Calculators and Exams

As mentioned previously calculators are not only very useful tools but sometimes necessary for exams. Do not leave it to the last minute to get the one you will use in your exams. Make sure it is one that is allowed and make sure you know how to use it properly.

Don’t be one of the many many students who will key calculations into their calculator for their junior or leaving cert exams in June and not even realise that they are getting a wrong answer because the will have keyed in the wrong combination of characters. Calculators are “dumb” machines. They will return the answer to the calculations you key in, not necessarily what you thought you keyed in. Ever calculator is not the same so just because you know how to use one does not mean you know how to use another.

You should already have and be familiar with the calculator you are going to use in your exam. It would be wise to do a few test calculations to ensure it works the way you think it does. You will have to do basic arithmetic, find squares or square roots, trigonometrical functions of angles in degrees or radians, (know the difference), use second function or shift key buttons to get reciprocals or other functions. You also need to be aware of the hierarchy in the order of operations in arithmetic calculations.

A very basic test would be to first use the sin function button to get the sine of 45 degrees and note the answer. Then find the square root of 2 and use the second function or shift button to find its reciprocal.  The answer in both cases should be 0.70710678. If you get something different you need to find out what you are doing incorrectly.

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