Why Must It Be a #2 Pencil?

You’ve heard it a million times. Every standardized test, the SAT included, asks you to bring at least two sharpened #2 pencils. Why?

The answer has to do with how the test is graded. SAT tests (the sections that require you to fill out bubbles) are graded by a scantron machine. Earlier versions of the machine required a very opaque mark in order to make the distinction, and the #2 pencil was a good match.

The #2 refers to where the hardness and blackness of the graphite inside the pencil falls on a rating scale. The graphite used in a #2 or HB allowed for just the right amount of light to be blocked for these earlier versions of scantron machines to tell which answer you have selected.

Newer, modern machines can now distinguish between several markings, and can even determine what may be intentional instead of a smudge (even if you use a #3 or 4). So, unless your school or testing facility is using a very old scoring machine, you should be fine. Spend more time studying for the test and getting a good night’s sleep, and don’t worry about your pencil.


Fast Facts About Pencils

For more reading about the #2 Pencil, check out this article about what makes #2 pencils so special.

2 Responses to Why Must It Be a #2 Pencil?

  1. Abc January 23, 2015 at 7:24 AM #

    Hey! I am writing my exam very soon and the papers are being scanned to the teachers… i wanted to know which is the best pencil that can be seen in scanned copies/xerox of papers?

  2. Nathaniel September 6, 2011 at 4:19 PM #

    Hi, that’s a excellent article. Really enjoyed reading that. Thanks

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