Why Paper Exams Will Never Go Out of Style


It’s hard to ignore the signs of the times that we’re headed into an all-digital age. A lot of paper-based products have moved to a new online home. Where the Yellow Pages were once a veritable necessity for home- and business-owners, they’re now all but irrelevant. Where magazines were once the go-to method of keeping up with countless interests and hobbies, online websites can do everything that they can and more.

As an educator, you might be looking at paper-based exams and wondering what the future of test-taking looks like. Online exams have, after all, become fairly prominent, and it’s easy to ask yourself if you’d benefit by getting rid of paper tests altogether and moving into the digital age.

As a provider of OMR testing forms, it would be impossible to deny that we have a bias, but we assert that paper exams will continue to be relevant, and that they have many unique advantages, despite the ubiquity of online test-taking. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t throw out pencil-and-paper tests:

It’s Harder to Cheat

With any kind of academic testing scenario, it’s impossible to ignore the possibility of cheating. It’s pretty much an inevitability that some student, somewhere, will attempt to cheat the system, and you have to be prepared.

Pencil-and-paper tests are ideal for cheat-prevention, simply because there are less resources available to turn to. When all of your students are at their desks, visible from any position in the room, it’s relatively easy to see if anyone is trying to pull a fast one on you. There will always be students with amazing sleight of hand who are able to sneak notes onto hidden pieces of paper, onto their arms, or even inside the label of their water-bottle, but these methods require quite a bit of work.

On a computer, it’s far more likely for students to find ways to cheat. While many academic programs attempt to lock students out of accessing other applications, it doesn’t take a technical wizard to find ways around the security. There are also sneaky methods you might not be expecting — who’s to say that a student didn’t get their friend in another class to CTRL + C a bunch of valuable test information that they could pull up with a simple CTRL + V input? There are plenty of ways to cheat on a computer, and they offer much less visibility from a teacher’s point-of-view.

Paper Tests Allow for Better Engagement

While this may vary depending on the type of curriculum you’re teaching, paper tests are valuable for complicated subjects such as mathematics, because it allows students a blank space where they can work out problems.

Take our PDP 100-E for example, our OMR testing form that’s identical to the Scantron® 888-E. This resembles a simple Scantron® 882-E form, only it has a large white space for problem-solving. Students can write down notes, solve math equations, or whatever else they need to do. Depending on the subject matter, this may be a lot more difficult if it needs to be done on a computer.

Paper Tests Are More Accessible

There’s a reason why the Scantron® 882-E testing form has been the go-to testing sheet for ages — it’s simple, easy, versatile, and accessible. This is one reason why our functionally identical PDP 100 is such a popular item; it allows for easy and convenient ways to create and carry out exams, both for students and educators.

With computers, you can run into problems that make the whole process much clunkier. First off, it demands that every student must have a computer. Many college and university classes require this up-front, but it’s not yet an idea that has universally taken hold in standard grade school. And for good reason — not every parent can afford to buy a computer for their child, which means that the school has to provide.

But no matter where the computers are coming from, it’s impossible to deny that they’re a bit harder to stock up on than simple OMR testing forms. A pack of 500 test sheets from Precision Data Products costs $29.95. 500 computers for a school, on the other hand, would be $50,000 if you’re buying them dirt-cheap. With computers, you never know when one will be out-of-commission, or if students will outnumber screens. No matter which way you look at it, it’s far easier to simply print out a paper test if computer supply and demand is even remotely a problem.

Paper Tests Avoid Unnecessary Complications

While the world of digital test-taking is constantly evolving, there is definitely a larger margin of error there than you’d find in paper tests. That’s because paper exams are just simpler and easier, plain-and-simple.

Consider a digital test. It’s never as easy as simply jumping on a computer and answering questions that pop up into the screen. No, you’re usually dealing with student-specific logins, a proprietary software system, access codes, and so on. The students have to learn how to use the online system before they even take the test. It’s not like it’s rocket science, but even small technicalities can trip people up. A student might not be able to figure out their logins. They might not know how to navigate the exam. They might accidentally press a key that messes with their window layout and confuses them.

Is it not easier to just hand out a piece of paper and a packet? Students and teachers don’t need to be taught how to fill out multiple-choice exams; it’s pretty obvious what to do from the get-go. There are definitely advantages to digital tests, but there’s no denying that they have a lot more potential for small complications and mistakes.

Paper Testing Allows for More Spontaneity

If you’re an educator, you likely already know how important it is to be flexible. Yes, lesson plans are important. Yes, students should have a basic readout of what their semester is going to look like. But sometimes, the situation calls for adaptation, and you might find yourself wanting to quiz students on something, relatively spur-of-the-moment.

Paper tests are great for spontaneity. As long as you have the questions and a key prepared, you can hand out the tests and have everyone’s answers within the hour. Sure, you might have to go through and program the key into your OMR grading machine, but that’s something you can do after-the-fact.

Affordable Scantron® Compatible Testing Forms

While we’ve said a lot against digital testing, even we can admit that there is absolutely a time and place for it. Digital testing affords many advantages, but that doesn’t mean it’s better than what came before. Paper testing and digital testing both have their own unique pros and cons, and although we’re moving into an increasingly paperless world, there is still a strong argument to be made for multiple-choice testing on the familiar testing sheets we know and love.

Does your school need to replenish their supply of ever-valuable Scantron® 882-E forms? Our PDP-100 forms are functionally identical, and are offered at a fraction of the price. Order yours today!