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OMR Attributes & Limitations
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Mark/no mark optical-read, read-only technology
Relatively low cost scanning equipment
Application-specific forms required, low cost in bulk
Accuracy determined by the effectiveness of detecting marks and accommodating the variability in marks.


Generations of students subjected to standardized testing are all too familiar with optical mark recognition, though few are likely to recognize it by name. One of the earliest types of automated data entry, also referred to as mark sense, OMR processes marked data by detecting and measuring reflected light flooding the form. When a mark has been made within a constrained area (with a #2 pencil or more recently, a felt-tipped pen), it absorbs light. Subsequently, electronic circuitry recognizes the mark as valid and sends a digital signal to the computer. The form data, represented by mark positions, are translated to ASCII text records for use in a variety of applications.

Another huge application is in lotteries, where participants can quickly and easily mark their selection of numbers on a machine-readable ticket.

Although less sophisticated than other optical data collection technologies, OMR can serve certain high-volume data collection applications very cost-effectively because of labor and cost efficiencies. It has a lock on the educational market and is growing steadily in commercial and government applications.

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