This is the second part in a series of how to conquer SAT and ACT Math by utilizing a Math Toolbox. For the complete list of the tools in the Math Toolbox and Part 1, visit here. Along with your pencil, the calculator is a pretty obvious resource for the test. You can use a calculator on the entire ACT math portion. The SAT and PSAT only allow calculators on one of the two math sections (no calculator on the SSAT by the way).

Nevertheless, a calculator can actually hinder your performance on the test if you don’t use it wisely. A calculator can cause you to spend lots of extra time. Many students feel the need to use the calculator for every calculation. The test is designed such that, if you need to use a calculator for every problem, you might not be able to finish the test in time.
Also, a calculator does not allow you to visually track all of your calculations. If you do all calculations on the calculator and you don’t jot down any notes in your test booklet, it can be challenging to check your work and confirm the correct answer.
So how do you effectively use a calculator as a part of your Math Toolbox?
First of all, be sure you do all of your practice and studying with the same calculator you use on test day. Many students use their cell phone calculators when they practice for the test for reasons of convenience. Since cell phones are not allowed into the test, students have to learn the keys and format of a new calculator on test day. Major time waster!
Secondly, learn to leverage your mental math skills instead of taking out a calculator for every calculation. Next blog post will detail the power of mental math, but for now, just be sure you understand that there are many calculations you can do in your head that are faster than plugging and plotting on a calculator.
Finally, a calculator should not replace note taking. Getting pencil to paper and making a mess of your test booklet is the path to determining and confirming the correct answer.
In all, your calculator should ultimately help you with both speed and accuracy on math problems on the SAT, ACT and PSAT. Use it wisely, and it can be one of the most productive tools in your Math Toolbox.
For more test taking tips and tools, contact CROSSWALK today.

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