
Use Your Calculator Wisely
Just because calculator use is permitted on the
Math Test doesn’t mean you should go calculator crazy. Calculators
can certainly be helpful on some problems, but on others using a
calculator might actually take more time than working the problem
out by hand.
Sometimes the ACT will hint that you should stay away
from the calculator. You can find this hint in the answer choices.
If a fraction problem gives all the answers in fraction, not decimal,
form, you should not use your calculator. You’ll only be wasting
time converting your decimal answer to fraction form. This rule
also applies to problems involving radicals, or any other answer
where the answer is not worked out to some final number. There’s
no reason ever to touch a calculator when you’re dealing with variables.
When you use your calculator on the test, it should be
because you’ve thought about the question, you have a good sense
of how to proceed, and you see how your calculator can help you.
You should only use your calculator when you have a definite operation
you want to perform. You should not reach for your calculator instinctively
any time you run into trouble.
Questions on the ACT are designed to be answered within
a minute, if that. They do not involve intense calculation. If you
find yourself reaching for a calculator to work out you
can be certain that you’ve made a mistake somewhere. No calculation
on the test should be that difficult.
Use the Same Old Calculator (and Make Sure the Battery
Is New)
Don’t purchase a fancy calculator with 500
buttons and 600 functions for the ACT. If that’s the kind of calculator
you always use and you feel comfortable using it, then go ahead
and bring it to the test. But if you use the basic standby, you
should bring that to the test.
The ACT test center is not the place to break in a new
calculator, particularly if it’s one with a lot of buttons. By the
time you’ve figured out how to turn the stupid thing on and find
all the buttons, the Math Test will be over.
Now imagine for a moment that we are a nosy parent. Make
sure your battery is new! This advice may seem anal, but do you
really want to be the person whose battery fails halfway through
the test?
