Calculator Hacks for Higher SAT and ACT Scores

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Every student sitting for the ACT or SAT struggles with studying and finding the ideal method. However, many people neglect to focus on one crucial tool that is always there with you: your calculator. Many students walk around with the most expensive and most potent calculators, not knowing how to properly utilize their functions.

Knowing the best calculator hacks for higher SAT and ACT scores has the potential to increase your score. It eliminates the time where you have to spend manually solving an equation. Hence, this article depicts the tips and tricks to efficiently use your calculator during those examinations.

How to Program Your Calculator for the SAT?How to Program Your Calculator for the SAT?

First, it is essential to note that not all calculators are permitted in the exam. Instead, there is a list of accepted ones. For instance, you’re not allowed to use one with a broad enough display that allows someone behind you to see your calculation. The good news is that all scientific calculators are permitted in the testing room.

If you want to check whether your calculator is allowed for the SAT exam, visit the official Calculator Policy page. The TI-84 calculator series is known to be one of the best out there. They are graphing calculators, which provide detailed graphics of equations and others.

Remember that calculator software changes over the years, as they are constantly upgraded. Having the correct version for your calculator is necessary.

Before diving deep into SAT calculator programs, one thing to remember is that you can visit the TI Calculator website instead of manually creating programs. This website illustrates a step-by-step solution to connect your calculator to your PC and download relevant programs.

Regardless, you can always create your own program without using a calculator. However, below are some of the most common and vital equations you can program into your calculator using the website mentioned above.

Quadratic Formula

The quadratic formula is “negative B plus or minus the square root of B squared minus 4ac all divided by 2a”, which is . You use the quadratic formula to find the roots of a quadratic equation, which means you see the x-intercepts of it.

Hence, memorizing this equation is vital, regardless of whether it’s programmed into your calculator. You might be forced to use it in the section without a calculator. Having this accessible equation on your calculator could be life-changing, as it saves you the time of writing it on your paper.

Visit the TI Calculator Quadratic Formula page to find multiple programs you can install. You can quickly enter values of A, B, and C to efficiently find the roots of your equation.

Graphing to Visualize the Functions

You do not need to install additional programs for this particular program. If you have a graphing calculator, you can graph equations and systems. This allows you to find multiple elements, such as the intercepts with the axes, minimums, maximums, and points of intersection.

However, remember that without prior practice, you cannot learn to function correctly using the calculator. That’s why you should get familiar with the piece you have beforehand. Hence, have enough time before the exam to figure out how to work around it.

Trigonometric Identities

Have you ever faced an issue with some trigonometric equation during SAT preparation? Well, you can now eliminate the problem. While the calculator already has trigonometric values such as cosine, tangent, and sine, sometimes you require identities.

When you need to calculate tan(a+b), you don’t need to memorize the whole equation anymore. Use the same website, TICALC, to install a trigonometric identities program.

How to Program Your Calculator for the ACT?

How to Program Your Calculator for the ACT?

Now that installing programs onto your calculator has been discussed above, manual programming will be demonstrated in this section. That is mainly because the ACT has strict policies against using programs or saved information on your calculator.

Now, the SAT and ACT exams often require the same mathematical formulas. Hence, they’re pretty similar, as you must memorize the exact procedures for both.

Now, for the Texas Instruments calculators, there is an option where you can enter your own programs and save them for future use. Remember that proper parenthesis is vital, as misusing them might mess up your equations.

You can program your ACT calculator programs using the “PRGM” option on the keypad. Press that button, select “Create New,” and name your program using the green “Alpha” key. Let’s break down what each of the symbols signifies, as you will need to know how to access them to write your programs:

  • Horizontal arrow (à): found directly above the “ON” key
  • “Prompt”: found inside the “PRGM” menu (this is used to tell the calculator what to prompt the user with)
  • “Disp”: found inside the “PRGM” menu (this is the value that will be displayed on the screen once the calculation is completed)
  • “Sqrt”: is simply a key and indicates the square root

Quadratic Formula

Below are the steps required to write your own quadratic formula solver:

  • Press the “PRGM” key
  • Select “Create New”: name the program (e.g., QDRT)
  • Prompt: A
  • Prompt: B
  • Prompt: C
  • (-B+sqrt(B^2-4AC))/(2A) à X
  • (-B-sqrt(B^2-4AC))/(2A) à Y

Calculating the Area of the Triangle Using 3 Sides

  1. Press the “PRGM” key
  2. Select “Create New”: name the program (e.g., ATRI)
  3. Disp: Side A
  4. Input: A
  5. Disp: Side B
  6. Input: B
  7. Disp: Side C
  8. Input: C
  9. A+B+C à X
  10. X/2 à D
  11. Sqrt((D)(D-A)(D-B)(D-C)) à E
  12. Disp: “Area=?”
  13. Disp: E
  14. Stop

What are Some of the Best Calculator Hacks for the ACT?

What are Some of the Best Calculator Hacks for the ACT?

First, note that TI-89 or TI-92 calculators are not allowed on the SAT. Hence, do not get tempted to get one of those and risk being kicked out of the testing center.

That being said, obtaining all ACT calculator tricks is not a necessity. That’s especially true for some equations and problems that would be much faster to solve using your own pen and paper. Hence, below are the best ACT math hacks you can perform with the help of your calculator without jeopardizing getting kicked out.

  • Know when to use the calculator: while spending too much time dwelling on your own thoughts isn’t a good idea, evaluate whether the question actually requires the use of a calculator. In many cases, it could slow you down instead of helping you.
  • Be aware of the calculator rules: calculators are not allowed in the ACT science section. Ensure that you have the right one. Please keep in mind that saving information or programs for ACT is prohibited.
  • Ensure you practice before the exam: many students purchase a brand-new calculator before the test. This is discouraged, as you might make minor mistakes during the exam simply because you’re not used to the calculator.
  • Use the graphing function: one of the best ACT calculator tricks is using graphic functions. You can use it for geometric and algebraic questions, even if they’re unrelated to graphs.
  • Utilize the calculator to double-check and back-solve: if you’re a hesitant test-taker, use your calculator to back-solve. You can plug in the numbers you found and use the calculator to find out if your answers are correct.

What are the Best Calculator Hacks for the SAT?

What are the Best Calculator Hacks for the SAT?

Like the ACT, the SAT calculator hacks teach you how to utilize minor functions and items you wouldn’t otherwise notice. You can improve your SAT score with these ones, but only if you practice enough with your calculator before the exam. This allows you to familiarize yourself with the mechanisms.

  • The “MATH” button: on a TI graphic calculator, pressing the “MATH” key prompts you with “FRAC” and “DEC.” This allows you to seamlessly change between fractions and decimals. You can also find cubic roots and minimum and maximum values of a function.
  • Continually graph to visualize: do not underestimate the power of visualizing math. Instead of doing it manually, use the graphing calculator for your systems of equations. That way, you can see intersections, intercepts, and much more.
  • Store numbers as variables: instead of manually writing the number each time, store it as a variable. The way to do so is by entering the number, pressing the “stop à” key, and then hitting the “X, T, , N” button. Each time you enter “x,” the variable will equal the number you put in.

These calculator tips for SAT are minimal, but they might save you a lot of time during the exam. Hence, utilize them by practicing beforehand to ensure you input the elements faster during the exam.

What Calculator is Best for SAT and ACT

What Calculator is Best for SAT and ACT?

Finding the ideal calculator seems like a mission regarding the SAT or ACT exam. However, many won’t require it outside these standardized examinations, so choosing the most expensive option is not always a great idea.

This section dwells on the best calculators you can use throughout your SAT and ACT prep.

TI-Nspire CX CAS Graphing Calculator

Check out the TI-NSPIRE CX CAS calculator, possibly the best calculator for the SAT.

  • Rechargeable battery
  • It contains a backlit color display which enables you to seamlessly use it during the night
  • Contains CAS (Computer Algebra System) functionality, allowing you to solve for the variable “x” without simplifying it yourself
  • 100 MB of memory

TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator

The TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator is another popular favorite. It’s a prevalent instrument among students.

  • Includes innumerable documentation online as it is a trendy device
  • Has all the mathematical functions you need
  • It often consists of a 1-year warranty
  • You must use 4 AAA batteries
  • Consists of a USB computer cable and a unit-to-unit cable
  • Has 480KB of memory

TI-73 Explorer

The TI-73 Explorer is a budget choice for those who would rather skimp on their calculators.

  • Some functionality is not available
  • Includes tons of documentation
  • Includes a one-year warranty
  • Has a manual included
  • Consists of a USB unit-to-unit cable
  • 32KB memory

But remember, while those mentioned above work for the SAT and ACT, not all are allowed. Check out the SAT and ACT-approved calculators: for SATs and for ACTs. Hence, double-check whether you have a suitable device on you. Do not get a calculator with a wide screen, as it might get confiscated.

Wrapping Things Up: Calculator Hacks for Higher SAT and ACT Scores

The bottom line is while both the SAT and ACT require you to memorize the same equations, the calculator requirements might differ. For example, you can program some functions for your SAT exam. However, you will most likely be kicked out if you’re caught using any of those in the ACT.

Regardless of the tips and tricks you use during those standardized tests, ensure you practice enough. At the end of the day, a calculator is simply a convenient tool to help you solve problems faster. If it seems like a distraction and a waste of time, then it is logical not to use it.

Hope you found this post useful! If so, check out our other high school study tips here.

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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