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GED® Math Practice: Know the Calculator

By Erica Machado, Educator

Are you planning to take a high school equivalency test in math? If so, you should start thinking about calculators. Each test has specific rules for calculator use. The GED test and TASC test both use the TI-30XS scientific calculator. The HiSET exam uses a simpler four-function calculator. Which test you can take depends on your state.

Can You Use a Calculator on the GED Math Test?

The GED Mathematical Reasoning test is given on a computer. A Texas Instruments TI-30XS on-screen calculator will be available during the test on most questions. The questions using foundational mathematical skills such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, exponents, roots, and basic number sense will not allow the use of a calculator. It's even available on some science and social studies questions. Try this tutorial to get familiar with the calculator: GED Test Calculator Tutorial.

Testing centers do not provide hand-held calculators. Check with your test center to ask specific questions about calculators. In the U.S., the GED test is only given on paper if you have been approved for special accommodations. Most students are expected to use the on-screen calculator.

In Canada, testing centers will provide you with the Casio FX260 handheld calculator for part of the paper-based math test. On the computer-based test, students will have access to the on-screen TI-30XS. Canadian test-takers can also bring their own Casio FS260 calculator.

International students cannot use a handheld calculator. They must use the on-screen calculator.

About the TI-30XS

The TI-30XS is a scientific calculator, so it's a little more difficult to use. It's more advanced than the kind of calculator commonly used to balance checkbooks. Even many of today's college graduates are unfamiliar with the higher functions of scientific calculators.

Don't worry though. High school equivalency tests use only the more basic functions of the TI-30XS. Take some time to look at the TI-30XS, or the alternate calculator you'll use on your test. You'll want to learn the location of the keys and the functions they perform.

Learn how to:

  • Use the "On" button to reset the calculator or to clear the memory.
  • Use the "Clear" and "All Clear" buttons.
  • Use the number keys.  
  • Use the basic operation keys for addition, multiplication, subtraction and division.
  • Locate the decimal point, equals, and percent keys, and learn how and when each is used.
  • Locate the "Shift" key, and learn how and when it is used.
  • Locate the "Change Sign" and "Fraction" keys, and how to use them.
  • Locate the "Square" and "Square Root" keys, and learn when to use them.
  • Enter problems using the correct order of operations.
  • Locate and use the keys for raising powers and creating exponents.

Does it sound complicated? Maybe, but only if you haven't practiced. Once you have some hands on experience, you’ll see that it’s not too difficult.

The TASC Math Subtest

The TASC math subtest covers basic math, word problems, algebra, and geometry. You'll have 55 minutes to complete the test, or 60 minutes if you're taking the test in Spanish. You may use a calculator for the TASC test math subtest.
The TI-30XS is the preferred calculator for the TASC test. Other scientific calculators may be allowed subject to state and area approval.

Any alternative calculator must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be a scientific calculator
  • Must have trigonometry and logarithm functions
  • Cannot have graphing functions
  • Cannot have programming capability

Test coordinators should have a list of approved alternative calculators. Contact your local test center for details.

The HiSET Math Subtest

The HiSET mathematics subtest requires basic math, measurement, estimation, data interpretation, and logical thinking. The test is 90 minutes long and you may use a calculator throughout. The testing center will provide a basic four-function calculator. For the computer-based test, an on screen calculator is available. If you'd like to familiarize yourself with the on-screen calculator, see the HiSET Exam Calculator Tutorial.

You Can Do This!

Again, don't worry. High school equivalency tests call for only basic calculator knowledge. Even so, it still pays to practice beforehand. Understanding the calculator can help you understand the math you'll need to know. The TI-30XS is worth learning.

Understanding also goes a long way toward reducing math anxiety. Try using the TI-30XS while taking a free GED practice test. Familiarize yourself with its functions before sitting down for the exam. The better prepared you are, the better your score will be.

Author’s Recommendations:

GED® Math Practice: Know the Calculator by Erica Machado is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United Stated License, redistribution of this article is allowed under the following terms outlined here.

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