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Why do you use No. 2 pencils for tests? Why not a No. 3, 4, or 5?

This question will probably not be on your standardized test: Why are most pencils yellow? You won’t be able to answer that with a ballpoint pen, or a neon pink highlighter.

Let’s start with the word “pencil.” It comes from a Latin word meaning “little tail.” The writing instrument is made up of a casing that protects a solid pigment core. (By the way, pigment comes from the Latin pingere,” which means “to color or paint.”)

The stylus, a thin, metal stick made from lead, may have been the earliest pencil. This tool was used in ancient times for writing on wax tablets.

(Think you know what ACT or SAT is short for? You may be surprised, and amused. Here’s the answer.)

As for the ubiquitous and enigmatic No. 2, the answer is boring in its practicality. The number represents the hardness of the lead ― the lower the number, the softer the metal. Early machines that scanned and scored tests couldn’t detect marks made by hard pencil leads. Marks from by No. 3 and 4 pencils resulted in erroneous results.

(Is the myth that “sophomore” derives from an insulting term true or false? Get the lowdown here.)

Softer pencils, however, had a tendency to smudge, making No. 1 impractical. The machines that read the marks respond to the electrical conductivity of the lead.

In a Goldilocks moment, No. 2 pencils were just right.

The yellow (butterscotch?) shade apparently began to dominate the pencil industry in the late nineteenth century. At that time, pencils were either painted dark colors or not at all. Then, a company based in Austria-Hungary introduced a new, expensive brand of pencil that was painted yellow to distinguish it from other pencils. Other companies proceeded to do what you should never do on an exam: copy.

Speaking of numbers, why do planes have numbers for names? And why is it 747 rather than say, 947? Look at our explanation, here.

What?ˆ™s a Groupon coupon worth?

Chicago Sun-Times July 30, 2011 Howard Gould?ˆ™s Lutz Caf?© and Pastry Shop in the North Center neighborhood has enjoyed a 70-percent redemption rate from the 10,000 Groupon discounts it has offered in the past 12 months ?ˆ” and Gould isn?ˆ™t freaking out about handling the deals.

That?ˆ™s because Gould gets extra insights into his deal-seeking customers?ˆ™ purchases with the help of MobManager, a Chicago start-up that lets companies figure out whether it?ˆ™s worth offering a daily deal with Groupon, Living Social or similar sites. grouponseattlenow.com groupon seattle

MobManager lets the merchant track redemptions, average sales and each deal seeker?ˆ™s total spending. Merchants care about these details because they get paid based on coupons that shoppers redeem.

Initially, bakery employees tracked the Groupon customers by hand in a notebook, using a list of user names and voucher IDs that Groupon provided. ?ˆ?It was very cumbersome,?ˆ? Gould said.

Groupon, a $700 million yearly business whose value could soar to $30 billion in its public stock offering, offers merchants a free redemption app that tracks redemptions and return-on-investment via any handheld device.

Gould started using MobManager after company founder David Wachtendonk cold-called.

?ˆ?I?ˆ™m always looking for new ideas, new marketing methods and ways to become more efficient,?ˆ? Gould said.

?ˆ?I know that my sales are way beyond the $5 coupon we?ˆ™ve offered,?ˆ? Gould said.

Wachtendonk and his co-manager, Christopher Lee, developed the technology after Wachtendonk offered a Groupon from his murder-mystery party-planning company, Murder Mystery Maniacs, a year ago. His deal sold 3,300 Groupons ?ˆ” more than double the expected number that his Groupon account representative had estimated.

?ˆ?We didn?ˆ™t know we could put a cap on?ˆ? the number of Groupons offered, Wachtendonk said.

?ˆ?We are trying to make daily-deal offerings less of an emotional experience by letting merchants know whether they are making money per deal,?ˆ? he said.

Mark Ryski, chief executive officer of retail analytics firm HeadCount Corp. and author of Conversion: The Last Great Retail Metric, said businesses are excited by new technology that lets them immediately measure their deal-offering results and understand the context in which shoppers are making decisions.

?ˆ?Retailers need to be cautious about the context,?ˆ? Ryski said. ?ˆ?What happened to the customers without coupons who came into a store to make a purchase, but didn?ˆ™t get served and left??ˆ?

The analytical software comes at a time when daily-deal sites continue to proliferate, and when bloggers are increasingly questioning why Groupon collects all of its cash upfront while repaying merchants in installments over 60 to 70 days.

The more recent Chicago-based deal sites to pop up include Deal Umpire, which lets daily-deal sites bid against each other for the chance to feature a deal; Evanston-based portal CouponMob, where shoppers can find group deals, online coupons and other one-stop-shop savings, and SavvyAlly, a site aimed at helping women manage their ?ˆ?to do?ˆ? lists while accessing local deals, concierge services and ratings and reviews. go to web site groupon seattle

Indeed, deal sites have changed shopper behavior dramatically in the past three years ?ˆ” with a majority of shoppers feeling slighted and/or annoyed when they have to pay full price and 40 percent saying they follow at least one product brand via a social network to get a coupon or promotion, according to incentives-provider company Parago.

The trends prompt analysts to predict that deal-of-the-day sites?ˆ™ combined gross revenues will grow from today?ˆ™s $873 million to $3.9 billion in 2015, according to BIA/Kelsey research firm.

Howard Gould (left), owner of Lutz Cafe & Pastry Shop, uses software tool MobManager to track Groupon deal redemptions, average sales and more. David Wachtendonk (right) co-developed MobManager. | John H. White~Sun-Times John H. White

91 Comments

  1. Ali Ahsan -  October 26, 2013 - 9:22 am

    Does no 2 pencil mean HB 2 pencil?

    Reply
  2. Sarah -  September 2, 2013 - 1:15 am

    I realize that it’s been a long time since this article was written, but I happened to come across it today and it’s funny how many people confuse “lead”, the chemical element, with “lead”,the core of the pencil.

    The word “lead”, in addition to being the chemical element, is the word for the central part of the pencil. Which explains why some people confused it with the element before and thought pencil lead was actually made of lead. Nowadays, almost everyone knows that pencils are made of graphite, as, I’m sure, does the writer of the article.

    Check your dictionaries, people!

    Reply
  3. Cupcake Queen -  November 16, 2012 - 5:12 pm

    Graphite, people. GRAPHITE.
    This is a really great article! I had always wondered what the number meant…

    Reply
  4. Nick Pitt -  October 31, 2012 - 8:39 am

    No, metallic lead has never been used in pencils. It’s called “lead” because at the time the large graphite reserves were discovered in Cumbria, there was no such thing as chemistry, and people thought the graphite was metallic lead.

    Reply
  5. Frenchlove -  October 28, 2012 - 2:19 am

    people, pencil “lead” is GRAPHITE! GET IT RIGHT!

    Reply
  6. J Mag -  May 23, 2012 - 7:14 am

    Can a No. 2 pencil come in colored graphjite?

    Reply
  7. KATIE -  April 20, 2012 - 6:33 pm

    Pencils are mean to me.

    Reply
  8. April -  April 9, 2012 - 10:17 am

    One thing I wish this article would explain is the rule that mechanical pencils cannot be used. The machines used now must be better at doing their job, so why force every student to use an uncomfortable traditional pencil when they might be able to do their test more effectively with a mechanical pencil due to the varying shapes and on higher end mechanical pencils, the finger cushion?

    Wouldn’t the smaller lead, allow for fewer out of the bubble/rectangle mistakes?

    I hated any sort of test in school that required filling in a bubble or other such item because I usually used a mechanical pencil for other things. Regular pencils were a surefire way to wind up with a bad hand cramp, for me.anyway.

    Reply
  9. Tom -  April 9, 2012 - 3:03 am

    I love this site! I learn so much.
    Number 2 is my preferred tool. As a musician/composer/arranger, they work well. It is the erasers that are the most important.
    Muchas gracias.

    Reply
  10. AnimeWater -  April 8, 2012 - 5:54 pm

    You would expect pencil “lead” to be made of granite, but in truth we don’t exactly know on a commoners viewpoint–due to the lack of knowledge and resources to determine the type of substance. Thus, due to the conditioning of the corporations, government, and educational systems we either think we know or let things like this dictionary make us think we know what the truth is.

    On the main note, Pencil lead is still known as pencil lead because of the supposition that the first pencil had a lead core. This was changed to granite after tomatoes’ acidity revealed that lead was in “fact” a poisonous metal. Sometime after this it was discovered that a stone (later called Granite) had a smooth gel-like consistency that made it perfect for the new core.

    Good day to you all,
    Animewater

    Reply
  11. Ryoung Kim -  April 7, 2012 - 11:16 pm

    - my school uses their lead pencils, but i used a number 2 pencil because in my old school, we used it. Just in case I might be correct and all of them are wrong..

    Reply
  12. Hissyspit -  April 7, 2012 - 8:44 am

    “H” in pencil designation does not mean “hard.” It is from the French “haut” or high, meaning high binder content in the graphite, which would make the pencil harder with a lighter mark. “B” stands for “bas” in French, which means low – low binder content in the graphite, which would make the pencil softer with a darker mark.

    Reply
  13. Purpletastic -  April 7, 2012 - 7:50 am

    Hey, this actually pretty cool! Sometimes i wondered this, and lol to kaniz, the comment above me :)

    Reply
  14. muhtaen -  April 7, 2012 - 5:43 am

    has anyone using normal pencil exist still in the world?

    Reply
  15. kaniz -  January 3, 2012 - 12:57 pm

    the pencils are yellow cause it wants match the school bus

    Reply
  16. drew shake -  November 18, 2011 - 1:46 pm

    why is the name for “pencil” called “little tail”?
    i mean, i get the “little” part but…
    pencils do NOT have tails. :(

    Reply
  17. Commenter -  October 26, 2011 - 4:20 pm

    Y U NO MAKE PURPLE PENCILS!!!!!!!!!!1!!!1!!!1!!!!!!!11111!!!!!

    Reply
  18. Tra Tran -  September 24, 2011 - 8:57 am

    Shhhhhhhh**…I have just had my first exam last week and I use my mechanical pencil T_T which is 2B I believe!!! Cause in my country it’s the most popular type of pencil core that I can find. No one here tells me about using only no2 pencil T_T before the exam God darn it!!!!!

    Reply
  19. farttart -  November 17, 2010 - 5:55 pm

    does it really matter what a pencil is used for ? really! how many foreign people look up “how to use a pencil”! durrrrrrrrrrrr

    Reply
  20. Frank -  October 16, 2010 - 7:57 pm

    thank you for this useful article. my friend and i were sitting here wondering about numbered pencils and this answered our questions. in a way, we are all number two pencils in our own dixon ticonderoga box.

    Reply
  21. viva rg -  September 26, 2010 - 7:10 am

    as per world this information is for boring ppl and i have seen many boring ppl on this site.bt 4 me this information is 1 of my personality development

    Reply
  22. Jay -  September 17, 2010 - 10:48 pm

    Actually if we used the (logical) HB labelling (HB, 2H, 3H, 2B, 3B) there would have been no need for any explanation! another problem the (illogical and outdated) American labeling formats create – somebody in the US should wake up and switch to evolved nomenclature which the rest of the world has already moved to!
    (Metric/SI system is another example – do we actually need to remember how many yards make a mile and how many oz make a lb? Metres and Km or grams and Kg are so much simpler – you almost dont need to waste memory space to remember them..

    Reply
  23. compatible substance --quark? -  September 17, 2010 - 6:15 pm

    I personally like a ball-point pen than a pencil or a sharp-pensil in writing.

    But also typing, especailly nowdays with a computer is more convenient and confortable to my fingers.

    Any thought?

    Reply
  24. KStil -  September 17, 2010 - 3:29 pm

    Another reason the pencils were painted yellow, so I’ve been told, is because one of the original pencil companies was from China (I believe), and in China, yellow was their most respected color, and only the Emperor could wear it–just like purple, or even indigo further west. So, to show their Chinese roots AND to stick out, said company colored them yellow. Just another possibility in this funky and interwoven world of ours.

    Reply
  25. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  September 17, 2010 - 2:35 pm

    ====[SEPARATE SUBJECT]====

    Another that would be fun to discuss, is–

    THE CASE OF PRESENT-PAST-PARTICPLE

    RING – RANG – RUNG
    SING – SANG – SUNG

    DING – DANG – DUNG
    WING – WANG – WUNG

    Okay, so it doesn’t always works– but that’s the question: why not.

    Ray.

    Reply
  26. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  September 17, 2010 - 2:25 pm

    I liked those fat-triangular-crosssection pencils we had ca 1ST-Grade …

    Is there a Number for triangular-vs.-hexagonal-vs.-circular crosssection?

    ====[SEPARATE SUBJECT]====

    I’d like to suggest a discussion of -IBLE vs. -ABLE:

    impassable, means, you can’t pass-by/through/over/near by ordinary due process; e.g. Atlantis sank and became an impassable mudbank;

    impassible, means, you can’t pass it: e.g. an impassible Bill (but which doesn’t occur enough to be a word– Is that too political?)…

    Or, is it the other-way-around-and-everyone-has-it-backwards? (See also the discussion of toward vs. towards.)

    Other words have this choice of -IBLE vs. -ABLE more obviously….

    Ray.

    Reply
  27. hmm -  September 17, 2010 - 2:19 pm

    Graphite can conduct electricity due to the vast electron delocalization within the carbon layers (a phenomenon called aromaticity). These valence electrons are free to move, so are able to conduct electricity. However, the electricity is only conducted within the plane of the layers.

    Reply
  28. Kerry Scott -  September 17, 2010 - 2:02 pm

    Tis is the Grading system used for the “lead: we use a 2B for a “Scantron” graded test ie.SAT
    9H 8H 7H 6H 5H 4H 3H 2H H F HB B 2B 3B 4B 5B 6B 7B 8B 9B
    Hardest → Medium → Softest

    Reply
  29. Kerry Scott -  September 17, 2010 - 1:47 pm

    One finds a number No.1,3,4,5,6+ pencil at virtually any ART SUPPLY STORE. They are primarily used for sketching. Go buy some!!

    Reply
  30. hmm -  September 17, 2010 - 1:32 pm

    Pencils have always contained graphite either being of pure graphite or a mixture containing graphite. Graphite is an allotrope of carbon. Another commonly known allotrope of carbon is diamond. Pencil leads have never actually contained the element Pb, i.e. lead, to any degree.

    Long before the earliest ancestor of the pencil, lead in ancient times was used as a writing implement but that has nothing to do with pencils.

    That pencils once contained lead is one of the most common myths which still gets perpetuated to this day.

    Reply
  31. Jennia -  September 17, 2010 - 1:30 pm

    Regardless of whether carbon is a metal or not (which it isn’t, of course), it can conduct electricity because it has plenty of valence electrons. Perhaps the blend of carbon and other substances that makes H pencils hard (since pure carbon is very soft) would make it less conductive as well.

    I’ve always known about other # pencils (I love the softer 4B pencils for shading), but it is interesting to learn where the yellow paint came from. Maybe the new black and green pencils are also trying to distinguish themselves from the crowd.

    Reply
  32. Bob Collins -  September 17, 2010 - 1:06 pm

    It is called lead as lead was indeed the first used material in pencils. We have since switched to graphite, but the term lead remains. Quit being so anal about lead or graphite.

    Reply
  33. I have no name -  September 17, 2010 - 11:43 am

    “H” stands for hard, “B” stands for black. The higher the number on a “B” pencil, the darker the pencil marks. “H” stands for hard. The higher the number on an “H” pencil, the lighter the pencil mark.

    The H and B pencils are usually used for drawing. For writing and such, you would use and HB pencil.

    Reply
  34. TT15 -  September 17, 2010 - 11:37 am

    YODA

    Reply
  35. bigmop -  September 17, 2010 - 11:27 am

    I think the reason why pencils were/are still referred to as lead is given in the article. That the original form of the pencil used lead. So I guess the name has stuck.????

    Reply
  36. Dagmar Raulin -  September 17, 2010 - 10:48 am

    mistakenly referred to term “lead” was used to but graphite was meant, not the element lead. Need to find out why the term “lead” was used for graphite pencils in the first place. Anybody really know?

    Reply
  37. Name? Doesn't matter -  September 17, 2010 - 9:53 am

    Hehe my pencil is lime green!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Which is my favorite color!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  38. bob -  September 17, 2010 - 9:41 am

    pencils are yellow so they match the school buses

    Reply
  39. #2PENCIL | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  September 17, 2010 - 9:41 am

    [...] past Spring we worked the Census of which we cannot speak. — The Number 2 pencils were Black — like the helicopters that might shut down our leak. — Whether hard or soft [...]

    Reply
  40. #1 Skillet fan -  September 17, 2010 - 9:13 am

    mechanical pencis rock!! lol:)

    Reply
  41. camcam -  September 17, 2010 - 8:55 am

    the No. 2 pencil is the easiest type of ‘lead’ (graphite) for a “scantron” to read. –o0o–

    Reply
  42. Pierre, Ontario, Canada -  September 17, 2010 - 8:33 am

    And another interesting thing, is that while pencils no longer contain the actual metal “lead” (being as they are made of graphite, with various additives to control hardness, brittleness, etc…) if you lay down a heavy (well filled in) trail of pencil writing, say a spot 1/4 inch tall, by 3 inches wide, (basically a heavy, big, black line) it will not only reflect light, but it will conduct small amounts of electricity.

    Hook a volt meter up to it, and the farther apart your leads, the more resistance. (works best of your meter has a new battery) The closer together your leads, the less resistance. Makes for an interesting experiment. In the old days, they called such a device a rheostat… They were used in transistor radios to control volume, and to adjust the reception frequency from one station to another.

    A smart person could actually McGuiver something from this….

    Reply
  43. kaktagorikal -  September 17, 2010 - 8:24 am

    Nice article!

    BTW, you can get pencils at the art store that range from 8H, really, really hard, to 8B, really soft. Marks made with an 8H are very faint, and if you bear down hard, the point will cut right through the paper. Marks made with an 8B are very dark and smear easily.

    You can also get pencils made of solid graphite. They are the same size as a normal pencil but do not have the wood casing. There is a thin coat of paint on body so you don’t get graphite on your fingers as you draw.

    Reply
  44. Rachael -  September 17, 2010 - 8:17 am

    They also didn’t mention that there is absolutely no reason why you can’t use a black ink pen on a test that calls for #2 pencil. The marks will be dark enough for the scanner to pick them up, and any paper that can be marked on with pencil will be absorbent enough for even the most viscous ink, which eliminates the smudging problem.

    Reply
  45. AMY-LOU -  September 17, 2010 - 6:52 am

    I left two comments and neither of them showed up!!!!!!!!!!!!WHY DIDN’T THEY???????????????????

    Reply
  46. Thurbz -  September 17, 2010 - 5:58 am

    Thanks to the 18 of you who felt the need to point out that graphite is now used…

    Reply
  47. Tanya -  September 17, 2010 - 5:18 am

    Intresting article! but what bout those pencils which are like 2B HB and stuff????
    Tks anyways!

    Reply
  48. Liliana -  September 17, 2010 - 4:44 am

    What I understand from that paragraph is that the outer layer of those stylus pencils was made of lead, as far as I know all pencil “leads” were made of graphite (Wikipedia has an explanation why the term “lead” stuck). To be more precise though and without long lines of explanation, “lead” stuck because people didn’t know that the actual metal was “graphite”; they really thought it was lead. So it’s stuck for centuries. I think us being at an advanced level… don’t you think it’s time to rename pencil “lead” into a more modern fancy name? Maybe? :)

    Reply
  49. compatible substance --quark? -  September 17, 2010 - 4:20 am

    When a demand is saturated and get it cringed at itself, then some chemical burst would occur. Graphite is a core of a pencil and what is the subsequent substance that replaces a pencil, I wonder.

    Reply
  50. graphite teaser -  September 17, 2010 - 4:03 am

    Somethihg had made the lead pencil lead in the industry back then, that is the fact. Time out.

    Reply
  51. Number 2 Pencil « The Adams Zone -  September 17, 2010 - 3:19 am

    [...] Number 2 Pencil Filed under: writing by garridon — Leave a comment September 17, 2010 When I started writing, I used a pencil to get my stories down on paper.  Not a pen, but a pencil, because mistakes could be erased.  I also illustrated them, too, with pictures of my main character leaping off a “dangerous” looking cliff to get away from someone.  But writing by hand is pretty slow, especially when I wanted to write something much longer, like a novel.  I went to an electric typewriter, then a word processor, then to a computer.  But there’s still something about the Number 2 Pencil. [...]

    Reply
  52. Sha Putput -  September 17, 2010 - 3:12 am

    Pencil “lead” has been made from graphite for at least two hundred years. The marks left by a pencil are graphenes and other carbon molecules that cleave from the graphite rod; and while they have interesting electrical properties, they are not a metal. Graphite is mostly carbon (there’s always some water and other fluids absorbed from the atmosphere). It is likely that #2 pencils are required because it is the optimum trade-off between its properties; the darkness of the marks it can leave (high contrast improves scoring accuracy), resistance to smudging (scoring equipment quickly accumulates graphite dust), strength and the average diameter of the tip making contact with the paper while making the marks (sharp tips wear down really quickly, less sharp tips present a wide rounded surface for a long time), etc. The harder pencils have a tendency to scruff up or even tear the surface of the paper, rendering it more transparent to light and more susceptible to shedding in the scoring equipment. The softer pencil is just dirtier for the user and the scoring equipment.

    Reply
  53. Brendan -  September 17, 2010 - 1:32 am

    I don’t know about other parts of the world, but in Australia, for tests/exams we’re just meant to use 2B pencils. The “#2″ mentioned in the article is apparantly a 2H (the opposite to a 2B).

    Reply
  54. MkMiku -  September 16, 2010 - 10:55 pm

    Mechanical pencils all the way!

    Reply
  55. Amonite -  September 16, 2010 - 10:34 pm

    The article did not actually say that a pencil lead was indeed ‘lead’ – and the graphite part of a pencil is called the ‘lead’ or ‘pencil lead’, not ‘the pencil graphite’, so the article was accurate (if very ambiguous).

    Other pencils, such as charcoal pencils, etc, can also have varying hardness. (One of my charcoal sets is labeled #1 soft, #2 medium, #3 hard up to #5 extra hard.) Crayola makes some HB colored pencils, I am not sure what hardness my own oil pencils are but I would assume something like a B.

    A #2 pencil is actually neither a 2H or 2B, but an HB, on the hardness scale. (From what I have seen, this range goes from about 9H (impractically hard for most uses) down through 2H, H, F?, HB (#2), B, 2B, up to 9B…although I am not sure if the possible range is wider or not. My own art sets rarely go higher than 8B or 7H, which is probably because it gets hard to draw with pencils higher than the 6′s.)

    Mechanical pencil lead is usually 2H.

    Reply
  56. Didi Adams -  September 16, 2010 - 10:25 pm

    I never thought about it to be honest…

    Reply
  57. JwD -  September 16, 2010 - 9:02 pm

    Pencil “lead” has been made from graphite for at least two hundred years. The marks left by a pencil are graphenes and other carbon molecules that cleave from the graphite rod; and while they have interesting electrical properties, they are not a metal. Graphite is mostly carbon (there’s always some water and other fluids absorbed from the atmosphere). It is likely that #2 pencils are required because it is the optimum trade-off between its properties; the darkness of the marks it can leave (high contrast improves scoring accuracy), resistance to smudging (scoring equipment quickly accumulates graphite dust), strength and the average diameter of the tip making contact with the paper while making the marks (sharp tips wear down really quickly, less sharp tips present a wide rounded surface for a long time), etc. The harder pencils have a tendency to scruff up or even tear the surface of the paper, rendering it more transparent to light and more susceptible to shedding in the scoring equipment. The softer pencil is just dirtier for the user and the scoring equipment.

    Reply
  58. jmc -  September 16, 2010 - 8:59 pm

    Pencils other than the standard #2 are also available at art supply stores. Sketch artists will use them, a harder pencil will make a lighter mark that can be used to “rough in” a sketch before the detail work is done with a softer lead. (Another old draftsman here.) And “npc”, you are correct, the modern grading machines (and ballot counters) use optical scanners rather than resistance readers. But the old #2 pencil continues, by tradition if nothing else.

    Reply
  59. Ben Carson -  September 16, 2010 - 8:03 pm

    cool man……

    Reply
  60. Writer -  September 16, 2010 - 7:18 pm

    We were taught all this in UK school, where HB hardness was the norm. So thought this was common knowledge. Any stationary/art shop would have a range, even for propelling pencils. HB is the ‘missing’ 1H and 1B combined.

    Reply
  61. GR -  September 16, 2010 - 6:40 pm

    Test reading machines no longer use electrical pickup.
    Those machines went out years ago.
    Today’s test reading machines use an optical read — the presence or absence of a mark in a slot. So, either a pen or pencil would do today, but a pencil makes it easier to change one’s answers.

    The first test reading machines were made in the 1940s. They had little wire brushes that registered a hit in a slot that contained pencil graphite. Those have been long replaced by optical read machines.

    Reply
  62. O.o -  September 16, 2010 - 6:28 pm

    no 1 would of thought of such a question anyway :)

    Reply
  63. #1 Skillet fan -  September 16, 2010 - 6:09 pm

    I left a comment earlier today. Why didn’t it show up????

    Reply
  64. Vox Veritas -  September 16, 2010 - 6:04 pm

    Rosemary, thanks for that info. All correct and rather informative compared to some of the other posts here. :)

    I’ve never heard pencils labeled in any other way other than #2 and the varying degrees of H, HB, B and F. So, to find out that they were labeled by numbers too was a surprise to me, but logical nonetheless. Of course, I have no background in drafting so that would be my reason for not knowing! Good to learn something new! :)

    Reply
  65. Matt D -  September 16, 2010 - 6:04 pm

    Interestingly, pencils in Japan are usually not yellow, nor do they usually have erasers.

    Reply
  66. Vox Veritas -  September 16, 2010 - 5:50 pm

    While it would be informative to know that the “lead” now a days is a composed of graphite, this article clearly states that they are referring to the LEAD in possibly THE EARLIEST PENCIL!

    It’s nice to see the literates who can read an article and actually use the information in it posting here once in a while. :)

    Reply
  67. Ryan -  September 16, 2010 - 5:45 pm

    Number 3 and 4 pencils are also used for art, for shading and light sketches. Most artists use them and are commonly found in art shops.

    Reply
  68. Destiny -  September 16, 2010 - 5:43 pm

    Umm we all know graphite is used nowadays, but when pencils were first made, they did use lead. That’s why- in the 9th paragraph- it says clearly ‘in the 19th century’. So this is based off of when pencils first came out. Please read more clearly…

    Reply
  69. npc -  September 16, 2010 - 5:14 pm

    Because folks have asked, it’s easy to find #3 or #4 pencils (or other hardness) at any store that sells drafting supplies. Most office supply stores would have them, I expect.

    Also, I’d be surprised if modern grading machines really use the electrical conductivity of the pencil marks to identify the spots. I’d think that optical scan machines would be much more common these days.

    Reply
  70. RANDOM PERSON -  September 16, 2010 - 5:14 pm

    What is the differnce of hardnes……..If its harder isnt it better because then the laed wont brake so easly

    Reply
  71. Jake -  September 16, 2010 - 5:10 pm

    Pencils at first contained lead, then when they figured out lead poisoning they switched to graphite

    Reply
  72. bsitter96 -  September 16, 2010 - 5:04 pm

    Wow! Lol that is so cool. where can you find #3 pencils though???????

    Reply
  73. Kevin -  September 16, 2010 - 4:59 pm

    It’s funny how some of the everyday little things you merely or don’t notice at all can become fascinating. This is one of the many things.

    Reply
  74. Kevin -  September 16, 2010 - 4:58 pm

    Wow. I was always wondering why only a number 2 pencil (it seems pretty obvious there are more numbers because its only the second number of the natural number line so they wouldn’t skip one. Any number 1-9 is a true number(my term): 1-9 is a true number because larger number like 10 are made of two or more numbers, 1+0 but its not real math since it isn’t accurate). Anyways, really useful. I was wondering the same thing. Thanks!

    Reply
  75. tAb -  September 16, 2010 - 4:39 pm

    hey this is sooooo cool awsome article

    Reply
  76. Rosemary -  September 16, 2010 - 4:35 pm

    Actually there are H and B pencils. Hard pencils are used by mechanical drafters. The higher the # the harder the H pencil. Soft pencils are “B.” These are used by expressive artists. Softer allows for darker lines and shading. The higher the B # the softer the pencil. Pencils come in graphite but can also include charcoal (which are rated similarly when in pencil/stylus form)and can be lead and I’m sure many other types exist. Other pencil types include(e.g. pigment=colored pencils, soluble pigment = watercolor pencils, etc.). The standard #2 is a B rated pencil.

    Reply
  77. Nazat -  September 16, 2010 - 4:31 pm

    very helpful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  78. wow -  September 16, 2010 - 4:21 pm

    that took a long time to explain something that could be said in about 7-10 sentences

    Reply
  79. Minami -  September 16, 2010 - 3:46 pm

    That’s so neat! I’m glad I was able to learn that today. Thank you!!!

    -xo.

    Reply
  80. amaan -  September 16, 2010 - 3:42 pm

    i never knew that

    Reply
  81. V ;) -  September 16, 2010 - 3:28 pm

    t
    his is really interesting.I never knew that.Once I tell my teacher this she will be really impressed and surprised.

    Reply
  82. jaquita -  September 16, 2010 - 3:25 pm

    what is a number 3,4,and 5 pencil how ever came with thatis funny lol

    Reply
  83. Eric -  September 16, 2010 - 3:22 pm

    What you don’t mention, is that pencil ‘lead’ is actually graphite, which is a form of carbon and not lead at all.

    Reply
  84. Pete H -  September 16, 2010 - 3:22 pm

    No, I did not ask why not a #3 pencil or a #4 or #5. Because I have done drafting as a profession & am aware of those lead hardnesses, as well as all the way up to a #9 lead, which is sort of like writing with a razor blade. MY question would be, why not a #H pencil or an “F” lead? Probably because an “H” or “F” is not nearly as available, yes?

    Reply
  85. Sandy -  September 16, 2010 - 3:22 pm

    bam!
    the yellow thing is just so weird. it’s a waste of paint

    Reply
  86. Mon431 -  September 16, 2010 - 3:01 pm

    That explains a lot! Thanks for the useful article!

    Reply
  87. Bob The Builder -  September 16, 2010 - 3:01 pm

    where do u find no.3 or no.4 pencils anyways?

    Reply
  88. SassafraS -  September 16, 2010 - 2:54 pm

    Funny, today I was wondering how machines scan tests through the inscriptions on them. By the by, pencils actually contain graphite, not lead.

    Reply
  89. Art -  September 16, 2010 - 2:52 pm

    Lead is rarely used in pencils. Graphite is used.

    Reply

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