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This guide is intended to give you a few helpful tips/strategies for using your graphing calculator on the
ACT. While everything on the ACT can be done without the use of a graphing calculator (and many times
it is much easier to solve the problems without a calculator), it has been my experience that effectively
using the graphing calculator (specifically, the TI-83/84) can save you much time and ensure correct
solutions on this test.
Some information about the ACT calculator policy
Permitted Calculators:
- You should use a TI-83 or TI-84
o You may NOT use the ZoomMath Application (this includes the free trial version) as
it will result in your test being discarded if you are caught.
This applies as well to any programs that perform algebraic operations.
- You are NOT permitted to use a TI-89, TI-92, or TI-nSpire CAS
o A list of acceptable calculators is listed on the ACT web-site
Determining if Your Answer Is Correct
By using the TEST feature of your calculator, you can confirm if any answer is correct. Since the ACT is a
multiple choice test, this is especially beneficial.
Example: Expand (x+3)(2x+4)=
We could easily find this by binomial expansion (FOIL). ( )( )

. To determine if this is correct, use = from the test menu.

Since this equals 1, we know our answer is correct. If our answer had
been incorrect, we would have seen a 0.
Solving Equations
We can solve any equation by graphing.

This could be done algebraically using the Quadratic Formula, but we can also solve by graphing and
looking for ZEROS (x-intercepts, roots, solutions, etc.).
The two solutions are x=-1.535 and x=0.869
We can also solve equations using the SOLVER in the MATH menu.
Example: 4-3x= -3.
In order to use the solver, the equation must be set equal to 0. Add 3 to both sides. 7-3x=0. Now we can
use the SOLVER.

Remember, we do not press ENTER. We need to press SOLVE which comes from 2ND ENTER.
Finding Common Areas
Remember that your calculator has most of the common area formulas in APPS.

Evaluating Expressions
We can always store values as variables.
Example: Evaluate the expression


Rather than do this by hand, we can store the values and simplify.

Other APPS That You May Find Useful

- This APP wont really help on ACT test day, but it does provide some activities, lessons, and
demonstrations that may help you review concepts from Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 as you
prepare for the test.
- This is almost identical to Geometers Sketchpad. If you are familiar with Geometers
Sketchpad, you may find this useful on problems involving shapes. If you are NOT familiar
with Geometers Sketchpad, this program will likely take longer to use and cause more
problems than its worth on test day.

- This APP will help you graph Conic Sections (Circles, Ellipses, Parabolas, Hyperbolas) and
help change equations from general to standard form.

- This is another version of Geometers Sketchpad. Refer back to my comments about CabriJr.
They apply here as well.

- This is an APP that will solve Polynomial equations. This is a very useful APP that will save
you much time, as opposed to solving polynomials algebraically by factoring or another
algebraic method.

We are going to solve

using this APP. Choose 1:Poly Root Finder.

This tells us that we have one real solution (x=1.65) and the other two roots are imaginary. You will need
to find the imaginary solutions by hand.
Radian vs. Degree
It is important to always check your mode when doing trig problems. Make sure your calculator is set to
the appropriate mode.

Things you can find and do under the STAT button.
- Find a linear, quadratic, exponential, etc. regression
- Find things such as mean, median, mode, standard deviation, variance
Chemical Equation Balancer
- This APP is for Science. I do not know all the details about it, so you may want to talk with a
science teacher to get more information, but this APP is designed to help you balance
equations in a Chemistry class.
Guess My Coefficient
- Guess My Coefficients provides an entertaining way for students to study and learn how to
identify the coefficients of a function from a graph.
- This is another APP that will NOT necessarily help you on test day, but it will serve as an
excellent way to practice how coefficients affect a graph.

Solve It
- This is another APP that is not designed to help you on test day. This APP was created to
help students solve basic Algebra problems, designed in a game format.

What Is My Angle?
- This APP is designed to help students understand angles in real-world settings. This a good
review of some of the basic skills you learned in Geometry. However, this is NOT an APP that
you would want to use on Test Day. Rather, use this in preparation for the ACT as a way to
review concepts from Geometry.

Polynomial Simulator Number 2
- This APP is designed to find the roots of polynomial equations and to solve simultaneous
equations. This is VERY similar to the Polynomial Simulator listed above, but this one will
also solve for Imaginary solutions.

- Notice that we solved the exact same polynomial (

) as used in our
previous APP, but now we have all 3 solutions (x1 is real, x2 and x3 are the imaginary
solutions). Thus, our solutions are x=1.65, .17+1.55i, and .17-1.55i. You will need to use your
arrows to see all parts of the answer.
There are many other beneficial and time-saving ways to use your TI-84 on the ACT; most of which we
have already done together in class this year. The information presented above is just a friendly
reminder of how you can save time and improve your ACT score by using the technology available.
However, none of the information presented here will help you if you do not have a strong
understanding of the mathematics involved. Please see me if you would like a copy of my ACT
Mathematics Test Preparation Guide with other common information that you will need to achieve the
best score possible. Study Hard! And Good Luck!
Visit the following Web-sites for more information on using your TI-84 on the ACT: