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Can you use a pen or pencil or both in the OET test?

Something as small as whether you should write your answers for the test in pen or pencil is something worth thinking about as part of your test preparation. 

The OET test regulations give clear instructions about which items of stationery can or can’t be taken into the test. This makes looking through your pencil case to check your writing things an important step in getting ready for test day.

Make your decision early

We suggest that you make a decision about your stationery needs as soon as you start preparing for OET. This is so you can start getting comfortable with the pen or pencil you are going to use. That way you won’t have any problems with a new pen which doesn’t work or a pencil which doesn’t feel comfortable to hold on the day.

You also don’t want to get into bad habits of using something in your preparation such as a highlighter or correction fluid which you are not allowed to use during the test. You will feel slightly lost in the Writing sub-test. If you're highlighting all the case notes you think are relevant to write about during your study time, you won't be allowed to do this on test day. Start good habits in your test preparation so your test day experience is as smooth as possible.

A 2B Pencil

The OET regulations state you can use pen or pencil for any part of the test APART from Reading parts B and C and Listening Parts B and C which are marked by a computer and MUST be completed with a 2B pencil. Not sure what a ‘2B’ pencil is? ‘B’ is the measurement of blackness of the pencil lead. Any stationery shop selling a range of pencils will have the ‘B’ measurements written on the pencil somewhere. For everything else, it’s your choice whether you want to use pencil which you can erase or a pen which you can’t.

Things to consider

Mechanical pens or pencils (anything you have to click to reveal the lead or the pen tip), highlighters, correction fluid or tape are all banned so, they won't be permitted into the test. Leave them out of your stationery (on test day and during your test preparation) now until after the test.

Before making your final choice think over these points:

  • You don’t have a lot of time to erase writing with an eraser in any of the tests so perhaps a line clearly drawn through any mistakes with pen is quicker.
  • If you are using pencils, bringing a handful of ready sharpened ones is going to be useful. Blunt pencils are harder for the assessor to read so you will need to replace or sharpen your pencil regularly in the test.

Pencil cases

Finally, in the test you will only be allowed to carry your stationery items in a clear plastic bag. While you might feel more confident with your favourite pencil case or stationery box, they are not allowed in the test.

If you know all of these things in advance, it makes for a much more relaxed test day experience.

Happy writing!