Can I Use Mechanical Pencil On Sat

Some world really choose mechanical pencils to consistent pencils. If you are among those world, you might wonder if you deserve to usage a mechanical pencil on the SAT or the ACT.

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The short answer is no, however the long answer is a more convoluted “Maybe, but I don’t recommend it.” Read on for a breakdown of the main plans for each exam, why this ascendancy exists, the actual truth of mechanical pencils on the exam, my referral, and also some other crucial governmental regulations to remember for test day.

The Official Rules: Don"t Use a Mechanical Pencil

The SAT and the ACT are various tests administered by various service providers, so I’ll go over their regulations individually, even though they both dispermit mechanical pencils in their main rules.

Mechanical Pencils on the SAT

I actually had a difficult time searching up the main SAT rules on mechanical pencils. Their official list of items to carry has No. 2 pencils, yet their official list of items to not carry does not incorporate mechanical pencils.

Only on the actual test instructions does it say that “A No. 2 pencil is required for the test. Do not bring a mechanical pencil or a pen.”

Mechanical Pencils on the ACT

On the ACT’s list of basic test tips, they state that you cannot use a mechanical pencil or ink pen bereason your answer record will certainly not be scored correctly. This justification may or might not be true, yet either means, mechanical pencilsaren’t permitted.


He"s crying because his beloved mechanical pencils are forbidden.

Why Does This Rule Exist?

Why can’t you usage your trusty mechanical pencil on your standardized college entrance exam? I’ll go over several theories and also my take on them.

Theory #1: The Scantron Machine Can’t Score Your Sheet

The many popular theory—one that the ACT in certain clintends is true—is that scantron makers can’t “read” your sheet if you fill in your bubbles with a mechanical pencil.Is this true? Maybe, yet most likely not.

Here’s the deal: older scantron machines worked by blasting your paper with light and might just “read” the answer if the light was totally blocked from coming through the paper. Pencil graphite—specifically in weight #2—was great for blocking the light. Lighter weights of graphite and black pen ink didn’t block sufficient light to be review, and also darker graphite smeared really conveniently, causing “false positives.” So, you had to usage a #2 pencil. (You deserve to read even more around exactly how old scantron machines worked if you’re a huge nerd favor me.)

The first SAT was administered in 1926, and also the first ACT in 1959. The initially scantron-kind equipments were provided to score tests in the 1930s. So for most SAT and ACT background, the older machines couldn’t review anypoint other than the marks made by a #2 pencil, and also mechanical pencils weren’t yet very common in college settings. During that time, it made a lot more feeling to need constant #2 pencils and disallow mechanical ones.

However, brand-new scantron makers are much more advanced and also deserve to primarily pick out the darkest mark in a row no issue exactly how it’s made—simply so lengthy as the note isn’t in the very same shade ink that the sheet was printed in. It’s more than likely safe to assume that significant testing service providers choose the College Board (they execute the SAT) and also ACT, Inc. usage modern scantron makers that can pick out the darkest note on the sheet regardmuch less of what composing utensil you offered.

But also if they don’t usage modern scantron machines, you should actually still have the ability to use a mechanical pencil and have actually it be check out by the machine effectively, just so lengthy as you usage the correct lead weight. The pencil lead weight that coincides to #2 pencil lead is “HB.” With the exact same type of lead, it’s deeply unmost likely any kind of scantron machine in use this particular day, no issue how outdated, would have trouble analysis your marmajesties. (You can check out more around lead grades and mechanical pencils right here if you are interested.)

I personally think that it is downright misleading for the ACT to claim that scantron devices could not be able to review your paper appropriately if you usage a mechanical pencil.

However, the reality is that massive administrative establishments like the ACT and also the College Board mostly take a lengthy time to adjust rules and regulations—if they adjust them at all. And neither company necessarily stands to gain a entirety lot from the adjust in this case: whether or not a student can use a mechanical pencil is unlikely to make or break their trial and error decision (if they even have actually a selection on whether to take the test or not). So considering that there’s no pressing reason to reevaluate this preeminence, it stays.


Change: someone else will carry out it.

Theory #2: Mechanical Pencils Rip Your Paper

A popular concept floating around online—specifically on message boards and forums—is that mechanical pencils aren’t enabled bereason they rip the flimsy test booklet paper also easily.

What’s my take? I guess it’s feasible that mechanical pencils would certainly rip the test booklets a little even more conveniently than continuous pencils, although it seems prefer a super-sharpened pencil would be simply as likely to perform damage tright here. A mechanical pencil’s paper-ripping capabilities would certainly also depend a lot on the width of your lead, which is variable. I doubt that trial and error establishments would certainly dispermit mechanical pencils specifically for this; it’s not like mechanical pencils are generally ruthmuch less paper-ruining machines. So I don’t think this is a huge factor in the decision to bar mechanical pencils.

Theory #3: Mechanical Pencils Assistance You Cheat

There are many kind of storiesand city legends that imply mechanical pencils are not allowed because they could be offered as cheating gadgets.

Onesuch tale is that a student put a tiny electronic camera inside his mechanical pencil and provided it to take pictures of the test.Anvarious other cheating theory is that students can roll up ripped-out pieces of test booklet sheets and fit them in the empty barrel of a mechanical pencil. That appears like many effort to smuggle possibly two or three inquiries out of the trial and error facility, and the sort of thing that even the the majority of blase proctor would certainly notice.

See more: Studying Engineering A Roadmap To A Rewarding Career (Fourth Edition) Pdf

Similarly, some human being claim that the pencils aren’t permitted because human being would smuggle in formula sheets and also notes rolled up in the pencil. This arrangement, of course, counts on you having a proctor that pays very little bit attention to what is going on in the room.

Do I think any type of of these scenarios individually are particularly likely? No. Do I think it’s feasible that major testing establishments are worried sufficient about cheating to dispermit mechanical pencils for this reason? Yes, I carry out. The College Board and the ACT have actually a vested interemainder in civilization believing that the test is secure and so they take steps to secure it (whether those measures are sufficient or efficient is a question for an additional day). The exceptionally reality that world feel disenabling mechanical pencils might prevent cheating is a great reason to disenable them. This sounds circular, but for a major trial and error organization, appearances and also impressions are vital.

So Why Does This Rule Exist?

As alluded to over, I think there are two primary factors this dominion exists. First, it’s a holdover from a time as soon as scantrons were much even more primitive and also mechanical pencils much much less common in institutions. Second, it offers the appearance of a more secure test, which is good for the testing service providers.

We’ve now established that utilizing a mechanical pencil probably won’t reason a problem through your score, but the fact is that they are still forbidden by the official rules for both tests. Wright here does this leave us?


We"re in a pencil pickle!

The Truth: Using a Mechanical Pencil Might Be Fine

As I’ve defined, your mechanical pencil most likely won’t cause scoring difficulties for you on the SAT or the ACT. One of our specialists below at did in truth usage a mechanical pencil for her SAT (the multiple choice and also essay sections) and also she reported that nopoint occurred. No scoring challenges, no delays—no one also noticed. So it have the right to definitely be fine.

However before, whether or not you are able to actually usage a mechanical pencil on test day relies a lot on your exam proctor. If they a) notice and also b) care, they will make you put amethod that mechanical pencil, or confiscate it for the trial and error period. In that instance, you’d better hope you have actually another (regular) pencil.So what should you do?

My Recommendation: Bring Regular Pencils

Personally, my recommendation is that you take your standardized tests through continual #2 pencils, for the adhering to three reasons.

#1: Exam Proctors

Following the rules to a T by using the approved #2 pencils will keep you from tussling via a proctor. It’s not worth perhaps gaining in a stressful power battle prior to (or during!) your exam over your creating utensils.

#2: Regular Pencils Are Better for Filling in Bubbles

It’s actually easier and faster to fill in bubbles via a regular pencil. As the guideline gets duller, you can cover more circle location per pencil stroke. A mechanical pencil takes much much longer to fill in each bubble as it remains perpetually sharp. If you’re worried about not having actually a sharp sufficient pencil for parts of the exam where you require one, just lug numerous additional pencils. I think I had actually something prefer 5 or six when I took the exam and also that was plenty for me, yet if you desire to carry fifteenager pre-sharpened Ticonderogas, go ahead.

#3: Less Mechanical Failure

No mechanical pencils indicates no lead breakage or pencil failure! Mechanical pencils have their advantages and offers, yet they are even more most likely to have actually a mechanical error or recurring damaged lead worries than a constant pencil. You likewise will certainly need to painstakingly refill your lead if you run out, which wastes time. By making use of plain old wood pencils, you’re limiting the opportunities you’ll have a stressful technical malattribute throughout the exam.


Also, continuous pencils are better for drawing masterpieces in your test booklet.

With all this sassist, if you feelstrongly that you will be even more comfortable with a mechanical pencil, by all indicates, carry one to the testing center and use it if no one stops you. But if you do this, be certain tolug regular pencils also, and also be ready to use them in situation a proctor takes ameans your trust mechanical sidekick or your mechanical pencil breaks.

Other Important Things to Remember for Test Day

First, be certain to carry your test ticket/reservation sheet and also an acceptable photo ID to the trial and error center! You don’t want to acquire turned ameans bereason they can’t verify your identification.

2nd, continuous #2 pencils are the only creating tools allowed. You already recognize to leave your mechanical pencil at home, but no pens or markers or colored pencils allowed, either.

Third, you are enabled to bring a watch, and also I highly recommfinish doing so to aid you store track of your time/pace.

Finally, no reading product or personal devices are allowed in the experimentation room, so if you complete at an early stage you’ll have to sit tight.

Key Takeaways

Mechanical pencils are officially not enabled on the SAT or the ACT. The ACT claims that this is bereason your test won’t be scored properly if you use a mechanical pencil. I don’t think this is true, however it’s going to be much better for you if you follow the rules on test day. The minute you are taking your SAT or ACT is most likely not the moment to rage against the machine and stick it to the guy and also his administrative rules.

However before, if your mechanical pencil is incredibly necessary to you, go ahead and bring it—simply so long as you have actually normal pencils as backup and you are mentally ready to usage them.