Education Technology

Which TI Calculator for the SAT® and Why?

Posted 04/06/2021 by Jeff McCalla - Jeff McCalla, Math Teacher at St. Mary's Episcopal School, Memphis

Just about every TI calculator is approved for the math test calculator portion of the SAT® exam. And, I encourage you to know how — and when — to use your calculator. Here are some helpful tips to help you prepare you for the test:

  • Bring your own calculator — calculators are not provided, and sharing is not an option
  • Practice for the test using the same calculator you will use on test day
  • The math test includes some questions where it’s better not to use a calculator, even though you’re allowed to
  • You are only allowed to use calculators on the math portion of the test, so don’t pull out your calculator in the middle of the reading or writing sections

Which calculators are allowed?
Here is the list of approved calculators for the SAT® if you want to make certain your calculator is permitted:
  • 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
  • TI-Nspire™ CX graphing calculator
  • TI -Nspire™ CX II graphing calculator
  • TI-Nspire™ CAS graphing calculator
  • TI-Nspire™ CX CAS graphing calculator
  • TI-Nspire™ CX II CAS graphing calculator

Notice that super-powerful CAS (which 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, which includes:
  • 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
  • Calculator function on a mobile phone

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.

If you haven’t seen the SAT® since it was redesigned several years ago, you may not have realized that on 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 achieve the highest scores.

Summary chart
There is a nice chart on the TI website that summarizes which calculators are allowed on the different standardized tests.

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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. McCalla received the Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @jmccalla1.