One of the most common questions that come up on any math test, the Praxis Core math exam included, is whether or not you can use a calculator. Rest assured: Yes, you will be provided with an on-screen, four-function calculator on the Praxis Core. You’ll be able to access it on all of the math questions; you can hide it when you’re not using it, show it when you want it, and even copy and paste answers from the calculator screen to the answer box for Numeric Entry questions. So you can use a calculator, but should you?
Should I use the calculator?
In most cases, the answer is a resounding “No.”
The Praxis Core generally assesses your algebraic and geometric reasoning, not your ability to correctly perform complex calculations. You’re not going to be asked to multiply or divide really big numbers. In fact, the vast majority of questions will include calculations you can do quickly in your head. Using the calculator when you don’t need it increases the chances that you’ll make a mistake and can significantly slow you down. As with most things test prep, it’s important to be strategic when using the calculator on the Praxis exam.
When should I use a calculator?
There will be times on the Praxis Core where you won’t want to spend the time writing out a problem on paper or where you’ll want to confirm your math with a calculator. Compound interest or non-standard Pythagorean theorem questions are some possible examples. But these cases should be pretty limited on the Praxis Core.
The far more likely scenario is that the Praxis asks you a question where a calculator isn’t needed, but you don’t feel sure enough of your math skills to answer the question without it. This is common, especially for people who haven’t studied math in a while. But with proper study and preparation, you should be able to reduce these instances by bolstering your mental math skills.
Whenever you bring in an extra tool like a calculator, you increase the chances of making a mistake — mis-clicking or mis-reading are inevitable. In general, it’s better and faster to do the math mentally (or on paper) than it is to do it with a calculator. As with nearly everything, you can develop mathematical speed, accuracy, and confidence with practice!
Getting a feel for the calculator
The best way to figure out how best to use the calculator on the Praxis Core math test is to actually practice with it. Magoosh Praxis offers an identical calculator to the one given on the Praxis Core exam. You can also purchase a practice Praxis Core Math test from ETS, which features the four-function calculator that you’ll see on the exam. As you practice, try to get a feel for the types of questions in which the calculator saves you time and the types of questions in which it just eats up time. Forewarning: in most cases, the calculator takes longer than the mental math!