To evaluate the computational performance of high-order elements, a comparison based on operation count is proposed instead of runtime comparisons. More specifically, linear versus high-order approximations are analyzed for implicit solver under a standard set of hypotheses for the mesh and the solution. Continuous and discontinuous Galerkin methods are considered in two-dimensional and three-dimensional domains for simplices and parallelotopes. Moreover, both element-wise and global operations arising from different Galerkin approaches are studied. The operation count estimates show, that for implicit solvers, high-order methods are more efficient than linear ones. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.