Why No. 2 pencils are the standard

Posted at 8:14 AM, Aug 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-17 09:28:41-04

All school supply lists around Central Texas have one thing in common, No. 2 pencils.

It’s not because they are second best.

Pencils are numbered and lettered based on how hard the lead is. Keep in mind, the pencils manufactured today are actually made from graphite.

The higher the number on the pencil, the harder the lead and the lighter the marking.

The numbers make a difference when it comes to grading tests.

According to, early testing machines couldn’t detect marks made by hard pencils, like No. 3 or No. 4. No. 1 was too dark, which could cause smudging leading to wrong or sometimes unreadable answered.

No. 2 pencils are the Goldilocks spot, just right.

Other pencils like No. 3 and No. 4 have their place, but they are usually reserved for more specialized areas like art, engineering and architecture.

Modern testing machines can read almost any pencil mark, but No. 2 pencils have remained the standard.

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