Choosing the best calculator for SAT testing could have an immeasurable impact on your life. Where you go to college (and if you choose to go at all) could determine pretty much every career choice you make throughout your life.
Of course, the college admission process doesn’t start when you fill out your application. The major you pick, the friends you make, and the school you attend all ride on the back of your SAT score.
With that in mind, why risk letting something as seemingly minor as the calculator you use affect you? The college admission process is hard enough, as are your last two years of high school classes.
Between studying for the SAT, performing well in class, and participating in extracurriculars, you don’t have time to worry if you have the best calculator for SAT testing.
But don’t worry. We’ve narrowed down the best calculator for SAT use so that you can spend your time focusing on your education instead.
HOW TO PICK THE BEST CALCULATOR FOR SAT TESTING
For any college hopeful, taking the SAT is one of the most critical moments of their high school career.
While there are four main sections to the SAT, only one actually requires the use of a calculator. And within this one main section, students are only allowed to use their calculator on one part: the “Math Test — Calculator” subsection.
Still, picking the right calculator to take with you can determine how well you do on a significant portion of the test. However, it’s not as simple as going to your local store and buying the first graphing calculator you find. And you definitely can’t use your cell phone!
To know which model is the best calculator for SAT use, you first need to know a bit about what kind of calculators are allowed for the SAT.
SAT-approved calculator requirements
If you plan to take your trusty calculator into your SAT testing session, it needs to meet a few requirements.
The first is that your calculator must be battery-operated. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a calculator with a power cord. So whatever calculator you choose, it probably won’t fail this requirement.
Calculators with characters larger than one inch are permitted, as are raised displays. However, the test administrator may move you so other test takers can’t see your screen.
Also, your calculator must be handheld, and you can’t use it if it has a stylus.
Something to consider is whether or not you want a graphing calculator. Graphing calculators obviously help you visualize the graph aspects of math problems on the SAT. But scientific calculators give you all of the functions you need to succeed, are often more affordable, and are subject to fewer test restrictions.
If all of this information has you feeling overwhelmed, we recommend following CollegeBoard’s suggestions when picking a calculator.
Although you can take any scientific calculator into your SAT session, as long as it meets the above criteria, the same isn’t true for graphing calculators. If you plan to use a graphing calculator for your SAT, make sure it shows up on CollegeBoard’s approved calculator list.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to find the best calculator for SAT testing that meets these requirements and your needs.
HOW WE CHOSE THE BEST CALCULATOR FOR SAT TEST TAKERS
Narrowing down the best calculator for SAT use from CollegeBoard’s extensive list might seem like a challenge. After all, this list includes both a large number of graphing calculators and countless scientific calculators currently on the market.
So where do you start?
Fortunately, plenty of people want to help students pick the best calculator for SAT testing. That means you have numerous resources at your disposal.
To help narrow down the choices for the best calculator for SAT use, we referenced sources like The Balance Small Business’ calculator guide.
Of course, one of the most important factors is how real students feel about the graphing and scientific calculators currently available for the SAT. There’s no other way to truly determine the best calculator for SAT use.
THE BEST GRAPHING CALCULATORS FOR MASTERING THE SAT
Ready to learn which calculators actually made our list? Well, your wait is finally over.
Some of them are old classics. Others are new favorites. Regardless, each model has a rating of at least 4.0 out of 5 stars from Amazon customers.
As you go through our list, keep in mind that these models are in alphabetical order. Depending on your needs and personal preferences, any of these products could be the best calculator for SAT use for you.
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Here are our top picks for the best calculator for SAT test takers looking to nail their math section:
Casio fx-9750GII Graphing Calculator
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The Casio fx-9750GII Graphing Calculator is a fairly streamlined graphing calculator. But it has just about everything you’ll need to tackle graphing questions on the SAT.
It might not have the storage or depth that a Texas Instruments (TI) model offers. However, it will get the job done at a much lower price than you’d typically pay for a TI calculator.
So what can the Casio fx-9750GII do?
First off, it runs for over 200 hours on one set of batteries. That’s more than enough to handle the SAT and could actually last well into your college career.
As for graphing, this calculator has a wide span of functions, especially for such a compact model.
It can graph X-equals relations, conic sections, and solve for intercepts and intersections. It will help you calculate dependent and independent values and has an interactive equation solver. If you have trouble with variables, this is probably the best calculator for the SAT math section for the price.
If grey or black calculators aren’t your style, this model offers a few different color options. The Casio fx-9750GII has a rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars from Amazon customers. You can purchase this simple graphing calculator on Amazon.
Casio fx-9860GII Graphing Calculator
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If you want something a bit heftier than the Casio model above, we recommend reaching for the Casio fx-9860GII Graphing Calculator.
With a few more features at your disposal, this graphing calculator can stand up against heavyweights like TI.
Despite its beefed up features, this calculator is available within a pretty comfortable price range. That makes it the best calculator for SAT testees who are studying on a budget.
The biggest difference between this model and the Casio fx-9750GII is the display. With a large, high-resolution “textbook” screen, you’ll be able to see all of your figures without getting flagged by the test administrator. It even comes with a backlight to improve visibility.
Plus, the display doesn’t drain your batteries, so you can still use this calculator for over 200 hours.
Another key feature that sets this model apart is its spreadsheet function. It gives the fx-9860GII an additional level of utility both in and outside of the SAT.
The Casio fx-9860GII Graphing Calculator has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars from Amazon customers. You can find this graphing calculator for sale at Amazon.
Casio PRIZM fx-CG50 Color Graphing Calculator
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The Casio PRIZM fx-CG50 gets its name from the large, colorful display. This powerful calculator is not only attractive but also gives you all the information you need to answer a variety of math problems.
The PRIZM fx-CG50 has every feature offered by the other two Casio calculators above and more:
Want to graph in 3D like the TI-89 Titanium? You got it.
But can it work in color? Definitely.
Whatever you want the fx-CG50 to do, it can handle it.
And if you think this calculator must cost an arm and a leg, you’re wrong. It falls about midrange in pricing, even with its color display and 3D charting capabilities.
However, if you’re planning to cruise through the math section of your SAT and never touch the subject again, this calculator might be more of an investment than you need to make.
If you decide on the Casio PRIZM fx-CG50, you can rest assured it’s the best calculator for SAT testing and all of your other math-related subjects! This graphing calculator has a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars from Amazon customers. You can pick one up online from Amazon.
Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Graphics Calculator
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Many people consider the TI-84 Plus to be the best calculator for SAT testing available in the past 15 years. This calculator can graph over 20 functions, store matrices, run statistical analysis, and handle all sorts of plots.
While we don’t have the time to list everything the TI-84 Plus can do, we know you won’t be disappointed by its capabilities.
This calculator can perform any function you would find in a statistics or calculus class. Plus, you can save dozens of charts, features, and plots with ease.
It also displays values with 14 digits of accuracy and completely replaces the need for a scientific calculator. In the right hands, it could easily tackle any problem the SAT throws its way.
Despite its age, it’s hard to beat the Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus and its features. It’s surprisingly easy to learn, as long as you take the time to do so.
Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE Graphing Calculator
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Texas Instruments’ TI-84 Plus CE Graphing Calculator is one of the leading powerhouses in the graphing calculator world.
If you’re taking a standardized test in high school, chances are you’ve used one of Texas Instruments’ calculators before. So why not get one of your own for the big test?
The TI-84 Plus CE takes a few pages out of the smartphone’s book. It has a backlit color screen, rather than the more standard black-and-white option. It also has a rechargeable battery, so you don’t need to worry about replacing them unexpectedly.
Its color screen isn’t just an attractive bonus, though. It makes the screen easier to read and lets you discern different graphs and plots more quickly than the more standard black-and-white display.
On a timed test like the SAT, every second you save is a second well-spent!
This model includes a variety of preloaded applications. Plus, with its range of different color options, it’s surprisingly stylish for a graphing calculator.
The TI-84 Plus CE has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars from Amazon customers. You can purchase it in eight different colors on Amazon.
Texas Instruments TI-89 Titanium Graphing Calculator
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The Texas Instruments TI-89 Titanium Graphing Calculator may not be able to render in color, but it does have a significant advantage over the others.
That advantage? 3D rendering. Now you can see your graphs laid out on a 3D plane rather than a 2D one.
The TI-89 Titanium’s display is large enough to accommodate a split-screen view, letting you tackle multiple calculations at a time. For example, you can see a chart and the equation used to reach that point.
If equations aren’t your strong suit, don’t worry.
This calculator displays complicated expressions and equations in full and proper notation. You can quickly solve equations symbolically, factor and expand equations, find anti-derivatives, and more using the built-in Computer Algebra System.
Of course, it doesn’t do all the work for you. But it has more under the hood than just about any other graphing calculator on the market.
Sixteen preloaded graphing calculator apps will power through anything the SAT can throw at you, but you might find this calculator is a bit of overkill for the test. If math is your strong suit or you refuse to risk failure, though, the Titanium is a tank of a computing device.
The TI-89 Titanium Graphing Calculator has a rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars from Amazon customers. You can purchase this calculator on Amazon.
KEYING IN THE BEST CALCULATOR FOR THE SAT
Since even a relatively simple scientific calculator would work for this test, the best calculator for SAT questions is largely up to your personal preference.
If you’re looking for a budget option that you can still rely on, the simple Casio fx-9750GII will see you through to the other side. It has everything you need, and very little that you don’t. If math is just another subject to you, this is probably the best calculator for SAT use.
For more serious math students, the classic TI-84 Plus is a great option. It’s reasonably priced, can do just about anything, and has 15 years of experience to back up its reputation.
But the Casio fx-CG50 has a lot going for it as well. With full color, 3D graphing software, and a pretty decent price as well, this is a great alternative to a TI model. Still, these heftier calculators are probably best for students who have math obligations outside of the SAT.
Ultimately, though, any of the calculators on our list will serve you well on the big test day!
So what calculator did you or your student use for the SAT? Did your chosen calculator meet your needs or fail to perform? Leave us a comment and let us know!