Must Get: ACT & SAT Calculator!

Picture the scene:

I’m sitting at San Dieguito Academy in one of the tiny desks awaiting the start of the SAT. The proctor needs to check everyone’s calculators, so the rustle of students pulling them from under their chairs and opening them up is underway. I’ve got a back row seat, so I can see everyone.

Maybe about 50% of students pull out a big graphing calculator, another 20 0r 30% pull out ti-30s, and the rest pull out some teeny tiny little calculator with only the 10 digits and the basic arithmetic keys. One kid doesn’t have any calculator at all. When the proctor inquires, the kid confidently answers that he’ll just use his brain.

At the first break, as I walk by to get to the bathroom, I overhear the poor student with no calculator talking about how hard the math section was. He says he’s fine for reading and writing, but “the math.. ooh, the math,” he says, with clear notes of regret in his voice.

As a tutor, it’s one of my biggest frustrations. Why do kids think they don’t need a calculator when they go into these big tests? And I’d like to know, how could a calculator hurt a student? They need it in school, why wouldn’t they need it on this Very-Important-Test?


But perhaps a more interesting, useful question to those of you who are hip to the blog and tutoring in general, isn’t why you should use a calculator at all, but Why should I use a big graphing calculator instead of a small, “normal” one? Wouldn’t it hurt me, if I’m not comfortable with it?

Of course, if you’re not comfortable with it, don’t use it. It’s better to use a calculator you understand than one you don’t, definitely. However, a good tutor can bring you up to speed on a graphing calculator in less than a session, and even provide you with homework to reinforce your usage habits that pertain perfectly well to the SAT or ACT.

Does it make a big difference? You bet so. It not only helps with certain questions that would normally take you much longer (or even be unsolvable), but it also will prevent certain mistakes and keep your brain a little more active too (important for those other sections!).

All of these benefits are predicated upon the idea of you learning to use the calculator correctly, but they do translate into real point gains. In fact, we hold that they’re the easiest point gains you can achieve!

If you’d like to know what we recommend as the best calculator for the job, click here:  LINK.


Leave A Comment