Triangle With Other Shapes on the GMAT
Posted on
16
Feb 2021

Triangles With Other Shapes

By: Rich Zwelling, Apex GMAT Instructor
Date: 16th February, 2021

As discussed before, now that we’ve talked about the basic triangles, we can start looking at how the GMAT can make problems difficult by embedding triangles in other figures, or vice versa. 

Here are just a few examples, which include triangles within and outside of squares, rectangles, and circles:

triangles in other shapes GMAT article

Today, we’ll talk about some crucial connections that are often made between triangles and other figures, starting with the 45-45-90 triangle, also known as the isosceles right triangle.

You’ve probably seen a rectangle split in two along one of its diagonals to produce two right triangles:

triangles in other shapes gmat article gmat problem

But one of the oft-overlooked basic geometric truths is that when that rectangle is a square (and yes, remember a square is a type of rectangle), the diagonal splits the square into two isosceles right triangles. This makes sense when you think about it, because the diagonal bisects two 90-degree angles to give you two 45-degree angles:

triangles in other shapes gmat article, 45 45 90 degree angle

(For clarification, the diagonal of a rectangle is a bisector when the rectangle is a square, but it is not a bisector in any other case.)

Another very common combination of shapes in more difficult GMAT Geometry problems is triangles with circles. This can manifest itself in three common ways:

  1. Triangles created using the central angle of a circle

triangle in a circle, gmat geometry article

In this case, notice that two of the sides of the triangle are radii (remember, a radius is any line segment from the center of the circle to its circumference). What does that guarantee about the triangle?

Since two side are of equal length, the triangle is automatically isosceles. Remember that the two angles opposite those two sides are also of equal measure. So any triangle with the center of the circle as one vertex and points along the circumference as the other two vertices will automatically be an isosceles triangle.

2. Inscribed triangles

triangle inscribed in circle, gmat problem

An inscribed triangle is any triangle with a circle’s diameter as one of its sides and a vertex along the circumference. And a key thing to note: an inscribed triangle will ALWAYS be a right triangle. So even if you don’t see the right angle marked, you can rest assured the inscribed angle at that third vertex is 90 degrees.

3. Squares and rectangles inscribed in circles

rectangle in circle, gmat geometry

What’s important to note here is that the diagonal of the rectangle (or square) is equivalent to the diameter of the circle.

Now that we’ve seen a few common relationships between triangles and other figures, let’s take a look at an example Official Guide problem:

A small, rectangular park has a perimeter of 560 feet and a diagonal measurement of 200 feet. What is its area, in square feet?

A) 19,200
B) 19,600
C) 20,000
D) 20,400
E) 20,800

Explanation

The diagonal splits the rectangular park into two similar triangles:

triangle in other shapes gmat problem

Use SIGNALS to avoid algebra

It can be tempting to then jump straight into algebra. The formulas for perimeter and diagonal are P = 2L + 2W an D2 = L2 + W2, respectively, where L and W are the length and width of the rectangle. The second formula, you’ll notice, arises out of the Pythagorean Theorem, since we now have two right triangles. We are trying to find area, which is LW, so we could set out on a cumbersome algebraic journey.

However, let’s try to use some SIGNALS the problem gives us and our knowledge of how the GMAT operates to see if we can short-circuit this problem.

We know the GMAT is fond of both clean numerical solutions and common Pythagorean triples. The large numbers of 200 for the diagonal and 560 for the perimeter don’t change that we now have a very specific rectangle (and pair of triangles). Thus, we should suspect that one of our basic Pythagorean triples (3-4-5, 5-12-13, 7-24-25) is involved.

Could it be that our diagonal of 200 is the hypotenuse of a 3-4-5 triangle multiple? If so, the 200 would correspond to the 5, and the multiplying factor would be 40. That would also mean that the legs would be 3*40 and 4*40, or 120 and 160.

Does this check out? Well, we’re already told the perimeter is 560. Adding 160 and 120 gives us 280, which is one length and one width, or half the perimeter of the rectangle. We can then just double the 280 to get 560 and confirm that we do indeed have the correct numbers. The length and width of the park must be 120 and 160. No algebra necessary.

Now, to get the area, we just multiply 120 by 160 to get 19,200 and the final answer of A.

Check out the following links for our other articles on triangles and their properties:

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

Read more
Triangle Inequality Rule on the GMAT
Posted on
09
Feb 2021

Triangle Inequality Rule

By: Rich Zwelling, Apex GMAT Instructor
Date: 9th February, 2021

One of the less-common but still need-to-know rules tested on the GMAT is the “triangle inequality” rule, which allows you to draw conclusions about the length of the third side of a triangle given information about the lengths of the other two sides.

Often times, this rule is presented in two parts, but I find it is easiest to condense it into one, simple part that concerns a sum and a difference. Here’s what I mean, and we’ll use a SCENARIO:

Suppose we have a triangle that has two sides of length 3 and 5:

triangles inequalities 1

What can we say about the length of the third side? Of course, we can’t nail down a single definitive value for that length, but we can actually put a limit on its range. That range is simply the difference and the sum of the lengths of the other two sides, non-inclusive.

So, in this case, since the difference between the lengths of the other two sides is 2, and their sum is 8, we can say for sure that the third side of this triangle must have a length between 2 and 8, non-inclusive. [Algebraically, this reads as (5-3) < x < (5+3) OR 2 < x < 8.]

If you’d like to see that put into words:

**The length of any side of a triangle must be shorter than the sum of the other two side lengths and longer than the difference of the other two side lengths.**

It’s important to note that this works for any triangle. But why did we say non-inclusive? Well, let’s look at what would happen if we included the 8 in the above example. Imagine a “triangle” with lengths 3, 5, and 8. Can you see the problem? (Think about it before reading the next paragraph.)

Imagine a twig of length 3 inches and another of length 5 inches. How would you form a geometric figure of length 8 inches? You’d simply join the two twigs in a straight line to form a longer, single twig of 8 inches. It would be impossible to form a triangle with a side of 8 inches with the original two twigs.

triangle inequalities 2

 

If you wanted to form a triangle with the twigs of 3 and 5, you’d have to “break” the longer twig of 8 inches and bend the two twigs at an angle for an opportunity to have a third side, guaranteed to be shorter than 8 inches:

triangle inequalities 3

The same logic would hold for the other end of the range (we couldn’t have a triangle of 3, 5, and 2, as the only way to form a length of 5 from lengths of 2 and 3 would be to form a longer line segment of 5.)

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into a few problems, starting with this Official Guide problem:

If k is an integer and 2 < k < 7, for how many different values of k is there a triangle with sides of lengths 2, 7, and k?
(A) one
(B) two
(C) three
(D) four
(E) five

Strategy: Eliminate Answers

As usual with the GMAT, it’s one thing to know the rule, but it’s another when you’re presented with a carefully worded question that tests your ability to pay close attention to detail. First, we are told that two of the lengths of the triangle are 2 and 7. What does that mean for the third side, given the triangle inequality rule? We know the third side must have a length between 5 (the difference between the two sides) and 9 (the sum of the two sides).

Here, you can actually use the answer choices to your advantage, at least to eliminate some answers. Notice that k is specified as an integer. How many integers do we know now are possible? Well, if k must be between 5 and 9 (and remember, it’s non-inclusive), the only options possibly available to us are 6, 7, and 8. That means a maximum of three possible values of k, thus eliminating answers D and E.

Since the GMAT is a time-intensive test, you might have to end up guessing now and then, so if you can strategically eliminate answers, it increases your chances of guessing correctly.

Now for this problem, there’s another condition given, namely that 2 < k < 7. We already determined that k must be 6, 7, or 8. However, of those numbers, only 6 fits in the given range 2 < k < 7. This means that 6 is the only legal value that fits for k. The correct answer is A.

Note:

It’s important to emphasize that the eliminate answers strategy is not a mandate. We’re simply presenting it as an option that works here because it is useful on many GMAT problems and should be explored and practiced as often as possible.

Check out the following links for our other articles on triangles and their properties:

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

Read more