Can You Use Pencil in Exams? | GCSE, A-Level, University and More

In A-Level, GCSE, General, University by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

When it comes to exams, there are so many little details that you need to get just right. Some of these are just so that you can be properly prepared and ready, but others may be the difference between you being disqualified from your exam or not. Getting all of these things right can be so important.

The only problem is that sometimes it can be so confusing and with things being left unsaid, it can be difficult to know exactly what you should do and what you shouldn’t. This is particularly the case for the issue of writing in pencil. The etiquette of when you should use pencil in academic situations can be pretty confusing on its own. Therefore, this is just another one of those exam details that can be difficult to figure out.

In short, yes, you can use pencil in exams for GCSEs, A-Levels and at university. However, for GCSEs and A-Levels, while you can use pencil for rough working and to draw diagrams and graphs, you will still need to write your answers in black pen. For university exams, it may vary a bit more between universities, each department and the nature of each exam as to whether you can use pencil or not.

Continue reading to learn more about whether pencil can be used in exams. This article will take you through different stages of education, particularly GCSEs, A-Levels and university to look at when and if pencil should be used and other little details related to this.

Can you use pencil in GCSE exams?

When it comes to a GCSE exam, you will be able to use pencil. However, this isn’t as freely as you might think.

In a GCSE exam, all exam candidates are required to write their answers in black pen. This means that no, you shouldn’t write your final answer in pencil for a GCSE exam.

Despite this, it is still encouraged that you take a pencil into the exam with you. This is because it enables you to write an initial answer that you can change later on, particularly for multiple choice questions.

Also, if the question requires you to draw diagrams or graphs, particularly in papers, such as GCSE Maths, it is recommended that you do use pencil. For questions like these, it is okay for you to leave your final answer in pencil, but not when writing generally. In this case, it is best that you use a HB pencil to make sure that it can still be scanned.

For more information about the rules and regulations of GCSE exams, check out this guide by JCQ. To learn more using a pencil for your GCSE Maths papers, look at this guide by Wadebridge School.

What happens if you write in pencil in a GCSE exam?

As previously mentioned, in a GCSE exam, you should write your final answer in black pen. This is to ensure that your answers can be scanned in, allowing them to be marked in the standard way.

If you accidentally wrote your final answer in pencil, you might be worried that your answers won’t get marked or that you might otherwise be marked down.

In this case, there is nothing to worry about as your paper can still be marked. Instead of getting scanned in and marked in the typical way, your paper will be marked by using a hard copy rather than having it marked online.

To learn more about this, check out this page on the OCR exam board’s website.

Can you use pencil in A-Level exams?

For A-Levels exams, exam takers will once again need to write their final answers using black ink, as outlined by the guidelines. These are from the exact same guidelines that GCSE exam candidates will need to follow due to both being standardised exams in the UK.

The same rules also apply to the use of pencil. Exam takers will be able to use pencil in the exam and are in fact encouraged to particularly for weighing up answers, particularly for multiple choice. Also, the same goes for drawing diagrams and graphs in subjects, such as A-Level Maths, as it is best to do so in pencil.

You can find more about these guidelines for A-Level exams and other standardised exams by checking out this guide by JCQ. Look at this article by WHSmith for more on the use of pencil in exams.

What happens if you write in pencil in an A-Level exam?

Once again, due to both being standardised exams, the same policies of using pencil apply to both GCSE and A-Level exams. Due to this, you might be wondering if this is still the case in terms of the consequences of using pencil.

For an A-Level exam, the process will occur in the same way as it would for a GCSE exam. This means that if the A-Level exam candidate has mistakenly used pencil, where they should have written in black pen, their paper will still be marked. Once again, this will be done using a physical copy of their exam rather than being done online.

You can find more about this by going to this page on the OCR website.

Can you use pencil in university exams?

Unlike for GCSE and A-Level exams, when it comes to university, the exams aren’t standardised. This means that there are no shared, official guidelines that apply to all universities. Due to this, there are also no shared, official guidelines that are the same for all universities.

As a result of this, there are also no shared, official policies that detail what exam candidates should use to write in an exam. Therefore, students may be able to use pencil in their university exams, depending on the university and the nature of the exam itself.

In fact, you may find that this can vary even within a university, depending on factors, such as your course and what the actual exam is. This may mean that you have to find out for each exam.

For more information about this, check out this guide by the University of Leeds. To find out more, you should look at a particular university’s website for specific information.

Do you write in pencil or pen for Cambridge exams?

In general, the University of Cambridge doesn’t specifically detail whether you should bring pen or pencil to write in exams. Instead, it says that you should bring “stationary, in a clear plastic bag or clear pencil case”. This suggests that either may be used, although similar to other university exams, it will likely depend on the nature of the exam itself and the course.

It’s also important to note that for the University of Cambridge, and for many other universities also, using pen or pencil aren’t the only two possibilities for an exam. Instead, your exam may be online so students will also need to use a laptop to take the exam.

For more information about this, check out this page on the University of Cambridge’s website.

Are mechanical pencils allowed in exams?

In this article, we have already looked at whether or not you can use pencil in an exam. It’s also important to see what kinds of pencil are permitted to be used in the exam. As mechanical pencils are slightly different from other pencil types, students may be particularly worried about whether they will be able to bring this into the exam.

In official guidelines, there is nothing explicitly saying that you can’t use mechanical pencils in the either GCSE or A-Level exams. However, it can still be best to check with your teacher as they may have some more advice regarding this.

What stationary do you need for GCSE and A-Level exams?

In this article, we have looked at one aspect of your exam stationary, pencils. Some of the important aspects of stationary that you might need for GCSE and A-Level exams include the following.

  • A clear pencil case
  • A black pen and spares
  • A rubber
  • A clear water bottle that has no label on it
  • A sharpener
  • A calculator
  • A ruler
  • A geometry set (compass, protractor, etc.)
  • A highlighter

For more information about this, check out this page on the AQA website as well as this article by WHSmith.

What stationary do you need for university exams?

University exams can be a little different due to what you are expected or permitted to take into the exam hall. Some of the equipment that you might take with you into an exam at university include the following.

  • Your university student ID
  • A clear pencil case or clear bag
  • Basic stationary (pens, pencils, rubbers, highlighters, rulers, etc.)
  • A calculator (if needed)
  • A clear unlabelled water bottle
  • A watch
  • Laptop (for online exams only)
  • Mobile phone (for online exams only)

Please note that when it comes to university study, there will be some variation between each university so while this is a general list based of the policies of 2 different universities, other universities may have slightly different policies for the equipment that you can bring into the exam with you. This list was based off the policies stated on this page by the University of Cambridge and this page by Sheffield Hallam University.

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