Exam paper scanning

The next step in the process is the exam paper scanning of completed assessments for marking. This is achieved by converting the answer sheets into a digital format for processing. We have three options, depending on your deployment.

Scanning exam papers

The first option involves the on-site deployment of data capture software. Venue staff will collect completed answer sheets at the end of the exam and feed them into a high-speed document scanner to begin image processing, verification (correction) and indexing.

Secondly, for larger deployments, remote scanning and capture is available via a web portal (see below).

Thirdly, if you opt for our document scanning services, we will arrange for collection of the completed exam papers and process them accordingly.

Remote scanning via web portals

This deployment option is suitable for larger deployments covering hundreds of centres and/or several countries.

Post-exam, staff will gather the answer sheets at the exam venue and scan exam papers by simply feeding them into a high volume document scanner. The scanner is connected to a scanning application (see screenshots below) which is launched via a link on the web portal and runs on the local PC.

Once launched, it provides the venue with scanning, reconciliation, error rectification and transmission of answer sheets.

Once batches are scanned, any issues, such as poor-quality images, missing or unordered pages etc. are shown to the operator with a easy to understand, colour coded warning and error display.


Key features

Real-time validation

During the scanning phase, the image will be subjected to real-time tests to identify the candidate, confirm the page is complete and check the hand-written responses can be read. Examples include:

  • Confirm the presence of barcodes and cornerstones
  • Check page orientation and rotate if necessary
  • Review brightness bars
  • Check for duplicate images

This real-time reconciliation and image validation results in markers only viewing images that meet quality thresholds and are linked to candidates. If a scanned image fails to meet the expected threshold, the centre will be alerted that a re-scan is necessary.

Traffic light warnings

A traffic light system alerts the centre to problems with warnings (orange) classified as user acceptable but errors (red) will prevent batch upload until the issue is fixed.

Uninterrupted scanning

To enable uninterrupted scanning in the event of poor internet connectivity, test papers are cached on the local PC and uploaded in the background. This way any interruptions in Internet connectivity will not delay scanning.

Exception reporting

As well as answer scripts, centres can upload an exception report to identify any absent candidates or test papers that have not been uploaded due to other reasons, such as malpractice investigations.

Batch reference

Once the centre has finished scanning and the images have been transmitted, a batch reference number is generated to confirm the test papers have been received successfully. This reference acts as a proof of delivery and can provide a way of identifying a batch should any pages within it need re-scanning.


Scanning locations will upload the invigilators' report containing absentee, partial attendance and malpractice lists. eXam will reconcile scanned exam papers for a test centre to those expected for that centre, instantly highlighting any issues.

Image conversion and extraction

Once exam paper scanning is complete, the system identifies the form based on the original template type. After identifying a form, handprint (ICR), machine print (OCR) and checkbox (OMR) recognition technology will extract data such as handwritten answers and MCQs.

Image pre-processing

Scanned images are subjected to a series of tests including image correction for skew, scanner distortion and print margin adjustment.

Read constrained print fields

Intelligent character recognition (ICR) is used to capture short written responses from constrained print fields (one character per box) such as names, dates, and numbers.

Capture multiple choice questions (MCQs)

Answer papers with multiple-choice fields are graded using optical mark recognition (OMR) technology. OMR detects the presence or absence of a mark within a response area. Fields where only a single choice is expected or multiple choices can be defined along with fields that require a mandatory response.

Read machine printed text

Optical character recognition (OCR) technology will capture machine-printed text. This means individual pupil details (name, school, date of birth) can be pre-printed on the answer sheet. Other examples include a unique reference number and/or test date/location.

Confidence thresholds

As the image is evaluated, a “confidence” level is assigned to indicate the certainty that the character was correct.

Minimum confidence thresholds for recognition can be set with typical production levels around 90%. If the image is below the minimum confidence threshold, it will be queued for human verification for operators to confirm or correct the character/field.

Image verification

If human verification is required, operators can log on to the platform to review scanned images of any field or form needing review and correct misread or ambiguous characters. Once verified, the data will be exported to any required format or securely transmitted for on-screen marking. Typically, 95% of questions do not require human verification.

Batch management

Upon logon, operators are presented with the batch management page. By default, this shows the oldest batches first and only batches requiring review. The operator can search by batch reference number and/or scanning centre to find batches to process.


When the operator selects a batch, they are presented with a verification screen that shows each image in a batch for review. Only problematic fields are highlighted to the user with visual hints to highlight the questionable fields on the full-page images.

Efficient UI design

As each character or field is corrected, the cursor automatically moves onto the next image for review. Each function is assigned to a ‘hot key’ so that users can complete the entire process using only the keyboard for the most efficient data entry.

Request re-scans

If a page is unreadable or of insufficient quality, a re-scan can be requested from the centre.

Indexing data for marking

Once verified, the indexed data can be exported to third-party on-screen marking solutions (OSM).

Manage duplicate images

If a duplicate image is detected, both images are shown with the operator able to decide on the image (retain, re-assign, discard or append the duplicate to the first image).

Case studies

  • Civica



    Following a OJEU tender process, the British Council commissioned Civica as the prime contractor to deliver an on-screen marking (OSM) solution to mark up to 2.25 million ‘pen and paper’ IELTS tests each year.

    As part of the agreement, Civica appointed ePC as its sub-contractor for the script capture, processing and verification work.

  • Cambridge English

    Cambridge English


    Expert in language assessment automates paper-based assessments with OMR exam processing and on-screen marking system.

    Read more

  • Northumbria University

    Northumbria University


    Leading UK university uses TeleForm to design, scan and verify OMR answer sheets from undergraduate and postgraduate examinations.

    Request a demo

    eXam is a modular exam software for high stakes paper based exams that provides components for script capture, processing, and verification as well as on-screen marking.

    Contact us today to book your free demonstration.

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