Calculators_on_the_SAT “Tips from Experts” :D

Calculators_on_the_SAT "Tips from Experts" :D

#Tip1: Bring a Calculator

The College Board Official Calculator Policy says that you don’t need a calculator for the SAT. They say that because the College Board needs to make the SAT seem accessible to people of all income levels. The reality is that a calculator, and the right calculator at that, is an absolute must.

We’ve taken the ACT, SAT, GRE, MCAT, and a whole slew of standardized tests as well as class tests. Whenever calculators were allowed, 9 out of 10 times they were of substantial help. When you need to multiply 2392 x 323, it’s faster and more accurate to do so on a calculator. Bring your calculator!

#Tip2: Always Double-Check the Entry Line

What’s an entry line? It’s a line at the top of the calculator that shows you what you’ve typed:

Many Scientific Calculators, like the Casio fx-300MS (Fred’s personal favorite for the SAT), have an entry line, as do the Ti-83, Ti-84 and Ti-89. 

Fred: Always, always glance at this to double-check before you hit enter. Glancing takes less than a second, and so many times I caught myself typing (425+25) instead of (424+25) or reversing a decimal. A few mistakes like that on the math section can cost you up to 50-100 points! By double-checking, I have managed almost never to make a computation mistake.

Allen: Absolutely. My favorite SAT calculator is the Ti-89, and I check the entry line all the time. If you’re a high scorer, it is crucial for preventing careless mistakes. If you’re not a high scorer, it lets you double check the order of operations, and lets you match the equation on the paper.

Fred: Oh, and implicit in all of this is that you should stay away from calculators that don’t have an entry line. That 4-function (only does add, subtract, multiply, divide) calculator in the closet? No way. Some scientific calculators don’t have an entry line — using one would put you at a big disadvantage.

#Tip3: Be Familiar With Your Calculator

Allen: What would you say your worst calculator experiences were?

Fred: Oh, by far, in school when I had to use one I wasn’t used to. I’d be hunting around for the “sine” symbol. I’d find it, but then realize I have to hit another button at the same time to activate it. And to add to that, halfway through the quiz, I realized the calculator angle unit was set in radians instead of degrees, so my answers would be all wrong. 

As an aside, do you know how to swim or ride a bike? If so, then you know how important being familiar with an activity is. Calculator familiarity is no different.

If you’re hoping to get the most out of your calculator, you must, must, must use one that you are used to. One that you’ve used for 20 hours or more, ideally. You have a vague muscle memory of where the keys are, what settings there are, and so forth. Remember this: the worst calculator is an unfamiliar calculator. A familiar scientific calculator is far better than an unfamiliar Ti-89.

How do you gain familiarity with a calculator? Pick one you like, and then use it for tests, homework, and anything else. To the extent possible, when doing classwork, don’t borrow other people’s, don’t use the class calculator. Gain familiarity with one calculator model.

#Tip4: Know When to Put the Calculator Down

Allen: Is there such thing as believing in the calculator too much? Putting too much faith in it?

Fred: Oh, absolutely. Throughout my career, I’ve seen so many students who think that the right calculator will magically solve all their math problems. These students go through the trouble of firing up their Ti-84, navigating a slew of menus to find a high-powered cubic equation solver, slowly enter in the equation carefully, hit enter, and get a rounded answer like .588 that they have to convert back to 10/17.

Allen: I’ve seen those in my day, and the kicker is that the math problem would take 2 minutes to do on the calculator, while if you just thought creatively about the problem, you’d get it in 15 seconds.

Fred: For sure, calculator over-users suffer from typos on the calculator, and the conversion of rounded numbers to fractions.

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