Some people really choose mechanical pencils to constant pencils. If you are one of those people, you may wonder if you deserve to use a mechanically pencil on the sat or the ACT.

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The quick answer is no, but the long answer is a much an ext convoluted “Maybe, however I don’t recommend it.” check out on because that a breakdown of the main policies because that each exam, why this rule exists, the actual fact of mechanically pencils top top the exam, mine recommendation, and also some other important governmental regulations come remember for test day.

The official Rules: Don"t use a mechanically Pencil

The SAT and the action are various tests administered by different companies, so I’ll walk over their regulations separately, also though they both disallow mechanically pencils in their official rules.

Mechanical Pencils on the SAT

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

Only ~ above the actual check instructions does that say that “A No. 2 pencil is compelled for the test. Do not lug a mechanically pencil or a pen.”

Mechanical Pencils top top the ACT

On the ACT’s perform of general test tips, lock state that you cannot usage a mechanically pencil or squid pen due to the fact that your answer record will no be score correctly. This justification may or might not it is in true, however either way, mechanically pencilsaren’t allowed.


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

Why walk This ascendancy Exist?

Why can not you use your trusty mechanically pencil on her standardized university entrance exam? I’ll walk over numerous theories and also my take it on them.

Theory #1: The Scantron maker Can’t Score your Sheet

The most famous theory—one the the plot in details claims is true—is the scantron makers can’t “read” her sheet if you to fill in your bubbles v a mechanical pencil.Is this true? Maybe, however probably not.

Here’s the deal: older scantron machines operated by blasting your record with light and could only “read” the answer if the light was completely blocked from coming v the paper. Pencil graphite—specifically in weight #2—was an excellent for prevent the light. Lighter weights of graphite and black pen ink no block sufficient light to be read, and also darker graphite smeared yes, really easily, leading to “false positives.” So, you had to use a #2 pencil. (You have the right to read much more about exactly how old scantron machines operated if you a huge nerd like me.)

The an initial SAT was administered in 1926, and the very first ACT in 1959. The very first scantron-type equipments were supplied to score tests in the 1930s. So for a most SAT and also ACT history, the older machines couldn’t check out anything other than the marks made by a #2 pencil, and mechanical pencils weren’t yet very common in school settings. During that time, that made much more sense to require consistent #2 pencils and disallow mechanical ones.

However, new scantron equipments are much much more sophisticated and can usually pick out the darkest note in a row no matter just how it’s made—just so long as the note isn’t in the same color ink the the sheet was printed in. It’s probably safe to i think that significant testing companies like the College board (they carry out the SAT) and ACT, Inc. Use modern-day scantron machines that have the right to pick the end the darkest note on the sheet regardless that what composing utensil girlfriend used.

But also if they don’t use contemporary scantron machines, you should actually still have the ability to use a mechanically pencil and also have the be review by the an equipment correctly, simply so long as friend use the correct command weight. The pencil lead load that corresponds to #2 pencil command is “HB.” with the same form of lead, it’s deeply unlikely any kind of scantron machine in usage today, no matter how outdated, would have actually trouble analysis your markings. (You deserve to read an ext about command grades and mechanical pencils right here if you room interested.)

I personal think that it is downright misleading because that the act to insurance claim that scantron machines can not have the ability to read your record correctly if you usage a mechanically pencil.

However, the truth is that enormous governmental organizations favor the ACT and also the college Board typically take a lengthy time to readjust rules and regulations—if they change them at all. And neither organization necessarily was standing to get a totality lot from the adjust in this case: even if it is or no a student can use a mechanically pencil is unlikely to do or break their experimentation decision (if they even have a selection on whether to take the check or not). So since there’s no pressing reason to reevaluate this rule, it stays.


Change: someone else will perform it.

Theory #2: mechanical Pencils Rip her Paper

A renowned theory floating around online—especially on post boards and also forums—is that mechanical pencils aren’t enabled because they rip the flimsy test booklet record too easily.

What’s my take? ns guess it’s possible that mechanical pencils would rip the check booklets a little much more easily than constant pencils, although that seems prefer a super-sharpened pencil would certainly be just as likely to do damage there. A mechanical pencil’s paper-ripping capability would also depend a lot on the broad of your lead, i m sorry is variable. I doubt that testing organizations would disallow mechanically pencils specifically for this; it’s not favor mechanical pencils are typically ruthless paper-destroying machines. So ns don’t think this is a huge factor in the decision come bar mechanical pencils.

Theory #3: mechanically Pencils help You Cheat

There are many storiesand urban legends that suggest mechanical pencils space not allowed because they might be provided as cheating devices.

Onesuch story is that a student placed a small camera inside his mechanically pencil and used it come take images of the test.Another cheating theory is the students can roll increase ripped-out piece of check booklet sheets and fit lock in the north barrel the a mechanical pencil. That seems favor a lot of of effort to smuggle probably two or three questions out the the testing facility, and also the sort of point that also the many blase proctor would certainly notice.

Similarly, some civilization claim that the pencils aren’t allowed because human being would smuggle in formula sheets and also notes rolled up in the pencil. This plan, the course, relies on you having actually a proctor that pays very small attention come what is walking on in the room.

Do i think any of these scenarios personal are an especially likely? No. Carry out I think it’s feasible that significant testing organizations are concerned enough about cheating come disallow mechanically pencils for this reason? Yes, i do. The college Board and the ACT have actually a vested interest in human being believing that the test is secure and also so castle take steps to secure the (whether those procedures are adequate or effective is a question for an additional day). The really fact that civilization feel disallowing mechanical pencils might prevent cheating is a good reason come disallow them. This sound circular, but for a major testing organization, appearances and impressions space important.

So Why does This dominion Exist?

As alluded come above, i think there space two main reasons this dominion exists. First, it’s a holdover native a time when scantrons were much more primitive and also mechanical pencils much less common in schools. Second, it offers the illustration of a an ext secure test, i m sorry is great for the experimentation companies.

We’ve now established that utilizing a mechanically pencil most likely won’t reason a trouble with her score, however the truth is the they room still forbidden by the main rules because that both tests. Whereby does this leave us?


We"re in a pencil pickle!

The Truth: utilizing a mechanical Pencil might Be Fine

As i’ve explained, her mechanical pencil probably won’t cause scoring challenges for you on the satellite or the ACT. Among our experts here at walk in truth use a mechanically pencil because that her sat (the multiple choice and essay sections) and she reported the nothing happened. No scoring difficulties, no delays—no one also noticed. So that can definitely be fine.

However, whether or no you are able come actually use a mechanically pencil on test day counts a lot of on your exam proctor. If they a) notice and b) care, they will certainly make you put away that mechanical pencil, or confiscate it for the experimentation period. In that case, you’d much better hope you have an additional (regular) pencil.So what should you do?

My Recommendation: carry Regular Pencils

Personally, my recommendation is that you take her standardized exam with continual #2 pencils, because that the complying with three reasons.

#1: exam Proctors

Following the rules to a T by making use of the authorized #2 pencils will store you indigenous tussling with a proctor. It’s no worth potentially gaining in a stressful power struggle before (or during!) your exam end your creating utensils.

#2: continual Pencils Are much better for pour it until it is full in Bubbles

It’s actually easier and faster to fill in bubbles v a consistent pencil. Together the tip gets duller, you have the right to cover much more circle area per pencil stroke. A mechanical pencil bring away much longer to to fill in each bubble together it stays perpetually sharp. If she worried around not having a sharp enough pencil for parts of the exam wherein you require one, just lug lots of extra pencils. I think I had something like 5 or six when I took the exam and also that to be plenty for me, yet if you want to lug fifteen pre-sharpened Ticonderogas, go ahead.

#3: less Mechanical Failure

No mechanically pencils way no command breakage or pencil failure! mechanical pencils have actually their advantages and uses, but they are more likely to have actually a mechanically error or repeated broken lead worries than a continuous pencil. You also will need to painstakingly refill your lead if you run out, which wastes time. by using plain old wood pencils, you’re limiting the possibilities you’ll have actually a stressful technical break down during the exam.


Also, regular pencils are much better for illustration masterpieces in your test booklet.

With every this said, if girlfriend feelstrongly that you will certainly be an ext comfortable v a mechanically pencil, by every means, carry one to the trial and error center and also use the if no one stops you. But if you execute this, be sure tobring constant pencils too, and also be all set to usage them in case a proctor bring away away your trust mechanically sidekick or your mechanical pencil breaks.

Other essential Things come Remember for Test Day

First, be certain to bring your test ticket/reservation sheet and also an acceptable picture ID to the testing center! girlfriend don’t desire to obtain turned away because they can not verify your identity.

Second, consistent #2 pencils room the only writing utensils allowed. You currently know to leave her mechanical pencil at home, however no pens or markers or fancy pencils allowed, either.

Third, girlfriend are enabled to carry a watch, and also I very recommend doing therefore to aid you keep track of your time/pace.

Finally, no reading product or an individual devices are allowed in the trial and error room, so if you finish early on you’ll need to sit tight.

Key Takeaways

Mechanical pencils are officially not allowed on the satellite or the ACT. The ACT claims that this is since your test won’t it is in scored appropriately if you use a mechanical pencil. I don’t think this is true, however it’s going to be better for girlfriend if you monitor the rule on check day. The minute you room taking your sat or plot is more than likely not the time to rage versus the machine and pole it to the man and also his governmental rules.

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However, if her mechanical pencil is really important come you, go ahead and bring it—just so lengthy as you have normal pencils together backup and you room mentally ready to usage them.