Due to COVID, we have to convert a large number of hand written exams into PDF.

Does anybody have experience with this?

What could be a good strategy?

  • 5
    Some computer connected printers will do this. They have a feed tray and will scan to pdf. Some will handle two sided scans.
    – Buffy
    Jan 6, 2022 at 21:03
  • Yes, as Buffy said, there are printers with feed trays that will email PDF to you ( or put on a flash drive). You can then use PDF editors to “break” the exams into separate files if needed.
    – Dawn
    Jan 6, 2022 at 21:24
  • 1
    Can you pay some students a small amount to do this work? As in, are they allowed to do this if they sign an NDA-like document?
    – Jeroen
    Jan 6, 2022 at 21:32
  • 5
    Isn't this a standard feature of modern scanners? You can feed them as many pages as the tray can handle, and they scan it. The resulting file might be JPG, TIFF, or many other formats, but there are ways to convert those to PDF (e.g. tiff2pdf.com converts TFF to PDF).
    – Allure
    Jan 7, 2022 at 4:30
  • Put the papers in the top tray of the copier, press scan, wait, and you are done? I must be missing something.
    – BrtH
    Jan 19, 2022 at 22:40

4 Answers 4


At ours, the students use their mobile phones to scan their papers right before submission. Then, they submit the PDF to some dedicated online LMS (e.g., Moodle).

There are some downsides here. One is the quality of the scans, which may vary.

  • You've just made having a mobile phone with a camera a requirement for the class. Jan 7, 2022 at 16:40
  • True, true. In certain countries, this will not be a problem. In others, this would indeed be impossible.
    – Ran G.
    Jan 7, 2022 at 19:24

A few years ago I was using Crowdmark for grading, which required scanning a lot. It's a bit of a pain, but using a fairly standard retail scanner with an automatic feeder (HP, I don't remember the model number) we were able to scan hundreds of exams/thousands of pages in an hour or so with two people working on collating, rescanning misfed sheets, etc etc etc. (Looking back at my notes, it took two people 90 minutes to scan 2400 pages when the scanner settings were suboptimal so that we had a lot of misfeeds; would have taken about an hour under better conditions). I think we stored the files on a network drive (we did the scanning in batches, don't remember exactly but I think there were about 200 pages per batch) for later retrieval.

Crowdmark has some Crowdmark-specific scanning tips, but generally scanning in grayscale with the lowest resolution that will work for you will speed things up.

The only possibly non-obvious tip is that our exams were stapled when they were administered; we took them to the university publishing office, which was able to chop off all the stapled corners at once with one of their machines to save us the trouble of removing staples (Crowdmark puts a unique QR code on every page, so we didn't have to worry about getting pages mixed up between tests).

(I am not affiliated with Crowdmark.)

  • 5
    (A Crowdmark related aside: I regularly scan thousands of pages for it too, but manually cut the stapled corners with scissors (if only we had access to a machine...), so a protip is to put the stack of tests into the feeder upside down, with the cut corner facing away; due to the QR code Crowdmark doesn't care that they're not in the "right" orientation, and your feeder gets a full page height to pull on.) Jan 7, 2022 at 0:38

DIY isn't always better.

Take the box of exams to a copy shop and tell them what you need. They'll take care of the rest.

  • A good suggestion (+1), but generally the university should be funding this. I suspect that they would usually prefer their own administrative staff to do the copying rather than fund an outside copy-shop to do it.
    – Ben
    Jan 8, 2022 at 1:05
  • Generally, a good idea. But it might too expensive and take too much time. Jan 8, 2022 at 11:43

Gradescope is a good option. It requires quite a bit of preparation, though.


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