5 Best Scientific Calculators for Students (2020)

About the Author: Hi, I’m Chris Drew. I’m a university professor. You can learn more about me here. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

My Pick:

Casio FX-991EX ClassWiz

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The scientific calculator I recommend to my college students is the Casio FX-991EX ClassWiz. It’s fast, affordable and really intuitive. I love the large screen and very visual menu which is perfect for visual learners.

A scientific calculator is necessary when you move beyond basic math courses. If you’re doing high school or college level math courses, it’s almost a necessity!

Fortunately, the scientific calculator I’m recommending in this review (the Casio FX-991EX) is both high-quality and really affordable.

here’s my shortlist of the 7 best scientific calculators:

  • Casio FX-115ES PLUS
  • Texas Instruments TI-36X Pro
  • Sharp EL-W516TBSL 16-Digit Advanced
  • Texas Instruments TI-30XS MultiView
  • HP 35s Scientific Calculator
  • Helect 2-Line Engineering Scientific Calculator
  • Casio FX-991EX

Best Scientific Calculators for Students

1. Casio FX-991EX ClassWiz

Quick Review: Beautiful screen, very visual, and a great range of functions for a very low cost.


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My Rating: 9.5/10

I quickly feel in love with this calculator. For me as a very visual learner this was perfect. It has a significantly improved screen resolution than its predecessor (4 timed better than the ES model) which enabled Casio to develop a much more visual menu feel. It can also do 4×4 matrices, which is a step up from the old 3×3 in the older model.

I love how it can do graphical representations of differentials, integrals, etc. – again, this really helps me as a visual learner.

I also think the spreadsheet function is second to none in the scientific calculator range.

Why this Calculator:

  • Fast: Really quick processing speed.
  • Very Visual: As a visual learner, I love that this calculator has clear visual menus, spreadsheet function and graphical representations of differentials, integrals, etc.
  • QR Code for Graphs: It’s a clever idea to be able to scan a QR code on your smart phone to generate graphs using this calculator (it means you can use it as a graphing calculator at a stretch). But, I feel there are a few flaws in this: first, if you’ve got your smart phone on you, why not just use a website to generate the graph in the first place? Second, if you are going to be generating graphs regularly in class, you really should get yourself a graphing calculator!
  • Affordable: I really do think you’re getting value for money here. The idea that you’d get a basic calculator for $10 when you can get this fantastic scientific calculator for not all that much more is ridiculous.

Keep in Mind:

  • No Engineering Symbol Shortcut: One thing that really bothers me about this Casio is that you have to go into the menu every time you want to generate an engineering symbol.
  • Wipes Memory on ‘Off’: It annoys me that if I turn it off, all memory of recent calculations is wiped.

2. Texas Instruments TI-36X Pro

Quick Review: Affordable and easy to use. One of my favorite scientific calculators and a good alternative to the Casio FX-991EX.


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My Rating: 8/10

A hugely popular calculator that is one of the go-to items in college courses. You’ll never be too far from a fellow student or professor who knows how to navigate it, which is fantastic for minimizing the learning curve. It’s also usually approved for most exams, meaning this calculator should see you through most of high school and your college degree. This one becomes a trusty, familiar tool in no time.

Best used for Geometry, Physics, Statistics, Calculus, Algebra and Engineering.

Why This Calculator:

  • Affordable: It comes in at a really good price point that won’t break your budget (click image to see current price on Amazon).
  • Safe Bet: Professors often limit calculators allowed in their exams to a very select few. This is usually one of the most common models you’ll see on an ‘exam certified’ calculator list.
  • SAT, ACT, AP, FE/PE Exam Approved*: It’s allowed in many standardized tests (at the time of writing). I’d recommend checking your exam’s current advice in case this changes.
  • Awesome Display: I love that the four-line display shows calculations the way you’d look at them on paper, making it much more intuitive to read and understand.

Keep in Mind:

  • Slow: I’ve found that it’s substantially slower than the Casio fx-991EX.

3. Sharp EL-W516TBSL 16-Digit Advanced

Quick Review: A very advanced scientific calculator, but at a higher price point.


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My Rating: 8.5/10

The sheer range of functions on this calculator makes it an amazingly versatile piece of equipment. It would be great for a student who knows they will be doing a lot of calculations but hasn’t declared their major yet – because you can use it in so many different courses.

Why this Calculator:

  • Intuitive Playback: I like the playback option where you can go back and edit mistakes you made in your calculation without having to start all over again.
  • Large 4 Line Display: The display on this calculator is certainly the best in the Sharp EL range of calculators.
  • Tons of Functions: You can cover just about every function you can think about on this calculator, so it’s good for many (nearly all) non-graphing calculations you want to do.

Keep in Mind:

  • Price: My guess is that most of my readers would go for a cheaper calculator that will likely still get the job done.

4. Texas Instruments TI-30XS MultiView

Quick Review: This is the scientific calculator you’ll need if you’re doing the GED exams, but not the best for college.


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My Rating: 6.5/10

This is the official calculator of the GED exams and I’d recommend any student who is studying for the GEDs get this immediately.

For everyone else, this is a good basic calculator for general high school math. However, if you’re doing physics, calculus, engineering or computer science I’d recommend stepping up to the TI-36X Pro reviewed above. I’d also feel this calculator just doesn’t have enough features to get you all the way through college, so I recommend this one more for high school students.

Best used for Statistics, Algebra, General Math, Geometry and Biology.

Why This Calculator:

  • GED Certified: This is the only GED certified calculator that you can use in the GED exam. So, you’re basically trapped into buying this one. Fortunately it’s a simple, easy to use and reliable calculator. You’ll be allowed to use it in the e Social Studies, Science and Section 2 of the Mathematical Reasoning tests.
  • Affordable: It’s really cheap for a scientific calculator. But remember – it’ll get you through the basics, but not much more. You’ll outgrow it in college.

Keep in Mind:

  • You’ll Outgrow it: In college Physics and Engineering courses you’ll find you need a calculator with more calculation options such as the TI-36X Pro.

5. HP 35s Scientific Calculator

Quick Review: A sturdy calculator with logical and spaced-out button options.


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My Rating: 7/10

There are some real hardcore rusted-on HP fans out there. One of the reasons for this is the sturdy feel and logical design of HP calculators. (Note: Personally I’m a Texas Instruments person, but I can appreciate HP design).

This calculator is also approved for many SAT, ACT, AP and PSAT exams (see comments under ‘why this calculator’ below).

The other great thing about HP calculators is that they’ve hung on to the option of using RPN input, which can be really powerful if you know how to use it. It’s optional on this calculator, so if you never need to use it – no worries, you can use the traditional algebraic method, too.

Best used for Engineering, AP Chemistry, and AP Physics.

Why This Calculator:

  • Logical Layout: I feel the buttons are logically placed here, making it easy to get to the calculations you need once you’ve had a little practice.
  • Old School HP Feel: Old HP calculators have a really nice sturdy feel about them, and this one replicates that pretty well (not perfectly, but well enough).
  • SAT, PSAT, AP & ACT Test Certified*: It’s permitted on multiple SAT tests including the Reasoning Test and Mathematics Levels 1 and 2. It’s also good for the ACT mathematics test, PSAT/NMSQT, and AP Chemistry & Physics. Make sure you check before you buy because this information is only correct at time of publication.
  • RPN Option: For the hardcore among us, you’ll know HP is well-known for keeping the Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) alive through many of its calculators. RPN is a really popular alternative to the algebraic entry system logic, and I love that you can choose between RPN and algebraic in this one. If your Prof wants you to use RPN, this is a good choice of calculator.

6. Helect 2-Line Engineering Scientific Calculator

Quick Review: A very affordable basic calculator for middle & high school general math.


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My Rating: 5/10

It’s a perfectly good basic calculator for a middle or high school student. It’ll do the basic calculations you need to get you through your general math courses in high school. But when it comes to specializing in financial, geometric, or calculus subjects, this one just won’t make the cut unfortunately.

The really good drawing card of this one, though, is the great price point. I’d buy it for my Grade 7 son as it’d do the trick for the time being and won’t cost me anything.

Best used for high school general math.

Why this Calculator:

  • Incredibly Cheap: It’s just about the cheapest calculator you can buy. Great for younger students who are not going to treat it too well, anyway.
  • Nice Button Spacing: Because there aren’t many buttons, they’re really nicely spaced apart and it feels like you have plenty of space for typing.

Keep in Mind:

  • Very Basic: This is the calculator you’ll get if you want to save a lot of money … but you’re going to get a really basic calculator here. If you’re majoring in sciences or mathematics, this isn’t for you.
  • Don’t Expect it to Last: Many online reviews have complained that it broke before long. Keep this in mind when making your purchase.

7. Casio fx-115ES PLUS

Quick Review: A decent cheap calculator, but not as good value as the Casio fx-991EX.


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My Rating: 5.5/10

This is a decent basic calculator but I just can’t justify its use when the Casio fx-991EX is so much better at a comparable price.

Why this Calculator:

  • Great DMS Button: The degree symbol & minute (DMS) symbol is really easily accessible from one button. Coming from the TI-36x pro which requires you to dig deep into the menu for this function, I found the easily accessible DMS button really refreshing.
  • Great Battery Life: Good luck even trying to get this one to run out of battery!

Keep in Mind:

  • Slow: I’ve found that it’s substantially slower than the Casio fx-991EX.
  • Display: The display is also a big step down than the Casio fx-991EX.
  • Price Point: It’s at a very much comparable price point to the Casio fx-991EX, too. Can you get the hint? It’s just not as good as its big brother!

Brief Buyers Guide

As always, you should do your due diligence before making a selection. Information may have changed since I wrote this article, and of course it’s best to triangulate information to make sure you’re getting the best product for your situation.

Here are some things to keep in mind when buying a scientific calculator:

1. Ensure your Calculator is Exam Approved

When choosing a scientific calculator, you need to keep in mind whether it’s approved for the exams you will be taking (if you’re in college, ask your professor). Many exams have very strict requirements about which calculators are permitted and which are not.

2. Price Point – Don’t get the Cheap One!

Another thing to think about is the price point. Honestly, I wouldn’t pick one of the cheap $10 ones. For just a little bit more (still under $50) you can get a great calculator with great specs. The small price rise comes with a huge quality improvement. You’ll be able to do a lot more functions and calculations, and it’ll last you through a lot more classes in high school and right through into college.

3. There will be a Learning Curve

If you make the decision to jump from one brand to another, there will be a new learning curve – so many people like ot choose one brand and stick with it. Although, I’m usually a Texas Instruments user … but the Casio FX-991EX is so intuitive I had to choose it as my preferred one here.

Final Thoughts

My pick for the best scientific calculator for students is the Casio FX-991EX ClassWiz. It’s got a great range of functions, is perfect for a visual learner, and is lightning fast. I’m also impressed at the low price point – so I am a big fan. I don’t mind the TI-36X Pro either, but I do think that Casio takes the clear lead in the best scientific calculator category.

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