Can you use a calculator in GAMSAT?
No you can't use a calculator in GAMSAT. Previously calculators were allowed in Gamsat up until 2010, however in 2011 ACER changed the rules and disallowed calculators from the 2011 Gamsat onwards.
Now I know that this may initially cause concern to potential students. If you're new to Gamsat and looking into sitting it for the first time this news may cause you some considerable but understandable consternation. Some people will enter a state of near panic at the mere thought of trying to do complex maths problems without the aid of a calculator by their side.
However in reality the lack of a calculator shouldn't actually be too problematic. Let's examine the issue in more detail and see if we can calm the troubled frown currently wrinkling your brow.
So whereas previously you may have been asked to solve an equation in the test on your calculator and then choose the correct answer from the four multiple choice options given, A, B C or D now you will more likely just be required to identify the correct equation from the four answer choices. This proves that you know how to solve the problem but doesn't require you to actually plug the numbers into a calculator.
So it is testing your reasoning skills and showing that you know how to arrive at the answer without needing you to plug the numbers into a calculator to actually come up with a specific number.
And testing reasoning and thinking skills is supposed to be the whole point of the Gamsat test after all.
Having said that there are certain operations that you should be able to perform manually without a calculator as our exhaustive analysis of sittings of the Gamsat since calculators were disallowed have repeatedly shown that questions requiring these skills may come up.
Please note that in some cases where performing the manual calculations is complex, you may not be required to arrive at the exact answer as if you had performed it on a calculator but rather just approximate sufficiently close to be able to choose the right answer from the four answer choices.
For example calculating a log with a calculator may give you the exact result of 3.82 while a manual calculation yields 3.85
But if the answer choices are A. 2.82 B. 3.82 C. 3.80 and D. 3.99 then the closest choice to your manually calculated answer is obviously the correct choice, in this case answer choice B.
So we recommend you can perform at least the following calculations without a calculator:
1. Adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying in scientific notation.
2. Squares and square roots.
3. Percentages, fractions and ratios.
4. Trigonometry and values for sin and cos.
5. Logarithms and negative logs in pH and pKa
We recommend that you practice these skills a lot. Remember that one of the biggest challenges in Gamsat, particularly in section three, is the time pressure. So you'll have to be able to knock out these calculations without a second thought.
Sometimes there is more than one way of performing these calculations so find the technique which works the best for you and use it over and over again. Remember that you only get one minute and thirty seconds per question in section three so you'll have to be able to do all of these in considerably less time than that.
Remember also that sometimes little tricks can point you in the direction of the correct answer, for example wrong answer choices may be obviously to big or small or out by a factor of ten.
For more help preparing for the test please read my complete preparation article here - Gamsat Preparation
So as we said at the beginning, do not be too concerned by the calculator rule in Gamsat unnecessarily at this stage. Once you begin doing some of your practice questions you'll see that it all comes together quite well as long as you've put into practice the recommendations given above.
In fact even when calculators were allowed, most people didn't use them that much any way as the test has never been all about just calculating answers.
Best of luck!