Do You Need a Calculator for the MCAT?

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) requires knowledge on a number of scientific disciplines, including general chemistry and physics. Pre-medical courses on these two subjects typically involve a fair amount of math. Students often have to do stoichiometric calculations or gas law computations in general chemistry. Physics has even more math, as homework assignments and exams can ask you to add up the forces acting on an object and calculate values such as displacement, velocity, and acceleration. Depending on your college, you may or may not need a calculator for these classes. The MCAT is similar in requiring examinees to do calculations but students are not allowed to use a calculator on the exam. This of course means that you do not need a calculator for the MCAT.

Math Without a Calculator

Without a calculator, you can still do calculations using either mental math or doing the work on scratch paper. During the MCAT, you are provided pencils and paper by the testing center. For those of you that are a bit rusty with doing math by hand, you will definitely want to do some practice questions. To become an effective MCAT test taker, you will need to master the art of approximation. The creators of the MCAT know that you do not get to use a calculator so they do not expect you to do any lengthy calculations. While the numbers they present to you in a question may seem messy, the problems can always be simplified by rounding a few numbers. The value you get will only be an estimate but the MCAT is a multiple-choice test and an approximate value is more than sufficient to get you the right answer.


The MCAT is for Future Physicians

Remember, the MCAT is a stepping stone towards becoming a doctor, not a mathematician. You do need to be able to do some calculations on the MCAT without a calculator but it’s nothing too complex. If you want to learn more, check out our post on how much math is on the MCAT.

Have other MCAT questions? Check out Magoosh’s MCAT FAQ!

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  • Ken

    Ken is a former blog writer for Magoosh who left to focus on developing novel and effective ways to help students achieve success on the MCAT exam.

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