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Are You Allowed to Use a Calculator on the MCAT?

William Cohen
Published by William Cohen
Last Updated On: June 5, 2021

If you want to go to medical school, then you know you have to take the MCAT to be accepted into a program. The MCAT is one of the hardest entrance exams on the planet.

It can be even harder for some students when they realize they are not allowed to use a calculator on the exam. After hours of research, we wrote this guide to give you some tips and tricks to conquer MCAT math without a calculator.

What Type of Math Will Be on the MCAT?

A person answering math equations on a paper

The MCAT is mostly made up of concepts that require students to use critical reasoning to solve physics, chemistry, and other scientific questions. Before you start panicking, you do not need to use a calculator to solve these types of questions. Like many other testing methods, students will have to complete questions without any aids. [1]

Most of the math you will find on the MCAT will be like the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section. You will need to solve problems using basic algebra, trigonometry, and arithmetic, which you should have learned in school.

There are no calculus questions on the MCAT. You will be required to use math to solve physics and chemistry problems.

We recommend brushing up on some specific math problems to ensure you understand the calculations required on the MCAT. These math topics should be similar to the freshman and sophomore classes you took at school.

Math Concept  Topics for MCAT Prep
Arithmetic and Algebra Scientific notation, fractions, equations, inequalities, ratios, percents, and graphs
Trigonometry Pythagorean Theorem, sine, cosine, tangent, and inverse functions
Vectors Scalars, vectors, and vector projections
Logarithms Laws of logarithms
Statistics Mean, median, mode, standard deviation, distributions, percentile, variables, correlation, random samples, sample size, and validity
Research Methods Graphical analysis, interpretation, and drawing conclusion about data

MCAT Math Without a Calculator: 4 Tips and Tricks

1. Practice Questions Without a Calculator 

A notebook and pencil with a sketchpad full of math solutions

While this may sound scary, keep in mind that the MCAT is not a math-based exam. It primarily focuses on science topics like physics and chemistry.

Students will certainly have to use some basic math to do well on the science questions, but you won’t be expected to do high-level math. Since you know you will not be allowed to use a calculator on the MCAT, we recommend never even taking it out during your MCAT prep.

During your test, you will not have access to calculators, so you might as well store yours away while you prepare for the MCAT math. This will help you get out of the habit and gain the ability to do math problems quickly.

You need to practice every problem without a calculator. You should be able to do basic math by hand or in your head. You should get used to doing math problems in your head. You can practice this method every day by using your daily life to do the math.

For example, while you are at the grocery store, you can try adding up the contents of your cart in your head to see if you got the calculations correct. If you pay in cash, you can subtract the difference quickly and see how close you are when you receive your change.

You should learn how to use numbers in your daily life to get prepared before the test. The knowledge you gain can help make your MCAT prep and review questions easier.

2. Pace Yourself

An adult male in a white robe holding a small clock

You should remember to pace yourself while you take the MCAT exam. The MCAT requires students to test well and answer questions in a short amount of time.

During your MCAT prep, we recommend that you get a timer to time yourself on every section to evaluate how long it takes you to answer each question. You may find this helps you understand where you need to pick up the pace.

On the Chemical and Physical Foundations section, you will only have about 1.4 minutes per question. This is not a lot of time, especially when you are under pressure.

If you find yourself writing out complicated numbers and calculations by hand, then you may not be using your time efficiently.

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school."

 

Albert Einstein

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3. Make Estimations

A man calculating on a piece of paper without a calculator on GMAT exam

This is one of the best MCAT prep tips you can get from our guide. You should understand how to make estimations using the numbers in a review question.

Once you make estimations, you can reasonably choose the correct answer choice based on your calculations. Let’s take a look at an example.

If you have a review question that requires you to multiply 74.7 by 31.2, the best way to estimate during the test is to round these numbers up or down to do quick calculations. You can easily do the calculations of 75 by 30 in your head.

You can easily decide the closest correct answer based on your quick calculations. Students should be practicing this method on almost every exam they take both before and during medical school.

4. Practice Being Only Reasonably Accurate

A female student carrying books and a bag with her thumbs up

This tip is directly related to the previous example. You do not need to worry about getting an exact answer on the MCAT exam.

Most of the answers on the MCAT will be vastly different, so students can estimate their answers and save themselves a lot of energy. The AAMC cares that people understand how to get the right answer using conceptual reasoning and statistics more than they care about your basic math skills.

Can You Use a Calculator on the MCAT? Our Final Thoughts

Many medical school applicants and current students get nervous when they find out a calculator is not provided during the MCAT test. If you follow our guide, you should be able to succeed on the MCAT test and be accepted into the program of your dreams.

After careful review and reading the AAMC guide, we compiled our list of quick tips above to help students succeed on the MCAT and in medical school.

Reference:

  1. https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/taking-mcat-exam/

About the author

William Cohen

William Cohen

William is an electrical engineer whose great passion is helping promising students achieve their goals and dreams. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with aspiring learners from all over the world.

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