The GRE offers a simple on-screen calculator for use during the quantitative section. When is it a good idea to use the calculator, and how does it work? What options do you have to practice the GRE calculator online before test day? Keep reading to find out!

## Can you use a calculator on the GRE?

Like we mentioned, **you are allowed to use the on-screen calculator for the GRE quant section only.** The calculator looks something like this:

Try this practice problem with Magoosh’s online calculator to get a feel for how the official exam one works.

### When is it advantageous to use the on-screen calculator?

First off, many problems do not require a calculator. In fact, using a calculator may very well slow you down. Because the GRE uses an on-screen calculator, it’s more awkward to use than a physical calculator, and it doesn’t have very many functions. While a calculator won’t make a careless error (unless you enter in the wrong number), neither will it summon the answer to a difficult problem.

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 , then you then have to come up with a clever way to approach the problem—a calculator does not hold that many digits.

The key is knowing what you can handle and what you can’t handle mathematically. In many cases, the challenge is not the math, but the approach to a problem.

So you’ve got an idea of when to use the calculator—how do you practice and get comfortable using it? There are a few options available, including the online calculator Magoosh has developed for our product (one of our many GRE resources).

## How We Designed the Magoosh GRE Calculator Online

Back in 2010 when ETS first introduced the GRE calculator online, our team spent several days researching and testing the official ETS calculator prior to building our own. In our GRE prep tool, we wanted to provide students with an accurate simulation of the calculator on the real exam.

During our testing and research, we uncovered one major feature (some may say limitation…) of the ETS calculator—a student cannot exceed the number 99,999,999 (Source: ETS website).

Rest assured, we built this “feature” into the Magoosh GRE calculator. We also discovered and built several other features, including:

- A student can’t nest parentheses such as
`3 * (5 - (1 + 2))`

using the calculator. - When a student adds multiple numbers into memory (M), the calculator sums them.

The nesting of parenthesis is something you should be very aware of as you approach GRE problems. Putting a parenthesis within another parenthesis can be very useful in answering GRE Quantitative questions. But if you use this kind of math operation in GRE Quant, you’ll need to do so without using the test calculator.

The M function is something you should check very carefully on unofficial versions of the calculator. Not every third-party GRE practice platform has memory functions that work like the one on the real exam. This brings me to the next section of this post…

## Comparing Magoosh’s GRE Calculator to Other Test Prep Companies’

On some third-party GRE prep calculators, the memory buttons work differently than they would on the exam itself. Kaplan has had issues with the M functions in the past, although the current Kaplan online calculator is in line with the one on the real GRE. Manhattan GRE, although it used to have a memory function that worked differently than the real GRE calculator, has since updated its calculator to match the GRE (hurray!).

To see if a test prep company’s online calculator works like the real one from ETS, press the following series of buttons:

`9, M+, 6, x, 3, +, MR, =`

On the ETS calculator and the calculators from Magoosh and Kaplan, the result of this sequence is 27. However, if you key in these buttons on the Manhattan calculator, you’ll get 297. In spite of this issue, Manhattan GRE really does offer some of the best unofficial GRE Quant materials out there. Magoosh still recommends the Manhattan books for GRE math prep.

Both the Kaplan and Manhattan calculators do beat the Magoosh one in aesthetic similarity to ETS’s (see the screenshots below). We like to add personality to our product, possibly to a fault?

I know that everyone makes mistakes. In fact, at Magoosh, we’ve made several of our own. As our customers know, we also respond very quickly to remedy the situation, and I hope Kaplan, GRE, and the other companies out there in our field do the same.

## Calculator Practice Problems

For the questions below, see if you can identify which ones require the GRE calculator and which ones do not.

1. 13 x 9

2. (21+ 24+27)/3

3. 40% of 20% of 25?

4. (10 x 9 x 8)/(3 x 2 x 1)

5. (1.05)^8

## Click to show the answer

1. In your head

2. In your head

3. In your head

4. It depends

5. Calculator

## Final Advice: Use the Calculator Sparingly!

If you’re not a math person, you might find yourself breathing a sigh of relief when you hear that the GRE has an on-screen calculator. But not so fast! The GRE really is designed to punish you if you rely too much on the calculator.

You see, most GRE math problems appear– at a glance– to be sophisticated, multi-step problems. But in nearly every problem, there are shortcuts you can take to solve the problem more quickly. GRE problems tend to require far fewer steps than you might initially expect.

If you do unnecessary steps, you’ll waste precious time on the exam. And you’ll open yourself up to more mistakes; the more steps you take before you get to the final answer, the more errors you can make. And even if you do those unnecessary steps *with* a calculator, you’ll probably still spend more time than you would if you just took some shortcuts. Not to mention that it can be even easier to make a mistake with a calculator than without one. Even if your thinking is correct, it’s easier to mistype a number than to mis-write one.

On hard problems like the example I gave above, calculator use may be appropriate. But you should avoid the GRE calculator whenever possible, instead using faster shortcuts, mental math, and estimation. Magoosh offers a wealth of advice and tutorials to help you make good calculations and use your calculator strategically. You can find help with this and other aspects of the GRE here on the blog and in our GRE Premium video lessons.

Hi,

The answer obtained by Normal calculator is correct nor , The answer by GRE calculator

Hi Thiru, I’m afraid I don’t quite understand what you are saying here. Can you please provide us with some more detail about what information you are looking for?

Where can we access the ETS calculator?

Hi Aashika,

Happy to help! 🙂

The only way to actually use the real calculator is to use something like the PowerPrep software from ETS which will have the calculator built in. If you want to use the Magoosh calculator, accessing a practice question like this one will let you use the calculator if you click the “Calculator” button. I hope that helps! 🙂

I found this app, looks great!

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tonypottera.gre_calculator

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/gre-calculator-2020/id1494427060?ls=1

How do you divide w. Negative numbers?

How do you do large number like 6^49 with the on screen computer?

Thanks for this very useful article!

Just a short comment on the calculator: When I used it for the test question (the link you provided), I tried a few things to get a feel for it. When I clicked “=” twice, I got numbers with up to 15 digits. Thought you might want to know since the nr of digits seems to be an important characteristic of the GRE calculator.

All the best

Sophie

Hello, I took a mock test in the PowerPrep software and I got 2 questions wrong because of the calculator. I tried to divide 600 over 11 and the calculator didn’t compute the answer and when I did it again it gave me a wrong number so I had to estimate it on my own. Is there something wrong with the calculator? It doesn’t seem to help at all … it doesn’t show the decimal point either … right?

Hello,

I’ve tried to find this information somewhere, but no luck. And I asked two friends who recently took the GRE but they did not seem to know the answer. When taking the exam, can you enter numbers into the calculator using the keyboard or do you have to use the mouse to point and click each number?

Thanks!

Hi Casey,

Oh gosh, I don’t even know the answer to that. I used the mouse, and didn’t touch the keyboard…but, I just looked in the official guide and it says that you can use both the keyboard or the mouse.

Hope that helps!

Hey Chris,

is this feather(using keyboard in calculator) available in ur Product?

Hi Tamim,

Yes! We strive to make our product as similar to the GRE as possible, and you can use the keyboard to type numbers and commands into the calculator just like on the actual GRE 🙂

I just read somewhere that the GRE calculator follows the PEDMAS rule. So the answer on a normal calculator to 2+5*7 would be 70 while on the GRE calculator it would be 37. Is this true?

You are correct! 2+5*7 will be 37 on the GRE calculator as it does follow PEDMAS. On a typical calculator 2+5*7 it may be 7*7=49. Hope that helps!

so is it better to avoid the GRE calculator for simple arithmetics or 37 is considered correct while evaluating?

Good question, Bhavya! Yes, we typically recommend that students use the on-screen calculator as little as possible for simple arithmetic. The on-screen calculator can be awkward, especially if you’re not used to it, and it’s typically much faster to carry out simple calculations either in your head or using the provided scratch paper 🙂

what is the use of m+,mr,mc on the calculator

Good question! M+ lets you store numbers in memory for later retrieval. MR lets you recall the number stored in memory. MC lets your clear memory. In general, I wouldn’t worry too much about these functions. You can actually get through the entire GRE without using the calculator at all. And if you do, it’s very unlikely that you’ll need to use the memory functions. I hope that helps!

Where can I buy a handheld version of the GRE calculator? I’m taking the paper test and find that if I use a different calculator other than the one I normally use I get totally tripped up and come up with wrong answers until I become familiar with the new calculator. I really need to practice with one in order to do well. Google has not been able to help, where can I find one?

Hi there – Unfortunately, I don’t know specifically where you can get one. However, I found the following in the Official GRE PDF, “The handheld calculator is a basic four-function calculator with a square root function and with buttons for memory.” So a calculator similar to this one should work (but it may not be the exact same one…) http://www.amazon.com/Sharp-Electronics-EL243SB-8-Digit-Calculator/dp/B00005T407/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334687100&sr=8-1

However, I’d actually recommend practicing without a calculator. At most only 1 or 2 questions should require the use of the calculator. Many questions can be done faster by estimating or identifying the “trick”.

I wish I could be of more help, but good luck!

Hello,

I have exactly the same problem as Marc and David. The PowerPrep II calculator simply doesn’t work. I have the biggest problem with the decimal point, but I think the calculator is also otherwise very “funky”. Just now I tried to calculate a very simple calculation of 46/3, but it proved to be completely impossible. So, it’s not just about trying to type decimal point, or even that the result would have decimal point in the wrong place, or completely missing. It seems that at least if the result is something else than a whole number, integer, it already doesn’t work. This is very annoying. I was trying to take the test exam to know which parts of the exam are my biggest problems, but it seems that most of my time and energy goes to sorting out if I’m too stupid to use a calculator or if the reason is something else. And those are only some problems. When you calculate something, and then press “=”, and expect results, usually PowerPrep calculator displays nothing. When you press it several times, it can give a result. Very probably the result is wrong. I think about the most complicated calculation I have gotten correct result with PowerPrep calculator is something like 3+3… Geez.

Anyway, it was nice to notice that I’m not the only one with this problem and that the calculator should work in the real exam situation. Still, as I’m third here to report exactly the same problem, I would bet that the minimum amount of PowerPrep users with this same problem is several hundreds or thousands. Based on this experience I can’t recommend PowerPrep application to anyone. At least it was free. Otherwise I would already demand a full refund.

Sorry that I’m mocking PowerPrep here, as this is probably a bit wrong place for that. But just like Marc, I also came here through Google, so this is best site I found.

Hi Janne,

Thanks for the detailed comment! It’s unfortunate that the Powerprep calculator doesn’t work for everyone. Regardless, I still highly recommend Powerprep as a source of practice because it’s the only mock test that has questions from the actual GRE test-makers. On a separate note, have you had a chance to try the Magoosh product (http://gre.magoosh.com)? Our calculator should work with any modern browser, so you can get a test-like experience. Let me know if I can help in anyway, and thanks for reading our blog!

Thanks very much for the informative post and response!

I haven’t taken the GRE yet – do you know if I’ll be able to type numbers directly into the calculator? I’ve taken some practice tests online that require you to click on the numbers, which is actually quite a waste of time.

Hi, Samantha

Both the ETS and the Magoosh calculator will allow you to type in numbers and operators directly into the calculator. Hope that helps!

Best,

Margarette

Thank you very much for your reply and for taking so good care of the readers of your blog. It’s nice to see someone actually caring on the internet.

I ll try the suggestions and will keep you posted.

No problem, we’re here to help!

Hi guys, I am not sure if I am asking this question on the right site but yours was the first that came up when I googled GRE Powerprep calculator.

I think I have a major problem with my GRE Powerprep calculator. I think it’s acting really funky. When I type in 0.42/0.58, for example, it displays 7.241.379.

Now, this is the right number. But it’s obviously supposed to be 0.7241379. I ve already considered the possibility that I might be retarded and don’t understand how American calculators work (I am German). If I punch in 224 and then the square root symbol, it gives me 38.686.728. Help, please.

I would like to prepare with a calculator that behaves exactly the same way the the exam calculator does.

Any ideas?! How do I get to this magic calculator you made?

Regards from Germany.

Hi – There may be something wrong with the installation of your Powerprep calculator. I just tried those operations on the Powerprep installation on my computer and everything worked okay. You could try uninstalling and re-installing Powerprep. Or, if you installed it from the CD that comes with the Official Guide, you could try downloading the version online here: http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/powerprep2

Regarding our “magic” calculator 🙂 …it comes with our GRE Prep program. You can learn more at http://gre.magoosh.com.

Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks!

nice article. thanx

Thanks!

There is definitely something wrong with the calculator on my PowerPrep. It simply doesn’t show the decimal point. “3.5 * 4” give the outcome “140,” – no decimal point.

I’ve figured that the decimal point button does work but it never shows, not in input nor in the result.

Is this normal?

No, this is not normal. The decimal point should work – it works on the version of Powerprep2 that I have on my PC. There may be an issue with your installation or some compatibility issue.

Does the decimal point work for you on the Magoosh calculator? You can try the question at the bottom of the post to test it.

Yeah, the Magoosh calculator works fine. Not to mention it looks a lot better.

At least it’s good to hear that the calculator will work on the exam. I’m taking it on Monday.

Good luck on your exam! Let us know how it goes.

Hi Bhavin,

just so you know:

I had the same problem with the decimal point not working on the GRE Powerprep II calculator.

Through googling the problem I found the comments on this blog here, so I followed your recommendation and reinstalled it but I had the same problem again.

So what I found out is: This problem only shows up in the “Test Preview Section” of the Powerprep II software!

As soon as you start one of the two timed practice tests, the calculator and the decimal point work fine.

It is shocking to me that in over 3 years now this problem has not been fixed by the ETS…

Anyways, I hope this helps others!

That is very helpful, thank you Jay! 🙂

The same happened to me! I had a panick attack and simply couldn’t answer the questions. 🙁

That’s frustrating to hear. But at least it’s on Powerprep and not the actual test. Try out our product (http://gre.magoosh.com) to get a better sense of the calculator. Good luck!

Hi,

About the calculator, how does the comma work on the ETS calculator. When using PowerPrep I find that I cannot insert numbers with the comma button i.e. 32.5. That means I can’t add, multiply or divide those kind of numbers.

Is this a fault in the program or is it like this on the real test?

Hi David,

Do you mean comma or a decimal point (period)? The ETS calculator will not allow you to enter commas – it will automatically insert them as necessary. For example, if you are entering the numbers “1000” – the result will on the screen will be “1,000” to signify one thousand. The comma is inserted automatically with no significance other than to help us read the number. You can however enter a decimal point (period) to create a number such as 32.5. The decimal point is to the right of the 0 on the calculator. So you would enter “32.5” not “32,5”

This is exactly how it is on the actual test.

I hope that helps!

Bhavin

Hi,

Thanks for the reply. I was talking about the decimal point. Where I’m from it’s the opposite, a decimal point is a comma and vice versa. I always get those mixed up.

I have used the Powerprep software, but I’ve never been able to insert a fractional number. So when I press the decimal point button (to the right of 0), nothing happens. I was thinking maybe this is software error or if the GRE doesn’t intend you to be able to calculate fractional numbers on the calculator.

Nice & excellent informative post. Thanks a lot.

Thanks reza! Let us know if there are other topics you’d like for us to write about.

THanks Bhavin for bringing this up. I was just experiencing this. I noticed that it also doesn’t take negatives, if you try 27-36 for example it renders an error. Also the design is very archaic. Windows calculator looks like an Apple product compared to it.

No problem Mohamed. I’m glad you found the post helpful! I do think all three calculators do handle negative numbers though. I completely agree with you on the design, that’s why we made ours different.