Preparing to take the SAT is nerve wracking enough. Knowing what type of calculator that you are allowed to bring and use for the official exam center can ease confusion for test takers who want to excel on the rigorous math section of the SAT.
There are very specific calculators that are allowed in the test center when you take the SAT. There are also rigid rules about what isn’t allowed on the SAT as well as the PSAT.
Math Section Breakdown
The first 25-minute part of the SAT math section doesn't allow the use of a calculator. It consists of 15 multiple choice questions. There are also student-produced responses, or grid-ins, that relate to each other. There is a short break between the sections.
The following 55-minute section is where you can pull out your calculator. This section also has multiple choice questions and grid-ins.
SAT Subject Test Calculator
The types of SAT calculator you can use are very specific. The qualifying calculators are:
- TI-86 and TI-89 graphing calculator
- TI-89 Titanium graphing calculator
- IT-Nspire graphing calculator
- TI-Nspire CX graphing calculator
There are only two subjects tests on the SAT where calculators are allowed. These are:
- Mathematics Level 1
- Mathematics Level 2
Don’t attempt to slip in another type of calculator. The testing center is strict, and you don’t want to mess up your chances of taking the SAT or have to return and retake the SAT and possibly pay subsequent fees.
What Devices Not To Bring
While the list of calculators that you are allowed to use during the SAT is rather short, the list of what not to bring is quite large.
If you are at all unsure about the calculator you intend to bring to the test center, here’s a list of what is absolutely not allowed:
- Calculators that use a stylus.
- Paper-tape calculators.
- Calculators that need electrical outlets.
- A calculator that is voice-activated or otherwise can communicate with the user.
- Handheld computers such as phones or tablets.
- Calculators that can connect wirelessly to the internet.
- Calculators that have a QWERTY keypad.
PSAT Calculator Considerations
Taking the PSAT is ideal for getting the highest score you can the first time you take the SAT. Just like the official test, the PSAT has restrictions on what type of PSAT calculator you can use during the practice test. Only graphing, scientific and four-function calculators are allowed.
Average Score for the Math Subject Section
If your reading and writing score is high, a mediocre math score may not bring your total overall SAT score down that much and you may still walk away with an above-average score.
However, if you're considering a career in accounting, engineering, physics or science, the math subscore may come into play not only on your college application but in possible professional pursuits in the years right after college
The math section is given the most time of the subjects on the SAT. The average test scores for the math portion fall between 520 and 530.
Calculator Tips and Rules for SAT
Know the rules and what other test takers have done in order to gain the best possible score on the SAT.
- Students may not share a calculator. The test center will check your device for any hidden answers, formulas or other test-related information that can be snuck into the exam area.
- The calculator must be out of sight and reach during other parts of the test.
- Have fresh batteries in the calculator and a back up of fresh batteries as a precaution before sitting down to take the test.
- Study the provided formula sheet in the weeks before the test so you don’t have to rely on the calculator more than you have to.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.