What Calculator Should I Have for the ACT?

act phase 3 test prep May 15, 2023

After having tutoring ACT prep for almost 20 years, every semester I'm asked "what calculator should I have for the ACT?" So I wanted to take a bit to go through what calculators are and are not allowed on the test, and my recommendations.


The most important thing is the best calculator for the ACT is the calculator YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH! Use the calculator you have been practicing with, and make sure that you ARE practicing with the calculator you plan on using for the ACT! It's better to use one you are familiar with that doesn't have as much functionality than one that can do everything but you don't know how to use.

ACT's official Calculator Policy can be found here. Prohibited calculators include:


  • All TI-89 and TI-92 models
  • TI-Nspire CAS (non-CAS is permitted)


  • HP Prime
  • HP 48GII
  • All model numbers beginning with HP 40G, HP 49G, and HP 50G


  • ClassPad 300, 330 and 400 (fx-CP400)
  • Algebra fx 2.0
  • All models beginning with CFX-9970G 

Check the ACT website for full details. Note that it doesn't hurt to have a printout of their policy to bring with you to the ACT if you have a calculator that isn't as common.


My personal favorite is either the TI-83 PLUS or TI-84 PLUS, which are the two most widely used calculators in college, have been around a while (they last a long time, and can usually be found cheaper used).

The TI-83 PLUS can be found more inexpensively (both new and used) due to being an older and simpler design.

The TI-84 PLUS has more processing power (15 MHZ vs 6 MHZ), more storage (480 KB vs 160 KB), the ability to connect via a USB port to recharge and/or update software, and the updated MATHPRINT which allows for expressions to be displayed in a more recognizable format.

You can purchase the TI-83 PLUS here, and the TI-84 PLUS here (or check Amazon/ebay/Facebook/your local area for a used one!).

Looking for more help on the ACT? Check out our FREE 10-page guide to the ACT here, or sign up to join our online virtual ACT prep class here!

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