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Mental Math & Manual Calculation (Part 1: Question Types)

In the following article, we’re going to delve into mental math and manual calculation best practices for the GMAT exam. You can either read this article or watch the corresponding video on YouTube. To make things easier to digest, we’ve broken the contents of the video up into 3 parts. In this segment, hosted by one of MyGuru's most experienced GMAT tutors,  we will specifically discuss the different question types that require calculations on the exam. In segments 2 and 3, we’ll outline recommended calculation strategies and the manual calculation drills on

Quantitative Section

First off, it’s important to be aware of the fact that no calculator is provided nor allowed for the quantitative section of the GMAT. The GMAC (the institution behind the test) doesn’t value manual calculation as a premium skill and simply expects you to be able to perform these functions almost as a prerequisite for taking the test. In other words, manual calculations are a foundational skill that is necessary for taking the test, but is not what is being tested per se. This is because the GMAT focuses more on your problem-solving ability and reasoning skills rather than your ability to perform precise calculations. With this in mind, it is essential to have a strong understanding of basic mathematical concepts such as arithmetic, algebra, and geometry—as these topics form the foundation of the questions asked in the quantitative section.

It helps to be aware of the fact that your calculations in the quantitative section should produce clean results or be able to be approximated. Not only can you use various techniques to avoid extensive long-hand manipulation, but there are also opportunities to save yourself significant time and energy by approximating.

While the absence of a calculator on the GMAT's quantitative section may seem intimidating, it is not a significant hindrance to your performance on the test. With proper preparation and practice, you can develop the necessary skills and confidence to perform well in the quantitative section. By focusing on the fundamentals, utilizing efficient problem-solving strategies, and practicing good time management, you can put yourself in a position to succeed on the GMAT and achieve your desired score.

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Integrated Reasoning Section

The GMAC understands that manual calculations can be time-consuming and lead to errors, particularly in the integrated reasoning section, where complex calculations are often required. For this reason, the GMAC provides an interface calculator specifically for use in the IR section. It is crucial that test-takers are aware of this calculator and make use of it in order to simplify their calculations and save time.

In addition to the interface calculator, it is also important to have a solid understanding of basic mathematical concepts and techniques. This will allow you to perform calculations accurately and efficiently, even when using the calculator. You should also be familiar with various problem-solving strategies, as this will help you to approach the questions in the IR section in a logical and systematic manner. By making use of this calculator and focusing on the fundamentals of mathematics and problem-solving, you can simplify your calculations and increase your chances of success on the GMAT.


We hope this overview of the question types that involve calculations has demystified the mathematical components of the GMAT exam! Remember to read parts 2 and 3 of this mental math and manual calculation article, where we will discuss recommended calculation strategies and the manual calculation drills on

To see all of our GMAT videos, please check out our YouTube playlist. For further information about MyGuru's proven GMAT tutoring approach, visit the GMAT prep page on our website. To learn more about the GMAT and grad school admissions in general, visit our GMAT blog. Happy studying.

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