What Calculator Can I Use on the ACT Test?

TI-84 Plus With Sweet Potatoes

TI-84 Plus With Sweet Potatoes

On with the FAQs: “What calculator can I use on the ACT test?”

I’ll answer that quickly before I give specifics: all the less-fun models.

That will make more sense after I tell you a story from my youth.

(Go ahead and scroll down to the first subhead if you don’t want to hear my wildly entertaining tale.)

When I was a boy, I loved playing outside. I would romp through the yards in my neighborhood, fish in the pond behind my house, and race cars in my neighbor’s golf cart (we didn’t ever really win). I was a hide and seek champion, and my life was good.

One night of my charmed existence, however, I came across an anomaly which I thought existed only in legends.

I met a boy who loved math!

Needless to say, I was horrified.

This peer of mine visited my house, and I thought we would do the fun things boys do: play tag outside, wrestle, climb trees, and jump off of semi-high objects.

He did not bring that same zest for outdoor adventure when he came over, though.

He brought his calculator.

He brought his CALCULATOR.

I was aghast. This fellow pre-pubescent male did math for fun. I wanted to understand, but I found understanding this concept to be far beyond my mental capacity.

Until he said that he had created video games on his calculator.


He immediately switched from some random stick figure of a boy to the coolest guy ever.

The point of that awesome childhood story?

If you have a fun calculator that you can use to create video games, you definitely won’t be able to use it on the ACT test.

That is my story and its moral. Carry on.

Calculators Prohibited on the ACT

Here are the super fun calculators you can’t use on the ACT.

Any calculator with a built-in computer algebra system.

This includes:

  • All Casio models starting with CFX-7990G, and then the Algebra fx 2.0, the ClassPad 300 and 330.
  • Hewlett-Packard’s HP 48GII, then any HP model beginning with HP 40G, HP 49G, or HP50G.
  • Texas Instruments’ TI-NSPIRE-CAS (non-CAS is fine), and any and all calculators starting with TI-89 or TI-92.

Basically, any calculator that does the work for is banned.

That was only mildly disheartening.

Here are more restrictions, just in case they aren’t obvious:

  • No QWERTY keyboard calculators.
  • No calculators on laptops, cell phones, tablets, etc.
  • No electronic writing pads (unless it’s the Sharp EL 9600).

Permitted Calculators for the ACT

Permitted calculators for the ACT include any four-function, scientific, or graphing calculator that isn’t on the list above or has features from the list above.

Some calculators are acceptable, but you need to make some small modifications to them. I’ll make this quick, because it’s boring.

  • No paper tape-if your calculator has it, remove it.
  • No sound-turn the sound off.
  • No power cords-I’m not sure that’s even relevant anymore.
  • No infrared data ports-use duct tape to cover it.

My Pick

I personally recommend a graphing calculator, but only if you know how to use it.

If you’re familiar with graphing calculators, or you have time to become familiar with graphing calculators, I suggest the TI-84 Plus. It’s the one I used throughout Algebra 2 and Advanced Math, and it’s the one that I used on the ACT.

It’s also the best-selling graphing calculator on Amazon. If you’re in the market for a good graphing calculator, this is it.

Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator

You can get it on Amazon or even Wal-Mart for a reasonable price. The link above takes you to Amazon, where it’s priced at roughly $110.

You can use whatever calculator you want, but when I talk about calculator tricks for the ACT math section, this is what I’ll be using.

You Are Most Gracious

Thanks, friends, for being most gracious. This isn’t a fun thing to write about or read, but it’s something all test takers should know. You can find a similar article to this one on the ACT student site, but it lacked so much pizzaz that I felt someone should tell you about it in a more personal way.

Hope you enjoyed the time we spent together today.

If you didn’t, watch this math video. It’s only sort of about math, so it’s funny.

Mazel tov,


More ACT FAQ fun.


  1. great post! i know BF will read it with a smile. i know i did.

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