That’s right—you can’t usage a mechanically pencil on the ACT. Or the SAT. Or, in fact, a most standardized tests. For the SAT and ACT, however, making use of a mechanical pencil might put your score in peril. The equipments that the test-makers usage to mark the score sheets don’t pick up ~ above the markings. This method that castle won’t count her answers, even if they’re right—because they can’t see her answers.

The very same goes because that pens. To be safe, constantly use a an excellent old No. 2 pencil. Make certain it has a great eraser, too!

Why No. 2, though? Would using a mechanical pencil really do that much of a difference?

Yes. The brief answer is that you can’t usage a mechanically pencil ~ above the sat or ACT because answer paper scanners room specifically calibrated come detect the marks do by a No. 2 pencil and also mechanical pencils are not always regulated together No. 2. In addition, they room thin and also prone to breaking, which means your marks might not be together readable as the thicker, darker marks girlfriend can achieve with an old-school number 2 pencil. The SAT and ACT scoring devices need to process score sheets fast, which way any sport might delay the process. So take their word because that it and also use a wooden #2.

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But the long answer is far much more interesting….

“Number one pencils EXIST?!” i asked my girlfriend Crystal through confusion. She had just failure an exam because she provided a number 1 pencil to fill in the bubbles. It transforms out, there are actually a entirety scale of various pencil types, though plenty of of us are only acquainted with the trusty yellow No. 2.

What Americans contact No. 2 is also called ‘HB’ in other parts that the world, follow to this handy chart.*


All the these plenty of different pencil number (and letters!) have actually varying degrees of darkness and also hardness as soon as they mark on paper. Pencils space made v graphite blended with a little clay to host the graphite together. With much less clay blended in, the graphite tube in the center of the pencil is lot softer…which way that the note is darker, but additionally smudgy. Adding more clay come the blend renders the pencil harder. A more difficult pencil deserve to be sharpened come a finer point, but because there is less graphite in the graphite-clay blend, the pencil renders a much lighter mark on the page.

The Perfect Balance

So, I current to you the No. 2 pencil: the perfect balance between dark sufficient graphite and hard sufficient clay. But what’s the trouble with mechanical pencils? “My mechanical pencils perform use No. 2 graphite!” you could be shouting in my general direction. First of all, it’s often much more difficult to number out whether or not the graphite in a mechanically pencil is actually No. 2. Numerous mechanical pencils nothing include any kind that identification.

However, even those mechanical pencils that claim to use No. 2 come in those an extremely thin, easily breakable cylinder shapes. The never-dull, constantly spicy fine suggest that provides mechanical pencils for this reason appealing, likewise make mechanically pencils more prone come breaking. But more importantly, they actually reason you come take longer filling in bubbles on solution sheet! In fact, even constant wooden pencils are finest for scantron sheets when they are simply slightly dull. Slightly dull pencils do a more comprehensive mark on paper, allowing you to to fill in balloon much more quickly than through a slim line. Even if mechanical pencils were permitted for use on the SAT and also ACT, you’ll actually save yourself some precious time top top the sat or plot by using a continuous pencil instead of a mechanical pencil!

The clinical Method

In bespeak for her SAT and ACT scores to median anything to college and also university admissions, they must be equivalent to various other students’ scores. So, for the SAT and ACT to make certain they administer a fair and accurate testing process, they require to regulate as countless variables together possible. Those variables encompass dates, time, and also even materials! anyone takes the test on the exact same test day, it s okay the exact same amount the time because that each section, and uses the exact same test booklets and also answer sheets…and pencils. In order to ensure the finest accuracy, test proctors room trained come look specifically for things prefer mechanical pencils and ask friend to put them away before the begin of the test.

Most answer sheet scanners space specifically calibrated come detect the marks make by a No. 2 pencil. Since the SAT and also ACT should grade so plenty of answer sheets, the equipments they use must be as fast as possible. One method of ensuring rate is to usage the precise same devices for every single exam. Plus, If the SAT and also ACT are just grading the specific same size and weight of document with the specific same type of marks, that is much less likely that misreading errors will occur, and also accuracy is an also more vital factor than speed!

Pencils Down!

“But i bet i can get away v it!” you could be protesting. You could have heard rumors of test takers using various other grade pencils, mechanical pencils, pens, or also colored pencils, v no errors. While other tools miiiight slide v undetected and also still develop some correct answers, it’s an unnecessary threat you don’t require to problem about.

Using anything various other than the recommended tool simply isn’t smart! If someone told friend an easy way to gain a greater score top top the satellite or ACT, you will do listen, right? using the recommended device is a very easy way to certain a more accurate score. Sat or ACT test day is not the moment to test the limits of what girlfriend can get away with. It’s much far better to be safe than sorry on something as necessary as the sat or ACT.

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When crystal accidentally supplied a #1 illustration pencil to fill the end her scantron sheet, the an equipment wasn’t calibrated to check out her responses. Due to the misreading errors on nearly every line, the device produced a really low grade. The course, Crystal’s teacher realized the the scanning machine hadn’t effectively read the answer sheet, and also Crystal to be able to take back the exam. But, that won’t happen on an act or SAT. Once your answer sheet is scored, you stuck! don’t potentially lower your score v a misread price sheet once the SAT and also ACT have currently told you specifically what you need to use. Happy penciling! *If she curious, this is an approximate conversion native letter to number pencil grades: #1 = B, #2 = HB, #2½ = F, #3 = H, #4 = 2H.