Hey guys, today we’re going to take a look at the test averages problem. This is a very straightforward mathematically oriented average problem or at least it can be. But there are very strong graphic solution paths here and there’s also a really strong sort of intuitive running tally counting solution path here. We’re going to start out with the math though, just because that’s how a lot of people are familiar with this problem. Before we jump into the heavier duty quicker sort of stuff.

**Doing the Math**

So to solve this problem we want to take an average. But one of the components of our average is missing. So we have four things with an average of 78, and a fifth unknown. That means we can assume that each of the first four exams were 78. So we’ve got 4 times 78 plus X over 5. The total number of exams is going to give us our average of 80. Then through algebra, algebraic manipulation we multiply the 5 over, we get 400 equals 4 times 78 plus x. The 4 times 78 is 312. We subtract that off the 4 and that brings you to 88. Answer choice E.

**Graphic Solution Path: Poker Chips**

Let’s take a look at this a little differently. One of the ways I like looking at averages is imagining stacks of poker chips and you can have stacks of anything. I like poker chips because they fit together and you can make two stacks equal very easily so what we’re being told here is we have four stacks of 78 a fifth unknown stack but if we equalize them all that is if we take chips off of the unknown stack and distribute them all the stacks will be 80. That means that the fifth stack needs to be 80 and then it needs two poker chips for each of the other four stacks to bring those 78’s up. We can also envision this as just a rectangle our goal is 80 but we have 78, and our goal is five tests but we have four so we have 78 by four here. And then 80 by 5 here what’s missing is the full 80 and then 2 on each of four stacks of 48.

**Running Tally Method: Intuitive Approach**

The most powerful way to handle this problem though is probably by doing a running tally. Don’t even worry about the visualization but rather notice that, I’ve got 47 8s each of those are too short so I’m two, four, six. eight points short on the last test. I need to get the 80 that I want plus those eight points that I’m short bringing us to 88. And anybody who’s sweated like A+, B+, A- or a C+, B- has done this math. So if you characterize it like that a lot of times it becomes much more intuitive and once again allows you to cultivate confidence for a deeper treatment and more complex averages problems and mean problems check out the snack shop problem, check out the company production problem and there’s a great ds problem that we do the trade show problem you’ll find links to all of them just below and I hope this helped.

Enjoyed this Averages Problem ? Try another type of GMAT problem to get familiar with all question types on the exam: Remainder Number Theory Problem.

Read more