Focus On… Assessment via OMR

Focus on assessment

Assessment via what?

OMR stands for Optical Mark Recognition, a technology which is still widely used here at Loughborough for summative assessment – and yet many colleagues will know very little about the service.

If you’d like to know more, we are running a ‘coffee and cake’ session on OMR as part of Focus On… Assessment Month.

Taking place on Wednesday 21st January 3-4pm, this informal session will focus on how the technology can be used effectively in assessment and in other areas. OMR’s summative and formative capabilities will be detailed, along with the service’s amazing time saving ability.

The session will be of particular interest to anyone who sets end of semester exams and/or coursework tests for large cohorts or who sets papers with large numbers of questions. Refreshments will be available.


Optical Mark Recognition service – usage in Semester 2

It’s the technology that wouldn’t be killed!

Three or four years ago, you might have been forgiven for thinking that OMR as a means of delivering / marking assessments was on its way out. After all, surely it would all be done online soon?

But in fact, year on year, use of OMR at Loughborough continues to increase.

In Semester 2, the figures were as follows:

Total number of papers: 64 which is a 11% increase on last year.

6678 students were registered on modules which used OMR exams. This is 491 more than Semester 2 exams last year.

Approximately 314,311 OMR questions were taken by students. If marked by academics at 5 seconds per question, this would take 437 hours…

Optical Mark Recognition service update

Some colleagues may not be aware that the Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) service continues to be widely used here at Loughborough as a way of delivering exams.

In Semester 1:

• There were 55 OMR exams. 24 were combined question/answer format.
• This represents a 19% increase compared to semester 1 2011-12
• The total numbers of papers printed (including spares) was: 7618
• The total number of OMR exam papers sat was: 6613
• The total number of OMR questions taken and marked was: 332,135

332,135 questions marked automatically… How long would these have taken to mark ‘manually’? If we assume that each question would take, say, 5 seconds, that would equate to 460 hours of marking. So, OMR as a technical approach to assessment still has efficiency savings to offer.

OMR – the Cinderella service

It’s easy to dismiss OMR (or Optical Mark Recognition) as technologically outdated – surely everything can be done online now?

But don’t dismiss OMR as it can still be very useful. In the case of CAA (Computer Assisted Assessment), it’s a relatively easy, low-cost approach to automating the process of marking large numbers of exam papers. For this reason, it continues to be a popular approach here at Loughborough.

My colleague Tim Baseley who supports OMR on campus has just passed on the following information about use of OMR in Semester 2:

  • 51 exams were delivered via OMR.
  • This represents a 2% increase over Semester 2 2010.
  • The total numbers of individual candidate papers printed was 6954.

From an ‘efficiency and effectiveness’ perspective, the saving in academic marking workload this makes possible is tremendous. For more on this aspect of OMR see my previous post on this subject.

Tim and colleagues are currently planning to move Module feedback forms to Remark OMR. This should improve scalability, flexibility and reporting whilst reducing overall costs and administration/processing time.


Here’s a quick stat to make academic colleagues think as they finish marking:

Total questions marked automatically by Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) during Semester 2 exams: 296,963

If you could mark a question in 5 seconds (!) and could continuously mark for 6 hours a day, it would take 69 days. That’s almost 14 weeks of saved academic time…