How to Do the Pencil Test to Determine Baby Gender

Published on September 9th, 2020 and Updated on April 1st, 2021

In grade school, you probably heard this phrase a thousand times: “Take out your pencils and begin your test!” When you’re pregnant, that phrase takes on an entirely different meaning, especially when you’re curious about your baby’s gender. 

Like many traditions and old wives’ tales that predict a baby’s gender, the pencil gender prediction test has been used by excited expectant parents for years. But is it as simple as putting a pencil to paper for a spelling test? And is there any scientific backing when determining a baby bump

The Pencil Gender Test: A Step-by-Step Guide 

The goal of this baby gender test is to allow the pencil to swing like a pendulum over your wrist or belly using a thread. This simple test can be done in just a few minutes—and requires no sewing skills.  

Pencil Gender Test Supplies

The beauty of this gender prediction method is in its simplicity. You’ll need just a few items that might already be laying around your house.

That includes:

  • A sewing needle
  • A thread—you’ll need no more than a foot 
  • A pencil with an eraser—it doesn’t have to be a No. 2, but traditionally non-mechanical pencils are used 
  • And yourself

How to Do the Pencil Gender Prediction Test Step-by-Step  

While simple, this test requires a tiny bit of prep before you can find answers about your baby’s gender. Each step also helps this much-loved technique feel like a special ritual. 

  • Because you want the pencil to move “on its own,” make sure you’re in an environment with no wind or excess airflow. Find a comfortable place inside with the windows closed and fans turned off.
  • Thread the sewing needle.
  • Hold up the pencil in one hand so that the graphite is pointed down and the eraser is up. Press the needle vertically into the top of the eraser as far as you can—but be careful! The eraser is tougher than it looks so you’ll have to use a good bit of pressure to get the needle in deeply. Feel free to tap a hammer gently on the top of the needle to get it in if you have butter fingers. When the needle is in, it will stick up out of the eraser like a flag. 
  • Tie off the thread and set the pencil down with the needle still embedded in the eraser. The whole thing will look like a pencil necklace, the needle connecting the pencil to the loop of thread. 

From this point on, there are two versions of the pencil test—the belly method and the wrist method. Both are used widely, so which you use is just a matter of preference, family tradition, or even the region you’re from. For example, many southern families have used the belly version of the test. You can also try both and see which feels right to you. 

The Wrist Method

  • Sit in a comfortable position near a table or coffee table.
  • Place your hand palm-up on a flat surface.
  • Lift the pencil up by the top of the thread loop and gently touch the pencil to the center of your exposed wrist.
  • Raise the pencil directly upwards by the top of the thread. As you do, think about how you would use a Ouija board, keeping as still as possible so that the pencil’s movement isn’t influenced too much by your body’s natural motions.
  • Lift the pencil until the hand holding the thread is about eye level and observe its motions. The pencil will swing either in line with your wrist and elbow or it will sway side-to-side perpendicular to your wrist and arm. If it doesn’t quite seem to have a direction yet, keep lifting it up bit by bit. These different motions indicate the gender of your future child. 
Reading the Results of the Wrist Method  
  • Side-to-side – If the pencil moves perpendicularly across your wrist, congratulations, it’s a girl! 
  • Up-and-down If the pencil swings in line with your wrist and arm, congratulations on your little boy! 

If your partner is feeling left out of the baby prediction fun, don’t worry. This variation of the test can also be done on your baby’s father. 

The Belly Method

Depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy, you may need some help to clearly see the direction of the pencil. Have a loved one nearby to either hold the pencil thread for you or keep an eye on its movements.

  • Get into a comfortable position laying down, belly up. You can do this on the floor, bed, or couch.
  • Hold the pencil by the thread and gently touch the point at the center of your baby bump, just above your belly button. If you choose, you can lift up your shirt to expose your belly. Some participants believe that a skin-on-pencil contact is important for this technique, some don’t. It’s up to you!
  • Lift the thread directly upwards from your belly. If you’re having trouble, ask a loved one to do this step for you. Be sure to keep as still as possible for the best effect.
  • Watch the swing of the pencil. The pencil will either swing in line with the length of your body or side-to-side across your belly. 
Reading the Results of the Belly Method 
  • Side-to-side – Just like in the wrist method, if the pencil moves across your belly perpendicular to your body, you’re having a little girl! 
  • Up-and-down If the pencil swings in line with the length of your body, you’re having a little boy! 

When can I do the pencil gender prediction test? 

This gender prediction method has been practiced at any stage of pregnancy—and even before. So whether you’re a ways away from starting your parenting journey or you’re just about to enter your third trimester, any pregnant woman can give this tradition a try. Though there are many other signs of a baby girl and symptoms of having a boy, the pencil gender prediction test is a simple method practiced throughout the world.

Are there studies on the pencil gender test?

Although this method is certainly a fun ritual to help you become excited about your future baby girl or baby boy, no scientific studies have verified this method. One study did look into the accuracy of traditions and folkloric practices when it comes to predicting a baby’s sex.

The John Hopkins Study on Gender Prediction Methods 

In 1999, researchers at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health set out to test whether traditional gender prediction practices held any accuracy. They interviewed 104 pregnant women and asked them to use their preferred gender prediction method to guess their future baby’s gender. These methods included: 

  • The ring method
  • The pencil method
  • Carrying high or low
  • Dreams
  • Intuition 

Researchers found that overall, women using various traditional gender prediction methods had a 55% accuracy rate when it came to guessing the gender of their child—just about the same as flipping a coin.

But that doesn’t mean this old wives’ tale is just hocus pocus and superstition—rituals and traditions may help moms feel more connected to their baby, celebrate the coming birth, and share in family customs. 

Is the pencil gender prediction method accurate?

Because science has not found conclusive evidence that the gender prediction test works, the accuracy rate of this method is 50%. However, many families, moms, grandparents, and even great-grandparents swear by this method. There’s no harm in trying this gender prediction technique for fun with your partner or with your friends at your baby shower.

But if you’re looking for a real result really soon, look no further than SneakPeek. 

The SneakPeek Early Gender DNA Test—No Pencils Required 

Gender prediction methods like the pencil test can be an exciting way to guess your baby’s gender. But sometimes, a 50% accuracy rate just doesn’t cut it.

But how great does 99.9% accuracy sound? Really great!

The SneakPeek Early Gender DNA Test has been proven to be 99.9% accurate in laboratory studies. Even better? You can take the test as early as 8 weeks into your pregnancy.

Here’s how it works:

When you’re in your 8th week of pregnancy, traces of your baby’s DNA are present in your bloodstream. This DNA is called cell-free fetal DNA. As opposed to relying on gender based on heart rate or other myths, SneakPeek looks for cell-free fetal DNA in a small sample of a woman’s blood, specifically male DNA. Because a woman only has female DNA, the presence of male DNA indicates a little boy is growing in her belly! And when no male DNA is detected, that means her baby will be a little girl!

You can take the SneakPeek Early Gender DNA Test in the comfort of your home—no pencils required. Just follow the detailed instructions in the gender blood test kit, send your sample to SneakPeek Labs with the included prepaid packaging, and you’ll learn your baby’s gender soon after the sample is received. 

Feel free to put your No. 2 pencil down and find the answers with SneakPeek. 



Baby Center. Gender Prediction Pencil Test.

John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Educated Moms Better at Predicting Baby’s Sex.

SneakPeek aims to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information to help our readers make informed decisions regarding their health before, during, and after pregnancy. This article was written based upon trusted scientific research studies and/or articles. Credible information sources for this article are cited and hyperlinked.

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