Can you use a calculator on the GMAT?
You can’t use a calculator on the the GMAT math section. And, GMAT quant questions are designed so that you don’t need to use a calculator. Would a calculator make the GMAT math easier? A little. However, a lot of what’s difficult about the GMAT has little to do with speedy calculations. The GMAT challenges your reasoning skills.
But sometimes I’m getting stuck in a rats nest of numbers! I can relate to that. But, if you’re finding yourself outnumbered and surrounded by tough looking calculations it’s likely that:
- You're close but just need to keep simplifying. Something’s going to click into place.
- Somethings's rotten with the set-up. You took a wrong turn and put a knot in your GMAT shoelace. You might need to start over or guess and move on.
- The setup was OK but you made a calculation error that has thrown off the numbers.
Avoid GMAT calculation errors
You might say, “well, that calculation error might have been avoided with a calculator”. Not necessarily. A calculator isn’t going to save you from all of your careless math mistakes. You still have to enter in the right numbers into the calculator. Meaning you still need to get the setup right. Careful reading, set-up, and execution practiced over and over again on official GMAT questions will make it so you avoid these careless GMAT math mistakes. That practice will also make it so your GMAT calculations are as easy as possible. Good organization habits will make it easier for you to uncover shortcuts in the math.
You can use a calculator on the GMAT Integrated Reasoning section
Why can you use a calculator on the GMAT Integrated Reasoning section and not on the quant section? Who knows. In my opinion, it seems the IR section is designed to come off as “real world” as possible. Considering that in the real world you’d almost always use a calculator for calculating anything remotely difficult so it is on the IR. That said, the first time I took the IR I completely forgot the GMAT calculator option and did the section without it!
Will there ever be a calculator allowed on the GMAT quant section?
Don’t hold your breath. I don’t think GMAC would ever allow test takers to use a calculator on the GMAT quant section. A calculator on the GMAT quant would change the dynamic of the test. And, considering that with a calculator some GMAT questions would be a bit easier, you’d need a score converter for pre GMAT calculator post GMAT calculator score conversion. So, no, you can’t use a calculator on the GMAT quant and you probably never will. But if you’ve studied properly you won’t need one. And if you haven’t studied properly a calculator probably won’t help you.