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Best Calculators for the SAT Math Section 

 November 22, 2021

By  Chuky Ofoegbu

Taking the SAT is not a piece of cake, especially the math section where speed is of the utmost importance. So, attempting the math section without the use of a calculator is not the best idea. 

With the right calculator, you can efficiently tackle the math section of the SAT, ensuring that you get the highest scores you so desire. 

But as there are over 80 calculators acceptable for use on the SAT, it can be challenging to find and purchase the best calculator that will meet and exceed your needs on the SAT math section of the exam.

Here, our team has thoroughly researched and reviewed several calculators allowed on the SAT and we have handpicked what we believe are the best calculators that will help you crush the math section of the SAT.

Furthermore, each of these calculators will be very helpful in any college math course you take. So, you'll be getting your money's worth for several years after test day.

This article contains affiliate links. When you choose to make a purchase using the link, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Our SAT Calculator Winners

Best Overall: Texas Instruments TI- NSPIRE CX-II CAS

Runner Up: Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE

Best for Budget: Casio FX-9750GIII

Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX-II CASOur pick for the best calculator for the SAT

Following our research, we believe that the Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX-II CAS is hands down the best calculator for the SAT math section.

Released in 2019, it is the successor to the brilliant TI-Nspire CX CAS. This calculator has enhanced software and hardware capabilities with features like python integration. The operating system also differs a little from the predecessors, so you might find it difficult at first, but it is easy to get used to. 

With a thin, sleek design, it is pretty lightweight. But it makes no compromise on performance as it is the most powerful and feature-rich calculator out there. Because of its advanced features, it is only allowed in the SAT, not in the ACT.

As a graphing calculator, you can quickly solve graphs on the bright, backlit 3.5-inch display. It also has CAS functionality. Where CAS stands for Computer Algebra System. Now you can quickly solve factors, algebraic functions, and simultaneous equations. In plain words, you can find the value of X with a click of a button.

It uses a single lithium-ion battery that is included in the box and is rechargeable via mini-b connectivity. It is said that a single charge can last 2 weeks, but that depends on your usage.

The 100 MB user memory ensures a smooth and efficient experience. It also allows you to save equations, functions, graphs, spreadsheets, and much more.

However, all these top-notch features come at a higher price.

Pros:

  • Built-in CAS functionality
  • User friendly
  • Large high-resolution color display
  • Rechargeable
  • Ample memory

Cons:

  • Relatively expensive
  • Has a learning curve

Runner ups to the best calculator for the SAT

Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE

First released in 2015, the TI-84 Plus CE is the successor of the TI-84 Plus from 2004. It has a slim and sleek design and is 30 percent lighter than the previous TI-84 models. 

It is widely popular among SAT students, and it is allowed on the ACT and PSAT.

With a bright, vibrant, colorful 7.5 inch display, you can easily differentiate two graphs by different colors. 

It is very user-friendly and easy to use. There is no need to memorize long key combinations for functions, as functions are just a click away on this calculator. This helps in saving time during the SAT.

It uses a 1200 mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery and can be charged via a USB cable. Great functionality coupled with extensive third-party application support makes it a top contender.

However, 3 MB of ROM and 154 KB of RAM make it less efficient when compared with the Nspire series. It also has fewer complex functions.

Pros:

  • Graphing calculator
  • User friendly
  • Color display
  • Allowed on PSAT and ACT
  • Rechargeable

Cons:

  • Non-CAS functionality 
  • Less features compared to TI-Nspire CX-II CAS

Texas Instruments TI-89 Titanium

Launched in 2004, the TI-89 Titanium features a large, one-color display. You might think the one-color display is a letdown but rest assured, the TI-89 makes up for that with its powerful functionalities.  

As an advanced graphing calculator, it efficiently handles algebra, matrices, calculus, and statistical functions. The built-in CAS functionality allows you to efficiently manipulate equations.

With 188 KB of RAM and 2.7 MB of flash memory, which is 3 times the TI-89, this calculator is more efficient in storing data and functions. It also increases its speed and feasibility to use. USB on the go allows data sharing with your PC too! 

The TI-89 Titanium is powered by 3 AAA batteries, and it is not rechargeable. It includes all the functions of the TI-84, with certain enhancements. Despite having enhanced features, It is still relatively cheaper than the TI-84 Plus CE.

Pros:

  • Built-in CAS functionality
  • Fairly priced
  • Large display
  • Good Graphing capabilities
  • Easy to use right out of the box

Cons:

  • Not allowed on the ACT
  • Non-rechargeable
  • One color screen

Casio FX-9750GIIIBest budget calculator for the SAT

The FX-9750GIII is the best calculator for students on a budget.

A lightweight and thin device with exceptional graphing capabilities - It is capable of graphing X= relations and can solve intercepts and interactions. 

It is powered by 4 AAA batteries and is advertised to operate with over 200 hours of battery life. 

Even though backlighting is missing, It features a high-resolution LCD with dot-area technology, which eases functionality.

Most technical and complex functions can be performed even with 3MB of flash memory. However, the lack of CAS functionality restricts certain features.

It has an intuitive software design with an icon-based menu system; though, abbreviations in the menu can be confusing for some people. 

Pros:

  • High-resolution color display
  • Low price
  • Allowed on PSAT and ACT
  • Good Graphing capabilities
  • Easy to use right out of the box

Cons:

  • No CAS functionality
  • Does not include rechargeable batteries

Other good calculators for the SAT

Casio Prizm FX-CG50 

First available in 2017, the FX-CG50 features a high-resolution color display that shows equations with clarity. It also enables it to perform 3D graphing, and the improved catalog function allows you to make custom graphs of real-world pictures.

It is powered by 4 AAA batteries, but it is not rechargeable. 

With a lightweight and sleek design, this graphing calculator allows you to solve technical equations. However, it does not offer CAS functionality. With 16 MB of memory, it is very efficient to use.

The short key combinations for functions allow for a user-friendly interface.

Pros:

  • High-resolution color display
  • Allowed on PSAT and ACT
  • Graphing calculator
  • Easy to use right out of the box

Cons:

  • No CAS functionality
  • Non-rechargeable

Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX-II

The smaller version of the CX-II CAS, the CX-II, contains most of the same functions but lacks CAS functionality. This makes the CX-II relatively cheaper.

With a 3.5-inch backlit color display, it features interactive visuals and a user-friendly interface.

It is powered by a single, rechargeable lithium-ion battery which can last more extended periods, with medium usage.

As it is a graphing calculator with an advanced chipset, it performs efficiently. Like the CAS version, it has 100 MB of memory with 64 MB of RAM. So, plenty of storage for data and third-party functions.

Pros:

  • Less expensive than CX-II CAS
  • Low battery consumption
  • Graphing calculator
  • Rechargeable battery

Cons:

  • No CAS functionality
  • Difficult to use right out of the box

Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus

Having made its debut in 2003, the TI-83 Plus features a clear, one-color display with an automatic shutoff timer to save energy.

It is powered by 4 AAA batteries and a single lithium-ion battery for backup. It is not rechargeable.

As it is an older model, it lacks some features such as the CAS. Nevertheless, it has enhanced data analysis with fast processing and an easy-to-use interface.

With 24 KB of RAM and 160 KB of ROM, it is not the fastest calculator, so users usually opt for a newer model, such as the TI-84.

Pros:

  • Fairly priced
  • Low battery consumption
  • Graphical calculator
  • Very user friendly

Cons:

  • No CAS functionality
  • Low memory
  • Low-quality display
  • Non-rechargeable

Hewlett-Packard HP Prime

Being one of the latest calculators in the market, HP Prime was launched in 2019. It has a sleek, slim design with a metallic body and a clean button layout.

It features a large 3.5-inch display with a feature-rich experience but no CAS functionality. It has most of the standard functions and is highly popular. 

The HP prime is credited as the best, reasonably priced graphical calculator out in the market.

However, some users have reported some manufacturing issues, such as faulty buttons and unresponsive displays.

Pros:

  • Large display
  • Fairly priced
  • Efficient battery consumption
  • Graphical calculator

Cons:

  • Common manufacturing issues

Hewlett-Packard HP 50G

First available in 2004, the HP 50G is a popular device as it has over 2300 function capabilities. It is RPL programmable but has no CAS functionality.

With 512 KB of RAM and 5 MB of ROM, the internal memory can be expanded through an SD card slot. Because of which it is capable of handling so many functions. It is powered by 4 AA batteries and is non-rechargeable.

This calculator is a bit outdated with its 2D and one-color screen, and users usually opt for a newer model such as the HP Prime.

Pros:

  • RPL programmable
  • SD card slot for expandable storage
  • Graphical calculator

Cons:

  • No CAS functionality
  • Older model
  • Low-quality display
  • Non-rechargeable
  • Expensive

Casio FX-991EX

First available in 2015, the FX-991EX is not a graphical calculator but a scientific calculator, and it is an affordable and non-programmable calculator.

You might face difficulty with certain questions as you will have to draw the graph manually, consuming more time during the SAT.

It features a high-resolution LCD screen that can display full 4x4 matrix calculations. It can also perform advanced calculations for calculus and other complex questions. But it lacks most graphical functions.

Pros:

  • Fairly priced
  • Allowed on the SAT and ACT
  • High-resolution LCD

Cons:

  • Not a graphical calculator
  • Lacks in certain functionalities

How to Use a Calculator on the SAT

  • If you think you would need a calculator, you should bring your own. You are not allowed to share calculators during the exam
  • Do not use a calculator for the ‘No Calculator’ section, otherwise, your test may be canceled 
  • Make sure to use the calculator beforehand. Use the same calculator when practicing equations for the SAT exam, so you are familiar with its operation. This way, you can use the calculator to its full potential during the exam
  • If your calculator has rechargeable batteries, make sure to fully charge it before the SAT exam. If it is non-rechargeable, then make sure the batteries are new. Remember that you may not be allowed to charge your calculator at the testing center
  • If possible, bring an extra calculator in case of any emergency. Also bring extra batteries as well
  • Check the entry line on the calculator for any typos
  • When a question can be attempted without the help of a calculator, do not waste time by using the calculator to check everything. Instead, attempt the question without a calculator and if you have time at the end, you can check the answer using the calculator

Acceptable SAT calculators

  • Graphing calculators
  • Scientific calculators
  • Four function calculators. These, however, lack many functions, so using them will be of no benefit to you when attempting technical questions
  • Battery-operated calculators with no power cords of some sort

Unacceptable SAT calculators

  • No laptops, smartphones, smartwatches, tablets to use as a calculator
  • No calculator has a computer-style keyboard (QWERTY) or has to be used with a stylus or a pen
  • No smartphone-like functions such as Wi-Fi, cellular, Bluetooth, camera, and other such features
  • No calculator that makes noise or has tape covering some part of it
  • No calculator with a touchscreen is allowed
  • No calculator watches or any other wearable technology

Benefits of using a graphing calculator

Using a graphing calculator brings many advantages to you as you can make graphs on your calculator, rather than drawing them manually on paper. You can match two graphs easily and find their intersection. 

You can solve long and complicated equations quickly, and it can help you find the absolute zero of an equation.

Moreover, it efficiently converts decimals to fractions with a click of a button. The best thing is that a graphing calculator gives the fraction in its reduced form.

These functionalities help you immensely during the SAT and can save you a reasonable amount of time. 

SAT Calculator FAQs

Is a TI-30x allowed on the SAT?

The TI-30x is not included in the accepted SAT calculator list, so it is not allowed on the SAT. 

Can you use a regular calculator on the SAT?

You can only use the calculators mentioned under the accepted SAT calculator list. Scientific calculators are allowed but will be of limited use and will not cater to those technical and complex questions. 

Is the Casio FX-991ES Plus allowed on the SAT?

As mentioned in the “Other good calculators for the SAT” section, a scientific calculator is allowed on both the SAT and ACT. However, it is not a graphing calculator, so you cannot solve any complex equations or plot graphs. It is better to use a graphing calculator as it has many benefits.

Which calculator is best for the SAT exam?

The Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX-II CAS is the best calculator for the SAT. For more details about this calculator, check the “Our pick for the best calculator for the SAT” section.

Can you use TI-34 on the SAT?

The TI-34 is not included in the accepted SAT calculator list, so it is not allowed. This calculator has limited functionality, so it will not fulfill your mathematical needs during the test.

Is the Casio FX-9750GII allowed on the SAT?

Yes. As stated above in the “Best budget calculator for the SAT” section, the Casio FX-9750GII is a great calculator for a student who is on a budget. 

Do I need a calculator with CAS functionality on the SAT?

CAS refers to the ‘Computer Algebra System.’ This means that you can solve simultaneous equations, factors, manipulate variables, and much more. Calculators having CAS functionality can solve complicated equations within seconds, and they can be instrumental in saving valuable time on the SAT. 

On the contrary, non-CAS calculators will make your SAT math section slightly harder for you. Due to their ability to solve complex math problems relatively quickly, CAS calculators are not allowed on the ACT.

What is the ‘No Calculator’ section on the SAT?

The ‘No Calculator’ section on the SAT is where a calculator is not allowed. You have to put your calculator away because it may be taken away, or your exam scores may be canceled if you are caught using it.

Verdict

Casio and Texas Instruments calculators are popular choices for SAT test-takers as they are the most reliable. However, you can also use calculators from other companies such as HP, RadioShack, and Sharp.

With several calculators available on the market, the best choice for you is the Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX-II CAS. Even though it’s relatively expensive, it is the perfect calculator as it has all the necessary functions to help you ace your math section on the SAT.

On the contrary, if you are on a budget and looking for something that provides you the most bang for your buck, the Casio FX-9750GII is the perfect choice for you. It’s reasonably priced and contains most of the same features as other expensive models.

Are you interested in boosting your student's overall SAT score? Check out our review of the best SAT prep courses on the market.

Chuky Ofoegbu


With almost a decade of experience pursuing higher education in the United States, I fully understand the pain points foreign students endure. I created this website to help foreign students successfully navigate their way through the challenges they will face while living in the United States.

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