Looking for a scantron replacement? Consider ZipGrade.

As I’m preparing for the upcoming semester, I have been trying to find ways to save money in my class. One obvious cost-cutting target is scantron forms. Yes, I suppose I could make my students buy them, but I have never felt right about that—it just adds insult to injury to make students buy something they must have for an exam.

Well, I just learned about one scantron replacement. It’s called ZipGrade. It lets you use your cell phone’s or tablet’s camera to scan in paper test forms (available free at the site). I just downloaded it and gave it a whirl, using my ancient iPad2 and two sample exams with two different keys. I have to say, I am impressed!

The basic idea is that you hover your phone’s or tablet’s camera over each student’s paper until marks on the four corners of the page align with a template that appears on screen. That’s the only part that took me a while to master, and it’s the only downside I can see for this app: Scanning student pages one by one is nowhere near as easy as feeding a stack of scantron forms into a machine. Keep this in mind if your class is large. Anyway, once the scan is complete, you can see the score on the screen right away, and if you want, the app can show you a picture of which questions the student got right and wrong. It saves the data immediately, and you can go on to scan the next one.

ZipGrade offers an amazing array of features. You can find a complete list here, but the most important ones for my purposes are these:

  • You can download free PDF test forms that you can print out and copy yourself.
  • Test forms have 20, 50, or 100 answer bubbles, but you don’t have to use them all. The only one with a 9-digit slot for the student ID is the 100-answer sheet, so that’s the one I’ll use for all of my exams.
  • You can create up to 5 unique answer keys per test.
  • The app does the item analysis for you.
  • You can assign a different point value to each question, including fractions of a point.
  • You can export the complete data set, including individual student responses, as a .CSV file.

Here’s a tutorial that shows you how it works. I’m not sure how long ago the video was created, but be warned that the pricing information is not exactly consistent with what’s on the ZipGrade website. That is, according to the website, you can download ZipGrade free and scan up to 100 papers per calendar month. If you need to scan more, you can pay $6.99 for a year. Other than that, the free and paid versions are identical. What a deal!

I know that ZipGrade has competitors, but I haven’t looked into them. And I suppose I should also say that I have no affiliation with ZipGrade and no stake in their success. I just found the app and thought I’d share it. If you have experience with ZipGrade or other scantron replacement tools, please share your thoughts by writing a comment.

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