Your A-levels require a step-up from your GCSE’s in terms of studying, preparation and hard work. Similarly, you need to get a more advanced calculator for your A-levels as it will significantly improve your game.
Getting the best possible calculator for your A-levels should be your priority. This article is going to present the different options available and let you choose for yourself.
What Should You Look for Before Buying a Calculator for Your A-Levels?
- Acceptability: You must check your Syllabus and the list of allowed calculators to determine exactly which one is acceptable. Most A-level Maths and Further Maths examinations allow graphical calculators.
- Lightweight and Portable: You will need to take your calculator everywhere; classes, labs, exams halls, tests and libraries. Hence, make sure the calculator you buy is compact and mobile.
- Sufficiently Advanced: the calculator must have the ability to compute and solve problems at the maths level required.
- Silent and Sleek: Most calculators nowadays make no computing noise. However, the lower end models do make noise when the buttons are pressed. Try to get a calculator that is sleek and makes virtually no noise.
- Easy-to-Use: Adding the keys and buttons in a calculator so that it works most efficiently is a process that takes hundreds of hours. A few incorrectly placed buttons can leave the user with a bad taste in the calculator. Make sure before you buy a calculator; that it has a simple and uncomplicated design.
Which Calculators are Allowed in Your A-level Exams?
Most calculators are allowed in your A-level exams. For GCSE you might not be allowed to use graphical calculators since the exams test for basic information and concepts and a graphical calculator would provide an unfair advantage to the student.
For A-levels not only are graphical calculators allowed but recommended by the U.K examination boards. A-levels require in-depth understanding and you cannot solve the exam without completely understanding the concepts, which helps explains why graphical calculators are allowed in A-level exams.
However, there are some basic calculator restrictions that all students must comply with. You are not allowed any calculator which gives you access to the internet or any mobile device. Furthermore, you are not allowed to have any calculator which possess the ability to translate between languages.
Moreover, any calculator which allows you to store any kind of data such as mathematical formulae or text is strictly prohibited. Lastly, any calculator which provides the students with the ability to do symbolic algebraic manipulation including differentiation or integration is not allowed in the A-level exams.
Casio FX-83GT – The Most Affordable Option for GCSE Students
This calculator is the best for beginners and ideal for students in GCSE and middle school. It has all the basic functions and operations. This calculator is extremely easy to use due to its neat layout and compact design.
This calculator is available for £10 and under at most electronic and stationary stores. It can also be ordered online at Amazon. Speaking of affordability the Casio FX-83GT also has a solar panel which helps conserve energy and reduce the need for battery replacements.
The lack of features in this calculator makes it beginner-friendly at the GCSE level. This calculator also has the ability to solve most of the questions required at A-level maths. However, there are some advanced questions in A-level maths which cannot be solved with this calculator due to the limited compatibility.
For A-level Further Maths this calculator will not be sufficient and you must look for a more advanced option. The 260 functions of this calculator will not cut it for A-levels.
You should definitely buy a new calculator for your A-levels. Preferably, as soon as possible, so that you can get used to your new calculator and do not waste precious exam time fumbling about with a calculator you have never used before.
Casio FX-991EX – The Better Alternative for A-level
This FX-991EX is just sufficient for A-level Maths but is seriously underwhelming for A-level Further Maths. A graphical calculator is absolutely necessary for A-level Further Maths.
The best feature about this calculator is its equation solver. This feature quickly allows you to quickly check the answers to simultaneous and quadratic equations. Say goodbye to a significant portion of those pesky silly mistakes you make.
Furthermore, you can also get the numeric (not symbolic) answers to the differentiation and integration questions. Trust me, it saves so much time when rechecking your work. It’s so worth it!
The 552 functions of this calculator allow students to work with spreadsheets, matrix calculations, statistics and more. It also has built-in Statistics Tables; which allow you to quickly compute the value instead of searching through the minuscule statistics table and wasting unnecessary time on it.
The QR generator is another amazing feature. It instantly generates the QR code of any maths equation allowing you to see the graph of it on the Casio app. However, this feature cannot be used during the exam, as you will not have access to a phone. This further emphasizes the need for a graphical calculator.
Moreover, this calculator has a natural display which means the equations are presented in the same manner as the textbook. It also includes a powerful solar panel which basically eradicates the need for battery replacements.
In conclusion, this calculator is the most affordable option providing you with the bare minimum features that will get you through your A-level Maths syllabus. For Further Maths, however, you should really consider looking at the graphical calculators I have listed below and settle for nothing less.
Casio FX-CG50 – The Perfect Calculator for A-level
If you can spare a £100 for this calculator; definitely go for it. Let me convince you of this price tag. This calculator is significantly more advanced than both the FX-83GT as well as the FX-991EX. The FX-CG50 will cater to every demand of both the A level Maths and Further Maths syllabus.
This calculator is allowed in all U.K. based A level exams as long as they allow the use of calculators.
It has the ability to create coloured 3D graphs and hence you can solve equations in x,y, and z planes. With the capacity to display over 65,000 colours including over 50 pictures of objects such as a parabola, jets from a water fountain or an image sequence of a clock’s pendulum movement; this calculator truly exceeds expectations.
Furthermore, it retains the natural textbook display and the ability to instantly create QR codes just like the FX-991EX.
Boasting over 3000 functions the FX-CG50 allows users to benefit from its advanced features, which include equation solvers, spreadsheet tools, graph solvers, data charts, matrix and vector calculations, and geometry applications.
This calculator will also help you with simpler equations and further your interest and understanding of maths. The ability to see a polynomial or quadratic equation or a vector graphed makes your understanding so much more through.
This calculator has a large memory and allows you to save data and connect to the computer through a USB. You can transfer the data and see the graphs on the computer as well.
It not only allows you to display graphs but to show the intersection and relation between multiple equations. The calculator also possesses the ability to show the graphs from multiple angles and directions.
The FX-CG50 model is a huge improvement from the previous FX-CG20 and is definitely worth the £100 price tag. You will strongly benefit from this calculator in your A-levels and beyond.
TI-Nspire CX II-T and CX II-T – The Most Advanced Options
Let’s move on from Casio and into the territory of the Texas Instruments. These calculators are built for performance and quality, hence you can expect a relatively higher price tag for them when compared to the Casio variants.
These calculators are highly advanced and they have all the features of the FX-CG50 plus many more. The most prominent feature is the ability to do python programming on this calculator.
The dedicated programming environment allows access to several programming librarires and user defined functions.
The Operating Software can be updated; so, you never have to be worried about not having the latest technology.
The calculator consists of alphabetic keys which give access to the user to many more functions and expressions.
Texas Instruments are known for their high-quality products. This calculator company offers several years of warranty. So, it is basically a one-time investment allowing you to forget ever needing another calculator.
More importantly the ability to connect to a computer allows the user to work on software, designed specifically for the Texas Instruments.
The £150 price tag is the only thing that really holds people from buying this incredible machine. Do rest assured that this incredible machine will give you value for your money.
This calculator is the most advanced and reliable machine that will remain a constant companion for your A-level Maths, A-level Further Maths, University and beyond.
TI-84 Series – The More Affordable TI Calculators
The TI-84 series is more affordable than the NSpire series. If you want a calculator that is affordable, retains the quality of Texas Instruments and do not want all the bells and whistles of the NSpire calculators then this is the perfect series for you.
I have previously mentioned the importance of graphical calculators for A-level Maths and Further Maths students but I cannot stop myself from reemphasizing their significance.
This calculator series has many variants and can cost you anywhere from £60 to £140, depending on whether you choose the simpler black and white models or the more advanced colour options.
The great thing about the Texas Instrument series, are the options and flexibility they provide.
The base model is sufficient for everything you will study at A-level Maths and Further Maths, however, the more advanced models will enhance your learning and will continue to provide you with the benefits after your A-levels.
Do explore the entire series and choose a calculator that meets your needs. There are so many models that it would be impractical to list and describe the features of each of them.
A good calculator can make your journey of A-levels significantly easier and less challenging.
A geographical calculator can enhance your learning process, as you will be able to visualize everything. It will make your mathematical concepts much clearer.
The two major options available are CASIO and Texas Instruments. Both of these companies design and produce high quality and reliable calculators. Hence you cannot go wrong with either of them.
Study your syllabus and analyze your needs carefully before buying a calculator for your A-levels. Try to buy an advanced and expensive model, if your pocket allows, as it will help you in A-level Maths, A-level Further Maths and University.