Exponents and Roots: Tips and hints

DEFINITION - EXPONENTSExponents are a "shortcut" method of showing a number that was multiplied by itself several times. For instance, number \(a\) multiplied \(n\) times can be written as \(a^n\), where \(a\) represents the base, the number that is multiplied by itself \(n\) times and \(n\) represents the exponent. The exponent indicates how many times to multiple the base, \(a\), by itself.

TIPS - EXPONENTS1. Exponents one and zero:\(a^0=1\) Any nonzero number to the power of 0 is 1.

For example: \(5^0=1\) and \((-3)^0=1\)

• Note: the case of 0^0 is not tested on the GMAT.\(a^1=a\) Any number to the power 1 is itself.

2. Powers of zero:If the exponent is positive, the power of zero is zero: \(0^n = 0\), where \(n > 0\).

If the exponent is negative, the power of zero (\(0^n\), where \(n < 0\)) is undefined, because division by zero is implied.

3. Powers of one:\(1^n=1\) The integer powers of one are one.

4. Negative powers:\(a^{-n}=\frac{1}{a^n}\)

Important: you cannot rise 0 to a negative power because you get division by 0, which is NOT allowed. For example, \(0^{-1} = \frac{1}{0}=undefined\).

5. Powers of minus one:If n is an even integer, then \((-1)^n=1\).

If n is an odd integer, then \((-1)^n =-1\).

6. Operations involving the same exponents:Keep the exponent, multiply or divide the bases

\(a^n*b^n=(ab)^n\)

\(\frac{a^n}{b^n}=(\frac{a}{b})^n\)

\((a^m)^n=a^{mn}\)

\(a^m^n=a^{(m^n)}\) and not \((a^m)^n\) (if exponentiation is indicated by stacked symbols, the rule is to work from the top down)

7. Operations involving the same bases:Keep the base, add or subtract the exponent (add for multiplication, subtract for division)

\(a^n*a^m=a^{n+m}\)

\(\frac{a^n}{a^m}=a^{n-m}\)

8. Fraction as power:\(a^{\frac{1}{n}}=\sqrt[n]{a}\)

\(a^{\frac{m}{n}}=\sqrt[n]{a^m}\)

DEFINITION - ROOTSRoots (or radicals) are the "opposite" operation of applying exponents. For instance x^2=16 and square root of 16=4.

TIPS - ROOTSGeneral rules:

1. \(\sqrt{x}\sqrt{y}=\sqrt{xy}\) and \(\frac{\sqrt{x}}{\sqrt{y}}=\sqrt{\frac{x}{y}}\).

2. \((\sqrt{x})^n=\sqrt{x^n}\)

3. \(x^{\frac{1}{n}}=\sqrt[n]{x}\)

4. \(x^{\frac{n}{m}}=\sqrt[m]{x^n}\)

5. \({\sqrt{a}}+{\sqrt{b}}\neq{\sqrt{a+b}}\)

6. \(\sqrt{x^2}=|x|\), when \(x\leq{0}\), then \(\sqrt{x^2}=-x\) and when \(x\geq{0}\), then \(\sqrt{x^2}=x\).

7. When the GMAT provides the square root sign for an even root, such as \(\sqrt{x}\) or \(\sqrt[4]{x}\), then the only accepted answer is the positive root.

That is, \(\sqrt{25}=5\), NOT +5 or -5. In contrast, the equation \(x^2=25\) has TWO solutions, +5 and -5.

Even roots have only a positive value on the GMAT.8. Odd roots will have the same sign as the base of the root. For example, \(\sqrt[3]{125} =5\) and \(\sqrt[3]{-64} =-4\).

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