HP33s has more programing power than one might think


...if you consider the equation solver. I came up with an equation that calculates the area of circular segment after asking the middle ordinate and radius of a circle. This is a common problem on geometry exams and NCEES type tests where you need to find the volume of liquid in a cylindrical tank on its side. Its an ugly equation but the 33s handles it. Of course things like this are unnecessary with the 35s and its GTO line ability. Just a thought though. It seems that if you structure an equation right with your parenthesis in the 33s it can solve just about everything and in effect is capable of some pretty daunting equations which typically would be programs. Furthermore it is able to solve for any variable. As of right now the 33s is still the only RPN programmable calc allowed on NCEES tests, hopefully the 35s will be added.


NCEES updates its calculator policy annually, on November 15. The updated list applies to the coming calender year. So the "approved calculator list" for 2008 should be posted on November 15, 2007.

The current "approved" list was posted on November 15, 2006 for 2007; it includes the 33S, but not the 35S (since nobody knew about the 35S in 2006). So it appears that the 33S will remain the only approved HP for the October 2007 exams. There are still people buying the 33S, even though the 35S is obviously the better option, for this reason.

It seems likely that the 33S will be discontinued in the near future, and that NCEES will add the 35S to the approved list for 2008. The question is whether NCEES will keep the discontinued 33S on the 2008 approved list. It wouldn't surprise me if they did drop the 33S; NCEES wants to keep the approved list as short as possible, to facilitate enforcement.

The licensing process typically requires multiple exams over a period of a few years. If the 33S is dropped from the list, there will be a loud chorus of protest from exam candidates who invested $50 for a 33S in 2006 or 2007, but who now will have to pay another $60 to replace it with a 35S for 2008.

So the NCEES announcement on November 15 could significantly affect 35S sales:

- If NCEES adds the 35S and drops the 33S, then 35S sales will probably jump immediately. In this case, literally thousands of existing, 33S-owning exam candidates will be forced to buy the 35S as a replacement. And many new exam candidates will want the 35S as well. There could be a 35S shortage.

- If NCEES adds the 35S but keeps the 33S, then 35S sales will still go up, but not as dramatically. New candidates will buy the 35S for the 2008 exams, but those who already own the 33S won't be obliged to replace it.

Edited: 22 Aug 2007, 12:59 p.m.


With a dedicated (read: captive) crowd of NCEES students potentially swapping for the HP-35s, I wonder if it would be worthwhile to cater somewhat to them. For example, provide some sort of "RPN/HP-35s primer for NCEES students" guide, similar to the educational modules. I think that would be a good way to welcome them and encourage them to use the calc AND RPN.

Maybe provide a handful of solver examples like the one above, a couple of representative solutions taken from the study materials, etc.

That would be kinda cool, if I were in that group...



Note that there are already several vendors that market 33S exam products:

- PPI sells three different "Essential Equations" guidebooks for using the 33S on the FE exam, the Civil PE exam, and the Mechanical PE exam

- Newcalc sells three different guidebooks for using the 33S on the FE exam, the Civil PE exam, and the Electrical PE exam

- HP33Ssurveyor offers a guide for using the 33S on the FS and PS (surveying) exams

- Sofware by D'zign also offers a guide for the use of the 33S on surveying exams

Obviously these products promote the 33S and the use of 33S programming. I haven't used any of them myself, and don't know if they encourage the use of RPN.

Certainly seems like more commercial calculator software is being generated for NCEES exams than for any other purpose.

Edited: 22 Aug 2007, 5:03 p.m.


I purchased the 'Essential Equations for the 33s' and have used the equations in it while taking FE practice exams.

Since the book uses the [EQN] function of the 33s to store equations; it doesn't really promote either entry system.

The advantage of the 33s for these tests is really just the ability to fill up the memory with equations for rapid solving...once you know what you are solving for. Just enter the variable you are looking for, punch in the knowns and POOF: *an* answer.

I have found that I spend slightly less time looking for any particular equation in the NCEES supplied handbook as I do scrolling through the equation library I built. However, the equations in the handbook are clearly labeled. Those in the calculator are not; many equations start to look the same as time-stress works on my brain (and limited labels/variables doesn't help). Knowing what equations to manipulate and what the answer *should* look like is far more important. And this is takes time leaning over practice tests.

Most of these guides assist test takers but don't provide as an amazing edge as some claim.

Edited: 22 Aug 2007, 6:26 p.m.



I'm long past the PE exam (1982), but I have a suggestion for entering equations that will help you determine which one is which. Above every equation I make a fake equation that is the name of the equation on the next line. My equation list looks something like this:

2*2 lin solve
3*3 lin solve
…and so on

Of course, I can't properly show pi or divide here, but I think you get the idea.



Good Morning Fred,

Your suggestion is both excellent and beautifully simple; that *whap* sound was my hand striking my forehead.

Thanks again and I will certainly pass your suggestion on to the masses in the prep course I am taking.

Best Regards,

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