How to Go from a 48 to 51 in GMAT Quant – Part V

Quarter Wit, Quarter WisdomFirst, let us give you the link to the last post of this series: Post IV. It contains links to previous parts too.

Today, we bring another tip for you to help get that dream score of 51 – if you must write down the data given, write down all of it! Let us explain.

If you think that you will need to jot down the data given in the question and then solve it on your scratch pad (instead of in your mind), you must jot down every single detail. It is easy to overlook small things which are difficult to express algebraically such as ‘x is an integer’. These details are often critical and could make all the difference between an ‘unsolvable’ question and a ‘solvable within 2 minutes’ one. Once you start solving the question on your scratch pad, you will not refer back to the original question again and again and hence might forget these details. Have them along with the rest of the data. Read every word of the question carefully, and ensure that it is consolidated on your scratch pad. For example, look at this question:

A set of five positive integers has an arithmetic mean of 150. A particular number among the five exceeds another by 100. The rest of the three numbers lie between these two numbers and are equal. How many different values can the largest number among the five take?

It is a difficult question because it incorporates statistics as well as max-min – both tricky topics. On top of it, people often overlook the ‘are equal’ part of the question here. The reason for that is that they are actively looking for implications of the sentences and the moment they read “The rest three numbers lie between these two numbers”, they go back to the previous sentence which tells us “A particular number among the five exceeds another by 100”. They then make a note of the fact that 100 is the range of the five positive integers. In all this excitement, they miss the three critical words “and are equal”. Ensure that when you go to the sentence above, you pick the next sentence from the point where you left it. Another thing to note here is that all numbers are positive integers. This information will be critical to us.

Let’s demonstrate how you will solve this question after incorporating all the information given.

Question: A set of five positive integers has an arithmetic mean of 150. A particular number among the five exceeds another by 100. The rest of the three numbers lie between these two numbers and are equal. How many different values can the largest number among the five take?

(A) 18
(B) 19
(C) 21
(D) 42
(E) 59

Solution:

Let’s assume that the 5 natural numbers in increasing order are: a, b, b, b, a+100

We are given that a < b < a+100.

Also, we are given that a and b are positive integers. This information is critical – we will see later why.

The average of the 5 numbers is (a+b+b+b+a+100)/5 = 150

(a+b+b+b+a+100) = 5*150

2a+3b = 650

We need to find the number of distinct values that a can take because a+100 will also take the same number of distinct values.

Now there are two methods to proceed. Let’s discuss both of them.

Method 1: Pure Algebra – Write b in terms of a and plug it in the inequality

b = (650 – 2a)/3

a < (650 – 2a)/3 < a+100

3a < 650 – 2a < 3a + 300

Now split it into two inequalities: 3a < 650 – 2a and 650 – 2a < 3a + 300

Inequality 1: 3a < 650 – 2a

5a < 650

a < 130

Inequality 2: 650 – 2a < 3a + 300

5a > 350

a > 70

So we get that 70 < a < 130. Since a is an integer, can we say that a can take all values from 71 to 129? No. What we are forgetting is that b is also an integer. We know that

b = (650 – 2a)/3

For which values will be get b as an integer? Note that 650 is not divisible by 3. You need to add 1 to it or subtract 2 out of it to make it divisible by 3. So a should be of the form 3x+1.

b = (650 – 2*(3x+1))/3 = (648 – 6x)/3 = 216 – 2x

Here, for any positive integer x, b will be an integer.

From 71 to 129, we have the following numbers which are of the form 3x+1:

73, 76, 79, 82, 85, … 127

This is an Arithmetic Progression. How many terms are there here?

Last term = First term + (n – 1)*Common Difference

127 = 73 + (n – 1)*3

n = 19

a will take 19 distinct values so the last term i.e. (a+100) will also take 19 distinct values.

Method 2: Using Transition Points

Note that a < b < a+100

Since a < b, let’s find the point where a = b, i.e. the transition  point

2a + 3a = 650

a = 130 = b

But b must be greater than a. If we increase b by 1, we need to decrease a by 3 to keep the average same. But decreasing a by 3 decreases the largest number i.e. a+100 by 3 too; so we need to increase b by another 1.
We get a = 127 and b = 132. This give us the numbers as 127, 132, 132, 132, 227. Here the average is 150

Since b < a+100, let’s find the point where b = a+100

2a + 3(a+100) = 650

a = 70, b = 170

But b must be less than a+100. If we decrease b by 1, we need to increase a by 3 to keep the average same. But increasing a by 3 increases the largest number, i.e. a+100 by 3 too, so we need to decrease b by another 1.

We get a = 73 and b = 168. This gives us the numbers as 73, 168, 168, 168, 173. Here the average is 150

Values of a will be: 73, 76, 79, ….127 (Difference of 3 to make b an integer)

This is an Arithmetic Progression.

Last term = First term + (n – 1)*Common difference

127 = 73 + (n – 1)*3

n = 19

a will take 19 distinct values so the last term i.e. (a+100) will also take 19 distinct values.

Answer (B)

Karishma, a Computer Engineer with a keen interest in alternative Mathematical approaches, has mentored students in the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. She teaches the GMAT for Veritas Prep and regularly participates in content development projects such as this blog!