But, what if I don’t have a graphing calculator?

October 9, 2006 at 10:25 pm 1 comment

Posted by Dee

If you are getting ready to take the SAT or math SAT Subject Tests and you still don’t have a graphing calculator, I think it’s time you get one.

As written about in the post titled, “Don’t wait until senior year to lose your testing virginity,” you’d be crazy to wait until senior year to take your first SAT test, just like you’d be crazy to not bring a graphing calculator to standardized testing exams.

Before I continue, I do acknowledge that a calculator is not necessarily required to do well on the SAT test; plenty of students waltz into the exam and never touch a calculator and get an 800 on the math section. But, if you do use a calculator during standardized testing, invest in a graphing calculator.

Personally, I really liked the TI-83 or TI-89, but regardless which calculator brand or style you choose, be sure to know 1) how to effectively use it before you sit down to take the exam, and 2) all the shortcuts your calculator has to offer.

1) Calculators can be a huge liability on a timed exam if you are fumbling to find the buttons or programs you need. For example, I knew my calculator could compute the mean (or average) of a list of numbers with the touch of a button, so instead of adding all the numbers in a list and dividing by the number of terms, I spent ten minutes figuring out where to type a list in the calculator and then where to press so the calculator could average the numbers. Once I figured it out, it was a great time saver. Fellow classmates who have experience with a particular calculator are a great resource, as are your math teachers, and even though it’s a rather dense publication, the manual that comes with the calculator is an invaluable resource. If you skim it at least, you’ll be able to identify what your calculator can do, and how to go about using it efficiently.

2) The newer calculators are complete with so many useful programs and features. Don’t make the mistake I did in going an entire month without realizing that my TI-89 could solve equations for me.

This second point is exactly where graphing calculators win over scientific calculators.

When you’re getting ready to take the math portions of the exams, do get a graphing calculator. Yes, people do well using their calculator sparingly on the exam, and it can soak up time if you aren’t efficient with its use, but it can be a great advantage too, so I hope not to hear again, “but, what if I don’t have a graphing calculator?”


Entry filed under: ACT, Calculator, College Board, Mathematics, Organization, Procrastination, PSAT, SAT, Subject test, Testing, TI-83, TI-89, Tips/Tricks.

Harvard, Harvard, Harvard A few words on SAT Subject Tests

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Vee  |  December 17, 2006 at 2:07 pm

    During the test day, I brought in the scientific Casio fx-991MS and Graphing Casio-9850GB Plus and honestly, the graphing calculator helped me only in one number.
    In my opinion, I think everyone should just try to get used to the scientific calculator as the graphing calculator is rarely needed as far as I’ve seen.


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