No, you can’t use a mechanical pencil on the SAT or ACT.
Actually, it’s not allowed in most standardized tests.
Using a mechanical pencil on the ACT can put your score in jeopardy.
There are many explanations for this but the main one is because the machines used for marking the sheets won’t pick up on the markings.
So, your answers won’t be counted, even if you got everything right.
Below are other explanations about why mechanical pencils are not recommended for ACT
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Why Can’t I Use a Mechanical Pencil on ACT?
There are several theories as to why I would advise against using mechanical pencils on ACT.
Here are some of them:
1. The machine used for marking won’t score your sheet
One of the most popular theories about the ACT is that the scantron machines can’t actually “read” the answers on your sheet.
If you fill in the bubbles using a mechanical pencil, the machine won’t mark this and your results will be in peril (Are Zebra mechanical pencils any good?).
Scantron machines work by filling the paper with light and they can only “read” the answer if the light gets blocked from coming through your paper.
Some types of pencils such as pencil graphite are great at blocking the light (also don’t use coloured mechanical pencil lead either).
However, black pen and lighter graphite inks don’t block the light, meaning the machine won’t “read” your answers.
However, there are newer scantron machines that are more sophisticated.
These machines can pick out even the darkest marks on a paper.
The main issue is that you can’t predict the type of machine used to mark your paper.
Personally, I think it would be safer to avoid using mechanical pencils on the ACT.
2. Mechanical pencils promote cheating
In the past, there have been many stories about how mechanical pencils (see the best for drawiing here) aren’t allowed on ACT or SAT tests because they can be used to cheat.
One of the most popular stories is that a student inserted a small camera inside the mechanical pencil.
He then used the camera to take shots of the test.
It’s also claimed that students can roll up small pieces of the test booklet sheets and insert them in the barrel of their mechanical pencil.
Others can also smuggle in notes and formula sheets in the mechanical pencil.
It might seem like a hectic process, but some students are ready to take the risk and cheat.
3. Your paper might get ripped
Test booklet papers are known to be flimsy and it’s said that mechanical pencils can easily rip them.
What’s my thought on this?
Well, it’s possible that mechanical pencils can rip test booklets more often than regular pencils, despite the fact that the latter are sharper.
The pencil’s ability to rip a booklet depends on the width of the lead.
However, this doesn’t mean that all mechanical pencils will rip your test booklet.
Additionally, testing organisations don’t disallow the use of mechanical pencils solely for this reason.
This is an extra theory as to why it’s not recommended to use mechanical pencils on ACT or SAT tests.
My opinion is that you wouldn’t want to risk your booklet getting ripped, so why not avoid using mechanical pencils?
Is It Ok To Use Mechanical Pencils on SAT or ACT Tests?
It’s official that you are not allowed to use mechanical pencils on the ACT or SAT.
As explained in the article, the scantron machine can’t read the answers on your sheet.
Secondly, mechanical pencils encourage cheating.
Thus, the next time you are taking your ACT, don’t bring your mechanical pencil, but instead find something else to use.