What kind of calculator can you bring to the SAT?

SAT Prep

calculatorIf you're taking the SAT this Saturday, make sure you know exactly what kind of calculator you can bring. Not all of them are accepted!

According to the College Board (the makers and administrators of the SAT), here's the deal with calculators:

Acceptable calculators are allowed for mathematics questions only. You will not be allowed to share calculators. You will be dismissed and your scores canceled if you use your calculator to share information during the test, or to remove test questions or answers from the test room.

So what's an "acceptable calculator"?

  • Graphing calculators
  • Scientific calculators
  • Four-function calculators (not recommended).

What kind of calculators aren't allowed?

  • Laptop or a portable/handheld computer
  • Calculator that has QWERTY (keyboard-like) keypad, uses an electrical outlet, makes noise or has a paper tape
  • Electronic writing pad or pen-input/stylus-driven device
  • Pocket organizer
  • Cell phone calculator

Something that students ask us all the time is, "Do I have to clear the memory on my calculator before the test?" Here's the official word from the College Board:

You are not required to clear the memory on your calculator.

Although all of the math problems on the SAT can be solved without a calculator (really, they can!), we still recommend that bring one, just in case. Even the biggest math wiz kids need some help sometimes, and the speed and accuracy of a calculator can help you when you're running out of time.

The College Board has some additional helpful tips:

  • Bring a calculator with you, even if you're not sure if you will use it. Calculators will not be available at the test center.
  • If you don't use a calculator regularly, practice using it on sample SAT mathematics questions before the test. Use a calculator with which you are familiar.
  • All questions on the SAT can be answered without a calculator. The questions do not require complicated or tedious calculations.
  • Don't buy an expensive, sophisticated calculator just to take the test. Although you can use them for the test, more sophisticated calculators are not required for any problem on the test.
  • Don't try to use a calculator on every question. First, decide how to solve the problem, and then decide whether to use the calculator. The calculator is meant to aid you in problem solving select questions, not to get in the way.
  • It may help to do scratch work in the test book. Get your thoughts down before using your calculator.
  • Make sure your calculator is in good working order and that batteries are fresh. If your calculator fails during testing and you have no backup, you'll have to complete the test without it.
Photo: "I like numbers. My favorite calculators." Courtesy of paulkhor