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Can I Use a Calculator on the GRE?

This is a very popular question, and the answer often elicits an audible sigh of relief. So, yes, you can use a calculator. But the ability to calculate every problem is far from a boon.

First off, many problems do not require a calculator. In fact, using a calculator may very well slow you down, because you can either do the arithmetic faster in your head or on a piece of paper. Then, there is always the case of what to calculate. While a calculator won’t make a careless error (unless you enter in the wrong number), neither will it summon the approach to a very difficult problem. Basically, the GRE math is still testing your ability to logically deconstruct a problem. In many cases, the challenge is not the math, but the approach to a problem.

When is it Advantageous to Use a Calculator?

There are times when the sum is simply too difficult to multiply on paper, and the question is not asking for an approximation. Problems such as compound interest come to mind. Perhaps you have to find the hypotenuse of a right triangle with sides of 51 and 31. Figuring out the square root of a large number could be very difficult without a calculator.

Of course, if the problem asks what is the units digit of 3^1000, then you then have to come up with a clever way to approach the problem—a calculator does not hold that many digits.

For shortcuts and tips on how to use the new GRE calculator to your best advantage, read our post on Calculator Strategies for the Revised GRE

Getting a Feel for the Calculator

The best way to determine whether you will benefit from a calculator is to take a practice test using Magoosh GRE or the new GRE CD (for those with Macs please read here). By doing so, you should get a feel for the number and types of questions in which the calculator will help you save time, and those in which using it will only eat up time.

This frequently asked question and all others are answered in our new GRE Guide!

By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.

17 Responses to Can I Use a Calculator on the GRE?

  1. Akshay Bhalekar July 9, 2016 at 10:09 am #

    I have just passed out n preparing for gre but I have a question can I get admission I have many back n higher second class in ma academic n if I score nice in gre than is there any chance of getting admission in nice university….????

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 17, 2016 at 8:45 am #

      Hi Akshay,

      Happy day! ๐Ÿ™‚

      We are test prep experts but not admissions experts. You really need to sit down with an admissions counselor or other academic advisor to talk about your options. There are so many universities, programs, and combinations of applicant profiles that we cannot give you satisfying advice in that regard. I know that might be disappointing, but definitely find someone you can meet in person! There is always a way in if you want to work hard and find the right program. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Caroelisa June 21, 2016 at 8:01 am #

    What type of calculator can be used? Is it a basic one or a scientific one?

  3. Jenna June 7, 2016 at 11:53 am #

    Are points deducted for using the calculator?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 11, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

      Hi Jenna!

      Great question ๐Ÿ™‚ There is no penalty for using the calculator–there is no score deduction, it doesn’t affect your question difficulty, and you are free to access it as much as you like ๐Ÿ™‚

      Hope that helps!

  4. Anonymous December 14, 2015 at 8:36 am #

    Hello, I am just a passerby and would like to publicly (yet anonymously) express my relief.

  5. Mariia November 15, 2015 at 12:29 am #

    Hi, I will have a computer-based GRE revised General Test. On test day, can I use a real pice of paper and a pen during Math section? Iโ€™ve always wondered this. As for me it’s the easiest way to understand the question through a scetch making.
    Thank you!

    • Dani Lichliter
      Dani Lichliter November 16, 2015 at 10:56 am #

      Hi Mariia,
      You will be able to use scratch paper during the computer-based GRE. You will turn this in at the end of your exam.
      Best of luck!

  6. Nick May 13, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

    On test day, will the NUM keypad on the keyboard interface directly with the calculator? I’ve always wondered this. Or will I have to manually click numbers on the calculator with my mouse?


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 14, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

      That is another good question! In this case, I can’t give you a definite answer since I’ve always manually clicked things in. One thing you can do: take a test using the GRE Power Prep software. Whatever works there, from a technical standpoint, should correspond to what works on the actual test.

      Hope that helps (somewhat)!

  7. MT May 13, 2015 at 4:51 pm #

    Silly question, but I just want to make sure. Do we take the test on our own computers, or do the test centers provide the computers?

    • Rita Kreig
      Rita Kreig May 14, 2015 at 2:42 pm #

      Hi MT!

      Not a silly question at all. ๐Ÿ™‚ The test center will provide you with a computer. It’s part of their system to prevent students from cheating.

      Best of luck!

  8. chaitanya January 5, 2014 at 8:09 pm #

    can we use the windows calculator which is present in the computer itself.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele January 6, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

      I guess so :). It won’t be the exact same as the GRE calculator. And yes, I’m assuming that you mean while you are at home practicing for the test (you can’t use a Windows calculator on the actual GRE). Just make sure the functions are almost the same. For the most part, you won’t be doing any complex calculations on the GRE, so it shouldn’t make a difference.

      Good luck!

  9. Deborah May 26, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    Can I use my own calculator or do I need to use the one that appears at the top of the question screen?

    • Rachel Wisuri
      Rachel May 28, 2013 at 11:25 am #

      Hi Deborah,

      You will not be allowed to use your own calculator on the exam, so I’d recommend practicing with the on-screen calculator ๐Ÿ™‚


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