Some world really prefer mechanical pencils to consistent pencils. If you are among those world, you might wonder if you can 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, however I don’t recommfinish it.” Read on for a failure of the official plans for each exam, why this dominion exists, the actual reality of mechanical pencils on the exam, my recommendation, and also some other vital governmental regulations to remember for test day.

The Official Rules: Don"t Use a Mechanical Pencil

The SAT and also the ACT are different tests administered by different service providers, so I’ll go over their regulations independently, even though they both disenable mechanical pencils in their official rules.

Mechanical Pencils on the SAT

I actually had a difficult time searching up the official SAT rules on mechanical pencils. Their official list of items to bring includes No. 2 pencils, however their official list of items to not lug does not include mechanical pencils.

Only on the actual test instructions does it say that “A No. 2 pencil is required for the test. Do not carry 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 because your answer document will certainly not be scored correctly. This justification may or might not be true, but either means, mechanical pencilsaren’t allowed.


He"s crying bereason 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 a lot of famous theory—one that the ACT in particular claims is true—is that scantron devices can’t “read” your sheet if you fill in your bubbles through a mechanical pencil.Is this true? Maybe, but most likely not.

Here’s the deal: older scantron equipments operated by blasting your paper via light and might just “read” the answer if the light was completely blocked from coming through the paper. Pencil graphite—particularly in weight #2—was excellent for blocking the light. Lighter weights of graphite and also black pen ink didn’t block sufficient light to be read, and also darker graphite smeared really conveniently, leading to “false positives.” So, you had actually to usage a #2 pencil. (You have the right to check out even more around exactly how old scantron equipments operated if you’re a huge nerd favor me.)

The first SAT was administered in 1926, and the initially ACT in 1959. The initially scantron-type devices were used to score tests in the 1930s. So for the majority of SAT and ACT background, the older devices couldn’t review anypoint other than the marks made by a #2 pencil, and mechanical pencils weren’t yet extremely prevalent in school settings. During that time, it made much even more feeling to call for regular #2 pencils and also disenable mechanical ones.

However before, new scantron makers are much more sophisticated and also can primarily pick out the darkest mark in a row no matter just how it’s made—just so long as the mark isn’t in the same color ink that the sheet was printed in. It’s most likely safe to assume that significant trial and error service providers like the College Board (they do the SAT) and ACT, Inc. usage modern-day scantron makers that can pick out the darkest note on the sheet regardmuch less of what creating utensil you used.

But even if they don’t use modern-day scantron equipments, you need to actually still be able to usage a mechanical pencil and also have actually it be read 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 very same type of lead, it’s deeply unmost likely any kind of scantron machine in use this particular day, no matter how outdated, would have trouble analysis your maremperors. (You deserve to review more about lead qualities and also mechanical pencils below if you are interested.)

I personally think that it is downbest misleading for the ACT to case that scantron devices could not be able to check out your paper correctly if you use a mechanical pencil.

However, the truth is that massive governmental organizations like the ACT and the College Board primarily take a long time to adjust rules and regulations—if they adjust them at all. And neither company necessarily stands to acquire a totality lot from the readjust in this case: whether or not a student deserve to use a mechanical pencil is unlikely to make or break their trial and error decision (if they also have actually an option on whether to take the test or not). So given that there’s no pushing reason to reevaluate this preeminence, it continues to be.


Change: someone else will execute it.

Theory #2: Mechanical Pencils Rip Your Paper

A famous theory floating about online—particularly on message boards and also forums—is that mechanical pencils aren’t enabled bereason they rip the flimsy test booklet paper as well easily.

What’s my take? I guess it’s feasible that mechanical pencils would certainly rip the test bookallows a tiny more quickly than continuous pencils, although it appears like a super-sharpened pencil would be just as likely to do damages tright here. A mechanical pencil’s paper-ripping capabilities would likewise depend a lot on the width of your lead, which is variable. I doubt that testing institutions would disenable mechanical pencils specifically for this; it’s not favor mechanical pencils are generally ruthmuch less paper-destroying machines. So I don’t think this is a huge variable in the decision to bar mechanical pencils.

Theory #3: Mechanical Pencils Assistance You Cheat

Tright here are many storiesand urban legends that imply mechanical pencils are not enabled because they might be used as cheating gadgets.

Onesuch tale is that a student put a tiny video camera inside his mechanical pencil and offered it to take photos of the test.Anvarious other cheating theory is that students could roll up ripped-out pieces of test booklet sheets and also fit them in the empty barrel of a mechanical pencil. That seems like a lot of initiative to smuggle probably two or three questions out of the trial and error facility, and the kind of thing that even the many blase proctor would certainly notification.

Similarly, some world insurance claim that the pencils aren’t enabled because world would smuggle in formula sheets and also notes rolled up in the pencil. This plan, of course, counts on you having a proctor who pays extremely bit attention to what is going on in the room.

Do I think any kind of of these scenarios individually are especially likely? No. Do I think it’s feasible that significant testing establishments are worried enough about cheating to disenable mechanical pencils for this reason? Yes, I do. The College Board and also the ACT have actually a vested interemainder in human being believing that the test is secure and also so they take actions to secure it (whether those actions are enough or efficient is a question for an additional day). The extremely fact that civilization feel disallowing mechanical pencils might prevent cheating is a good factor to disenable them. This sounds circular, but for a major trial and error company, appearances and also impressions are important.

So Why Does This Rule Exist?

As alluded to over, I think tbelow are two major factors this rule exists. First, it’s a holdover from a time when scantrons were much more primitive and also mechanical pencils a lot less common in schools. 2nd, it gives the appearance of a more secure test, which is great for the trial and error companies.

We’ve currently establiburned that utilizing a mechanical pencil probably won’t cause a difficulty via your score, yet the truth is that they are still forbidden by the main 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 more than likely won’t cause scoring obstacles for you on the SAT or the ACT. One of our professionals below at did in fact usage a mechanical pencil for her SAT (the multiple option and essay sections) and she reported that nopoint happened. No scoring challenges, no delays—no one even noticed. So it can certainly 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 b) treatment, they will make you put away that mechanical pencil, or confiscate it for the experimentation period. In that case, you’d better hope you have one more (regular) pencil.So what should you do?

My Recommendation: Bring Regular Pencils

Personally, my referral is that you take your standardized tests with continual #2 pencils, for the following 3 factors.

#1: Exam Proctors

Following the rules to a T by using the apshowed #2 pencils will save you from tussling via a proctor. It’s not worth potentially acquiring in a stressful power struggle 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 with a regular pencil. As the reminder gets duller, you can cover more circle area per pencil stroke. A mechanical pencil takes a lot longer to fill in each bubble as it remains perpetually sharp. If you’re worried about not having a sharp enough pencil for components of the exam wright here you need one, simply carry numerous extra pencils. I think I had somepoint choose five or 6 when I took the exam and that was plenty for me, but if you want to lug fifteenager pre-sharpened Ticonderogas, go ahead.

#3: Less Mechanical Failure

No mechanical pencils means no lead breakage or pencil failure! Mechanical pencils have their advantages and offers, yet they are even more likely to have a mechanical error or repeated damaged lead problems than a consistent pencil. You additionally will have to painstakingly refill your lead if you run out, which wastes time. By making use of plain old wooden pencils, you’re limiting the chances you’ll have actually a stressful technical malfeature in the time of the exam.


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

With all this said, if you feelstrongly that you will be even more comfortable via a mechanical pencil, by all means, bring one to the experimentation facility and use it if no one stops you. But if you carry out this, be certain tobring continuous pencils as well, and also be ready to use them in case a proctor takes ameans your trust mechanical sidekick or your mechanical pencil breaks.

Other Important Things to Remember for Test Day

First, be sure to bring 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 because they can’t verify your identification.

2nd, continuous #2 pencils are the only creating utensils enabled. You already recognize to leave your mechanical pencil at residence, yet no pens or markers or colored pencils permitted, either.

Third, you are enabled to carry a watch, and I extremely recommend doing so to help you save track of your time/pace.

Finally, no reading product or individual gadgets are allowed in the testing room, so if you end up beforehand you’ll must sit tight.

Key Takeaways

Mechanical pencils are officially not enabled on the SAT or the ACT. The ACT claims that this is because your test won’t be scored effectively if you use a mechanical pencil. I don’t think this is true, however it’s going to be better for you if you follow the rules on test day. The minute you are taking your SAT or ACT is probably not the moment to rage versus the machine and also stick it to the man and also his bureaucratic rules.

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However before, if your mechanical pencil is incredibly crucial to you, go ahead and lug it—just so lengthy as you have normal pencils as backup and you are mentally all set to usage them.