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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Eleven Plus and Multiple Choice Answers

We have working with children on mock eleven plus tests. The children were invited to use `multiple choice’ answer papers. In a multiple choice answers the children have to choose answer from a series of choices. In the early days of eleven plus tests, before the advent of multiple choice style tests, children used to write their answer. Answering questions this way came to be called `standard’ papers. It is likely that the questions were the same or very similar – but the difference came in the way the answers were recorded.

An optical mark reader reads the answer sheet and adds the marks, right or wrong, into a data base. We used to us a `Lectoread 1282 Optical Mark Reader’. This takes single sheets A4 sheets of paper. The `OMR’ is connected to the computer through a serial port. We used to print our own forms. The scanner knew where the right answer was on the page through a system of co-ordinates. The software was directed to look for marks at set points on the page. The programming was reasonably simple. If the child’s answer was in the right place the question was correct.

We used to use our OMR for scanning the results of lesson plans.

We stopped using the OMR machine with because we deal with multiple centres and the logistics of entering data about a child’s lesson became more and more time consuming. Our teachers are now able to update, through the internet, each child’s lesson in a remarkably simple manner.

It is preferable to fill the answer across the middle of the givens space. We could see which children had been helped with completing answer sheets correctly. Their parents and tutors had obviously spent time on this vital part of the eleven plus examination process.


Some children persisted with ticks in the given box. Others allowed the space at the top or the bottom to be filled – leaving the vital central point blank. A blank answer to an OMR machine is a blank answer – it is clearly not right – so it must be wrong or not understood.

The National Lottery OMR machines work on the same lines. If your child persists with untidy answers take him or her to the nearest National Lottery outlet. Allow your child to fill in the numbers in a sloppy and careless manner. See if the lottery ticket can be read.

Spend a little time, please, with your child discussing `Answer Etiquette’.

By the way if anyone can think of a use for our OMR machine please let me know. I do not know why - but I can not bring myself to recycle it. It did come in useful; however, as I wrote this blog and looked fondly at the machine we were so proud of some years ago.

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