Calculator on the SAT Math – When Exactly?

Calculator on the SAT Math – When Exactly?

SAT Math test has 2 sections – Calculator Section and Non-Calculator Section. As the names suggest, SAT Math Calculator Section allows you to use their calculator. But, when exactly should one use a calculator? This is an important question and the answer to this help test takers save time and answer right. I am going to help you understand the answer in detail.

It is important to note that not all questions in the Math Calculator section need a calculator. In my experience, you can take SAT WITHOUT the use of a calculator and can score 99 percentile. There may be a couple of questions that would take lesser TIME, with a calculator!

Read more: what kind of calculators are allowed for the SAT exam?

Below are few examples explained from the College Board SAT Practice Test papers’

Example 1: (College board’s SAT Practice Test 8 – Math Calculator Section – Question 4)

Math Calculator Section
 

Use of calculator to solve the above question depended on the answer choices 'C' & 'D'. In the question, we have to find the predicted length, given the width to be 19 millimeters. We can see the positively sloped line of best fit crossing a value of '50' on the vertical axis (for a width of 18 millimeters). It is clear that the predicted length (for a width of 19 millimeters) would be above '50'. We can drop the answer choices 'A' and 'B' now. Yet, the answer choices 'C' & 'D' are both above '50'. One may extrapolate the line of best fit and find that the predicted length may not exceed '55' (for a width of 19). Yet, if the answer choices 'C' & 'D' were a bit closer in value, the calculator would have been unavoidable. If one were to make use of the equation “y=1.67x+21.1” to calculate the exact value, the calculator would then come handy. By substituting 'x' with '19' in the equation, we get “y = 1.67(19) + 21.1 = 52.83” which is exactly what answer choice 'C'(right answer) is.

Taking the decision whether to use a calculator or not, to solve a question helps test takers save time

Example 2: (College board’s SAT Practice Test 8 – Math Calculator Section – Question 9)

Example 2: (College board’s SAT Practice Test 8 – Math Calculator Section – Question 9)
 

In the question above, equating the given volume of 473 cubic centimeters to the formula '(7Πk3/48)', we get “k3 = 473*48/22”. Most test takers would need a calculator to find the value of 'k', which is what one needs to solve for in the question. In such a situation you can use a calculator.

Example 3: (College board’s SAT Practice Test 8 – Math Calculator Section – Question 22)

College board’s SAT Practice Test 8 – Math Calculator Section – Question 22
 

Once you read the above question. Observing the scatter plot, we observe, the answer is got by calculating the percentage increase from one number to another. Now, these two numbers can be got by using the given equation “y = 3.39x+46.89”. Substituting 'x' and 'y' with '15*(2000-1985)' and '18*(2003-1985)', we get the values for x and y. Then we need the percentage between x and y. This is definitely going to be a ‘calculations heavy’ method to solve.


A simple way to solve is to observe the values on the line of best fit that corresponds to '15' and '18' on the horizontal axis. These values are approximate '98' and '108' in the same order. The percentage change from '98' to '108' estimates to '10', and also the four answer choices are not close to one another. The only answer choice which is near to '10' is ‘A’ and so is the right choice. So, we can arrive at the right choice without any heavy calculations.

Read more: Calculator policy for SAT

The decision to use a calculator or not when solving SAT Math Calculator section sets one apart from other test takers! If you still have any queries, get in touch with me in the comments section below.

Happy to help you. Good Luck for your SAT preparation!

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