Education Technology

Which TI Calculator for the SAT® and Why?

Posted 09/25/2018 by Jeff McCalla - Math Teacher at St. Mary's Episcopal School, Memphis, TN

TI Calculators Allowed on the SAT®

Just about every TI calculator is approved for use on the calculator portion of the SAT® exam.

Here is the list from the SAT® calculator policy:

  • TI-73 Explorer™ graphing calculator
  • TI-80 graphing calculator
  • TI-81 graphing calculator
  • TI-82 graphing calculator
  • TI-83 graphing calculator and TI-83 Plus graphing calculator
  • TI-83 Plus Silver Edition graphing calculator
  • TI-84 Plus graphing calculator and TI-84 Plus T graphing calculator
  • TI-84 Plus CE graphing calculator and TI-84 Plus CE-T graphing calculator
  • TI-84 Plus Silver Edition graphing calculator
  • TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition graphing calculator
  • TI-85 graphing calculator
  • TI-86 graphing calculator
  • TI-89 graphing calculator (this is a CAS calculator)
  • TI-89 Titanium graphing calculator (this is a CAS calculator)
  • TI-Nspire™ graphing calculator and TI-Nspire™ CX graphing calculator
  • TI-Nspire CAS graphing calculator and TI-Nspire CX CAS graphing calculator

Did you notice that super-powerful CAS (stands for Computer Algebra System) calculators are allowed? In addition to finding numeric answers, a CAS calculator provides algebraic answers in simplest form and can perform calculus commands, such as integrals and derivatives.

Which Calculators are Not Allowed?

The SAT® policy also lists functionality that is not permitted on the exam, including:

  • Models that can access the Internet, have wireless, Bluetooth, cellular, audio/video recording and playing, camera or any other smartphone type feature
  • Models that have a typewriter-like keyboard, pen input or stylus (more on this below)
  • Models that use electrical outlets, make noise or have a paper tape (The very first TI calculator, TI-2500 Datamath, was a plug-in model that could add, subtract, multiply and divide — all for the low retail price of $149.95 in 1972. Adjusting for inflation, that is a cost of more than $900 in 2018.)

The TI-92 graphing calculator is the only TI model I've ever used in the classroom that is not allowed on the calculator portion of the SAT®. Why? It has a QWERTY (typewriter-like) keyboard. This behemoth of a calculator weighed in at 17.9 ounces compared to the TI-84 Plus CE calculator that weighs a measly 7.1 ounces (including the cover). Interestingly, the TI-Nspire CX CAS model is a more powerful calculator and is allowed on the calculator portion of the SAT®.

The SAT® has Two Math Sections: No Calculator Section (20 questions) and Calculator Section (38 questions)

If you haven’t seen the SAT® since it was redesigned in the spring of 2016, you may not have realized that for about one-third of the math portion of the SAT® a calculator of any kind is prohibited. I think this is why they allow CAS calculators on approximately two-thirds of the test. The College Board knows that students need to be able to do mathematics with and without a calculator if they want to have the highest scores.

Summary Chart

TI provides a nice chart that summarizes which calculators are allowed on standardized tests.


Need a new Graphing Calculator? Find where to buy here.

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About The Author: Jeff McCalla, author of “TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator for Dummies,” 2nd ed. (Wiley, 2013) and “TI-Nspire for Dummies,” 2nd ed. (Wiley, 2011), teaches math at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis, TN. Jeff received the Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @jmccalla1.