How to use On-Screen GRE Calculator?


The primary subject of this article is the GRE calculator. But before we get into such areas as whether a calculator is allowed, if it is offline or online, various functions in the calculator, and ETS calculator tips and shortcuts, among others, let’s have an overview of the GRE Test.


About GRE:

The Graduate Record Examination, or the GRE General Test, is essential to your journey to a good Graduate School or a Business School. It is a general test in the sense that a wide variety of programs in various Universities across the world accept GRE scores for admissions. And since the acceptability of the test score is far and wide, the GRE questions don’t test you on anything technical or subject-specific. The test assesses you across four parameters – Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Critical Thinking and Analytical Writing. A good GRE score is also one of the key parameters for granting scholarships and fellowships.


GRE Exam Structure and Different Sections:

The GRE exam is split into 4 sections – Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Experimental section.

AWA has two tasks assigned to it. The first one is Analysis of an Issue and the second is Analysis of an Argument. Test takers get 30 minutes per task. AWA is scored separately on a scale of 0-6 (with an increment of 0.5), which essentially means that AWA marks don’t contribute towards the GRE composite score on a scale of 260-340. And the AWA section is always the first section of the exam chronologically. After AWA, the rest of the sections are not in one particular order and any permutations are possible.

The Verbal Section is further divided into two sub-sections: Section 1 and Section 2. Each section has 20 questions and you get 30 minutes to respond to those questions. It must be noted that the categories of questions asked are the same across the two sections, but the difficulty of the said questions might vary across the sections. We will discuss why that is in a moment. Both sections together are graded on a scale of 130-170.

The Quantitative Section also consists of two sections: Section 1 and Section 2. Each section has 20 questions and you have 35 minutes to answer them. Like Verbal Section, Quantitative section is also scored on a scale of 130-170. And the types of questions asked are the same across the two sections but difficulty level of the questions may again vary.

The Experimental section consists of only one section which has 20 questions. It can be either Verbal or Quant, and you have 30 or 35 minutes respectively, to answer those questions. This section is not going to add up to your final score. You will not know which section is Experimental as all the sections besides AWA don’t stick to one particular order, and therefore you must attempt this section with great focus.


GRE - How to Use On-Screen GRE Calculator B1


Duration of the Test:

The test will last for about 4 hours which includes the requisite breaks.


Mode of the Test:

GRE is an online standardized computer adaptive test. Let us learn what adaptive testing means and how it is relevant for the GRE.

  1. An adaptive exam adapts itself to the proficiency level of the test taker. That means if you are doing really well in the exam then you will get more and more difficult questions and vice-versa.
  2. First and foremost, the exam is only adaptive in the case of Verbal and Quantitative Sections. The AWA section is not adaptive. And the GRE is adaptive across the two verbal and quantitative sections and not within the section

How does it work:

First section of either Verbal or Quantitative will have a mixed bag of questions in terms of difficulty. So, some questions will be easy, some difficult and the rest somewhere in between. How well you do in the first section determines the difficulty of the next Verbal or Quantitative section. If you do really well in the first section then your next section will be difficult and if you do poorly in the first section then the next section will be easy. Now, in life, generally speaking, if you do well then you are usually rewarded. So, what do you think – doing well and then going to a more difficult section. Is that a reward or a punishment?
Well, it is actually a reward and the table below will illustrate that point.

GRE - How to Use On-Screen GRE Calculator B2


GRE - How to Use On-Screen GRE Calculator B3


As you can see, if you do well in the first section and happen to go to the more difficult second section then there is no way you will get a score that is below 149, even if you get many questions wrong in the harder section. Likewise, if you muck up your first section and go to a rather easier second section then you won’t cross the threshold of 151 even if your responses to all the questions are spot on in the easier section.
So, yes, the harder section is a reward.

So, there are several questions that need to be considered: When to use the calculator, how to use the calculator, should you simplify equations before you go to the calculator, etc. To answer these questions wholly and substantially, we first need to take a deep dive into the Math/Quantitative section of the aforementioned exam.


Topics Covered in the Quantitative Section:

Arithmetic: Basic operations, percentages, ratios, and proportions.
Algebra: Equations, inequalities, exponents, functions, and sequences.
Geometry: Lines, angles, triangles, circles, and other basic geometric concepts.
Data Analysis: Descriptive statistics, probability, data interpretation, and graph reading.

The interesting thing to note here is not what you see but what you don’t see. The conspicuous absence of certain topics such as trigonometry, calculus, engineering mathematics, etc. should spark joy in the hearts of many, if not all, test takers, especially those who always hated math, were afraid of it, or maybe just didn’t find it appealing/ interesting.


Level of Difficulty:

The math questions on the GRE General examination are not meant to assess your proficiency in advanced mathematics, but rather your ability to use quantitative reasoning. The problems are designed to be answerable in a reasonable period of time utilizing fundamental mathematical ideas and analytical abilities.
The math exam’s questions can be categorized as easy to somewhat tough. The focus is on determining how well you can read and analyze numerical data, apply mathematical ideas to practical situations, and use logical thinking to solve issues.

The questions normally do not go into complex or highly specialized areas of mathematics, even though the math part does cover a number of topics, including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis. Instead, they put an emphasis on core ideas and how to apply them.
It’s important to keep in mind that within the section, the questions’ levels of difficulty can change. While some questions may be simple to answer, others may call for more in-depth thought or many stages. To boost your confidence and perform better on test day, it’s critical to become familiar with the types of questions that frequently appear on the GRE and practice answering them.


Type of Questions:

  1. Problem Solving (1 answer choice correct out of 5 answer choices): These questions ask you to apply your quantitative thinking abilities to a mathematical problem or scenario. The issues could be related to math, algebra, geometry, or data analysis. You’ll have to choose the right response from a variety of possibilities. Out of 5 answer choices one has to be selected.

๐ Oval shape against the answer choices in this question type guides a student that only 1 answer is correct.

2. Problem Solving (1 or more answer choices correct): These questions ask you to apply your quantitative thinking abilities to a mathematical problem or scenario. The issues could be related to math, algebra, geometry, or data analysis. You’ll have to choose the right response from a variety of possibilities. Out of 3-10 answer choices, one or more answers can be selected.

☐ Rectangular check boxes against the answer choices in this question type guides a student that 1 or more answers are possible.

3. Quantitative Comparison (1 answer choice correct out of 4 answer choices): You will be given two quantities in this question type, designated as Quantity A and Quantity B. The two quantities must be compared in order to establish their relationship (greater, lesser, or equal). The possibilities for the answer choices cover a wide range of potential relationships.

๐ Oval shape against the answer choices in this question type guides a student that only 1 answer is correct.

4.Numeric Entry: Instead of choosing from a list of options, you will be required to enter a numerical response to these questions. The precise response must be calculated and entered using the on-screen keypad.

☐☐or ☐ Blanks like these will guide the student about this question type.


Ok. Now let’s get back to the subject of ETS calculators. Are physical calculators allowed? NO.

Is a calculator available?
Yes. ETS provides you with a basic onscreen calculator. You can find the layout of the calculator below.


GRE - How to Use On-Screen GRE Calculator B4

How do you use a GRE calculator?


GRE - On-Screen Calculator


But the calculator has to be used selectively. Not all questions require a calculator for you to solve them. As there would be a time crunch in the exam, you need to use the calculator in only those questions where it saves you time. Now, you may ask, wouldn’t a calculator always save time? That is a very good question. But the short answer is, No!
Let us understand this with the help of an example.

  1. x + 5 = 13, find the value of x?

400010 or 225 or 502 or (2)(120)

2. When tackling chart and table-based questions, it is crucial to determine whether to calculate or approximate as part of the solving strategy. Comparing fractional values with complex denominators such as 53, 37, and so on can be efficiently done using a calculator, as these types of problems are already time-consuming due to the data provided in the question, which requires comprehension.

Consider the following example: Let’s assume you need to identify the answer choice with the greatest percentage increase, and you have obtained the following values for each answer option:


GRE - How to Use On-Screen GRE Calculator B5


When analyzing the options, it becomes evident that options A and C can be eliminated due to their large denominators in comparison to options B and E. Additionally, option D was excluded based on manual calculations, as it yielded a negative value. Now, the decision lies between options B and D, where the denominators are relatively close.

Employing more mental math strategies might become tiresome, but a skilled test taker recognizes that this is the opportune moment to switch to an on-screen calculator. By utilizing a calculator, one can quickly divide and compare the two options.

In the first case, do you really need a calculator? No, right. But in the second scenario, a calculator would make the calculations easier and would also save time.

Remember to review and familiarize yourself with the specific guidelines provided by ETS regarding calculator usage in the GRE to ensure you are well-prepared on test day.

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Are calculators allowed in the GRE?

Yes, a basic on-screen calculator is allowed on the Quantitative sections of the GRE test. The calculator can perform some basic functions such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. More complicated functions such as square root, log, and trigonometric can’t be done on this calculator.

Can I bring a calculator to the GRE test?

No, you are not allowed to carry a physical tangible calculator in the GRE. However, you do have access to a basic four-function on-screen calculator in the Quantitative sections of the exam.

In the numeric entry question requiring two blanks to be filled, can I use the transfer display option to answer in the fractional format?

No, you can’t. All questions which are to be answered in fractional form have to be typed in manually.

Can I solve a whole equation with multiple operations on the GRE calculator?

No, you cannot. Because only two numbers can be operated on at a time, the next operation you perform will be performed on the result of the previous operation.

If I use the GRE calculator on all the questions, how much time would I save?

The on-screen calculator should only be used sparingly or selectively. In some circumstances, doing the calculations manually saves time, while in others, the time spent is roughly the same. Questions like Data Analysis are where you’ll notice a significant difference in terms of time spent/saved.

Do we get scratch paper for calculations in GRE or do we have to solely rely on the on-screen calculator?

Yes, scratch paper is offered to all GRE test takers. You can use it for calculating, taking notes, or any other task that will help you solve problems more successfully. You must, however, return the scratch paper at the end of the test.

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