types of pencils and standardized test

I understand that the number 2 pencil is the standard grade and that it has a measurable hardness and darkness but is it such that if you were to say use a #2 and 1/2 pencil or a number 1 pencil, the machines wouldn’t be able to read your test? I could see the lighter pencils not being read, but what about the darker grades?

Anything softer than about a 3 leaves a lot of loose graphite on the test paper, which smears and makes the machine-readability less accurate.

And anything much harder than a #2 will make it very difficult to make a dark enough mark that the machine can read accurately. You could use a #1, for example, but you’d have to expend an inordinate amount of effort to make a properly dark mark.

my friend matt scored a 5 on the A.P. Physics exam using a number 3 pencil. (for those who don’t know, 5 is the highest score you can get). he didn’t even realize it was a #3 until after the test, and didn’t feel like re-doing it with a new pencil.

I’ve always wondered why you cannot use pen. It’s just an optical scanner, not some sort of super Spectral-Analysis-Gas-Chormatography-#2-Pencil-Detector, right? As long as you don’t have to erase, is there any problem with a pen?

You have to remember that the Scantron machine is calibrated to the marks left by a #2 pencil. Using anything else may read properly, but it also may not.

FWIW, I know that way back when I was in primary school (early mid 80s), every so often we had machine-graded tests which required the use of #1 pencils. They were specially handed out by the teachers. In fact, that’s my only experience with a #1 pencil.

I think you underestimate the importance of the part I’ve bolded.

I always thought pen markings wouldn’t work because don’t the machines work on reflecting the light back off the pencil marks (the graphite’s shininess makes it possible) rather than just looking for dark marks? This seems correct since the old chapstick-on-the-scantron trick seems to sufficiently make it unreadable.

I forget, which MM thickness equates to Number 2… .5 MM ? That is… if I where to use a mechanical/click pencil on a Number 2 test page ((Assuming Number 2 is the only one that can work correctly)) which would I need?

The number of a pencil doesn’t relate to the diameter of its graphite at all. It relates to the hardness of the graphite (i.e., how much binder material/extra ingredients are added to the graphite before it’s rolled into sticks and cut).

Number 2 refers to the hardness of the pencil lead, not the thickness. When buying pencil lead, look for the letters “HB” – short for “hard and black”, it’s the equivalent of “Number 2”. If you visit an art supply store, you might see other pencil hardnesses denoted by the letters H, B, F and an optional number suffix.

Before we end up reinventing the wheel (or should I say pencil?), we ought to include a link to the staff report by bibliophage.

You don’t have to use a #2, but why risk jeopardizing the results by using some other grade of pencil or a ball point pen.
If you have a compulsion to avoid following the rules/suggestions take the risk or see a shrink to determine the cause and modify it.

I work at a university, and we have an NCR reader for Scantron and similar fill-in-the-bubble type sheets. It will actually work just fine with black or blue ballpoint, pencils other than ye olde #2, inkject and laser printer ink, etc. You’re far more likely to get a data read error from stray marks or erasures than from using the wrong hardness of pencil. As long as what you’re writing with is reasonably dry so that the act of passing through the machine doesn’t smear it (e.g. no mascara, no crayon) you’ll probably be OK with any kind of pencil or normal pen.

And remember, Make sure you fill in ALL of the little circles, or the computer will MOST DEFINITELY NOT PICK IT UP.
But don’t go outside the lines, or else it MOST DEFINITELY WILL PICK IT UP.

If the Number 2 pencil is the most popular pencil in the world, how come it’s still number 2? :stuck_out_tongue:

It tries harder!