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Though the SAT Math section is by-and-large designed to not be “calculator math,” there is still at least one specific situation in which a calculator program will really come in handy. But first – let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what I mean by “calculator program.”  

What is an SAT Calculator Program?

If you’re like most high school students nowadays, you’re probably using a TI-83+, TI-84+ or similar Texas Instruments graphing calculator, because this is pretty much the standard for schools and math classes.

These sophisticated calculators are could be more properly seen as “miniature computers” that can run complex, time-saving calculations through the use of preprogrammed sets of rules that can be custom-designed to deal with many types of math situations. This is what I’m referring to when I talk about “calculator programs.”

Some programmers even use this calculator function for entertainment purposes, designed complex action games with simple, but impressive graphic interfaces.

Obviously you shouldn’t be spending your precious time on the SAT playing calculator games! But we can use this powerful ability of our calculator to save time and reduce errors in specific situations.  

Are Calculator Programs allowed on the SAT?

Some students may wonder if they can “legally” use calculator programs on the SAT.

I admit it seems like an unfair advantage, but as of the time I write this, there is no restriction whatsoever on the use of calculator programs on the SAT!

That’s right, there is NO restriction on the use of calculator programs on the SAT! There is one exception – you can’t use any calculator or program that can communicate with another calculator through infrared, wireless, wired connections, etc. They don’t want you passing answers between your friends.

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So now that we know what we’re talking about, as well as the SAT regulations regarding calculator programs, you might want to know when to use them and where to get them!  

Are calculator programs actually helpful on the SAT?

If the good news is “calculator programs are legal on the SAT,” the bad news is essentially this: They really don’t help very much. Sorry to disappoint you after reading this far :)

The SAT Math section is designed to test your logical and deductive reasoning – and not so much your raw calculating skills. There are very few situations in which a specialized calculator program will actually help.  

One situation where an SAT calculator program can be helpful:

Here’s the one exception: When factoring a polynomial or using the quadratic equation to find the roots (you might call them “zeros”) of a polynomial, there is a calculator program that will make the work an absolute breeze.

You can get it here: Just plug in your “a,” “b,” and “c” exactly as the program indicates, and you’ll get the roots in under a second. Calculating this or factoring by hand can take a minute or two, depending on your proficiency, and the SAT will almost always test this concept once or twice per test.

Download the program from the website or enter it in yourself (the site provides a set of directions that will help you accomplish this), and you’ll have a sweet advantage (even if it is somewhat limited and specific) when it comes to the SAT Math section!

Additional Resources:
When to use a Calculator on the SAT
Order TI-83+ or TI-84+ graphing calculators on
SAT Math Mastery Level 1: Perfect-Score Fundamentals
SAT Math Mastery Level 2: Tougher Tricks and Skills
Power 800 SAT Math Video Course

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