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Surveying formulas

I am a rodman and i have three years of land surveying exp. but i am now doing industrial surveying work and next year i want to go retake my cst level 2 test. What i am wondering is there a easier formula basis to go off of then what is in the back of the field books so i can pass the test this time. I have already started studying a lil bit and know a lil bit but i want to know more from people who are better at surveying then me. The calculator i am using to practice and take my test is a ti 83, is that a good one also. Thank you for any help you can provide to me so that i can work my way up in the surveying industry.

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  • Hi Brian, I am confused by the date of your post.But i agree with Jim Crume, there is nothing wrong with your calculator so do not throw it away or sell it yet. But i started out  with Ti , But went to work for company who gave me a HP 67 to use and told me learn how to use it.I did not have to program it because it read a card. I like the HP some much i went a purchase a HP 33 E, this was in1978 it did not have constant  memory so when you turn it off, your memory was gone. SO i learn how to write my own programs, these were the go old days.HP know only makes one RPN logic  science calculator today  the HP 35s, it can be use in your test, there are only two HP calculators that can be used the  35s and 33s  they no longer make the 33 you can find them on e bay but you will pay more than what the 35s cost the reason the 35s does not have a polar to rectangular conversion  .But you can get buy this ,there is a complex math system on the calculator and there are programs that let you get by this.There are a lot of free programs out there and equations.and nothing does equations like a HP. There are free emulators down loads and one is the HP 35s you can down load it and have it on your computer to try it out FREE.and if you like you can buy one. But  i promise this will change your surveying, It's time to learn how to wright RPN  notation. I hate to see the day that it gone. the RP Lisp.  computer language is the next step you will take ,but right now this is your next step. HP 50g and there Prime are graphic calculator, I use  the HP 48gx for many years it had card slots to insert programs and ram cards and i still own some. the HP 50 use SD cards and there are survey programs for it. The HP prime is a new market  for survey programs. Right now you need to try out the HP 35s. You will need it to take all your test so start now. Let me know if you like to do this.

    Billy Brooks

  • Brian,

    I have taken many tests over the years and what I have found that helped me is mastering the calculator. Being really proficient with the calculator is one of the best things you can do. You don't have to learn all of it's functions or every button. Only those that you will use on a daily basis. Converting from DMS to DDD and DDD to DMS is a must. How to effectively use the X<>Y button and understanding the stack. I have used a standard calculator, the one that has the equals button and I have used the RPN calculator. The RPN calculator is my favorite and I use it every day. Once you master it, you can do complex calculations quite easily.

    Another thing I have done is to create my own list of formulas and rearranged them to quickly solve a problem. For example:

    The Law of Cosines: Cos A = (b² + c² - a²) / 2 * b * c 

    I rearranged it to read: A = ArcCos((b² + c² - a²) / 2 * b * c)

    I have done this for many surveying formulas. All I have to do is walk through the formula with the calculator. This process works best with a RPN calculator. Using the Texas Instrument calculator takes a few more steps than an HP however you can master it by thinking through each step so that you press the buttons in the proper sequence. One wrong button push and you have to start all over. 

    Recently I have taken all of the formulas and methods I use and compiled them into ebooks and made them available to everyone. When you get a chance take a look at the ebooks and sample pages at

    There is no substitute for practice, practice, practice. You need to build the muscle memory with your calculator to be able to sit through an exam and get through it in the allotted time. 

    Best of luck. 


    Books & Ebooks
  • Land Surveyor

    Brian, I remember feeling the same way when it was cram time for tests.  I can imagine that many others have felt the same.  What I have found is that it matters less which calculator you use than how well you can use it.  The three formulas you should memorize an know inside out and backwards are the Pythagorean Theorem, the Law of Sines, and the Law of Cosines.  Also a more than basic understanding of ratios will help you understand some of the harder stuff.

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