Some civilization really choose mechanical pencils to consistent pencils. If you are one of those people, you may wonder if you deserve to use a mechanically pencil top top the satellite or the ACT.

You are watching: Can i use mechanical pencil on sat

The quick answer is no, yet the lengthy answer is a much much more convoluted “Maybe, however I don’t recommend it.” review on because that a break down of the official policies for each exam, why this rule exists, the actual fact of mechanically pencils ~ above the exam, my recommendation, and some other important bureaucratic regulations come remember because that test day.

The main Rules: Don"t use a mechanical Pencil

The SAT and also the act are various tests administered by different companies, for this reason I’ll walk over your regulations separately, also though they both disallow mechanically pencils in their main rules.

Mechanical Pencils on the SAT

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

Only top top the actual check instructions does the say the “A No. 2 pencil is required for the test. Perform not lug a mechanically pencil or a pen.”

Mechanical Pencils on the ACT

On the ACT’s list of general test tips, lock state that girlfriend cannot usage a mechanical pencil or ink pen because your answer file will no be score correctly. This justification might or might not it is in true, yet either way, mechanically pencilsaren’t allowed.


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

Why does This preeminence Exist?

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

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

The most famous theory—one that the plot in certain claims is true—is that scantron machines can’t “read” your sheet if you fill in your bubbles through a mechanical pencil.Is this true? Maybe, yet probably not.

Here’s the deal: older scantron machines functioned by blasting your paper with light and also could just “read” the answer if the light was totally blocked from coming through the paper. Pencil graphite—specifically in load #2—was an excellent for blocking the light. Lighter weights that graphite and black pen ink didn’t block enough light to it is in read, and also darker graphite smeared really easily, resulting in “false positives.” So, you had actually to use a #2 pencil. (You deserve to read more about exactly how old scantron machines functioned if you’re a big nerd favor me.)

The an initial SAT to be administered in 1926, and the an initial ACT in 1959. The an initial scantron-type machines were used to score tests in the 1930s. So because that a lot of SAT and ACT history, the older devices couldn’t check out anything other than the marks make by a #2 pencil, and also mechanical pencils no yet really common in school settings. During that time, that made much much more sense to require continual #2 pencils and disallow mechanically ones.

However, new scantron devices are much an ext sophisticated and also can typically pick the end the darkest note in a heat no matter how it’s made—just so long as the note isn’t in the same color ink that the paper was published in. It’s more than likely safe to i think that significant testing companies favor the College board (they perform the SAT) and ACT, Inc. Use modern scantron makers that have the right to pick the end the darkest mark on the paper regardless of what composing utensil you used.

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

I personally think that it is downright misleading because that the action to claim that scantron machines might not have the ability to read your record correctly if you use a mechanical pencil.

However, the reality is that enormous administrative organizations prefer the ACT and also the college Board generally take a lengthy time to readjust rules and regulations—if they change them at all. And neither organization necessarily stands to get a entirety lot from the readjust in this case: even if it is or not a student can use a mechanical pencil is i can not qualify to make or rest their testing decision (if they also have a an option on even if it is to take the check or not). So because there’s no pressing reason to reevaluate this rule, it stays.


Change: someone else will execute it.

Theory #2: mechanical Pencils Rip her Paper

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

What’s my take? ns guess it’s feasible that mechanically pencils would rip the check booklets a little an ext easily than continuous pencils, although that seems choose a super-sharpened pencil would certainly be just as likely to do damage there. A mechanical pencil’s paper-ripping ability would also depend a lot on the width of her lead, i beg your pardon is variable. I doubt that testing organizations would disallow mechanical pencils solely for this; it’s not like mechanical pencils are typically ruthless paper-destroying machines. So ns don’t think this is a huge factor in the decision to bar mechanically pencils.

Theory #3: mechanically Pencils help You Cheat

There are plenty of storiesand urban legends that indicate mechanical pencils room not allowed because they can be supplied as cheating devices.

Onesuch tale is that a student put a tiny camera inside his mechanical pencil and also used it come take pictures of the test.Another cheating theory is the students could roll increase ripped-out pieces of check booklet sheets and also fit lock in the north barrel the a mechanical pencil. The seems choose a many of effort to smuggle possibly two or three inquiries out that the trial and error facility, and also the sort of thing that even the most blase proctor would notice.

Similarly, some people claim that the pencils aren’t permitted because people would smuggle in formula sheets and also notes rolling up in the pencil. This plan, that course, depends on you having actually a proctor that pays very little attention come what is walk on in the room.

Do ns think any kind of of this scenarios personally are specifically likely? No. Execute I think it’s possible that major testing institutions are concerned enough about cheating to disallow mechanical pencils for this reason? Yes, ns do. The college Board and the ACT have a vested attention in people believing that the check is secure and also so they take procedures to secure it (whether those steps are enough or effective is a inquiry for an additional day). The really fact that civilization feel disallowing mechanical pencils might prevent cheating is a good reason to disallow them. This sounds circular, but for a major testing organization, appearances and also impressions room important.

So Why go This dominion Exist?

As alluded to above, i think there are two key reasons this ascendancy exists. First, it’s a holdover indigenous a time when scantrons were much much more primitive and mechanical pencils much much less common in schools. Second, it offers the appearance of a more secure test, i beg your pardon is good for the testing companies.

We’ve now established that utilizing a mechanical pencil more than likely won’t cause a trouble with her score, however the truth is the they room still forbidden by the main rules for both tests. Where does this leaving us?


We"re in a pencil pickle!

The Truth: making use of a mechanical Pencil can Be Fine

As i have explained, your mechanical pencil more than likely won’t cause scoring obstacles for you on the satellite or the ACT. Among our experts here at did in reality use a mechanically pencil for her sat (the multiple an option and essay sections) and she reported that nothing happened. No scoring difficulties, no delays—no one even noticed. So the can absolutely be fine.

However, whether or no you room able to actually usage a mechanically pencil on check day relies a many on your exam proctor. If they a) notice and b) care, they will make you placed away that mechanical pencil, or confiscate it for the testing period. In the case, you’d better hope friend have one more (regular) pencil.So what should you do?

My Recommendation: carry Regular Pencils

Personally, my referral is that you take her standardized exam with continuous #2 pencils, for the adhering to three reasons.

#1: test Proctors

Following the rules to a T by making use of the authorized #2 pencils will keep you from tussling through a proctor. It’s not worth potentially getting in a stressful power struggle prior to (or during!) her exam over your composing utensils.

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

It’s in reality easier and also faster to to fill in bubbles with a regular pencil. As the tip gets duller, you have the right to cover an ext circle area every pencil stroke. A mechanical pencil takes much longer to fill in every bubble together it stays perpetually sharp. If she worried about not having a sharp enough pencil for components of the exam where you need one, just lug lots that extra pencils. I think I had actually something like 5 or six as soon as I took the exam and also that to be plenty because that me, however if you want to carry fifteen pre-sharpened Ticonderogas, go ahead.

#3: less Mechanical Failure

No mechanically pencils method no lead breakage or pencil failure! mechanical pencils have actually their benefits and uses, but they are much more likely to have actually a mechanical error or repeated broken lead issues than a consistent pencil. You also will need to painstakingly refill your lead if you operation out, which wastes time. by using level old wood pencils, you limiting the opportunities you’ll have actually a stressful technical malfunction during the exam.


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

With all this said, if girlfriend feelstrongly that you will be much more comfortable through a mechanical pencil, by all means, bring one come the experimentation center and also use the if no one stops you. But if you do this, be certain tobring regular pencils too, and also be prepared to use them in situation a proctor take away away her trust mechanically sidekick or her mechanical pencil breaks.

Other important Things to Remember because that Test Day

First, be certain to carry your check ticket/reservation sheet and an acceptable photograph ID to the experimentation center! friend don’t desire to acquire turned away due to the fact that they can’t verify your identity.

Second, continuous #2 pencils are the just writing utensils allowed. You currently know come leave your mechanical pencil at home, however no pen or markers or colored pencils allowed, either.

Third, girlfriend are enabled to carry a watch, and also I very recommend doing so to aid you store track of her time/pace.

Finally, no reading material or an individual devices are enabled in the trial and error room, therefore if you finish early on you’ll must sit tight.

Key Takeaways

Mechanical pencils are officially not allowed on the satellite or the ACT. The ACT cases that this is because your check won’t be scored appropriately if you use a mechanically pencil. Ns don’t think this is true, however it’s going to be far better for you if you follow the rules on check day. The moment you room taking your satellite or act is most likely not the moment to rage against the device and rod it come the man and his governmental rules.

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However, if her mechanical pencil is very important come you, walk ahead and also bring it—just so long as you have normal pencils together backup and you space mentally prepared to use them.