If there’s one thing everyone should be able to agree on, it’s that the SAT is stressful enough even when you did everything you could do to prepare. There’s no need to make the experience worse by forgetting to bring tools that could help you get better results. When it comes to the math section of the SAT, students may bring a calculator. But not all kinds of devices are welcome. If you need a few pointers for finding the best SAT calculators on the market, you’ll find them here.
Which Calculators are Allowed on the SAT?
Before you get too invested in the idea of using calculators during the math section of the SAT, there are a few things you should know. First, you might be wondering whether you can just use your phone instead of a calculator. The answer to that question is a resounding no.
Any device you bring can’t be used to possibly share information with other students. So phones are definitely out of the question, as are any other Internet or Bluetooth-enabled devices. For the same reason, the calculator you bring must stay next to you at all times. Students must not share calculators, because doing so may result in cheating.
Ultimately, you can only bring a certain kind of calculator. The device can’t have power cords, so it must rely on batteries (or solar power). It can be a simple four-function device or a more complicated scientific or graphing calculator. For the kind of problems you’ll be solving for the SAT, you should go with the latter type of device. With such a narrow scope of approved features, the next question may be obvious.
Which Calculators Aren’t Allowed on the SAT?
No matter what, you want to avoid showing up to take the SAT with the wrong kind of tool. If you’ve already taken the PSAT, you might think you can just bring the device you used for that exam. However, that’s not necessarily the case.
Aside from the exclusion criteria above, the calculator you bring should also be minimally obtrusive. It shouldn’t have a keypad similar to a typewriter, as that might make noise which may distract other test takers. Additionally, the calculator you bring shouldn’t have electrical outlets, paper tape, or a pencil tool.
How to Find the Best SAT Approved Calculators
If you’re looking for the best SAT calculators, steer clear of four-function devices. While they’re not illegal, they’re too simple for the tasks you’ll have before you. Still, you might also have a difficult time choosing between scientific and graphing calculators.
On the one hand, scientific calculators are generally less expensive, even though they tend to have great features. However, graphing calculators definitely have more functions, including:
- Converting decimal figures into their most reduced fraction forms with a single button
- Quickly solving equations using the INTERSECT key
- Finding points of intersection in two graphs
- Matching graphs without having to draw them manually (just input the function and select the graph)
- Finding absolute zero by selecting MATH, then using the right arrow key to NUM and selecting “1 abs( )“
Overall, graphing calculators are more convenient for taking the SAT. However, if you’re more comfortable with scientific devices, the first two products on the following list fit the bill.
Top 5 Best SAT Approved Calculators
When it comes to shopping for the best SAT calculators, there are two brands to look out for. Without a doubt, Texas Instruments and Casio make the best devices on the market. However, instead of looking at the products by brand, the following list will split them into categories of scientific calculators and graphing ones.
The Casio fx-115ES Plus calculator is great for engineering and scientific equations. It has a textbook-style display, so the results will appear natural, each line appearing under the last. That should also allow you to backtrack and edit your entries in order to get more accurate results. Overall, the device boasts over 280 functions, which include fractions, statistics, and everything from basic arithmetic to complex equations.
The layout of the keys is very organized. The basic functions and the figures are the larger white keys in the lower half of the device, with the delete and AC keys in orange. Furthermore, the upper half of the device has smaller, navy keys for more complicated functions. Above those keys, there are 5 more buttons, including the arrow pad.
Not to be outdone, Texas Instruments also has its own version of the scientific calculator. The device has a very neat layout, combined with the natural-looking display. In fact, the 4-line display allows you to scroll and edit your entries, just like you could with the previous device.
There are several modes that are all accessible from the same starting screen, easily found in the pull-down menus. Like the previous device, this one has a step-by-step fraction simplification process. Additionally, both calculators are both solar and battery-powered devices — but then, that’s a fairly common feature.
The following three devices are all graphing calculators. Those tend to be a bit more expensive than scientific calculators, so let’s start with the budget-friendly option. If you used the Casio graphing calculator for your PSAT, you should be able to use it during the SAT and the ACT.
Whether you need to make a pie chart or bar graphs, this machine delivers quickly — thanks to its high-speed CPU. What’s more, between the calculator’s high-res LED display and sleek key layout, you should have no trouble learning how to operate the device.
However, this calculator does have USB connectivity for file sharing, which could be a problem. The device itself uses solar and battery power, so the USB port serves no purpose other than file sharing.
The TI-84 Plus graphic calculator from Texas Instruments has everything you’ll need to solve even the most complicated graphs. More to the point, the device also has a “decimals to fractions” converter, which will definitely come in handy during the SAT. However, as impressive as its features are, you should probably consider the price tag on this device. If you don’t think you’ll need the calculator after the SAT, just get a cheaper alternative.
Finally, the TI-89 titanium graphing calculator is the most advanced device on this list — but also the most expensive one. Like the other devices on this list, this machine can answer all your calculus, algebra, and statistics questions. Furthermore, it actually uses Flash technology, so it gets occasional software updates. However, you’d have to connect the device to your PC using the USB cable to upgrade it.
The display is so large, it even allows split-screen views. However, ACT test-takers can’t use this device because of the different requirements.
Final Thoughts & How to Use a Calculator During the SAT
Even the best SAT calculators couldn’t help you get the score you’re after if you don’t know how to use them. So let’s see how you can make the most of the calculator you have.
To begin with, you should become familiar with the functions of your calculator in advance. Use it while you practice the math portion at home or during math classes. Scientific and graphing calculators are quite different from regular four-function devices. Since they can run longer equations, you should make sure to check the entry line in order to avoid typos. Over time, checking the entry line will become a habit, and you’ll be ready to use your device during the SAT.
But above all, you should keep in mind that you’re not dependent on calculators to solve every question on the test. Some questions don’t require the use of additional tools. In fact, you’d probably be wasting valuable time if you stopped to consult your calculator instead of solving the problem yourself.
Lastly, before you head into your exam, remember to check the batteries! Even if you’re reasonably sure you won’t drain the batteries that day, you should put new ones into the calculator. That way, you can be sure that you won’t lose your calculator mid-equation.