ExamScan: Process for Creating Barcodes


Barcodes serve a simple purpose:  when exams are scanned the barcodes tell the scanning software both that a new student’s exam has started and which student it is.  The barcode itself is nothing more than a special font; the text in the font consists of an asterisk, an all-caps uniqname and an asterisk (e.g., *studenta*).

In ExamScan, most instructors print barcodes on labels and pass them out to students to affix in advance or themselves affix the labels to the exams during grading.  This document describes in detail how to format and print the barcodes.

If you’re in LSA, contact lsa-iss-examscan@umich.edu for assistance in printing barcodes.

Sample label


Getting started

To produce barcode labels you will need:

  1. Physical labels.
  2. A CSV file with student uniqnames.  ITS will provide this to you as part of the initial class setup for ExamScan.
  3. Microsoft Word with the Code 39 barcode font installed (download here).

You will use Microsoft Word’s mail merge feature to create the labels for each student.

Preparing the labels

Sort your data

Based on how you intend to affix the barcode labels, you might want your labels sorted alphabetically or you might want them by lab section and then alphabetically.  Sort your CSV however you need.

Set up the individual labels

Follow the Microsoft step-by-step instructions in setting up your mail merge.

The first line of the label must be in size 42 font Code 39 barcode.  The characters should consist of an asterisk, a uniqname in all caps, and an asterisk. For example:


(Arial font)



(Code 39 barcode font)

Note that the asterisk in the barcode font will appear as (skinny, skinny, wide, wide, skinny):



Make sure your barcode begins and ends with this character.

The second line of your barcode should include the following information in a human-readable font

  • Section number (optional)
  • Student name
  • Uniqname

Testing barcodes

To ensure that your printed barcodes will be read by the scanner, we recommend two tests:

  1. Always
    1. Ensure uniqname is in all caps in the barcode itself
    2. Ensure barcodes begin and end with an asterisk:

    (skinny, skinny, wide, wide, skinny)

  2. The first time, or anytime you’ve changed formatting or equipment

Before using the labels, send a sample PDF (not a .docx or other file) to ITS at document-imaging@umich.edu.  We’ll confirm to you that it works with our scanning software.

Additional resources

Last Updated: 
Tuesday, January 17, 2017