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 Post subject: GMAT Algebra (Data Sufficiency)Posted: Tue May 01, 2012 2:24 am

Joined: Sun May 30, 2010 3:15 am
Posts: 424
What is the value of ab?
(1) |a| + b = a
(2) a + |b| = b

A. Statement (1) BY ITSELF is sufficient to answer the question, but statement (2) by itself is not.
B. Statement (2) BY ITSELF is sufficient to answer the question, but statement (1) by itself is not.
C. Statements (1) and (2) TAKEN TOGETHER are sufficient to answer the question, even though NEITHER statement BY ITSELF is sufficient.
D. Either statement BY ITSELF is sufficient to answer the question.
E. Statements (1) and (2) TAKEN TOGETHER are NOT sufficient to answer the question, meaning that further information would be needed to answer the question.

(C) Statement (1) is |a| + b = a. If 0 > a then |a| = -a. So the equation transforms into -a + b = a. This yields b = 2a. Therefore ab = 2a². But we do NOT know the value of a. So statement (1) by itself is NOT sufficient.

Statement (2) is a + |b| = b. Similarly to the previous reasoning, if 0 > b then |b| = -b. So the equation transforms into ab = b. This yields a = 2b. Therefore ab = 2b². But we do NOT know the value of b. So statement (2) by itself is NOT sufficient.
If we use the both statements together, we can add the equations.
|a| + b + a + |b| = a + b
|a| + |b| = 0
Any absolute value is non-negative. So the sum equals 0 if and only if each absolute value is 0. Therefore a = 0, b = 0 and ab = 0. Statements (1) and (2) taken together are sufficient to answer the question, even though neither statement by itself is sufficient. The correct answer is C.
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I did not understand the concept of |a| = -a.

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 Post subject: Re: t.1, qt.24: absolute values.Posted: Tue May 01, 2012 2:37 am

Joined: Sun May 30, 2010 2:23 am
Posts: 498
Quote:
I did not understand the concept of |a| = -a.
Take a look at the numerical example:
|4| = 4
|-4| = -(-4) = 4

Now in general, if a is a positive number, then
|a| = a

if a is a negative number, then
|a| = -a, because (-a) is positive.

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 Post subject: Re: t.1, qt.24: absolute values.Posted: Thu May 17, 2012 10:30 am

Joined: Sun May 30, 2010 3:15 am
Posts: 424
This answer is really weird. In the question, it is not mentioned that "a" or "b" is a constant – which means " |a| + |b| = 0 " does not guarantee that a and b are "0". It could mean a = -b.

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 Post subject: Re: t.1, qt.24: absolute values.Posted: Thu May 17, 2012 10:51 am

Joined: Sun May 30, 2010 2:23 am
Posts: 498
Quote:
In the question, it is not mentioned that "a" or "b" is a constant …
a and b are variables.

Quote:
… " |a| + |b| = 0 " does not guarantee that a and b are "0" …
Any absolute value is non-negative. If a and b were not zeroes, then |a| would be positive and |b| would be positive.
positive + positive > 0
That would contradict the equation. Even if only one variable was not zero, the left side would still be positive. So the both variables can possess only one value, 0.

Quote:
… It could mean a = -b.
If to plug in a = -b we will get |-b| + |b| as the left side of the equation. It is not necessarily 0. Plug any non-zero value for b, for example b = 2 yields |-2| + |2| = 2 + 2 = 4. So the conclusion "It could mean a = -b" is not correct.

If to solve the equation |-b| + |b| = 0:
The absolute values |-b| and |b| are the same (equal), so the equation transforms into
2|b| = 0
b = 0

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 Post subject: Re: t.1, qt.24: absolute values.Posted: Fri May 25, 2012 3:08 pm

Joined: Sun May 30, 2010 3:15 am
Posts: 424

Statement (1) tells us that b is 0 and a must be positive, therefore ab = 0 (knowing b is 0 would be sufficient to answer the question and b has to equal 0 for the statement to be true).

Statement (2) tells us that a is 0 and b must be positive, therefore ab = 0. (knowing a is 0 would be sufficient to answer the question and a has to equal 0 for the statement to be true).

Thank you.

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 Post subject: Re: t.1, qt.24: absolute values.Posted: Fri May 25, 2012 3:14 pm

Joined: Sun May 30, 2010 2:23 am
Posts: 498
Quote:
Statement (1) tells us that b is 0 and a must be positive
No, it does NOT. For example, take a = -3 and b = -6:
|-3| – 6 = -3

The same is with the reasoning for Statement (2).

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