Calculators on the SAT: What Will You Choose?

Think you need a fancy calculator to do well on the SAT? Think again.

Most advanced math classes recommend (or even require!) fancy-schmancy calculators—and maybe that's why so many of us spend upwards of $150 on these eye-catching devices. But, as the folks at the College Board will remind you, "Every problem on the SAT can be solved without a calculator." Don't believe them? Here's why (and how) you can and should save a few bucks with your SAT calculator.

1. Buttons, buttons everywhere

As the coolness (and cost) of calculators goes up, so does, it seems, the number of buttons, which makes some TIs complex and confusing. Spend your time more wisely and study the SAT, not the calculator manual. When you're shopping for an SAT calculator, find one that you know how to use. It should be intuitive and fairly easy to understand. If you're not sure how it works, you're probably better off digging up the scientific calculator from freshman year—it'll save you time, money, and effort, and you'll probably get the same grade because . . .

2. SAT problems aren't calculator-able

I hate to disappoint you, but most SAT problems aren't punch-and-go. That means you don't just plug in a bunch of numbers and get an answer. Typically, you'll need to figure something out first. Hence the emphasis on critical thinking rather than memorization. Also, if your calculator is on the acceptable list, that means the College Board doesn't think it'll give you an advantage. (Hint: this means you shouldn't expect it to, either.) Really, the only thing you might, potentially, maybe want to use your calculator for is graphing, since that's often sloppy or hard to do by hand.

3. "But . . . but . . . my calculator helps me!"

Really? Although some calculators have "superpowers," with commands like nSolve, many of us are better off writing things out by hand than we are putting them into a calculator. For example, with problems like 6(5*4)/3, it's probably easy enough for you to get 40, but entering all those operations and parentheses into your calculator isn't quite as easy as it sounds, especially with the time limits on the SAT. So relax, show your work, and avoid typos.

So stick to the basics! Pull out your graphing calculator from Algebra 2, make sure you're capable of entering the basic operations and graphing functions and using parentheses properly, and you'll be good to go. That, and some time with Testive’s SAT Prep, of course.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:
math sat test prep

About Tom Rose

Tom Rose

Tom Rose is career educator and technologist. He has been a professional test preparation tutor since 2007 and is the Co-founder of Testive, the company that makes SAT Habit. At Testive, Tom developed the company core algorithms and leads the product development team.

Tom is a National Science Foundation Teaching Fellow and led the Duke Smart Homes Program where students designed, built, and lived in an environmentally friendly dorm. He received the highest-ever teaching rating in the history of the engineering school.

Tom received a Bachelor in Engineering from the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University and an M.B.A. from MIT

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Kyla McClain

Kyla McClain

High School Class of 2024

I found CollegeXpress when you partnered with Bold.org for a scholarship. I found your website, put my information in, and got connected. I only wanted to stay in North Carolina [for college] and not move far from home, but you all opened a door up for me. I started researching colleges you suggested for me. On your social media platforms, you also give really good test-taking tips that I used and suggested others to do the same. It helped me a lot on my exams, so thank you.

Jasmine

Jasmine

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me find the school I am currently attending by consistently sending me emails of other schools. This allowed me to do research on other schools as well as the one I am in now!

Samantha Fils-Aime

Samantha Fils-Aime

High School Class of 2019

I love that CollegeXpress has helped me find some scholarships to apply for but also helped me succeed in school with lots of tips. I also really like how they consistently email me about webinars that teach me a lot of things from the comfort of my home!

Ana Sophia Garcia-Cubas Assemat

Ana Sophia Garcia-Cubas Assemat

$10,000 Scholarship Winner, 2020

CollegeXpress has been an instrumental resource for my scholarship search and has given me the opportunity to try my best so I can graduate from college debt-free.

Keydi Banegas

Keydi Banegas

Scholarship for Students of Color Winner, Class of 2022

CollegeXpress is a great application that helped me search for many different scholarships, and it narrows the scholarships depending on how you set your profile. Not only that, but it helps you choose different colleges to apply to by finding matches through the description of your profile. It was the best experience for me.

College Matches