Scantron Picture

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Britta: Okay, very mature. Which one of you filled in a butt?
Troy: They're boobs, not a butt. And I don't know.

Optical answers sheets, known as Scantrons after the company which manufactures them, are a form used to record answers on multiple choice tests. The test-taker marks their answer on the sheet by filling in a small bubble. Afterwards, the answer sheet is fed through a scanner which detects the filled bubbles and automatically scores the test. Alternately, the system may also tabulate survey answers.

When a character is less than scholarly, or doesn't know the answer to any of the questions, they may simply color all the dots on the page so that it resembles a picture when viewed. When that happens, it is this trope.


Examples

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     Comic Strips  

  • Caulfield does this as a Running Gag in Frazz. He uses the dots to write out music notes (or Braille, or UPC codes), and later recreates the Mona Lisa.

     Film  

  • The young Speed does this in the Speed Racer movie, coloring the bubbles to read GO REX GO.
  • In Who's the Man, Ed Lover and Dr Dre attempt to deliberately fail the police exam by filling out the bubbles to spell out "abacadaba". It's never made clear whether they actually pass the test or if someone pulls strings behind-the-scenes to "adjust" their score.

     Live Action TV  

     Western Animation  

  • Hey Arnold!: In "Apptitude Test," Harold doesn't bother even doing his test, and instead, fills in the bubbles to resemble a large letter 'H'.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Him once gives the girls such a test in a challenge, and although Blossom and Buttercup take the test seriously, they fail as a result. Bubbles passes, and it turns out she filled in the bubbles in the shape of a flower.
  • The Simpsons "How the Test Was Won:" Bart fills in the bubbles to write "slurp my snot" on a practice test for the upcoming Vice President's Assessment Test.
  • An episode of Action League Now has The Flesh getting kicked out of the league because he failed a first grade equivalency test after coloring the dots in the shape of a cat. The episode ends with him retaking the test and passing, because he colored the dots in the shape of a dog instead.
  • One episode of American Dragon: Jake Long shows that Spud has a collection of Scantron test papers from failed tests with the bubbles filled in to form a picture of Lincoln's Last Supper.
  • The plot of the "Cosmo Con" episode of Fairly OddParents is kicked off with one of these, with Crocker assuming that Timmy used magic to cheat (not being aware that it's against 'Da Rules' to use magic to cheat at tests or contests) because he actually got an A+. In reality, Timmy just colored the dots in the shape of a smiley face. The other students take this as a Sign of the Apocalypse.
    Timmy: Thank you, short attention span.
  • The Recess episode "My Fair Gretchen" begins with the students taking a standardized test. Mikey fills in the bubbles to make a smiley face.
  • In one episode of Yakkity Yak, Yakkity draws a picture of his own face on a Scantron.
  • The Emperor's New School: In "Graduation Groove", Kuzco isn't ready to become Emperor yet, so he tries to purposefully fail his exam by doing this, so that it looks like his face. It backfires when he ends up passing the exam.
  • In The Peanuts Movie, Peppermint Patty makes a smiley face on her scantron early on in the film. Unlike most examples, this serves as a Chekhov's Gun when Charlie Brown gets an award for being the first kid to score a 100% on the standardized test. When he looks at the winning scantron, he sees a smiley face. Turns out, he and Peppermint Patty signed each other's tests by mistake.

     Real Life  

  • In his book Pigsticking, Willie Rushton explained that the old British Football Pools were a sort of lottery predicated on the number of drawn matches on any Saturday's football fixtures. Competitors bought "lines" or "permutations" depending on making crosses on a grid next to the fixtures. If any one line of crosses coincided with scoredraws, it won a variable amount of cash from the pool. Effectively, the Pools form was an early form of scantron: at first manually checked at a central office, later on computerisation took the manual labour out of it. note  Rushton used to design his permutations so that the crosses on the scantron sheet, read top-to-bottom, spelt out OH SHIT! He visualised the look on the face of the girl checker in Liverpool, later in the week...


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