The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Scantrons put to the test

“Alright kids, before we get started I just want to remind you to use a no. 2 pencil and bubble in your answers completely.”

CHS students have come to expect both multiple choice testing and the specific directions that accompany its administering. The form students most associate with multiple-choice is obvious: the Scantron.

According to Yakoubou Ousmanou, MCPS coordinator of student assessments, Scantron forms are used because they simplify grading assessments and allow teachers to determine more easily what concepts students did not understand on an assessment.

Since the introduction of Scantron forms, MCPS students have been firmly instructed to use a no. 2 pencil, bubble in their answers completely and make their marks heavy and dark. Although some students may have speculated as to whether this was necessary, few have dared to challenge the rules.

Story continues below advertisement

A recent Observer experiment sought to answer this mystery by creating a hypothetical assessment with 10 multiple-choice questions to be answered via Scantron. The results were consistent—and surprising.

Contrary to what the forms may say, bubbles do not need to be filled out completely or neatly for the Scantron machines to mark an answer correct. Incomplete marks including dots in the center of the answer bubbles, circles outlining the bubbles and x’s through the bubbles all registered perfect scores on the test. Black Sharpies, black fountain pens and no. 4 pencils were all read without any problems. Even blacking out the box that states “DO NOT WRITE IN THIS AREA” with Sharpie did not cause any problems with the machines.

CHS students should be mindful, however, as there are some limits. The scanners could not read marks from crayons, highlighters, ballpoint pens nor colored pencils.

It is not completely clear how the Scantron scanner picks up marks on answer sheets. When contacted by the Observer, the Scantron company declined to comment on the topic on the basis that it did not work with high school journalists. The irony was lost on Scantron, a company that sells forms to high schools around the nation.

CHS students had both compliments and constructive criticisms for the forms.

“I really like the patterns of the circles on the forms,” junior Evan Rheingold said. “They have a calming effect on my mind when I’m taking a test.”

Senior Haile Zola’s one complaint with the form is the lack of clarity of the correct answer choice when test grades are returned. On forms with multiple columns, markings for the correct answer can overlap and be unclear.

Although the forms can apparently be filled out more flexibly than is stated, the instructions maximize the probability that the scanners will not malfunction when reading forms. Students should use caution when filling in their Scantrons; while it may be tempting to use Sharpies and to mark bubbles with x’s, there is always a chance that the machine could reject it.

“It may go through, it may work, but it’s best for the students to use pencil,” Ousmanou said. “Scantron puts that so students can change their answer.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Observer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Scantrons put to the test