Can You Use a Calculator on the GMAT? What You Need to Know by MBA House.

Can You Use a Calculator on the GMAT? What You Need to Know

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When preparing for the GMAT, prospective business students often wonder, “Can I use a calculator during the test?” This question, while simple, carries significant weight and impact on your preparation strategy. Understanding the rules and maximizing your performance under these guidelines can make a substantial difference in your scores. 

“A well-informed strategy is the key to achieving your highest potential on the GMAT.”

To address this concern, let’s explore the calculator policies, how they affect test sections, and ways to sharpen your skills to succeed without one. Equipped with this knowledge, you’ll be better prepared to tackle the GMAT confidently and effectively.

Understanding GMAT Calculator Rules

Calculators play a limited but strategic role in the GMAT exam. It is crucial for candidates to understand that no calculators are permitted during the Quantitative section. This rule emphasizes the importance of mental math, estimation, and logical reasoning to solve problems efficiently. 

However, candidates can breathe a sigh of relief as calculators are allowed during the Data Insights portion of the exam. The GMAT-provided calculator includes essential functions such as percentage and square root calculations, reciprocal operations, and various memory functionalities. Familiarizing oneself with these operations can significantly aid in managing complex data tasks. 

To maximize success, prospective test-takers should hone their skills in both environments. Practicing without a calculator reinforces robustness in quantitative reasoning, while proficient use of the provided calculator can enhance performance during Data Insights inquiries. 

Embracing these strategies ensures a balanced approach, empowering candidates to tackle the diverse challenges of the GMAT with confidence and precision.

Why Calculators Are Not Allowed on the GMAT

The decision to prohibit calculators on the GMAT Quantitative section stems from a commitment to evaluate candidates’ true mathematical abilities. This section focuses on core skills such as mental arithmetic, problem-solving, and estimation capabilities. The GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council) believes that these competencies are essential for success in business school and beyond. 

By disallowing calculators, the GMAT ensures that test-takers rely on their analytical skills and have a strong grasp of fundamental mathematical concepts. This approach better reflects real-world scenarios where quick, accurate decision-making without the aid of electronic devices is often required. 

While the Quantitative section eschews calculators, the Data Insights portion of the GMAT does allow them. This exception highlights the test’s comprehensive design, which assesses a range of skills from raw computational ability to the strategic use of provided tools. Such a structure ensures a balanced and rigorous measure of a candidate’s potential.

How To Tackle GMAT Quantitative Questions Without a Calculator

  • The GMAT does not permit the use of calculators on the Quantitative section.
  • Building strong mental arithmetic and estimation skills can greatly enhance performance.
  • Understanding core math principles and practicing problem-solving strategies are crucial for success.
  • Practicing with GMAT-specific problem explanations can improve accuracy and speed.
  • Focus on breaking down complex problems into simpler, manageable steps.

Mental math is an essential skill for the GMAT Focus test, allowing you to quickly solve problems without relying on a calculator. Here are some examples of mental math strategies and problems:

1. Multiplication and Division by Powers of 10

  • Example: 350 × 0.1 = 35
  • Example: 2500 ÷ 100 = 25

2. Approximation and Rounding

  • Example: Estimate 29.7 × 4.2 by rounding to 30 × 4 = 120
  • Example: Estimate 103 ÷ 4 by rounding to 100 ÷ 4 = 25

3. Simple Multiplication and Division

  • Example: 8 × 7 = 56
  • Example: 72 ÷ 8 = 9

4. Squaring Numbers

  • Example: 152 = 225
  • Example: 252 = 625

Note: Memorize from 12 to 152

5. Percentage Calculations

  • Example: Find 10% of 450 is 10% × 450 = 0.1 x 450 = 45
  • Example: Find 20% of 250 is 20% × 250 = 0.2 x 250 = 50

6. Addition and Subtraction of Fractions

  • Example: 1/4 + 3/4 = 1
  • Example: 5/6 − 1/2 = 5/6 − 3/6 = 2/6 = 1/3

7. Simplifying Fractions

  • Example: Simplify 24/36 x 24/36 (divide numerador and denominador by 12) = 2/3 x 2/3 = 4/9
  • Example: Simplify 45/60 x 45/60 (divide numerador and denominador by 15) = 3/4 x 3/4 = 9/16

8. Proportions and Ratios

  • Example: If 3 apples cost $1.50, how much do 5 apples cost? 1.50/3 = 0.50 per apple, so 0.50 × 5 = 2.50
  • Example: The ratio of boys to girls in a class is 3:2. If there are 15 boys, how many girls are there? 15/3 × 2 = 10 girls

9. Simple Interest Calculation

  • Example: Calculate the interest on $1000 at 5% per annum for 2 years. 1000 × 0.05 × 2 = 100

10. Combining Like Terms

  • Example: 7x + 3x = 10x
  • Example: 5a − 2a = 3a

By practicing these types of problems regularly, you can improve your mental math skills and perform more efficiently on the GMAT Focus test.

How to Stay Calm and Confident During the GMAT Math Section

Staying calm and confident during the GMAT Math section is crucial for success. Begin by taking deep breaths and maintaining a positive mindset. Remember, projecting confidence can significantly improve your performance. 

Practice mindfulness techniques such as meditation or visualization before test day. This can help reduce anxiety and sharpen your focus. Training your mind to stay calm under pressure will empower you during challenging questions. 

Time management is essential. Allocate your time wisely by quickly assessing questions and deciding whether to solve them immediately or return to them later. This strategy helps prevent getting stuck and ensures you answer as many questions as possible within the allotted time. 

Lastly, familiarize yourself with common GMAT question types and practice extensively. The more you expose yourself to potential questions, the more comfortable you’ll become, ultimately boosting your confidence and performance on test day.

Practicing Estimation Techniques for GMAT Success

Estimation skills can drastically improve your performance on the GMAT Quantitative section. By developing the ability to make quick, accurate estimates, you save valuable time and reduce the risk of errors caused by complex calculations. MBA House emphasizes mental math and estimation techniques, equipping you with the skills needed to excel. 

An essential strategy is to practice simplifying problems before solving them. This may involve rounding numbers or canceling out factors to make mental calculations more manageable. For instance, if faced with a question like 498 / 12, a quick estimation could round the numerator to 500 and then divide by 10, yielding a simplified approximate answer. 

Additionally, becoming comfortable with benchmarks, such as knowing approximate values for common fractions, percentages, and square roots, will further enhance your estimation abilities. Regular practice with sample problems can also help solidify these techniques. Consider leveraging resources from renowned prep courses like, which offer dedicated sessions on mastering mental math strategies. 

Remember, the goal of estimation is not to find the exact answer but to recognize the range within which the correct answer likely falls. With consistent practice, you’ll become adept at identifying the best answer choice quickly and confidently, ensuring you remain on track for GMAT success.

Adapting Your Study Routine to GMAT Guidelines

Prep ActivityDescriptionRecommended Duration
Mental Math PracticeEngage in exercises to improve speed and accuracy in calculations without a calculator.10 minutes/day
Estimation TechniquesLearn and practice approximation methods to quickly handle complex problems.5 minutes/day
GMAT Quantitative Practice TestsTake full-length practice tests under timed conditions to simulate real exam scenarios.1-2 tests/month
Concept Review SessionsRegularly revisit key math concepts and problem-solving strategies.1 hour/session, 2 times/week
Video Tutorials (MBA House E- learning)Watch instructional videos to reinforce understanding and discover new techniques.1 hour/session, 2 times/week

Top Tips for Improving Your Arithmetic Skills

  • Mental arithmetic is crucial for GMAT success, as calculators are not permitted on the exam.
  • Regular practice helps in enhancing speed and accuracy in solving quantitative problems mentally.
  • Estimation skills are key to efficiently tackling complex GMAT questions within the time limit.
  • Many GMAT prep courses, including MBA House, offer lessons specifically focused on improving mental math abilities.
  • Learning to simplify expressions and cancel before multiplying can significantly reduce computation time.
  • Practicing with GMAT-style questions familiarizes students with the types of problems they will face on test day.
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MBA House

At MBA House, we deliver effective strategies that allow our students to achieve winning results and gain admission to the school of their dreams!

Picture of MBA House
MBA House

At MBA House, we deliver effective strategies that allow our students to achieve winning results and gain admission to the school of their dreams!

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