Do not show up to the SAT or ACT with a mechanical pencil, and definitely do not show up with a bad eraser! Every year I yell and scream these Do Nots and every year students don’t listen and there are tears! Therefore, this year I am putting these Do Nots in writing.
Here’s what you need to know about Scantrons: Scantron machines read the indentations on the paper, not the colored dots. If a Scantron cannot read an indentation, then an answer is marked incorrect (even though it might be correct).
Ever watch a student use a mechanical pencil? Well, I have. Students write lightly because they don’t want to break the tip, and, since they always do break the tip, and break it often, they are constantly clicking for more lead. Fact: If you write lightly on the Scantron, there is a good chance the machine will mark a correct answer incorrect. Plus, constantly clicking for more lead takes focus away from the test questions. So, bring five old-fashioned #2 pencils to the test and bubble away with confidence.
Now onto erasing. Last year I literally had a student tear a HOLE in his Scantron because of his eraser. Students should bring a separate eraser. Think the big, pink eraser that you used in 2nd grade. As stated above, Scantron machines read indentations, and the machine will be confused if there are two or three indentations on one line because the student did not erase effectively.
Although the correct eraser will help eliminate unwanted indentations, it will only help so much. Therefore, students should first put an answer down in their test book and then put the answer on the Scantron. Students should be confident about their answer choice when bubbling in. This will eliminate subsequent Scantron mistakes. But, do NOT leave the bubbling to the end of the section. Bubble as you go. Perish the thought that a student gets to the end of a section, the bell rings, and nothing is bubbled in! Perish indeed!
Since I don’t like to end my Tip of the Week on a negative note, I will briefly share some Do’s: Do bring extra batteries for your graphing calculator; do bring water and snacks; do bring a watch; and, most importantly, do bring your confidence!