Calculators on the GMAT/GRE: When You Can Use Them

Discover the ins and outs of using calculators on the GMAT/GRE with our comprehensive guide.

Posted January 24, 2024

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If you are an aspiring graduate school student, you're probably going to take either the GMAT or GRE to gain admission to your desired program. These tests can be nerve-wracking and challenging, especially under timed conditions. Fortunately, you're allowed to use a calculator in some portions of the test to make your calculations easier and faster. However, you must use approved calculators and adhere to specific guidelines and restrictions for their use.

In this article, we'll discuss everything you need to know about calculators on the GMAT/GRE tests, including test formats, the role of calculators, and how to use them effectively to maximize your test score.

GMAT and GRE Test Formats

Before we dive deeper into the role of calculators in the GMAT and GRE tests, let's first get an understanding of their structures.

GMAT

The GMAT consists of four sections:

  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Analytical Writing

There is a new version of the GMAT called the GMAT Focus Edition. Most schools are not accepting this version until the 2024-2025 application cycle. The new test is shorter, at 2 hours and 15 minutes, and is composed of the following three sections:

  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Data Insights

GRE

The GRE is a little different. It's composed of the following sections:

  • 2 Verbal Reasoning
  • 2 Quantitative Reasoning
  • Argumentative & Issue Writing
  • Experimental/Research Section (Quantitative or Verbal)

A new version of the GRE was also released this year and is open for registration from September 22, 2023, and on. The new GRE will remove the "Analyze an Argument" task in the Writing section, a number of questions in both the Quantitive and Verbal Reasoning sections, and the unscored research section.

For more info on the GMAT/GRE, head to A Nuts and Bolts Guide to the GRE and GMAT.

Allowed Use of Calculators on the GMAT/GRE

GMAT: Calculators are allowed during the Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT only. They are not allowed during the Quantitative Reasoning section. The calculator will be provided; you should not bring your own.

GMAT Focus Edition: Calculators are allowed for the new Data Insights section only. It will be provided on the screen, you should not bring your own.

GRE: An on-screen calculator is provided for the duration of the Quantitative Reasoning sections. Most questions will not require difficult computation, but it may occasionally be helpful.

Tips for Efficient Calculator Usage During GMAT/GRE Tests

Using a calculator can be a time-saver, but it can also be a distraction. Proper utilization of the calculator can help you achieve your desired scores effectively.

Here are some tips to help you use the calculator efficiently:

  • Use the calculator for more time-consuming or difficult calculations, including square roots, long division, etc.
  • When using the calculator, double-check your work to avoid careless mistakes.
  • If in doubt, work out the problem manually to ensure the accuracy of the calculation. Use estimations to get close to the right answer in your head, then check your work.
  • Use the memory buttons to store crucial information and retrieve it when needed.

Conversely, avoid the following common mistakes in your calculator usage:

  • Incorrect input of values or functions into the calculator
  • Forgetting to clear the calculator memory before starting a new problem.
  • Over-reliance on the calculator without double-checking your work.

How to Get Familiar With Your Calculator Before the Test

Here is roughly what the GMAT and GRE on-screen calculators look like. At the beginning of your exam, take a moment to review the calculator's functions. The time spent familiarizing yourself with its components will prevent easy, mistyped mistakes later on.

Top: GMAT Calculator; Bottom: ETS/GRE Calculator

How to Determine Whether You Need a Calculator for a Particular Question

While the use of a calculator on GMAT/GRE tests helps simplify complex mathematical calculations, it's not necessary to use it in every question. As such, it's essential to take some time to determine whether a problem requires a calculator or not. Some questions only require basic calculations that can be done manually.

If you can solve the problem just as fast manually, either in your head or using pen and paper, then don't use the calculator. While the calculator seems easier, it can actually be more time-consuming than doing it manually.

Knowing the amount of time you have per question can also help you determine whether to use it or not.

  • The GMAT Integrated Reasoning section is 30 minutes long and includes 12 questions, so you have approximately 2.5 minutes for each question. The new Data Insights section of the GMAT Focus Edition is 45 minutes long and includes 20 questions, so you have slightly less time, around 2.25 minutes per question.
  • Each GRE Quantitative Reasoning section is 35 minutes and includes 20 questions, so you have 1.75 minutes per question. The new, shorter GRE Quantitivate reasoning sections have 27 total questions and take 47 minutes, allowing about the same time per question (1.74 minutes).

Coach Recommendations

The best and easiest way to reach your target GMAT/GRE score is by working with an expert tutor. They'll be able to provide one-on-one help that is customized to your areas of strength and weakness. Here are some of our most popular GMAT and GRE coaches. Browse the rest of our GMAT coaches here and GRE coaches here.

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