Optical mark reader uses, advantages and disadvantages

An optical mark reader (OMR) also known as optical mark recognization is an input device used to scan and read marks made by pencil or pen. It consists of a scanner that scans a filled form to detect which option is marked.

OMRs are used in applications such as multiple-choice tests, surveys, voting systems, and other areas where users make distinct marks on the form. It has the advantage of being a more accurate and fast method of data entry. However, they are only suitable for data that have multiple choices, and the accuracy depends on how the user marks the document.

How optical mark reader works

Users fill a form with multiple choices using a pencil or a pen by marking only one selection from the list of choices. The form is fed to the OMR scanner machine which uses laser light to read. 

The scanner detects the dark parts of the form where the mark are made and gives it as data input for processing. The form should be specifically designed for OMR use and the mark made precisely to avoid errors. It is discouraged to make more than one mark on the same question presented.

Functions of optical mark reader (OMR)

OMR’s main function is to read documents that have special marks on them which act as input data to the computer. The machine is fed with the pre-filled form and scan using laser light to detect the mark.

Where are OMRs used

Optical mark readers have a wide range of applications in the real world that speed up and simplify data capture. Some of the main application areas of OMR are as follows.

  1. Marking multiple choice exams: when the student sits for examinations that require multiple questions they are marked using OMR. They can be used to mark thousands of sheets for a short period of time. This is possible because the user only requires to feed the answer sheet to the machine.
  2. Close-ended survey: when a survey is carried out and it has options that the user can choose from they can be captured using OMR for analysis. This makes the collection and analysis of data to be fast and less tedious.
  3. Counting votes: on the manual voting, voters tick their candidate and the form can be processed using the OMR scanner to count the number of votes.
  4. Member subscription form: when a user is required to fill out a predetermined form that has multiple choice OMR can be used to capture data for processing. 

Advantages of OMR

  1. Fast data capture: compared to human doing data entry OMR are fast. They can process thousands of forms per hour which cannot be compared to manual capturing. The speed will depend on the quality and types of machines in use.
  2. High accuracy: OMR scanners are accurate compared to manual data entry. This depends on how the user marked the form that they filled out. However, they cannot be compared to human data entry accuracy.
  3. Cost-effective: the process requires only one computer and an OMR scanner to handle many forms. This reduces the cost of hiring more data entry clerks since it can be done by only one person. Also, you don’t need many computers to capture the data.
  4. Versatility: OMR scanners can be used in different application areas, such as education, business, voting, and survey among others.

Disadvantages of OMR

  1. The mark made on the form should be precise otherwise the scanner may not detect it during data capture.
  2. They are only applicable in multiple-choice situations where users select only one among many options.
  3. The accuracy depends on how the user makes the mark. If the mark is not clear enough it may assume the question was not answered. The mark should be clear enough to be detected by the laser light of the scanner.
  4. It requires OMR software to capture data and process it. This means if you have the hardware part only you cannot use the machine.
  5. It only allows a single option selection on the multiple questions questionnaire. More than one selection of the same question is not allowed.

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