Best Calculators for SAT [2021]

The Ultimate Guide to find the Best SAT Calculator

Looking for the best calculator for the SAT? Here are some of the best options you can get for your money to help make sure you get the best SAT score you can achieve.

It’s absolutely nuts if you even think that you can get through the SAT without having the best calculator for the SAT by your side. Seriously, doing all those calculations by hand will just eat up a lot of your time, and you just increase the chances of getting the answer wrong along the way.

Of course, that leads to the natural question: Which is the best SAT calculator? That’s not always easy to answer on your own.

Some calculators are woefully inadequate, as they don’t have the functions you need to quickly answer the questions that you’ll get in the SAT. Just because a calculator works well enough for you to do your weekly budget doesn’t mean it’ll cut it with the SAT.

At the same time, some calculators may be too good. That means the calculator may not be allowed at all. These include your phones since it’s expressly forbidden for students to bring their cellphone or smartphone to the SAT. That’s also true of the ACT.

Speaking of which, you may want to get a calculator that also works for the ACT if you’re planning to do both tests. That way, you don’t end up having to buy 2 calculators for 2 tests. You have better things to spend on—such as the party afterward when you’ve received your impressive SAT score.

With so many calculators available these days, which one should you get? Here are several terrific options that you should consider:

#1.TI-84 Plus CE

This is the model that lots of previous generations have used for the SAT, and it’s still the benchmark for all the SAT calculators out there. The good news is that Texas Instruments currently offers an upgraded variant, so you won’t have to use the older models.

SAT-Approved

Don’t worry about whether you can use this for the SAT. You can use this newest version, absolutely.

In fact, it’s allowed for the SAT, PSAT, and the ACT. It’s also explicitly approved for the IB Diploma Programme exam. In fact, you can use this for AP exams that allow (or may even require) a graphing calculator.

Better Size

This one is more portable than the older versions since it’s about 30% thinner and lighter. It looks great, which may also be important for young students. It’s available in different colors, plus the screen offers vibrant colors.

It also comes with a rechargeable battery. You can use a wall charger or a USB cable to recharge it, or you can go with the TI-84 Plus CE Charging Station.

Optimal Display

The screen has been enhanced for greater readability, with a backlit display with high resolution. You’re able to distinguish between various graphs, and also color-code objects, plots, and equations.

With the grid lines, the graphs are much easier to read. Other features include 8 different graph styles, split-screen options (vertical and horizontal), and viewing the graph and table side by side.

Then there’s the MathPrint feature. This allows you to input and view the math equations and fractions exactly as they appear on the textbooks.

This actually has a very long list of features you can explore, so it’s not as obsolete as you might think.

Lots and Lots of Apps

A lot of 3rd-party apps are available for the TI-84 Plus CE, so you can extend its functionality. There’s a CellSheet app that gives it spreadsheet capabilities. Other apps are for conic graphing, probability simulations, finding polynomial roots

Ease of Use

One of the most important features of the TI-84 Plus CE is that it’s extremely easy to use. You have function keys here that let you do things with one click instead of pressing a series of buttons. One of its most famous features is how you can quickly turn decimals into fractions.

It’s also easy on the wallet as well. Sure, compared to some other calculators it may not be as advanced. But then again, you get a tried and tested model that’s not too expensive at all.

Pros

  • Relatively affordable
  • Portable
  • Nice looks
  • Lots of app support
  • Tried and tested functionality
  • Legal for the SAT and ACT

Cons

  • It doesn’t have functions found on other SAT calculators

#2.TI-Nspire CX CAS handheld

Texas Instruments launched this entirely new model as the replacement for the TI-84 Plus CE. It offers more advanced functions, and it’s still legal for the SAT (and AP exams). On the other hand, it’s purely an SAT calculator because it’s not allowed for the ACT. Get this if you’re only worried about the SAT and you don’t plan to take the ACT. It’s more expensive than the TI-84 Plus CE, but then you get a lot more.

CAS Functionality

This is the main feature that you don’t get with the TI-84 Plus CE. In fact, it’s this Computer Algebra System functionality that makes the TI-Nspire CX CAS handheld heads and shoulders above the rest of its more average competitors.

CAS allows for the manipulation of symbolic equations. This means you’re able to automate algebraic manipulation tasks that are often time-consuming and difficult to do without error. In fact, in some cases you can enter an equation with an unknown x, and you can press a button and get the value of x.

Other Functions

This is an extremely advanced calculator, which is why it’s not allowed for the ACT. Using this for the SAT, is legal. But it makes a lot of things so much easier that you may feel like you have an unfair advantage. But don’t let your sense of fair play get in the way of getting the highest SAT score you can get, as long as you still follow the regulations.

Other features include:

  • Graphs
  • Animated geometric figures
  • Create a graphical hypothesis
  • Use spreadsheets
  • Enter notes alongside the math
  • Use other graphical methods (bar charts, pie charts, histograms, etc.)
  • Dynamic linking across documents, showing how changing one form affects all the others

Easy to Use

This is just like using a tiny computer. You have drop-down menus here to help you navigate through the functions. You can also create documents and save them.

The display is great as well, with a backlit color display with 125 dpi and 16-bit color.

You can also connect your calculator to your PC or to other TI-Nspire calculators, so you can transfer information across these platforms.

Rechargeable Battery

This also comes with a rechargeable battery, which you can recharge via a wall charger, USB cable, or the TI-Nspire docking station. Each full charge can last for up to 2 weeks, so you won’t have to worry about losing power during the long test.

The battery is also expected to last for 3 years if you use it normally.

Pros

  • CAS functionality
  • Lots of other advanced features
  • Connects to PCs and other TI-Nspire calculators
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Not allowed for the ACT
  • More expensive than the TI-84 Plus CE

#3.Casio fx-CG50 Graphing Scientific Calculator

This offers 2 key advantages.

  1. It’s legal to use for both the SAT and the ACT.
  2. It’s eminently affordable.

Basically, this is the calculator to get for students who are taking the SAT and the ACT, but don’t have the budget to get 2 calculators. In fact, this is the calculator you get if you can’t get the TI-Nspire and you’re taking both tests.

Of course, the lower price means you don’t get the CAS functionality. But this doesn’t look or feel cheap at all.

Super Easy to Use

Plenty of students have remarked that using the fx-CG50 is just like using their smartphone. It really is that intuitive, with the reassuring simplicity of the menu-driven icons. For those who aren’t really math geniuses, this calculator is a god-send, since you can use it without too much of a fuss or complicated procedures.

This offers lots of shortcut keys to help you make efficient use of your time. There are also some short key combinations you can use.

It’s also lightweight and not bulky at all. It’s powered by 4 AAA alkaline batteries, and a fresh set gives you 250 hours of use. Just bring a fresh set of batteries for the exams, plus another 4 fresh batteries for backup, and you’re good to go.

Graphing Functions

This is a graphing calculator, so of course you’re able to use lots of different types of graphs. These include polar coordinate graphs, parametric graphs, inequality graphs, liner function graphs, and cubic function graphs.

This lets you draw graphs automatically with collected data. You can also use 3D graphs with this, including rotating body graphs.

Other Features

Of course, the graphs aren’t the only functions this calculator offers. You also get:

  • Scientific calculations
  • Statistics
  • Geometry
  • Python built-in
  • Financial calculations
  • Periodic table
  • Conversions
  • Fundamental physical constants

This is a truly advanced calculator that really puts all the other calculators to shame.

Pros

  • Extremely affordable
  • Nice clear display
  • 3D graphs
  • Portable

Cons

  • No rechargeable battery
  • No CAS functionality

#4.TI-Nspire CX

If you have a bigger budget then you don’t have to settle with the Casio. You can still go with a calculator from Texas Instruments, with the TI-Nspire CX.

Basically, this is the TI-Nspire CX CAS without the CAS functionality. It’s basically that simple. Everything else here is the same except for the lack of the CAS.

2 Advantages

Losing the CAS function isn’t a bad thing from a certain point of view. For one thing, you spend less for this model compared to the CAS version.

The other key advantage is that you still have an advanced calculator that’s also allowed for the ACT. That’s crucial if you’re going to take both tests.

Everything Else Is the Same

You still get the following features:

  • The 3.5-inch display with 16-bit color and 125 dpi
  • 100 MB storage memory
  • Connectivity to PCs and other Nspire calculators
  • Programming environment
  • The docking station
  • Scientific calculations
  • Statistics
  • Geometry
  • Python built-in
  • Financial calculations
  • Periodic table
  • Conversions
  • Fundamental physical constants

Even without the CAS, it’s very advanced. It’s probably the most advanced calculator that you can still use for the ACT.

Sure, it’s more expensive than many of the other ACT calculators (and the other SAT calculators, for that matter). But you really get what you pay for. If you want every advantage that the rules for both the SAT and ACT allow, this is the calculator you want.

Pros

  • Legal for the SAT and ACT
  • Highly advanced functions
  • Clear display
  • Portable design
  • Easy to use
  • Long charge with a rechargeable battery
  • Comes with its own docking station

Cons

  • No CAS
  • A bit more expensive than most of the other calculators.

Conclusion

So, how do you pick? Each calculator here is meant for different needs and circumstances.

  • TI-84 Plus CE. Get this if:
    • You’re taking both the SAT and the ACT.
    • You want a tried and tested model.
    • You don’t have a lot of money to spend.
  • TI-Nspire CX CAS handheld. Get this if:
    • You want the most advanced calculator allowed for the SAT.
    • You’re determined to get the CAS functionality.
    • You’re not taking the ACT.
    • You’ve got a large budget.
  • Casio fx-CG50 Graphing Scientific Calculator. Get this if:
    • You’re taking both the SAT and the ACT.
    • You have a very limited budget.
    • You want a trusted brand.
    • You’re okay with its more basic capabilities.
    • You don’t mind not having a rechargeable battery.
  • TI-Nspire CX. Get this if:
    • You’re taking both the SAT and the ACT.
    • You want a trusted brand.
    • You want an advanced model with more functions.
    • You have greater leeway with your budget.

Truth be told, you’ll be okay with any of these options for the SAT. In fact, you’ll be great. Each of these models are legal for the test, and countless students have confirmed that these models really help.