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
- The word comes from the Latin world penicillus which means “little tail.”
- Author John Steinbeck wrote in pencil and reportedly used 60 a day to complete The Grapes of Wrath.
- Erasers and pencils weren’t brought together until March 30, 1858 when Hymen Lipman of Philadelphia, PA filed the first patent for a pencil with an attached eraser.
- The average pencil can draw a line 35 miles long.
For more reading about the #2 Pencil, check out this article about what makes #2 pencils so special.