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Posted on
17
Feb 2021

Data Sufficiency: Area of a Triangle Problem

Hey guys! Today we’re checking out a geometry Data Sufficiency problem asking for the area of a triangle, and while the ask might seem straightforward, it’s very easy to get caught up in the introduced information on this problem. And this is a great example of a way that the GMAT can really dictate your thought processes via suggestion if you’re not really really clear on what it is you’re looking for on DS. So here we’re looking for area but area specifically is a discrete measurement; that is we’re going to need some sort of number to anchor this down: whether it’s the length of sides, or the area of a smaller piece, we need some value!

Begin with Statement #2

Jumping into the introduced information, if we look at number 2, because it seems simpler, we have x = 45 degrees. Now you might be jumping in and saying, well, if x = 45 and we got the 90 degree then we have 45, STOP. Because if you’re doing that you missed what I just said. We need a discrete anchor point. The number of degrees is both relative in the sense that the triangle could be really huge or really small, and doesn’t give us what we need. So immediately we want to say: number 2 is insufficient. Rather than dive in deeply and try and figure out how we can use it, let’s begin just by recognizing its insufficiency. Know that we can go deeper if we need to but not get ourselves worked up and not invest the time until it’s appropriate, until number 1 isn’t sufficient and we need to look at them together.

Consider Statement #1

Number 1 gives us this product BD x AC = 20. Well here, we’re given a discrete value, which is a step in the right direction. Now, what do we need for area? You might say we need a base and a height but that’s not entirely accurate. Our equation, area is 1/2 x base x height, means that we don’t need to know the base and the height individually but rather their product. The key to this problem is noticing in number 1 that they give us this B x H product of 20, which means if we want to plug it into our equation, 1/2 x 20 is 10. Area is 10. Number 1 alone is sufficient. Answer choice A.

Don’t Get Caught Up With “X”

If we don’t recognize this then we get caught up with taking a look at x and what that means and trying to slice and dice this, which is complicated to say the least. And I want you to observe that if we get ourselves worked up about x, then immediately when we look at this BD x AC product, our minds are already in the framework of how to incorporate these two together. Whereas, if we dismiss the x is insufficient and look at this solo, the BD times AC, then we’re much more likely to strike upon that identity. Ideally though, of course, before we jump into the introduced information, we want to say, well, the area of a triangle is 1/2 x base x height. So, if I have not B and H individually, although that’ll be useful, B x H is enough. And then it’s a question of just saying, well, one’s got what we need – check. One is sufficient. Two doesn’t have what we need – isn’t sufficient, and we’re there. So,

I hope this helped. Look for links to other geometry and fun DS problems below and I’ll see you guys soon. Read this article about Data sufficiency problems and triangles next to get more familiar with this type of GMAT question.

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Isosceles Triangles and Data Sufficiency title
Posted on
26
Jan 2021

Isosceles Triangles and Data Sufficiency

By: Rich Zwelling (Apex GMAT Instructor)
Date: Jan 21, 2021

Although we’ve already discussed isosceles triangles a bit during our discussion of 45-45-90 (i.e. isosceles right) triangles, it’s worth discussing some other contexts in which you may see isosceles triangles on the GMAT, specifically on Data Sufficiency problems. 

As we discussed before, an isosceles triangle is any triangle that features two equal sides and thus two equal opposite angles:

Isosceles Triangles and Data Sufficiency picture 1

That’s an easy enough definition to remember, but how does the GMAT turn this into more challenging problems? For that, let’s take a look at the following Official Guide problem. Try to solve before reading the explanation below the problem:

Isosceles Triangles and Data Sufficiency picture 2

In the figure above, what is the value of x + y ?
(1) x = 70
(2) ABC and ADC are both isosceles triangles

Explanation

In this case, it’s straightforward enough to determine that each statement alone will be insufficient. Statement (1) gives us a definitive value for x, but no information about y, thus we cannot answer the question (the value of x+y). And although Statement (2) labels each triangle in the diagram as isosceles, we have no way of knowing the specific angles involved nor their relationships. 

However, as with many Data Sufficiency problems, especially those involving Geometry, things can get thorny when we have to combine the statements. The two statements look very complimentary, and that could lead us to prematurely conclude the answer is C (i.e. the two statements are sufficient when combined). But we must do a thorough check. 

Reframing the question

Remember that at any point during a Data Sufficiency problem — beginning, middle, or end — you can reframe the question for simplicity. The question asks for the value of x+y. But now that we are combining the statements, we already know that x=70. In terms of sufficiency, then, what information do we need? The only thing missing is a definitive value of y. The question now might as well be “What is the value of y?”

Now, here’s where the GMAT thinking really comes into play. It’s one thing to understand what an isosceles triangle is. It’s quite another to judge what a diagram of an isosceles triangle does or does not tell you and what you can or cannot extrapolate from it. 

One of my personal favorite things about Geometry Data Sufficiency problems is that they tend to be very intuitive visually. You can often answer them by manipulating figures. 

We know that triangle ADC is isosceles, but is that enough to give us definitive measurements? Visually, which of these does it look like?  

Isosceles Triangles and Data Sufficiency picture 3

Without any numerical evaluations, we can see that we can’t get a definitive measure for the angle at D, which in this case is our y. So even when we combine the statements, we cannot get an answer to our question. The correct answer is E

Here’s another case of a tricky Data Sufficiency problem involving isosceles triangles:

In isosceles triangle RST, what is the measure of angle R?

  • The measure of angle T is 100 degrees
  • The measure of angle S is 40 degrees

Again, give the problem a shot before reading the answer and explanation.

Explanation

This is one for which you can draw a diagram, but it’s not necessary. The trick here is to remember another key property of triangles, namely that all angles in the triangle must sum to 180 degrees.

Since the triangle is isosceles, and since each statement gives you only one angle of three, the temptation can be to say that each statement is insufficient on its own. This is certainly the case for Statement (2), because the 40-degree angle could be one of a pair (in which case we would have a 40-40-100 triangle) or the 40-degree angle could be the odd angle out (in which case we would have a 40-70-70 triangle). 

Because the problem asks for the value of R, and since R could be 40, 70, or 100 depending on the situations outlined above, Statement (2) is INSUFFICIENT.

However, there’s a catch when evaluating Statement (1). Notice that angle T is an obtuse angle, meaning it is greater than 90 degrees. Is it possible that there are two 100-degree angles in a triangle? This would produce a total of 200 degrees, which would exceed the 180-degree total for any triangle. As such, the only possibility is that the 100 degree angle is the odd angle out, and the other two angles are equal acute angles (specifically, we have a 40-40-100 triangle). 

Now we know R must be 40 degrees. Statement (1) is sufficient, and the correct answer is A.

But notice how the GMAT sets the statements up to bait you into thinking that you must combine the two statements to figure out the value of angle R. 

Now that we’ve finished talking about the basic triangle types, we can move on to talking about what happens when triangles are used within different shapes. In the meantime, here are links to our other triangle articles:

A Short Meditation on Triangles
The 30-60-90 Right Triangle
The 45-45-90 Right Triangle
The Area of an Equilateral Triangle
Triangles with Other Shapes
Isosceles Triangles and Data Sufficiency
Similar Triangles
3-4-5 Right Triangle
5-12-13 and 7-24-25 Right Triangles

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Posted on
16
Jul 2020

When To Study For The GMAT?

If you are reading this at any time other than the morning, you’re probably not getting your optimal yield out of your self-prep time. Let’s talk about how the time that you spend preparing and the relative yield you get from that time can change. 

Time of Day

Most of us have good times and bad times of the day, and that’s tied in very deeply to our biology and our circadian rhythm. Most people are at their sharpest mid-morning. However, if you’re constantly sleep-deprived this might change. In fact, it might never be optimal. 

In order to get the best out of your self-prep time, you need to be capitalizing on the best times of the day to study. This also means to not overdo it. Don’t force yourself into studying when you’re not up for it. If you’ve worked a 10-hour day, whether on a desk, on the street, or doing big projects and traveling to a client as a consultant, your study time is very limited and studying when you’re exhausted is not only going to be low-yield but it’s also going to take a lot out of you so that you’re not able to capture those high-yield times.

Small Increments of Study Time

Instead, try self-prepping in smaller units throughout the day. Particularly in those times when your sharpest. If you can grab 15 minutes at 10 o’clock in the morning, even if it’s a bathroom break or 20 minutes on your commute, do so. Those are really good times to prep. Doing little increments throughout the day increases your contact density but also decreases the burden from your daily schedule. 

Many of you out are working crazy jobs, balancing a social life, family obligations, and the GMAT can take over. Particularly if you’re spending 10, 20, 30 hours a week self-prepping. If you are, you’re spending too much time. You’re better off getting stronger results out of smaller increments of high-yield time rather than killing yourself and studying 3-6 hours at a time on the weekends or in the evenings. 

Quality Over Quantity

When you prepare and how you prepare is much more important than how much time you prepare. Be mindful of when you’re sharpest during the day and to take at least a portion of that time and devote it to your GMAT prep, because what you’re ultimately doing is personal development. 

As much as you might be devoted to a job, it’s not going to be there forever. Your personal growth, a high GMAT score, and also getting into the next step of your career or the next step of your education. That should be your priority and you need to make sure you balance that with your other obligations. 

When To Study For The GMAT?

So remember: incremental short study breaks, or in other words, breaks from everything else you’re doing to study, increasing your contact density. If you’re tired, and this is probably the biggest takeaway, don’t force yourself to study because you’re just spinning your wheels. You are not going to get a good yield out of it. You’re better off putting on Netflix, taking a nap, spending time with loved ones, going out with friends, and getting yourself on an even keel. So that the 60 to 90 minutes a day that you can devote to GMAT is the best 60 and 90 minutes you can give it. Try to get some rest cause I know 90% of you are reading this while tired. Best of luck on your GMAT Prep Journey! 

Did you enjoyed When To Study For The GMAT? Watch some of our other videos including: How to select a GMAT tutor.

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