FE Exam Approved Calculators: Know Your Weapon!

Finding the best calculator for the FE exam can be an overwhelming task if you don't have the guidance. Since there are plenty of brands in the market, you may get confused on what to choose from. You may already have a calculator that you have been using for a long time but you should check if it is allowed to bring during your scheduled FE test. So in this article, I will present the list of the FE Exam approved calculators that were allowed by NCEES.

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​Every year, the list of allowed calculators that you can bring during the FE exam is always updated. This is done to ensure the uprightness of the test. For FE exam during 2018 and 2019, the testing center only allows the following calculators:

  • Casio
  • Hewlett Packard
  • Texas Instruments

I know right now, you are confused on what calculator is the best for the exam so let me share my personal thoughts and opinion about them.

​Casio - ​Easy to Use

​​All Casio fx-115 and fx-991 models are allowed during the FE exam. By the way, if you are still not sure if your calculator is allowed, just make sure that there is fx-115 or fx-991 on the model name.

Personally, I used the Casio fx-115ES PLUS calculator. What I like about it is its lightweight and modern look. It is also thin and can definitely fit when I put in on my pocket. During my college days, I have always used this model. It has a clearer and wider screen compared to other models and its enhanced features make it more convenient to use.

FE Exam Approved Calculators

Some of its updated features are:

  • Displaying root forms of equations
  • Matrix inversions
  • Finding derivatives
  • Product notation templates
  • Advanced inequality functionality

This calculator can also solve linear equations graduated from 3 variables, cubic, and quadratic equations. The matrix inversion is also helpful. I like that it has a degree/minute/second button which saves you time when dealing with angles. The only downside for this one is that it can't graph functions.

Aside from its features, I also like that it doesn't cost that much. I think I bought mine for about $15. When choosing a brand of calculator, my decision is greatly affected by the price. But still, I make sure that the quality is not hindered by the price. It's already 5 years since I graduated from college but I still have my calculator. I also like that it doesn't fall short in terms of speed.

If you are using this calculator for the first time, you can also take advantage of its free instructional videos that are available online. There are guides that explain on how to change modes and how to initially set up the calculator. They will also elaborate the functions of the device.

​Hewlett Packard - Faster Option

​For the Hewlett Packard brand, the only allowed models are HP 33s and HP 35s models.

Most calculators are designed to function the same way as the basic operations. However, the major difference of HP from other brands is the system that it is using. Basically, it is under the default Reverse Polar Notation (RPN) system. If done properly, it is a faster way of inputting equations in your device.

To explain it better, I presented an example below.

Standard Algebraic Notation

For the standard system, inputting " 3 + 3 ENTER " will generate the answer which is 6.

Reverse Polar Notation

On a RPN calculator, you should input "3 ENTER 3 + " in order to get the answer.

This is somehow different from the traditional usage of calculator. So it may take some time before you get used to it. It can definitely help when it comes to inputting complex operations but make sure that you already understood its features.

By the way, there is also an option wherein you can change the system of the HP calculator from RPN to the standard algebraic notation. It is also programmable so you can learn on how to use this feature.

Based on my last research, it costs for less than $60. The price is understandable because it is a programmable scientific calculator. Personally, I am not fond of this brand. Maybe because I am just not used to it. But I know several people who can utilize the device and take advantage of it.

Some of its valuable features are:

  • LCD screen that displays well in any condition (sunlight, dim or different angle)
  • Offers 2-line alphanumeric display
  • Programmable scientific functions
  • No need to use parentheses when inputting complex equations
  • Maintains memory

If it is your first time using this calculator and you are thinking of bringing it for the test, I suggest that you practice. This will ensure that you mastered the device.

​Texas Instruments - Sturdy & Professional-Looking

​Any TI-30X and TI-36X models are acceptable. Just make sure that the keywords are on the model name.

Texas Instruments calculator is somehow the same as the Casio brand. The major difference is its 2-line display that allows operations with fractions and mixed numbers. It also shows both the entry and results at the same time. Basically, it displays the equation that you are inputting on the top line and the numbers you are currently creating on the second line.

After you click the equals button, the answer is shown on the second line. If you want to review your inputs, you can use the four arrow keys on the front to go over the equation. This is a good feature of TI because you will be able to edit your previous equations if something is wrong.

Other features that it inhibits are listed below:

  • Solar and battery powered
  • Allows review of previous entries
  • You can select the settings needed through the menu
  • Sturdy and professional looking scientific calculator
  • Offers scientific and engineering modes
  • Has edit, cut and paste feature

The last time I checked, it costs for less than $15. I believe that this is a good deal if we consider its sturdiness. It also has a snap-on cover that fits well on the back of the calculator. One downside of TI is that the display is sometimes hard to see. You have to tilt the device in order to read the numbers and symbols.

By the way, if you are used to using the TI-84 or TI-89, you should be careful in typing on TI-30 because it is not that accurate and fast when typing compared to the other models. We all know that if we input just one wrong number in the equation, it will definitely give a wrong answer. So, this is just a reminder.

​Some Extra Tips

​Now that you already know the acceptable calculators for the FE exam, it is time to learn some important tips that may help you in using the device.

Always Use Your Calculator

After you have chosen your calculator, make sure that you always use it when reviewing for the exam. This will train your brain and body to work well together. By doing this, you will be able to input numbers or symbols on the device even if you're not looking at the screen. This will definitely save you time during the exam.

Learn the Ins & Outs of the Calculator

During your preparation for the exam, I suggest that you give some time in reviewing the manual. It may show you some things that can help you better use the device. If you don't have time reading, then you can also make a quick search in google about the tips and hacks of your chosen calculator. In this way, you will better understand the device and may give you more speed when solving problems.

Bring a Spare Calculator

During your scheduled exam, make sure that you bring a spare calculator. Having an extra battery can be good but it will just take some of your time when you install the new batteries. I think that it is better to have another calculator that you can bring out if your current device malfunctions.

By the way, there is also a built in calculator in your computer during the computer-based test. But I don't recommend using it because it takes time in using it compared to using your own device.

Know Your Calculator - Master the Device!

​It may sound cliche but if you go to a war without mastering your weapon, then you will have a hard time winning the battle. This means that you need to master your calculator in order to better utilize it during the exam. 

Your calculator is one of the most important factor that determines your results. So I highly recommend that you give some time in choosing the best calculator that you can use for the FE exam.​​​​​

​If you have questions, feel free to comment below so that I can help you. Also, don't hesitate to share your tips and hacks when using your calculator.

John Rico
 

John Rico is an Engineer-in-Training Professional that works his way up to become a Licensed Professional Engineer.

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