Can You Use Fountain Pens In Exams?

Most examination boards restrict the items you can take with you into an exam. Some may even stipulate what type of writing instrument you must use, e.g., pencil or ballpoint or black marker. Most institutions don’t allow you to write in pencil or red pen. Always check well in advance on whether you are permitted to use a fountain pen in a particular exam.

You can use a fountain pen to write an exam unless the examining authority expressly says you can’t. If your hands sweat when you are anxious, it isn’t advisable because the ink may smudge. You write slower with a fountain pen, and exams are time-restricted. A ballpoint or rollerball writes faster.

When choosing a pen for an exam, there are several factors to bear in mind. The pen must write consistently, it should not be too heavy, and you must be able to write legibly with it. The ink should be waterproof and either blue or black to stand out clearly on the page.

The Pen Must Write Consistently First Time Every Time

Since you will be limited on the number of pens you can take into an exam, it’s vital to choose some that won’t become clogged or dry out too quickly. You should never use a brand new fountain pen in an exam because you don’t know how it writes or if it will give you trouble with ink flow. You need a pen that is one hundred percent sure to write!

If you do use a fountain pen, one cartridge may not be enough, and while it doesn’t take long to fit another one, it’s just a fiddly moment that you don’t need on top of exam stress. Fountain pens can be temperamental depending on the humidity, temperature, and airflow in a room. If conditions are too cold, the ink can freeze, although hopefully, you will not be writing in sub-zero temperatures.

 If you have to travel in freezing conditions to get to the exam venue, it is advisable not to use a fountain pen. There is another hazard. If you leave your pen in a parked car in a freezing climate, the ink may expand as it ices up, cracking your pen and bursting the cartridges open.

Even ballpoint pens sometimes refuse to write in frigid regions, but the ink is not water-based like fountain pen ink. Water-based ink freezes at a higher temperature than the oil-based inks in a ballpoint. A fountain pen will work just fine in humid conditions, provided the paper isn’t damp or soggy. If you write with it on wet paper, you may find the ink bleeds all over the place, or it does not dry properly, which leads to smudging.

Certain inks, like Noodler’s Polar Ink, are specially formulated not to freeze. It was tested a while ago by people working in Antarctica. They left the ink outside overnight, and it didn’t freeze. They also tried writing with it while sitting on the ice and snow and didn’t have any problems. Then they stored it for more than thirty hours in a freezer at -20C. When they took it out, the ink was frozen solid. However, the fountain pen could still write, despite spending time in the freezer with the ink bottle and samples. 

If you use a fountain pen in an exam, choose one that you already know writes well. Clean it thoroughly with tepid water before filling it with ink or inserting a new cartridge, and test it beforehand to ensure it is working properly.

The Pen Must Not Be Too Heavy Or Too Long

Although many fountain pens are light and more comfortable to write with than other pen types, the more expensive ones can become quite heavy when writing with them for long periods. Also, since you could lose a pen at the exam venue, it is best not to use your grandfather’s heirloom fountain pen in an exam.

If you have small or weak hands, make sure you use a fountain pen that isn’t too long, thick, or heavy. This may rule out pens made of wood or metal. Choose a pen made from plastic or acrylic instead. Lamy, Kaweco, and TWSBI make very light pens that are unlikely to cause writer’s cramp but so do many other manufacturers like Pilot and Platinum.

There are also various disposable fountain pens available that you can take to an exam if you don’t want to risk losing your favorite. Just be sure to test them out beforehand so that you know that they are working and reliable. A pen doesn’t have to be expensive to work well.

The leading causes of writer’s cramp are a grip that is too narrow, a heavy pen, or pushing down too hard on the paper. You don’t need to apply as much pressure to the paper with a fountain pen as when you write with a ballpoint pen. A good fountain pen will write if it is just lightly touched to the paper. 

People who write with thin, narrow ballpoint pens are more likely to get writer’s cramp than if they write with a fountain pen. Some people have even switched to fountain pens because they reduce cramp. However, if you are not used to writing with a fountain pen, using one, especially for an exam, is not the best way to start.

You Must Be Able To Write Legibly With The Pen

Nib-sizes vary widely in fountain pens. If you use a nib that is too broad, you may find it more difficult to form characters than if you use a fine nib. If you can, test a variety of nibs so that you can see how your script looks with them. As a general rule, your handwriting is likely to be clearer and less cluttered if you use a smaller nib.

Most people do well with a Fine nib, but if your handwriting is tiny and cramped, you should consider Extra Fine. The added advantage to these nib sizes is that you can get more writing onto a page. This is a consideration if the amount of paper you are given in the exam is limited.

Best Ink For Writing An Exam

Many examination authorities scan exam papers into an electronic system and prohibit any type of pen that could smudge. They don’t allow the use of gel pens for this reason, but fountain pens can also be prone to smudging. You run the risk of your exam paper being spoiled if you use ink that runs or blots on the paper if it gets wet.

Exam papers can be exposed to all sorts of accidents after they have been submitted. Markers may spill their coffee while they work or get caught in the rain with them, so even if you hand in a pristine paper, there is no guarantee that it will stay that way. It is therefore essential when writing an exam with a fountain pen to use waterproof ink.

Bear in mind that paper quality can be an issue when using a fountain pen. If the paper supplied for the exam is too flimsy or of poor quality, the ink may bleed through to the other side, or feathering may occur. This will make your paper difficult to read for the examiner.

Water-resistant or waterproof inks should be used in an exam. Dye-based fountain pen inks are the most common inks for fountain pens, but they are the least resistant to water. Water-resistant inks, such as Noodler’s “bulletproof” range, are dye-based but made with special chemicals that permanently bind the ink to the paper. However, if the type of paper you use is very smooth, the ink will not be fully absorbed into the cellulose fibers.

Pigment-based fountain pen inks are virtually waterproof once they have dried because they use particulate matter instead of dye for color. The minute particles in the ink embed themselves into the paper’s surface. However, you must clean the pen often because the particles can clog up the feed, and if they dry inside the pen, it is tough to wash them out.

Iron gall inks are also waterproof, write dryer and work well on a variety of paper. In some countries, they are still the preferred type of ink for signing legal documents. However, they are not that common because of their acidity, which can eventually corrode a steel nib. Corrosion won’t happen suddenly in an exam, and if you clean the pen once a week, you shouldn’t have any problems.



Some examining bodies don’t allow gel or ink pens and stipulate that you must use a black ballpoint pen. It is advisable to first check with the examining authority before rocking up to an exam with your fountain pen. Always use dark blue or black fountain pen ink in an exam and make sure it’s waterproof.


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