The aluminum baseball bat was invented as a replacement for traditional wooden bats, which were prone to breaking during normal use as well as being heavy and cumbersome. Since the 1970s the use of modern metals and engineering has produced a bat that’s lighter in weight and has a larger sweet spot making it altogether easier to use and more effective than wood.
In Major League Baseball though, the use of aluminum bats is prohibited, because their impact on the game would be too severe. Past statistics and records achieved with wooden bats couldn’t be fairly compared with the jacked-up numbers made possible by aluminum. So for the sake of tradition, modern day major league players hit with essentially the same kind of bats as in yesteryear. Part of the appeal of the game is that its essence hasn’t been affected much by advances in technology.
For as long as we can remember the SAT has been strict about the use of #2 pencil only. Which is not to say a mechanical pencil or even a #1 pencil wouldn’t do the job just as well. I think it’s just ETS is trying to keep things uniform and avoid any hassle that could result from a misinterpretation of the term “pencil”. If the instructions for the test were simply “Use a pencil”, believe you me quite a few people would manage to screw it up.
Personally I don’t like the #2 pencil for a math and verbal exam with an essay. That’s a little harsh. Pen should be allowed for the essay at least. Some standardized tests are done all on a computer! What gives? Pencils can be inconvenient. They need to be sharpened constantly, they get shorter as you use them, and they’re narrow, hard and generally not as comfortable in the hand as a modern mechanical pencil. And most likely, unless you’re an artist you don’t use wooden pencils very often either.
Nevertheless I have my students do all their SAT practice with wooden pencils. As I’ve written about before, I’m a firm believer that practice should mimic the real thing as closely as possible. A ballplayer uses the exact same type of bat in practice as in games, to do any differently would only complicate things. Use the wooden pencil often, develop a feel for it. You’ll be relying on your pencils to mark your way through 4+ hours of testing, 170 questions and a four-paragraph essay, and you don’t want to attempt this serious a challenge using an unfamiliar instrument.
And don’t just use the #2 pencil. Learn to love it. Find your own favorite brand since they vary in wood type, weight and hardness. Customize yours with an eraser top, or a nice cushy comfort grip. Get a cool sharpener too. Give your pencils a special name like “Excalibur” or “The Executive”. You’ll probably find that the wooden pencil has its own virtues. They’re cheap for one, and their blunter, rounded tips make easy work of filling in answer sheet bubbles.
Maybe someday, many years from now, mechanical pencils will be permitted under the SAT rules, and maybe aluminum bats will become the norm (probably not). But for the foreseeable future both the SAT and Major League Baseball remain firmly rooted in the past with their dedication to the traditional wooden instrument, for better or worse. So when you’re taking that test, filling in those bubbles with your #2…remember, you’re part of a long tradition; it’s how the SAT has been contested since the 1930s!