What Calculators Are Allowed on the ACT: Common Mistakes to Avoid
The ACT is this weekend and I’ve been making sure my private ACT tutoring clients have calculators that meet testing regulations. Although I’ve reminded them for weeks to pick up a calculator for the test, most hadn’t. So I’ve been handing out basic calculators so they can spend Saturday focusing on the test and applying the techniques they’ve learned. Do you know the common ACT calculator mistakes and how to avoid them?
ACT is NOT like the SAT
Last weekend my students took the SAT with whatever calculators they regularly use for school. Many have graphing calculators; the TI89 and TINspire CAS are the most common. For the SAT, I don’t sweat the calculator issue. Students should bring what they are most comfortable using. Not the case on the ACT.
ACT Has Strict Calculator Policies
The ACT presents a challenge because some of the most current and popular calculator models are not permitted. Here is the current list of prohibited calculators from the ACT website:
The following types of calculators are prohibited:

calculators with builtin computer algebra systems Prohibited calculators in this category include:
 Texas Instruments: All model numbers that begin with TI89 or TI92 and the TINspire CAS—Note: The TINspire (nonCAS) is permitted.
 HewlettPackard: HP Prime, HP 48GII, and all model numbers that begin with HP 40G, HP 49G, or HP 50G
 Casio: Algebra fx 2.0, ClassPad 300 and ClassPad 330, and all model numbers that begin with CFX9970G

handheld, tablet, or laptop computers, including PDAs

electronic writing pads or peninput devices—Note: The Sharp EL 9600 is permitted.

calculators built into cell phones or any other electronic communication devices

calculators with a typewriter keypad (letter keys in QWERTY format)—Note: Letter keys not in QWERTY format are permitted.
Students Can Be Dismissed for Using the Wrong Calculator
The ACT takes their calculator policy seriously. Many test administrators try to avoid problems by warning students prior to the test and collecting prohibited calculators. This results in students finding out minutes before the test that they will have to work all problems by hand. The worstcase scenario is starting the test with a prohibited calculator and having to leave as a result of this rule violation. ACT states:
Using the TI89 is the most common reason students are dismissed from the ACT for prohibited calculator use.
Approved Alternatives
If your student owns one of the calculators on the prohibited list, you will want to look for approved alternatives.
Graphing Calculators
Although graphing capabilities are not necessary for ACT success, students accustomed to using a graphing calculator may want to find an acceptable replacement. TI83 and TI84 models are approved. Many schools have used these calculators in the classroom for years, so students are familiar with them. Unfortunately these models typically cost over $100, a poor investment if you only need it for ACT testing. Some students have been successful in checking a calculator out from their school for the weekend or borrowing from a friend. A current client of mine was able to find a TI84 at a pawn shop for $20.
NonGraphing Models
My choice for the ACT is a standard, nongraphing, scientific calculator. The photo above is my “good” calculator. Usually I use a cheap dollar store model that can add, subtract, multiply, divide, and take a square root. But for the ACT, I like to have a model with a few more features including trig functions and logs. This is a calculator I used in my graduate statistics classes. Most calculators in this category cost between $10 and $20 and can be found at any office supply store or Target. Below is a picture of a calculator I found in my neighborhood CVS pharmacy.
Students don’t need a graphing calculator in order to succeed on the ACT. What they do need is an approved calculator with basic functions needed to complete test questions. Essentially, once students have an approved calculator they are familiar with, they can focus on the actual math part of the test. Success in math is not about which calculator a student uses; it is about the information they choose to input into the device.
We are going to test a new ACT class in Sugar Land (Spring 2014). For the latest information, sign up to receive updates and articles in the box below.
Are TI36 X Pro calculators allowed?
Is the Sharp El501x allowed to be used on ACT.
You can check on the ACT website: https://www.act.org/content/act/en/productsandservices/theact/takingthetest/calculatorpolicy.html
If you are still unsure, I recommend two things:
1. Call ACT and ask.
2. Bring a backup calculator on the day of the test in case you need it.
Wishing you the best on your ACT!
Megan
is the ti 36x solor allowed?
Is the TI 84 calculator allowed
Yes.
I have a TI30xIIS is that allowed?
Ashley,
You should check with ACT. Here is their policy: https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/ACTcalculatorpolicy.pdf
Megan
Is a Texas Instrument TI81 allowed?
It is always best to check with the ACT’s official policy: https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/ACTcalculatorpolicy.pdf
Megan
Is Casio fx9750GII allowed?
Is the TI84 plus CE allowed?
Is the Casio fx9750GII allowed on the ACT.