, classify, extract, and validate data from returned APs
  • Export data to any required format
  • Electronic viewing of scanned APs

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Additional benefits

Investing your time and money in OMR software and/or hardware that is unstable or has been discontinued is not a path we would recommend for obvious reasons.

Whether you want to replace the DRS/OMR scanner but keep your existing OMR answer sheet or decommission both the OMR sheet and DRS/OMR hardware, TeleForm is the natural choice for academic institutions seeking an alternative data capture solution for high-stakes exams.

More accessible answer sheets

In 2022, Ofqual published new guidance on making assessments accessible for students.

TeleForm supports the creation of accessible exam papers. Answer sheets with clear instructions and constrained data entry fields make it easier for candidates to fill in and reduce the risk of them making mistakes or misunderstanding instructions.

Better use of page space

Although the old OMR scanners for OMR exams are quick and efficient at reading MCQs, they cannot read hand-print characters. This means that when it comes to capturing more complex data, such as the candidate number, a grid of tick-box fields is required. For example, if you have six-digit candidate numbers and they can contain any digits from 0 – 9, that will require a grid of 60 tick-boxes to capture!

TeleForm allows you to capture the same information from a simple six-cell constrained hand-print field, which leaves you far more space on the page for the fields that matter; the question responses.

No risk of obsolete OMR scanners

The risk with DRS scanners is that support could end, product development might be halted, and replacement parts might be unavailable.

TeleForm is compatible with ISIS, Kofax, and TWAIN compliant scanners meaning no specialist hardware is required.

You’ll have access to a wide range of hardware from Canon, Kodak, Fujitsu, and other manufacturers. In such scenarios, if your scanner is broken or discontinued, a compatible model will always be available.

Reduce design costs

TeleForm offers a cost-effective alternative to outsourcing the design of your OMR sheets for processing with DRS scanners.

The software offers a better form design environment with a quicker development time for new forms and a reusable library of forms and field groups. Additionally, by redesigning your OMR based exam paper with TeleForm, you will improve the processing speed and accuracy of the scanned image.

To further reduce costs, we can provide training to allow you to create the form(s), although we recommend asking our team to build the initial form(s) for you, so you can learn best practices from us.

Lower printing costs

OMR forms were designed to use a drop-out colour, usually red. While this is fully supported in TeleForm, it often adds to the OMR sheet printing costs by requiring colour printing and a dependency on the printing being completed to a very high standard. With TeleForm, you can print in black & white only.

Moreover, OMR forms designed for use with DRS scanners need to be printed on CBS2 paper meaning it is necessary to use professional print companies, which adds significantly to the pre-test time and cost.

There is no such requirement in TeleForm - standard 90 - 100gsm office paper is acceptable and you do not need to professionally print TeleForm templates with normal office printers more than adequate.

Reading School


Case study

Reading School release exam results faster by outsourcing OMR scanning to ePC's document scanning bureau

I would highly recommend ePC to other schools seeking a scanning bureau to provide document scanning services. Our school has saved a significant amount of time during this year’s admissions process by outsourcing both the design of the OMR sheet and exam paper scanning with results issued to pupils in record time. We have greatly appreciated the personal contact and professional service provided; it has exceeded our expectations and my colleagues speak highly of it.

A.M. Robson, Headmaster

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