Chapstick Lets You Cheat on Scantron Tests

Status: Urban Legend
Here's an odd urban legend that I just stumbled across. Supposedly if you smear chapstick down the side of a scantron sheet (the kind used for standardized tests such as the SAT), the grading machine will mark all your answers correct. The theory is that the chapstick will interfere with the scanning light, confusing it into thinking that your answers are correct. Needless to say, this doesn't work.

Some guy named Richard Mangahas has written a short article detailing all kinds of theories about ways to cheat on scantron tests, including: marking or deleting the black lines along the side of the page, filling in the bubbles with cross-hatches, or placing tape along the side of the page. I don't think any of these methods would work either. (Though Mangahas claims some of them work 25-30% of the time... which is about the same percentage you would expect from guessing at the right answer.)

Maybe it was kids armed with chapstick that caused all those SAT-test score errors recently.

Technology Urban Legends

Posted on Tue Apr 11, 2006


Heh.. That's a new one.. Of course, it's perfectly beleivable to the bubble-headed bimbos who might, perhaps, have chapstick on hand..

If a dose of chapstick did anything at all, it'd probably just mark all the answers as 'incorrectly filled out', which would probably send it off into the bin to be hand-checked. Worse, it'd probably just mark everything as false positives, resulting in an abysmal score.
Posted by Robin Bobcat  on  Tue Apr 11, 2006  at  12:10 AM
What would happen if you smeared chapstick on a butterfly ballot? Or would that make it chad-stick?

If someone really believed this, then how did they ever get into college?

All these test tricks remind me of all the breathalizer cheats. Maybe you can get the scantron to mark your answers all correct if you take the test with a battery in your mouth.
Posted by Lonewatchman  on  Tue Apr 11, 2006  at  05:27 AM
Ok. His "thesis" has a few inconsistencies.

First, he says method #1 is the best and recommended method of cheating, but then he says don't use it on every answer. If this is the method which has the highest success, why not use it on all answers?

Second, this is purely conjecture. But wouldn't the machine be programmed to fail on error, rather than pass? If the scanner hits an error, it should either flag it for manual correction, or flag it failed.

I am sure that the people who design these machines have considered cheating, and put in appropriate checks. It's like an ATM - if you cause the ATM to fail, it's not going to spew out $100 bills.
Posted by Lazy  on  Tue Apr 11, 2006  at  06:09 AM
Looks like we've got some smarty-pants on early today...

Yeah, they hand-check tests that have problems. I knew a kid who purposefully Christmas-treed the whole test & his score was, "N/A". (To Christmas-tree is to make a pattern or image using your bubbles. Apparently his image/pattern was "YOU SUCK". He was a funny kid...I dunno if they ever let him re-take it.
Posted by Maegan  on  Tue Apr 11, 2006  at  06:14 AM
you should use slapstick off course
Posted by Unfairly Balanced  on  Tue Apr 11, 2006  at  08:46 AM
"...It's like an ATM - if you cause the ATM to fail, it's not going to spew out $100 bills."

You mean I don't have to give them back, then?
Posted by Big Gary in Glen Rose, Texas  on  Tue Apr 11, 2006  at  11:53 AM
The Google ads that came up for this page included an ad for NCS Pearson, a company notorious for cheating the tax payer. Check out their problems with TSA recruitment and hiring.
Posted by Lonewatchman  on  Tue Apr 11, 2006  at  02:02 PM
...SAT-test? Awwwwww. You're smarter than that.
Posted by Ty  on  Sat Apr 29, 2006  at  03:24 AM
Being the person who wrote the article in question, it was written in 1995, and I do not expect any information to be as accurate today as it was then.

I did not recommend using the first method in every answer because I also received false negatives (correct answer marked wrong) and they appeared at a higher pace than false positive (incorrect answer marked correctly), which is the desired outcome.

The "failing" on error was the desired outcome because in my experimentation (which I would like to stress are machines I never had physical access to) a failure appeared to lead to non-marking of the particular answer. As for complete machine behavior, never having had my hands on a manual or capabilities to manipulate various settings on these machines, I cannot say much more than I have written.

Ultimately, the original text file was published because I wished to debunk chapstick as a method (which was popularly spread at that time).

And as a final note, I have received maybe about 50 emails over the course of the past 10 years. About half of them just say "I don't think they would work." And I would like to point out that I hear "don't THINK it would work" more than "didn't work for me."

The other half would either say it worked for them or not. I would say about 10 of the emails backed up my claims and just asked if I had anything with better chances. And one person even claimed to have mastered the first method to the point where it was 50%. So, that's about a 20% success rate on emails I've received.

I've heard enough people call it BS, and I just don't care anymore. I have a real job and have not touched a scantron in over 5 years. I just thought I could address some of the points.
Posted by Richard  on  Tue Sep 05, 2006  at  07:25 PM
yo c theres aproblem though u can cheat but wat ar u gunn alearn iight
Posted by Patriotsfan  on  Sun Jan 21, 2007  at  04:19 PM
This is totally wrong. Scantron or any bubble sheet readers use the black marks, called timing marks, down the side of the sheet to tell the machine when to read across the sheet. The machine not only reads the marks but also counts them. Interfering with these marks causes the machine to spit out the answer sheet ungraded.

The programs that score the sheets look for correct answers, not incorrect answers. If they looked for incorrect answers then students turning in a totally blank answer sheet would receive 100% and they don't.
Posted by Willcat  on  Thu Feb 15, 2007  at  07:33 AM
I used to be the principal of blue ridge high school. I had access to several scantron machines and have discovered that if you mark out all of the lines down the side of the sheet(timing marks) with an orange rose art color sharp marker or a green expo dry erase marker the test will be graded with a perfect score almost 100% of the time. Also note that answers being bubbled in will not interfere with this process, so it is a good idea to go ahead and fill in the answers that you think are correct just in case. Sadly the bright colors from the markers may cause a teacher to grade the test manually.
Posted by D-nyce  on  Sun Feb 18, 2007  at  11:08 AM
I have been told by a Chem prof. that the early machines used an electric charge based scanner, not an optical one, and therefore the annoying 2B pencil legacy. Chapstick might have worked in earlier days, buy inhibiting electrical conductivity.
Posted by Silas Larsen  on  Sun Apr 29, 2007  at  12:18 PM
yo yo yo. i were reading dis shit. it hella funny. i decide to try it an d my teachr caght me. i didnt hav the rol on chapstick that was cler so i usd the chery one and got owned. i think only clear one wrks.
Posted by nigga driggs  on  Thu Jan 24, 2008  at  03:55 PM
if you really want to pass a test u have not studied for there is only one possible way and its fool-proof. are you ready?

on the bubble sheet, simply answer in this order:

C-A-B-B-A-C-C-A-B-B-A-C and repeat.

you'll be a genuine pretend genious.

(im not even jokin either im serious it works)you will get +50% easy

but just in case, u better study...

(PS. Dont break the chain of cabbaccabbac)
Posted by Rhain Storm  on  Thu Jan 31, 2008  at  10:57 AM
just copy off a smart person!
Posted by T-hyphen  on  Tue Apr 01, 2008  at  10:53 AM
this does not work! why? because i have tried it. luckily i knew the information. but the stuff i wasnt so sure of were wrong..
Posted by lala  on  Wed Apr 30, 2008  at  04:29 PM
hahaha tell me u actually used the letter method above hahahaaha
Posted by papi  on  Wed Nov 05, 2008  at  01:52 PM
I tried this and it didn't work

I ended up getting a 34% and failing the class by just 1%

Posted by Sad Student  on  Tue Mar 10, 2009  at  08:23 PM
Umm..the best way to make sure all your answers are correct is to mark the box that says answer key, then when they put it in, all ur answers are right
Posted by Gabrielle  on  Sat Mar 21, 2009  at  09:48 PM
ok. ive done this and ive aced every class. what you need to do is shade the answer in so lightly that the scantron wont pick it up and itll mark it right. but you have to do it dark enough that the teacher will see it
Posted by genius boy  on  Sun Jun 07, 2009  at  07:29 PM
doesnt work. it marks the right answers, if u dont shede the bubbles ull get 0% not a 100%....
Posted by bob  on  Wed Mar 31, 2010  at  07:37 PM

-results may varie...... for jocks- >=D
Posted by some korean dude  on  Thu Apr 01, 2010  at  08:49 PM
seriously, figuring out which of these (if any) methodologies works and which doesn't seems like more work (and more F's) than actually cracking a book and studying for a half an hour. and like your teacher won't notice chapstick or green expo marker on the scantron? come on.
Posted by what a f*ckin tease  on  Thu Apr 01, 2010  at  08:56 PM
Just study for the damn test.
Posted by Amanda  on  Sat Apr 03, 2010  at  11:37 AM
Yea but the problem with marking the 'Answer Key' bubble is that, all of yours will be right but everyone else's will not, so the teachers might catch on.
Posted by Alex  on  Tue Apr 27, 2010  at  08:58 AM
okay kiddos, this is what you do.

pick C.
for every answer.
it's guaranteed to get you a 60% or higher.

i have done it before and i got a 64%
Posted by bren  on  Wed May 12, 2010  at  07:08 PM
That thing about the answer key is funny. I'm a teacher who uses scantron sheets sometimes, and the answer key thing will never work. When you operate one of these machines, you have to hold down a special key and the machine responds with a "load key" prompt. Otherwise, if you just load it through without the button, it will send an error message and you have to restart your grading process. The teacher will most likely erase your little bubble snafu and run your answer sheet back through for a score. If that doesn't work, your teacher will grade it by hand.

Reading this thread, it seems that students no longer understand that it is their job to learn the material in their classes. . .
Posted by PA teacher  on  Sun May 16, 2010  at  11:22 AM
Oh god. None of you guys can spell, no wonder you are cheating. There is no way of cheating. Millions of people do this test. Do you really think that people would be stupid enough to risk a loophole? Didn't think so. Stick to your textbooks and you'll be fine.
Posted by Mollie.  on  Wed May 26, 2010  at  06:53 AM
Just study.
Posted by Lily Bick  on  Wed May 26, 2010  at  06:00 PM
I'm in a few AP classes and these tricks work like a charm. It's great being able to chat and text through all my classes and then go get a random award for honor roll. I don't have to waste time studying and I'm able to focus on sports instead.
Posted by average student  on  Thu May 27, 2010  at  07:36 PM
These methods won't work. Bubbling answer key doesn't work. The way the machines at my school work, you have to load the answer key first. Then every test after is scored by that key-even if I send a second answer key through the machine. If I want to grade a different test, I have to actually turn off the machine and turn it back on to do so.
Posted by teacher  on  Fri May 28, 2010  at  12:40 PM
hey the chapstick thing actually worked for me! i got 100% on all the scantrons i took in my school
Posted by Joe Jackson  on  Sat Aug 07, 2010  at  04:48 PM
Why wouldn't you study? Cheating won't get you far in life losers.
Posted by adfasf  on  Thu Oct 14, 2010  at  03:07 PM
Seriously guys I have a really good method that works most of the time. Do you know what it is? studying... open the god damn book once in a while.
Posted by actual-student  on  Wed Mar 02, 2011  at  04:18 PM
If time is running out, Is it better to leave blanks or randomly fill in circles
Posted by Judy Balthrop Thomas  on  Fri May 25, 2012  at  04:20 PM
Sorry everyone - but chapstick is only good for healing your lips. It does nothing for getting better grades or a perfect score on a Scantron scanner. At best, it may prevent the form from being read by the machine, and then a pissed off teacher may have to hand score the test. I would rather get the machine scored grade then the pissed off teacher grade!

Don't throw away your chapstick - it's great in the winter. Just don't waste it by putting it on your Scantron forms.

The best way to do well on a Scantron scored test? STUDY!
Posted by Scantron Engineer  on  Fri Sep 06, 2013  at  12:17 PM
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