For most students, the scariest part of the SAT test is the math section. Students everywhere, even those who are good in math, tend to get a little panicked about the possible math questions, and for comfort, often they reach out to the nearest calculator. There are a couple of things that you need to know about the use of a calculator, though, before you go into your SAT test.
1. Every math question on the SAT test can be answered without a calculator. Don’t assume that you’ll need the calculator to get the correct answer. Often, if you read the questions carefully, many of the math sections have answers that can be eliminated very easily with just a little mental math. Once you’ve done that, you can quickly solve the problem with the remaining options.
2. Calculators require a specific formula to set up the question. One of the risks of using a calculator is that if you don’t set up your problem correctly, you may get the wrong answer for the test question, even with the calculator, so familiarity with your calculator is critical. Don’t take a calculator that seems “better” but you don’t know how to operate. This common mistake creates far more trouble than you might imagine.
3. Calculators can take away time. The time spent reaching for the calculator, inputting the data, and solving the problem may actually add time to your test-taking. And, if your batteries go out, and you’re depending on a calculator, you’ll need time to replace the batteries. Sure, you can take extra batteries, or even an extra calculator, but do you have the time to switch out batteries or calculators during timed test sections? Maybe, maybe not, but if you are depending on a calculator for the math sections, be aware that one way or another, the calculator may actually reduce your time, not save time.
4. Test administrators can remove your calculator from you under some conditions. Calculators that make noise, have large display screens that could be used by other students for cheating, or do not meet the acceptable standards criteria, can be taken away from you on site. Be sure that you have chosen an appropriate calculator if you intend to take one or two with you.
While the SAT tests allow you to take a calculator, and there is no reason not to do so as an optional tool, remember that there are some risks when using your calculator. The best thing to remember is that the calculator should not be a crutch, just an option, and then you can reach for your calculator with discretion.