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FE Calculator Opinions

Which calculator to use on exam?   185 members have voted

  1. 1. Which calculator to use on FE exam?


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So there are three major brands of calculators we can use. I have always used the TI-84 for all my engineering classes.

Which calculator would we most useful on the exam, or which on can do the most functions?

TI Calculators:

  • TI-30Xa
  • TI-30Xa SOLAR
  • TI-30Xa SE
  • TI-30XS Multiview
  • TI-30X IIB
  • TI-30X IIS
  • TI-36X II
  • TI-36X SOLAR

HP calculators:

33s or 35s

Casio calculators

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I predict this will degrade into an RPN versus algebraic shouting match in about 2 hours. In the mean time:

I grew up with TI graphing calculators (TI-85 mainly). Can't use those on the exam, so I tried out a few calculators, (not HP since I can't stand RPN), and settled on Casio. The biggest reason I prefer Casio is I like the way they handle complex numbers better than TI. In fact I like my Casio better than the TI-85 that I've been using for 15 years. I even bought a second one so I can have one at home and work (since they're under $20). The only thing the Casio doesn't do that I would like is matrix algebra, which comes in handy for the occasional times I want to solve full symmetrical components problems. However, I'd never have to do that on an exam, so this is not a drawback from that perspective.

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When I took the FE you could use whatever calculator you wanted so I'm not sure I could make an accurate assessment of which calculator is best for that exam. For the PE I tried several calculators, but like mudpuppy I had used mostly TI graphing calculators to that point so I skipped the HP's because I am not a RPN user.

I settled on the Casio mostly because at the time it was the only calculator available with a multi-line display. I liked being able to see what I had already input so as to verify that I hadn't fat fingered any numbers or computations as I was doing my calculations.

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I started using a TI-30XIIS a year before the exam exclusively. Doing so pretty much forced me to write out all the work on problems and boil them down on paper instead of calculator gymnastics. This may or may not have been effective but I passed on the first try.

My only opinion is to start using the calculator you will use for the exam well beforehand so you are familiar with it during the exam. Some classmates broke their NCEES sanctioned calculator out of the blister pack the night before the FE which probably cost them some points.

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I vote for the fx-115. I used mine for studing so I was familiar with it before the exam. I like that the keys are soft to touch. The TIs keys are a little stiff for me.

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TI-36X Pro- especially if you're used to TI graphing calculators.

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I started using a TI-30XIIS a year before the exam exclusively.

I used a TI 86 and TI 89 through college and into my first few years of working because it would save lines of data and equations to which you could go back and retrieve. When I really started studying for the exam I put the 89 away and used the TI30IIs exclusively. I had about 1 year of work experience using the TI30 and I knew it up and down. so it was easy to use for the exam.

Honestly, you don't need a fancy calculator to pass the FE -

With that being said, when I take the PE I will have 3 each of the TI 30IIS and 3 each of the TI36 (for it's statistics functions that the TI30 doesnt have). A little excessive, yeah…but I don't want to be left with my balls in my hand the morning of the exam. And I learned that Ebay is the best place to get used calculators… +/-$4 each...

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I know of someone who spent a lot of time learning how to use an RPN and didn't pass because you don't really know what/how you are supposed to calculate something. Use what you're comfortable with - I'm pretty sure if you know the material like you should, you can pass using any of the calculators (except the RPN, I can't use those for beans).

I used a fx115ms for the EIT. It handled fractions, deg/min/sec, etc really intuitively and I used the solver a lot.

I bought a fx115-es as a backup for my PE, I ended up using that at work, study and on the test. I like that you don't have to go through as many menus to get to the functions you need.

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Do the approved TI calculators handle complex numbers?

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I used the TI-30X IIS on both the FE and PE and didn't have any problems with getting through the exam. It doesn't have any complex number manipulations that I know of, but then again, I didn't need to rely on that function while preparing or taking the exam.

It's my opinion that any of the calculators are fine to use as long as you pick one up far ahead of time and use it while you study for the exam. If you use your graphing calculator, or some other non approved calculator, while you prepare and all the way up to exam day, then you are probably going to have some problems when you bust out that new little $5 toy. As with anything, it takes time to get the hang of the unique quarks, so just get a calculator early and forget about studying it, just use it and learn about it as you prepare.

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I used the TI-30X IIS on both the FE and PE and didn't have any problems with getting through the exam. It doesn't have any complex number manipulations that I know of, but then again, I didn't need to rely on that function while preparing or taking the exam.

It's my opinion that any of the calculators are fine to use as long as you pick one up far ahead of time and use it while you study for the exam. If you use your graphing calculator, or some other non approved calculator, while you prepare and all the way up to exam day, then you are probably going to have some problems when you bust out that new little $5 toy. As with anything, it takes time to get the hang of the unique quarks, so just get a calculator early and forget about studying it, just use it and learn about it as you prepare.

Well said J.D.

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Raised on TI's here also. 83 in high school. A few classes required the 30XIIS in college (bah chemistry) and the 89 was invaluable in my final year. I found the 30XIIS to be fine on the Mech. FE exam (didn't need complex numbers), but some of these calculators are so cheap I may pick up an HP and Casio to fiddle with. I would take an 89 any day though.

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I used the TI-30X IIS on both the FE and PE and didn't have any problems with getting through the exam. It doesn't have any complex number manipulations that I know of, but then again, I didn't need to rely on that function while preparing or taking the exam.

That's what I thought I remembered, so I would warn EEs to stay away from the TIs.

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Casio user here. Grew up using them.

I actually started my review reading the manual and doing all the operations.

Saved me lot of time during the morning session.

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Casio fx-115es worked for me. It has so much to offer if you read the manual and some other stuff online. For only about $20, it has the same functions as the expensive graphing calculators. Amazes me at how inexpensive it is for what it does. Of course, become familiar with it in advance of the exam and you'll be doing math problems in under 30 seconds that would usually take 2-4 minutes by hand.

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I agree, the Casio is the way to go. Reading the manual and understanding each of the functions is key for the FE and PE. It is a very powerful tool.

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Casio fx-115es worked for me. It has so much to offer if you read the manual and some other stuff online. For only about $20, it has the same functions as the expensive graphing calculators. Amazes me at how inexpensive it is for what it does. Of course, become familiar with it in advance of the exam and you'll be doing math problems in under 30 seconds that would usually take 2-4 minutes by hand.

The exam is a battle and your calculator is your sword! :-)

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I used the TI-36X (as I was accustomed to using the TI-89 in college) and I found it to be a smooth transition. Plus it has a poly-solver and the ability to analyze matrices, which made the calc section a breeze. But as has been noted, its important to get comfortable with which ever calculator you choose.

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I passed the FE in 2006 using the HP33s and reverse polar notation. I used the Casio FX115ES to pass the PE exam this last October. Of the two, the Casio is the definitely the best.

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I started using a TI-30XIIS a year before the exam exclusively.

This is very true

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Casio. Great little calculator with a LOT of power. Does complex numbers very well, can solve systems of equations, do operations on matrices and more. And I can't stand RPN, so that made that a little easier.

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I passed the FE in 2006 using the HP33s and reverse polish notation.

Fixed it.

FWIW, to non-RPN fans, both HPs have algebraic entry capability and are also programmable, albeit somewhat rudimentally. Casio probably gives you most bang for your buck but depends on what you're most comfortable with.

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Passed Oct 2011 FE with HP33s. Actually prefer RPN after years and years and years with TI. Found out I couldn't use graphing calcs on exam so I started using HP a couple of years ago to get used to it now I don't like anything but. Will continue with HP and RPN on PE as long as it is still allowed.

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I use TI30X. Like to keep it simple, plus its solar, and its a smooth transition from the TI83 I have used since middle school.

I suggest when you find the one you like, get a second of the exact same model. One at work, one at home, and use them for everything from work related calcs to studying to balancing the checkbook. You will know the calculator, have one ready for studying where ever you are, and your backup is identical for each exam.

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Which Casio is more preferred? And why?

FX-115ES

or

FX-115MSPlus

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