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# Algebra & word problems tutorial

## by Joel Chippindale, 1st May, 1999

Algebra is a common question topic in the GRE and if you include word problems which are
really just algebra problems in disguise then even more of GRE quantitative questions are
algebra problems. For many of these word problems the most difficult part of the question is
understanding exactly what they are telling you and what you need to find out.

This tutorial will assume that you have already worked through our 'Fractions' and
'Exponents, ratios and percents' tutorials. It will also assume that you a fair knowledge of
algebra. For example you should be able to solve the following equation to find a.

2a + 3 = 11

Solve this problem by finding the value for a. If you have difficulty with it then send an e-
mail to joel@testtutor.com and I will consider writing a more basic algebra tutorial.

This tutorial will begin by giving you two methods for making sense of and solving word
problems. Then we will revise the solution of quadratic equations and finally look at
substitution techniques which will help when you do not know how to find the solution to a
question.

Solution: a = 4

## Word problems with equations

We will begin with an example of a word problem and then look at how to use equations to
solve it .

Carl has twice as much money invested in stocks as in bonds. Stocks earn 10% interest
per year and bonds 5% per year. If Carl earned a total of \$800 dollars from his stocks
and bonds last year how much money did he have invested in stocks?
A
\$
9,
6
0
0

B
\$
8,
0
0
0

C
\$
6,
4
0
0

D
\$
4,
0
0
0

E
\$
3,
2
0
0
If you feel brave you can have a go at it now. My advice would be to follow these guidelines.

• Summarize: Write equations, which contain the information given to you in the
question.
o Use sensible variable names for example the first letter of the thing that the
variable represents.
o Identify answer i.e. write down exactly what you are looking for.

• Solve: find the solution for the equstions you have written down.

question together.

## Summarize using equations

In the question you are given a great deal of information and you need to be able to
summarize it in a more manageable form. Often it is a good idea to translate the question
into equations. It is important to use variable names that will make sense to you when you
are translating these questions into equations.

'Carl has twice as much money invested in stocks as in bonds. Stocks earn 10% interest per
year and bonds 5% per year. If Carl earned a total of \$800 dollars from his stocks and
bonds last year how much money did he have invested in stocks?'

We will use 'S' to represent stocks and 'B' to represent bonds. Using the first letters of each
word makes it easy to remember which is which and avoids any confusion that might arise
from using more traditional variable names such as 'x' and 'y'.

## 'Carl has twice as much money invested in stocks as in bonds.'

Translates to:

S = 2B

Note: many people get confused with the phrase 'twice as much' and write 2S = B. This is a
very common mistake and must be avoided. If you find that you get confused writing the
equation try replacing the variables with numbers and then read the sentence again to see if
it makes sense. For example in this case if S = 2B, then if B = 1, S = 2. This makes sense
because stocks are '2' which is twice as much as bonds which are '1'.

'Stocks earn 10% interest per year and bonds 5% per year. If Carl earned a total of \$800
dollars from his stocks and bonds last year...'

Stocks earned 10% of S and bonds earned 5% of B and this totaled \$800 so,

( 10% × S ) + ( 5% × B ) = 800
It is also important to write down what you are trying to find. It is all to easy to do the
correct working and get to a related or intermediate answer which you find in the list of
answers A-E and to choose it in your haste to finish the question.

## '...how much money did he have invested in stocks?'

You are trying to find the amount in stocks so write down

S=?

To summarize we have:

S = 2B
( 10% × S ) + ( 5% × B ) = 800
S =?

## Two equations with two unknowns so we can solve them.

Solving equations
We have already done much of the work in solving this problem by changing it from the
word problem

'Carl has twice as much money invested in stocks as in bonds. Stocks earn 10% interest per
year and bonds 5% per year. If Carl earned a total of \$800 dollars from his stocks and
bonds last year how much money did he have invested in stocks?'
to the algebraic problem
S = 2B
( 10% × S ) + ( 5% × B ) = 800</FONT<< td>
S =?

To solve the system of equations you want to reduce the problem from two variables in two
equations to one variable in one equation. Usually the easiest way to do this is by
substitution i.e. replacing one of the variables by the other.

## ( 10% × S ) + ( 5% × B ) = 800 We know that S = 2B so we can replace the S in

the second equation with 2B.
( 10% × 2B ) + ( 5% × B ) = 800 multiply out 10% × 2B
( 20% × B ) + ( 5% × B ) = 800 20% of B and 5% of B are 25% of B
25% × B = 800
We know that 25% = , (see fractions)
= 800
Multiply both sides by 4
×B
B = 800 × 4
B = 3200

Careful at this point not to assume that you have finished. You have found the amount of
money invested in bonds, no you need to use the equation S = 2B and calculate the amount
invested in stocks.

S = 2B

S = 2 × 3200

S = 6400

## Returning to the question.

Carl has twice as much money invested in stocks as in bonds. Stocks earn 10% interest
per year and bonds 5% per year. If Carl earned a total of \$800 dollars from his stocks
and bonds last year how much money did he have invested in stocks?
A
\$
9,
6
0
0

B
\$
8,
0
0
0

C
\$
6,
4
0
0

D
\$
4,
0
0
0

E
\$
3,
2
0
0
The amount invested in stocks was \$6,400 and the answer is C.

## Word problems with a table

Another example of a word problem that we will use a different technique to solve. We will
summarize the information given in the form of a table.

At a football game 50% of the seats are sold to season ticket holders who pay \$11 each
and 10% are sold to children who pay \$5 each. All the remaining tickets are sold to
non-members at \$15 each. What proportion of the total gate receipts for the game is
contributed by non-members?
A
6
0
%

B
5
2
%

C
5
0
%

D
4
0
%

E
5
%

If you would like to try the question now then follow these guidelines.

• Summarize:
o Organize the information you are given into a table.
o Identify answer i.e. mark on the table exactly what you are looking for.
• Solve: Keep calculating more elements in the table until you arrive at the answer
you need.

question together.

## Summarize using a table

Yet again the question contains a great deal of information. This time we can put all the
information into a table and this will make the question simple to solve.

'At a football game 50% of the seats are sold to club-members who pay \$11 each and 10%
are sold to children who pay \$5 each. All the remaining tickets are sold to non-members at
\$15 each. What proportion of the total gate receipts for the game is contributed by non-
members?'

In the question we have three different types of tickets, 'club-members', 'children' and 'non-
members' and three different types of information are given or asked for, '% of tickets sold',
'price of ticket' and '% of total income'. Therefore we would sketch a table, which is 3 × 3.

club-members

children

non-members

## And begin to fill in the information.

'At a football game 50% of the seats are sold to club-members who pay \$11 each and 10%
are sold to children who pay \$5 each.'

## club-members 50% \$11

children 10% \$5

non-members

'All the remaining tickets are sold to non-members at \$15 each. What proportion of the
total gate receipts for the game is contributed by non-members?''

## club-members 50% \$11

children 10% \$5

non-members \$15 ?

## Where '?' represents what we need to find to answer the question.

We have the summary now let's answer the question.

## Solve using a table

We reduced the question to the following table.

## club-members 50% \$11

children 10% \$5

non-members \$15 ?

We will add a totals row because we are working with percentages and an income column so
that we can later work out the percentages for the income. We can fill in 100% for the totals
of the percentages.

## club-members 50% \$11

children 10% \$5

non-members \$15 ?

## total 100% - 100%

Then it is a matter of filling in as many cells as we can calculate until we have enough

In this case we know the % tickets sold will sum to 100% so the percentage sold to club
members will be

= 40%

children 10% \$5

## total 100% - 100%

Now we will work out the amount of income from each group. The income from each group
will be the number of tickets sold multiplied by the price of each ticket. Since we do not
know the total number of tickets sold we can assume that there were 100 tickets because
this will make the mathematics easier

## total 100% - 100% \$1,200

Now that we have the total income and the income from non-members we can find the
percentage we need.

## Returning to the question.

At a football game 50% of the seats are sold to season ticket holders who pay \$11 each
and 10% are sold to children who pay \$5 each. All the remaining tickets are sold to
non-members at \$15 each. What proportion of the total gate receipts for the game is
contributed by non-members?
A
6
0
%

B
5
2
%

C
5
0
%

D
4
0
%

E
5
%

## 50% was contributed by non-members so the answer is C.

Quadratic equations are of the form ax2 + bx + c = 0 where a, b and c are real numbers
and, more specifically, in the GRE they will be integers. For example

x2 + 5x - 6 = 0

To solve an equation like this you will have to find the values of x for which the equation
holds true. Normally there will be two such values.

We will begin by looking at the factorization of quadratic equations in detail because you
need to know it in the GRE and it can also be used to solve quadratics. Then we will see how
to solve them more quickly. If you have little patience for following the math and you would
just like a quick method for solving quadratic equations then skip ahead.

## x2 + 5x - 6 = (x + g) (x + h) Where we g and h are unknowns

2
= x + gx + hx + gh
= x2 + (g + h)x + gh

## Therefore, to factorize, we need to find values of g and h so that.

g + h = 5 and gh = -6

1 and -6
-1 and 6
2 and -3
-2 and 3

-1 + 6 = 5

## Therefore g and h must be -1 and 6.

x2 + 5x - 6 = (x - 1) (x + 6) = 0

You can check the factorization by multiplying out (x - 1) (x + 6), if you wish. This will now
give us the solution for the product of these two factors to be 0, one of the two factors must
be 0, i.e.

x - 1 = 0 or x + 6 = 0

Therefore

x = 1 or -6
Notice that the signs have changed from g and h, which were -1 and 6, to the solutions for
x, which are 1 and -6.

A quick method

We can condense this method of solving a quadratic equation into 3 steps if the equation is
in the form x2 + bx + c = 0.

## 1. Find the factors of c

2. Decide which of these pairs of factors sum to give b
3. Reverse the signs of the two numbers you have found and these will be the solutions
for the equation

An example

## So now an example for you to try.

Solve x2 - 7x + 10 = 0

Explanation:

1 and 10
-1 and -10
2 and 5
-2 and -5

## 2. The pair which sum to -7 are

-2 and -5.

3. Reversing the signs, we find 2 and 5 which are the solutions to this quadratic
equation.

So the solution is x = 2 or 5

Solving by substitution
If you do not know how to do an algebra question then you can often use the fact that the
GRE is a multiple choice test to your advantage. You can substitute the value of your choice
for the variable in the algebraic expression and then evaluate the answer choices to see
which one is equal to the original expression.

Example
is equivalent to which of the following expressions?
A
x
-
3

B
x
-
2

C
x
+
1

D
x
+
2

E
x
+
3

If you followed 'solving quadratic equations' carefully you should be able to see how to
answer this question using factorization but let us assume, for now, that you do not know.
Substitute the number of your choice into the equations to replace x and evaluate them all.
Pick a number which will make your calculations easy for example 0.

If x = 0 then,

= =3

A: x - 3 = 0 - 3 = -3
B: x - 2 = 0 - 2 = -2
C: x + 1 = 0 + 1 = 1
D: x + 2 = 0 + 2 = 2
E: x + 3 = 0 + 3 = 3

Both the expression and answer E have a value of 3, therefore E is the correct answer.

## A summary of word problems and algebra

In this tutorial we have looked at techniques for solving word problems.

• Summarize:
o Organize the information you are given into equations or a table.
o When using equations, use sensible variable names.
o Identify exactly which value you have to find.

• Solve:
o Keep working even if you are not sure exactly what to do.
o When using equations, keep eliminating variables until you have only the one
you need to find.
o With tables, keep calculating more elements in the table until you arrive at

...and algebra.

• Quadratic equations: x2 + bx + c = 0.
o Find the factors of c
o Decide which of these pairs of factors sum to give b
o Reverse the signs of the two numbers you have found and these will be the
solutions for the equation
• Substitution:
o Pick an nice easy number to substitute the variable with.
o Evaluate all the expressions and answer choices.
Exponents, Ratios & Percents Tutorial
by Joel Chippindale, 10th October, 1999

This tutorial covers not only exponentials but also ratios and percentages. These topics have
been brought together into a single tutorial because they are all important basic skills which
you will need in the GRE and none of them is individually large enough to justify a tutorial of
its own. If you can handle fractions (see previous math tutorial) and the topics in this
tutorial you should be able to do nearly half of all the GRE math questions.

Common Exponentials
We will begin with an example of an exponential.

5 3 = 5 × 5 × 5 = 125

'5 cubed'
'5 to the power of 3'
'5 raised to the 3rd power'

5 3 is an exponential. It is a shorthand way of writing '5 times itself 3 times'. 5 is the base,
i.e. the number which is multiplied by itself. 3 is the exponent or power, i.e. the number
times that the base is multiplied by itself.

In a similar way,

27 = 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 × 2
2 times itself 7 times.

...and,

y5 = y × y × y × y × y
y times itself 5 times.

## Squares and Cubes

Squares, cubes and their respective inverses, square roots and cube roots, are the
exponents that come up most regularly in the GRE. It is therefore useful to memorize them,
so as to have them at your fingertips.

Note: I have left out the cubes of 7 and above, not because they do not exist, but simply
because you do not need to know them.
Number ( x ) Square ( x 2 ) Cube ( x 3 )

1 1 1

2 4 8

3 9 27

4 16 64

5 25 125

6 36 216

7 49 -

8 64 -

9 81 -

10 100 -

11 121 -

12 144 -

13 169 -

14 196 -

15 225 -

16 256 -

If you can remember these then it will save you time and lessen your chances of making
mistakes in the GRE.

## Square and Cube Roots

The square root of a number is the number which when multiplied by itself gives you the
original number. For example,

= 3 because 32 = 9

= 5 because 52 = 25

Similarly the cube root of a number is that which multiplied by itself 3 times produces the
original number. For example,
= 2 because 23 = 8

= 4 because 43 = 64

Note: 64 is the smallest number which is both a square (82) and a cube (43).

Properties Of Exponents
To The Power Of Zero

What does it mean to raise a number to the power of zero? For example

What is 50 ?

By definition we say that any number to the power of zero is equal to one. For example,

50 = 1

2250 = 1

a0 = 1

## To The Power Of A Negative Number

What does it mean to raise a number to the power of a negative number? For example

What is 5(-2)?

By definition we say that it is equal to the inverse (or reciprocal) of the positive power.

5(-2) = =

4(-3) = =

x(-n) =

Fractional Exponents

The only fractional exponents you will come across in the GRE are 1/2 and 1/3. These
correspond to square root and cube root respectively. For example,
161/2 = = ±4

271/3 = =3

## Multiplication, Division & Powers Of

Exponents
Often when a mathematical expression contains more than one exponent it is possible to
simplify it.

Multiplication Of Exponents

If you multiply two exponents with the same base then you simply have to add two
exponents. for example,

52 × 54 = ( 5 × 5 ) × ( 5 × 5 × 5 × 5 ) = 5(2+4) = 56

5 times itself twice times 5 times itself 4 times is 5 times itself 6 times.

More generally

zn × zm = z (n+m)

Division Of Exponents

You can do a very similar operation to simplify the division of exponents that have the same
base. This time, instead of adding the two exponents, you subtract them. For example,

75 ÷ 73 = = 7(5-3) = 72

## ...and more generally,

zn ÷ zm = z (n-m)

Exponents Of Exponents

You can also simplify an exponent of an exponent, this time you multiply the exponents. For
example, 2 to the power of 3 all to the power of 4,

## (zn)m = z(n×m) = znm

Different Bases

You cannot use the rules of multiplication and division with exponents which have different
bases. For example,

34 × 52

The first exponent has the base 3 and the other 5, so you cannot simplify the expression.

However, if one of the bases is a power of the other, you can transform them into an
expression where they have a common base. For example,

25 × 82

In this case, 23 = 8
Therefore you can replace the 8 in the original expression with 23

= 25 × (23)2
= 25 × 2(3×2)
= 25 × 26
= 2(5+6)
= 211

## That's all you need to know about exponents for now.

Ratios
Ratio's can be expressed in three different ways, i.e. the following ratios are all the same:

1:2 1 to 2

An Example of Ratios
The ratio of foreign to local students is 1 to 4 in The University of Macondo. If there are
1000 local students, how many foreign students are there?

## Use the rule of three to answer this question.

1 : 4
? : 1000

Therefore,

? = 1 × 1000 ÷ 4 = 250

## There are 250 foreign students at The University of Macondo.

Note: the order of the numbers in a ratio is very important. In the previous example if the
ratio had been 4 to 1 then there would have been 4000 foreign students.

Triple Ratios
The numbers of dogs, goats and hens on a farm are in the ratio 2:3:10 respectively. If there
are 60 hens then how many dogs are there?

When faced with a triple ratio you should always pick out the ratio of the two things you are
interested in. In this case you know how many hens there are and you want to know how
many dogs there are so pick out the ratio that relates hens to dogs. The ratio of dogs to
hens is 2:10 or expressed in its simplest form 1:5.

You should be able to see that this means there are 1/5 the number of dogs as hens and
therefore if there are 60 hens there will be 12 dogs.

Percentages
Percentages are a real favourite of the GRE question writers. You must be comfortable with
them if you are to do well in the test.

Percent means per hundred and therefore can easily be represented as a fraction with
denominator 100. We already saw how the most common percentages could be expressed
as both fractions and decimals in the Fractions tutorial. If you did not do the Fractions
tutorial or do not remember the conversions then remind yourself here.

## Example of a Percentage Question

What is 20% of 360 ?

To calculate the percentage of a number you simply multiply the percentage by that number

20% × 360

...and since you did the Fractions tutorials you know that 20% =

× 360 = 72

## So 20% of 360 is 72.

Note: a neat trick for dividing by 5 is to first multiply by 2 and then divide by 10. In this
example 360 multiplied by 2 is 720 divided by 10 is 72. Easy.

## Sales and Discounts

Sales and discounts are a common topic of GRE questions. For example,
A chair normally priced at \$48, is discounted by 25% in a sale. What is the chair's sale
price?

In these questions you could work out the discount and then take the discount away from
the original price but you can save time by going straight to the sale price. In this case a
25% discount will mean the sale price is 75% of the original.

75% × 48

× 48 = 36

## The sale price of the chair is \$36.

Percent Change

There are many questions that will ask you to calculate the percentage increase or decrease
from one number to another. In these cases you will have to calculate the difference and
then work that out as a percent of the original number.

75 - 50 = 25

= = 50%

## The percentage increase from 50 to 75 is 50%.

It is important to note that the reverse, the percentage decrease from 75 to 50 is not the
same. The absolute difference is still 25 but the base number is now 75.

= = 33 %

## The percentage decrease from 75 to 50 is 33 %.

Now it is time to put your new skills into action with some practice questions.
Fractions Tutorial
by Joel Chippindale, 15th September, 1999

We are going to start tutorials on the quantitative section with the very basics. In this
tutorial you will dive straight into arithmetic and the unsung heroes of the GRE, fractions.
We will begin with a look at how useful fractions are, follow up with reminders of how to do
all the operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) and round everything
off with a review of improper and mixed fractions.

## Why Do You Need Fractions?

Now we all remember fractions from school, denominators, numerators, improper, mixed
etc. You probably also remember hating them, so why would you want to learn about them
for a GRE test?

If you didn't already know here is the bad news. You are not allowed to use a calculator in
the GRE. That's right, NO CALCULATORS, just plain old paper and pencil. And this is where
fractions come into their own. Fractions are quicker and more accurate to manipulate by
hand than decimals. To prove the point lets do an example.

Example

What is 64 × 0.125 ?

Try to repeat the calculation yourself. Although you probably know how to do it, you will find
it takes a long time and time is an asset that you cannot afford to waste in the GRE. Also,
there are many calculations to do and each one of those introduces the possibility of making
a mistake. Add a zero here, forget a decimal point there, forget to carry the 2 somewhere
else.

An easier way

Those of you who are real math whizzes will have spotted that 0.125 is a fraction in
disguise.

0.125 =
We will use this fact to rephrase the question:

What is 64 × ?

64 × = =8

## How Do You Spot A Fraction?

We have already seen that 0.125 is equal to 1/8. How did we know that? The easiest way to
have these fractions at your fingertips is to memorize them.

## Fractions Percentages and Decimals

This table shows the most commonly used fractions (in the GRE) and their decimal and
percent equivalents.

## Fraction Decimal Percentage

0.5 50%

0.333...
33 %

0.666...
66 %

You will notice that one third is written 0.333... , that is to say the 3 repeats an infinite
number of times. This is one of the other advantages of fractions, some numbers cannot be
written down in decimal form.

0.25 25%

0.75 75%
Why didn't we include ?

0.2 20%

0.4 40%

## Followed by 60% and 80%.

0.1666...
16 %

0.8333...
83 %

You should be able to see why , and have not been included.

0.125 12.5%

0.375 37.5%

0.625 62.5%

0.875 87.5%

0.111... 11%
0.222... 22%

## A clear pattern emerges from , ...

0.1 10%

0.05 5%

0.01 1%

Do you think you can remember all that? Have one last look over the fractions in the table
and then see if you can do the exercise on the next page.

## An Exercise Using Fractions

Yes, it is time for you to do a little work. Here's that table again but this time it is full of
gaps. Print it out and fill in the blank spaces with the appropriate fraction, decimal or
percentage.
Fraction
Fraction
Decimal
Decimal
Percenta
Percenta
ge
ge

50%

0.333...
0.125

75%
Did you just skip this exercise? Do have a go at filling in the spaces before you go onto the
next part of the tutorial. It will help you to remember all these fractions.

## Multiplication & Division of Fractions

Now that we know how to find a fraction, even if it is disguised as a decimal or as a
percentage, it is time to remind ourselves how to use them.

Multiplication

Multiplication is the easiest of the operations to perform on fractions. Simply multiply the
two numerators (top numbers) to find the resulting numerator, then multiply the two
denominators (bottom numbers) to find the new denominator.

Example of Multiplication

× = =

## Multiply numerators 3 and 2, and denominators 5 and 7, to give 6/35.

Division

Division is multiplication by the inverse of the divisor (the second fraction). First find the
inverse (also called the reciprocal) which with a fraction involves turning it upside down, i.e.
swapping the top and bottom numbers. Then multiply as before

Example of Division

÷ = × = =

Invert 2/5 to give 5/2 and then multiply numerators and divisors as before.

Shortcuts

The key to doing well in the math section of the GMAT is to do the minimum amount of work
possible, so if there is a shortcut, take it.

Always cancel any common factors from the numerators and denominators before you
begin to do any multiplication.
Example of Cancellation

× = =

In this case you can cancel the common factor of 3 from the 3 and the 6 before multiplying
the two fractions.

## Addition & Subtraction of Fractions

Addition is easy when the denominators are the same. You add the numerators and keep
the denominator the same.

+ = =

Both fractions are expressed in fifths and so the denominator is 5 in both fractions. In this
case, simply add the two numerators 1 and 3 to give you 4. The denominator stays the
same, so the sum is 4/5.

Sadly, it is much more common to find that the denominators are different. In these cases
you have to reorganize the fractions so that they have the same denominator. This is called
a common denominator.

If the two denominators have no common factors or are variables, then you simply multiply
them together to find the common denominator. You then have to multiply the numerators
by the same value that you multiplied the denominator by so that the fractions still have the
same value. Now you have two fractions with the same denominator you can add them up
as before.

The denominators are 3 and 4, which are different. Therefore we need to find a common
denominator. Since the denominators 3 and 4 have no common factors, multiply them
together 3 × 4 = 12.

Then multiply the numerators to give us the same fractions but expressed in twelfths i.e.
with the same denominator.

= × =
= × =

## Now we can add them.

+ = + =

If the two denominators do have a common factor then it is usually best to find the lowest
common denominator you can, which will be smaller than that given by multiplying the two
denominators together.

First find a common denominator. We could multiply the denominators 8 and 12 together to
give us a common denominator of 96. But, since they have a common factor of 4 we can
work with the lowest common denominator which is 24 and will make our calculations a
little simpler.

= × =

= × =

## Now we can add them.

+ = + =

Subtraction

Subtraction is performed in exactly the same way as addition but you subtract the

## Improper & Mixed Fractions

A fraction in which the numerator is greater than the denominator is called an improper
fraction. For example:
In this case the numerator, 5, is greater than the denominator, 2. This will be true of any
fraction which is greater than 1.

If we divide the numerator by the denominator we can split the improper fraction into its
whole number and fraction parts:

5 ÷ 2 = 2 with remainder 1

Therefore 5/2 is 2 wholes and 1 half left over or two and a half.

=2

Two and a half is a mixed fraction. I.e. a whole number added to a fraction. It is very
unusual to see an improper fraction listed in the answers to a GMAT question, so you will

Example

## What is written as a mixed fraction?

60 ÷ 7 = 8 with remainder 4

Therefore 60/7 is 8 wholes with 4 sevenths left over, or eight and four sevenths.

=8

In this tutorial we have discussed why we need to use fractions, revised the operations +, -,
× and ÷ with fractions and finally looked at the different forms that fractions may take.

Geometry Tutorial
by Joel Chippindale, 12th November, 1999

Geometry is a common topic in Quantitative GRE questions. The questions are generally
(although not always) a little easier than the majority of the other questions and a large
part of doing well on these types of questions will be how good you are at remembering
everything that is mentioned in this tutorial.

This tutorial will cover everything you need to know about geometry for the GRE, from
angles and lines through triangles, quadrilaterals and circles to Cartesian geometry and 3D
geometry. None of theses concepts is difficult and you will pleased to learn that
trigonometry is NOT required in the GRE.
Geometry Tips
There is really only one very important tip that I want to give you for geometry, draw your
own diagrams. This is especially important with Data Sufficiency questions since the
diagrams provided by ETS in these questions are often deliberately misleading.

## When drawing diagrams the following guidelines are useful.

• To paraphrase ETS,

"In the diagrams in the GRE everything that looks like a straight line should be
considered a straight line and where lines appear to touch they do but the scale of
the drawings may not be accurate, i.e. just because two lines look the same length
does not mean they are the same length, just because one angle looks larger than
another does not mean that it is. Lines which are parallel or perpendicular or the
same length will be marked as such on the diagram or described in the
accompanying text."

• If you know the lengths of lines or the size of angles try to make the diagram more
or less to scale. This should reduce the number of mistakes you make since you can
see what is going on more clearly.

• Unless you know lines or angles are definitely equal then draw them as different as
you can. This will stop you making wrong assumptions when you are answering the
question.

If you are answering questions from a book (or from a printed version of Test Tutor
questions) then you should still draw your own diagram and avoid just adding notes to an
existing diagram because in the real test all diagrams will be on a computer screen.

## Lines and Angles

Angles: All angles in the GRE are measured in degrees and there are 360o in a full circle.

Crossing Lines: When 2 lines cross they form 2 pairs of angles. The angles opposite each
other are equal and angles next to each other add up to a straight line, i.e. 180o.

Therefore, in the diagram below, all angles marked x are equal and all angles marked y are
equal, finally x + y = 180o.
Parallel lines: Parallel lines, on a plane, are those which never cross. They are always the
same distance apart however far you extend them. The symbol < is often used to show that
two lines are parallel.

If a line crosses 2 parallel lines then it will form 2 sets of 4 equal angles, see the diagram
below. All angles marked x are equal and all angles marked y are equal.

Perpendicular Lines: Lines which meet at right angles, i.e. 90o, are perpendicular lines.

You should be able to see that all the other angles in the diagram above are also right
angles.

Triangles
You will probably see more questions involving triangles than any other part of geometry in
the GRE so pay attention to these next two pages.

## Angles: The sum of the angles in a triangle is always 180o.

Area: The area of a triangle is 1/2 × base × height, where the height
is the perpendicular distance from the base to the top of the
triangle.
Area = ×b×h

Triangle Inequality: The triangle inequality says that no one side of a triangle can be
longer than or equal to the sum of the other two. The reason for this is fairly obvious when
you think about it because if one side is longer than or equal to the sum of the other two
then you cannot join the two shorter sides to form a triangle.

## We can write down the following inequalities.

r<s+t
s<r+t
t<r+s

Types of Triangles

• Isosceles: An isosceles triangle is a triangle where two of the sides are equal, and
two of the angles are equal.

• Equilateral: An equilateral triangle is a triangle where all three sides are equal, and
all three angles are equal. You should be able to see that since the angles sum to
180o, each angle must be 60o.
• Right Angle: A right-angled triangle is a triangle with one right angle in it. I leave it
as an exercise for you to work out why a triangle cannot have two right angles. We
will see why right-angled triangles are so important next.

## The Pythagorus Theorem

If you have a right angled triangle with sides of length a, b and c then

a2 + b2 = c2.

For this formula to work side c must be the hypotenuse which is the longest side. You can
also identify the hypotenuse because it is opposite the right angle.

This is one of the most important formulas that you will learn for the GRE, it is also one of
the formulas that people make the most mistakes with so be careful. When we do some
examples with Pythagorus we will see some of the most common mistakes made.

## A Note on Square Roots

You will need to know about simplifying square roots if you are to use Pythagorus
successfully in the GRE. Basically if you are taking the square root of a number which has a
factor which is a perfect square (like 4, 9, 16, 25....) then you can take the factor out of the
square root.

For example, if you have a right angled triangle with short sides 4 and 2 what is the length
of the hypotenuse?

To solve this you will use Pythagorus. Set c to be the length of the hypotenuse.
c2 = 42 + 22

c2 = 16 + 4

c2 = 20

c=

You will never find amongst the answers in a GRE question because 4 is a factor of 20
and is also a perfect square and so we can simplify this square root.

c=

c=

c= ×

c=2

..and this is the answer that you would find in a GRE question.

Whenever you have a root in your answer you need to make sure that it is in its simplest
form which means taking any factors which are perfect squares out of the root.

Common Triangles
Although we have, in theory, covered everything you need to know about triangles it would
probably be worth familiarizing yourself with some of the triangles that turn up on a regular
basis in the GRE.

3-4-5 Triangle: This is a right-angled triangle with sides of length 3, 4 and 5. You can
check that it is a right-angled using Pythagorus i.e. does 32 + 42 = 52 ?.
This triangle is used in the GRE because the lengths of its sides are integer values (which
makes it easier to work with without the aid of a calculator. This triangle will often turn up in
disguise, for example all the triangles below are basically the 3-4-5 triangle, they have just
been scaled up or down.

The 30-40-50 triangle is 10 times as big. The 12-16-20 triangle is 4 times as big. The 1.5-2-
2.5 triangle is half the size.

5-12-13 Triangle: This is a right-angled triangle with sides of length 5, 12 and 13. You can
check that it is a right-angled using Pythagorus i.e. does 52 + 122 = 132 ?.

This is much less common in the GRE than the 3-4-5 triangle but is the only other distinct
right-angled triangle which has small integer sides and for this reason it also appears in the
GRE.

Isosceles Right Triangle: This right-angled triangle with two sides the same length is a
GRE favourite because you can work out all the angles in it. Since the two unknown angles
are equal they must be 45o.

Also if we assume that the short sides have length 1, what is the length of the hypotenuse?

## 12 + 12 = x2 Set the hypotenuse to be x and get practicing your Pythagorus.

2 = x2
=x

So length of the hypotenuse would , which gives us the ratios between the sides (see
the diagram below).

30o - 60o - 90o Triangle: This is the triangle formed when you cut an equilateral triangle in
half (see below) and is a GRE favourite because you know all the angles in it.

We can also calculate the ratios between the lengths of the sides for this triangle. Assume
the length of side of the equilateral triangle is 2. Then the hypotenuse of the 30o - 60o - 90o
triangle is 2 (since it is one of the sides of the equilateral triangle). The base is 1 (since it is
half of one of the sides of the equilateral triangle). And we will use Pythagorus to find the
length of the final side.

12 + = 22 Set the height to be x and we already know the base is 1 and the
x2 hypotenuse is 2.

1 + x2 = 4

x2 = 3

x = root
3

## Which gives us sides of lengths 1, and 2 as seen in the diagram below.

The most common quadrilaterals that you will see in the GRE are the parallelogram, the
rhombus, the rectangle and the square.

Parallelogram

name).

## • 2 pairs of parallel sides.

• 2 pairs of equal sides.
• Diagonals bisect each other i.e. cut each other exactly in half.

Rhombus

## • 2 pairs of parallel sides.

• 4 equal sides.
• Diagonals bisect each other i.e. cut each other exactly in half.
• Diagonals are perpendicular.

## • Opposite angles are equal.

Rectangle

A rectangle is a parallelogram where all the angles are right angles (90o).

## • 2 pairs of parallel sides.

• 2 pairs of equal sides.
• Diagonals bisect each other i.e. cut each other exactly in half.
• Diagonals are equal.

## • All angles are 90o.

Square

A square is a special kind of parallelogram (and rhombus and rectangle) where all
the sides are equal and all the angles are right angles.

## • 2 pairs of parallel sides.

• 4 equal sides.
• Diagonals bisect each other i.e. cut each other exactly in half.
• Diagonals are perpendicular.
• Diagonals are equal.

## • All angles are equal.

Area

The area of all the previous quadrilaterals, parallelogram, rhombus, rectangle and square is
calculated in exactly the same way; Area = base × height.

Area = b × h

Note: In all cases height is measured perpendicularly from the base so in the cases of a
rhombus and a parallelogram it is not the same as the length of the side. See diagram
below.
...And The Trapezium
The last quadrilateral you will meet in the GRE is the trapezium. A trapezium is a
quadrilateral with 1 pair of parallel sides.

All you need to know about a trapezium is how to calculate its area; Area = average of the
two parallel sides × perpendicular distance between them.

Area = ( b1 + b2 ) × h

Circles
First some 'circle' vocabulary.
Circumference

## The edge of a circle.

Diameter
A line which joins two points on the circumference of the circle passing through the
center of the circle.

A line which joins the center of the circle to the circumference.

Chord
A line which joins two points on the circumference of the circle.

Tangent
A line which touches the circumference at only one point. A tangent is always
perpendicular to a radius or diameter which touches the circumference in the same
place.

Area

## The area of a circle is PI × the radius squared.

Area = r2

You will not usually need to know the value of PI but just in case it does come up a test you
should be aware that it is a little bit more than 3. A good decimal approximation is 3.1 or
3.14 and the fraction 22/7 also gives a good approximation.

Circumference

## The length of the circumference of a circle is 2 × PI × the radius.

Circumference = 2 r

GRE students commonly mix up these formulas, if you find you are using the wrong formula
try to remember that area comes in square units (meters squared, m2, or centimeters
squared, cm2) and so it is the area formula which has radius squared in it.

## Sectors and Arcs

A sector is like a slice of pizza, it is just a part of circle cut out by two radii. An arc is part of
the circumference of the circle. If you are asked to calculate the area of a sector (or the
length of an arc) you should work out the area of the whole circle (or length of the whole
circumference) and then take the appropriate fraction of that, remembering that there are
360o in a complete circle.
For example. If we were to work out the area of the sector with radius 6 and an angle of 60o
which is shown in the diagram above then we would first work out the area of the entire
circle and then multiply by the fraction of the circle that the sector covers (60o out of 360o).

## Cuboids and Cylinders

There are only two 3D forms that you have to deal with in the GRE and they are the cuboid
(or 'box') and the cylinder (or 'tube'). For these forms you should know how to calculate
their volumes and their surface areas.

Cuboid

Volume

The volume of a cuboid is easy to calculate just multiply length × width × height.

Volume = lwh

Surface Area

A cuboid is made up of 6 surfaces the front and back, the top and bottom and the 2 ends.
Simply calculate the area of each of these and add them up.
Surface Area = lh + lh + wh + wh + lw + lw = 2(lh + wh + lw)

Cylinder

Volume

The volume of a cylinder is the area of its base (a circle radius r) × height.

Volume = r2h

Surface Area
To calculate the surface area of a cylinder we need to think about what surfaces make up a
cylinder. It has a top and a bottom which are both circles of radius r and the side can be
formed from a rectangle of height h and width 2 r so that it stretches all the way round the
circumference of the circles at the top and bottom. To find the surface area of the whole we
work out the area of each piece and add them together.

## Surface Area = r2 + r2 + 2 rh = 2 r(r + h)

Coordinate Geometry
Every point in coordinate geometry is specified by two coordinates, an x coordinate which
determines the horizontal position of the point and a y coordinate which determines the
vertical position of the point. The x-axis is measured from left to right (i.e. left is negative
and right is positive) and the y-axis is measured from bottom to top. For example the point
( -2, 4 ) is shown in the diagram below.
Equations of Lines

A line can be described by a linear equation in x and y the solutions of which form the points
on a line. The standard form of the equation of a line is:

y = mx + c

Where m is the gradient (or slope) of the line and c is the y intercept, where the line crosses
the y-axis.

For Example,

You can see that the y intercept is -3 and that the gradient is 2 (i.e. the line rises by 2 each
time you move 1 space left).

Geometry Reference
Equations

You must learn the following equations to be able to answer geometry questions
successfully. Remember you cannot take notes into the GRE.

• Area of a Triangle = bh
• Pythagorus Theorem: a2 + b2 = c2

• Area of a Trapezium = ( b1 + b2 ) × h

• Area of a Circle = r2

• Circumference = 2 r

## • Surface Area of a Cuboid = 2(lh + wh + lw)

• Volume of a Cylinder = r 2h

## • Surface Area of a Cylinder = 2 r(r + h)

• Equation of a Line: y = mx + c

Vocabulary