Some people really favor mechanical pencils to constant pencils. If friend are one of those people, you may wonder if you can use a mechanically pencil top top the sat or the ACT.

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The short answer is no, yet the lengthy answer is a much an ext convoluted “Maybe, yet I nothing recommend it.” read on for a malfunction of the main policies because that each exam, why this rule exists, the actual reality of mechanical pencils on the exam, mine recommendation, and also some other important governmental regulations come remember for test day.

The official Rules: Don"t usage a mechanical Pencil

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

Mechanical Pencils on the SAT

I actually had actually a hard time hunting up the main SAT rule on mechanical pencils. Their main list of items to lug includes No. 2 pencils, however their main list the items to not bring does not encompass mechanical pencils.

Only ~ above the actual test instructions does that say that “A No. 2 pencil is forced for the test. Perform not bring a mechanically pencil or a pen.”

Mechanical Pencils ~ above the ACT

On the ACT’s list of general test tips, they state that girlfriend cannot usage a mechanically pencil or squid pen since your answer paper will no be scored correctly. This justification might or may not be true, however either way, mechanical pencilsaren’t allowed.


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

Why does This ascendancy Exist?

Why can’t you use your trusty mechanical pencil on your standardized university entrance exam? I’ll walk over number of theories and my take it on them.

Theory #1: The Scantron device Can’t Score her Sheet

The most renowned theory—one that the action in certain claims is true—is that scantron machines can’t “read” your sheet if you fill in her bubbles v a mechanically pencil.Is this true? Maybe, however probably not.

Here’s the deal: older scantron machines worked by blasting your paper with light and also could only “read” the answer if the irradiate was fully blocked from coming through the paper. Pencil graphite—specifically in load #2—was good for prevent the light. Lighter weights of graphite and also black pen ink no block sufficient light to be read, and darker graphite smeared yes, really easily, resulting in “false positives.” So, you had to usage a #2 pencil. (You deserve to read much more about how old scantron machines worked if she a big nerd prefer me.)

The an initial SAT to be administered in 1926, and the an initial ACT in 1959. The first scantron-type machines were supplied to score test in the 1930s. So for a lot of SAT and ACT history, the older devices couldn’t review anything various other than the marks make by a #2 pencil, and mechanical pencils no yet really common in college settings. Throughout that time, the made much an ext sense come require continuous #2 pencils and also disallow mechanically ones.

However, new scantron machines are much more sophisticated and also can normally pick out the darkest mark in a row no matter how it’s made—just so lengthy as the note isn’t in the same shade ink the the sheet was printed in. It’s more than likely safe to i think that major testing companies favor the College board (they carry out the SAT) and ACT, Inc. Use modern scantron devices that deserve to pick the end the darkest note on the sheet regardless that what creating utensil friend used.

But also if they nothing use modern scantron machines, you should actually still be able to use a mechanically pencil and have that be review by the an equipment correctly, simply so long as you use the correct lead weight. The pencil lead load that corresponds to #2 pencil command is “HB.” v the same type of lead, it’s deep unlikely any kind of scantron an equipment in usage today, no matter exactly how outdated, would have actually trouble reading your markings. (You can read an ext about command grades and also mechanical pencils below if you space interested.)

I personally think the it is downright misleading for the action to case that scantron machines can not have the ability to read your record correctly if you usage a mechanically pencil.

However, the fact is that enormous governmental organizations prefer the ACT and also the college Board usually take a lengthy time to adjust rules and regulations—if they readjust them at all. And also neither organization necessarily stand to get a entirety lot native the readjust in this case: whether or no a student deserve to use a mechanically pencil is i can not qualify to do or rest their experimentation decision (if they also have a selection on even if it is to take it the test or not). So since there’s no pushing reason come reevaluate this rule, the stays.


Change: someone else will carry out it.

Theory #2: mechanical Pencils Rip your Paper

A famous theory floating roughly online—especially on message boards and forums—is that mechanical pencils aren’t permitted because castle rip the flimsy check booklet paper too easily.

What’s my take? i guess it’s feasible that mechanically pencils would certainly rip the check booklets a little much more easily than regular pencils, although the seems choose a super-sharpened pencil would be simply as likely to do damages there. A mechanically pencil’s paper-ripping capabilities would also depend a many on the width of your lead, i m sorry is variable. I doubt that trial and error organizations would disallow mechanically pencils solely for this; it’s not favor mechanical pencils are typically ruthless paper-destroying machines. So i don’t think this is a large factor in the decision come bar mechanical pencils.

Theory #3: mechanical Pencils aid You Cheat

There are countless storiesand urban legends that indicate mechanical pencils room not permitted because they might be offered as cheating devices.

Onesuch story is the a student placed a tiny camera inside his mechanical pencil and also used it to take images of the test.Another cheating concept is the students could roll increase ripped-out piece of test booklet sheets and also fit castle in the empty barrel of a mechanical pencil. The seems like a lot of of effort to smuggle possibly two or three concerns out of the experimentation facility, and the sort of thing that also the many blase proctor would certainly notice.

Similarly, some world claim the the pencils aren’t permitted because world would smuggle in formula sheets and notes rolling up in the pencil. This plan, the course, depends on you having a proctor who pays very small attention to what is going on in the room.

Do ns think any type of of this scenarios personal are an especially likely? No. Perform I think it’s possible that significant testing institutions are worried enough about cheating come disallow mechanical pencils because that this reason? Yes, i do. The college Board and also the ACT have a vested attention in people believing the the check is secure and also so castle take actions to secure the (whether those measures are adequate or reliable is a question for another day). The an extremely fact that people feel disallowing mechanical pencils might prevent cheating is a an excellent reason to disallow them. This sound circular, but for a major testing organization, appearances and impressions space important.

So Why does This preeminence Exist?

As alluded to above, i think there room two main reasons this dominance exists. First, it’s a holdover from a time as soon as scantrons were much more primitive and mechanical pencils much less common in schools. Second, it provides the appearance of a an ext secure test, i m sorry is good for the trial and error companies.

We’ve now created that using a mechanical pencil most likely won’t reason a trouble with your score, but the truth is the they space still forbidden by the official rules for 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, your mechanical pencil probably won’t cause scoring challenges for you on the satellite or the ACT. One of our experts here in ~ walk in truth use a mechanically pencil because that her sat (the multiple an option and essay sections) and also she reported the nothing happened. No scoring difficulties, no delays—no one even noticed. So that can certainly be fine.

However, whether or no you are able to actually usage a mechanical pencil on test day depends a many on her exam proctor. If lock a) notice and b) care, they will certainly make you placed away the mechanical pencil, or confiscate it because that the testing period. In that case, you’d much better hope you have another (regular) pencil.So what need to you do?

My Recommendation: bring Regular Pencils

Personally, my reference is that you take her standardized tests with continual #2 pencils, because that the adhering to three reasons.

#1: test Proctors

Following the rule to a T by making use of the authorized #2 pencils will save you indigenous tussling through a proctor. It’s not worth potentially acquiring in a stressful strength struggle prior to (or during!) your exam over your composing utensils.

#2: continual Pencils Are better for filling in Bubbles

It’s actually easier and also faster to fill in bubbles v a constant pencil. Together the reminder gets duller, you have the right to cover an ext circle area per pencil stroke. A mechanically pencil bring away much longer to to fill in each bubble as it remains perpetually sharp. If you worried about not having a sharp sufficient pencil for parts of the exam where you require one, just lug lots that extra pencils. Ns think I had actually something like five or six when I took the exam and also that to be plenty because that me, yet if you want to bring fifteen pre-sharpened Ticonderogas, go ahead.

#3: less Mechanical Failure

No mechanically pencils means no lead breakage or pencil failure! mechanically pencils have their benefits and uses, yet they are more likely to have actually a mechanical error or repeated damaged lead problems than a constant pencil. You additionally will have to painstakingly refill your lead if you run out, which wastes time. through using plain old wood pencils, she limiting the chances you’ll have actually a stressful technical malfunction during the exam.


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

With every this said, if friend feelstrongly the you will be much more comfortable through a mechanically pencil, by every means, bring one to the trial and error center and also use the if nobody stops you. But if you perform this, be sure tobring continual pencils too, and also be all set to use them in situation a proctor take away away your trust mechanically sidekick or your mechanical pencil breaks.

Other vital Things to Remember because that Test Day

First, be certain to carry your check ticket/reservation sheet and also an acceptable photo ID to the trial and error center! girlfriend don’t desire to gain turned away due to the fact that they can’t verify her identity.

Second, consistent #2 pencils are the only writing utensils allowed. You currently know to leave your mechanical pencil in ~ home, but no pen or mite or fancy pencils allowed, either.

Third, you are allowed to lug a watch, and I highly recommend doing therefore to aid you keep track of your time/pace.

Finally, no reading product or an individual devices are allowed in the testing room, for this reason if girlfriend finish early you’ll need to sit tight.

Key Takeaways

Mechanical pencils are officially not allowed on the sat or the ACT. The ACT claims that this is since your check won’t be scored properly if you usage a mechanical pencil. I don’t think this is true, yet it’s going to be better for friend if you monitor the rules on test day. The moment you room taking your satellite or action is most likely not the time to rage versus the an equipment and pole it come the man and his administrative rules.

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However, if your mechanical pencil is an extremely important to you, go ahead and bring it—just so lengthy as you have actually normal pencils together backup and also you space mentally ready to usage them.