700+ GMAT: Rock Set Theory

Venn diagrams and matrices getting you down? No clue what “elements” are? Sets on the GMAT have a reputation for being tough, but that’s just because most students are less familiar with them. This GMAT board will fill you in on the basics!

The “Intersection” is an upside-down U symbol, and is the OVERLAP of the sets. That is, the intersection contains all the elements that are in BOTH sets. Notice the Venn diagram is used to show the Intersection.

It makes sense that the symbol for “Union” would be a “U” shape. The Union is always the total combined elements. If an element is in EITHER of the sets, then it’s in the Union.

Sometimes Sets questions will be combined with other concepts, such as percentages. They often will not require fancy Venn diagrams or the ability to use a matrix to solve. Watch this Grockit video to see an example of this. You probably didn’t even know this could be considered a “sets” question! 🙂

Like a Venn diagram, a Sets Table (or matrix) is a great way to systematically organize a lot of information, especially for a Sets word problem. Read through this blog on how to set one up! Notice how the table is set up 3 x 3.



GMAT Quant: Question of the Day!

Today let’s work on a sets problem using Venn diagrams!

In 1997, N people graduated from college. If 1/3 of them received a degree in the applied sciences, and, of those, 1/4 graduated from a school in one of six northeastern states, which of the following expressions represents the number of people who graduated from college in 1997 who did not both receive a degree in the applied sciences and graduate from a school in one of six northeastern states?

(A) 11N/12
(B) 7N/12
(C) 5N/12
(D) 6N/7
(E) N/7

This question can be solved using a Venn diagram or a matrix to make sense of the information:

The key to understanding this question lies in the last sentence:

who did not both receive a degree in the applied sciences and graduate from a school in one of six northeastern states?

We have two categories to sum: the people who ONLY received a science degree but NOT from one of the 6 schools, and the people who ONLY went to the 6 schools but did NOT receive a science degree. I made up variables for these categories (x and y).

If N = 12, there are 4 applied science students, 1 of which is both. That means x = 3. If 4 students are applied science, then 12-4 = 8 are from one of the six states but NOT applied science. y = 8.

3 + 8 = 11

So we are looking for an answer choice that gives us 11 when N = 12; the answer is (A).