Work Rate problems are based on the concept that rates are additive. That is to say that if I paint half a wall in an hour and if you paint half a wall in an hour, if we both work together on a wall, we will finish the wall in an hour (Assuming that you are not repainting whatever I am painting to cover up my shoddy work!).

Remember, Rate of work = Work done per unit time

So, the proper way to express rate is 1/2 wall per hour and not 1 wall in 2 hours

If my rate of work is 1/2 wall/hour and yours is 1/2 wall/hour, our total rate of work is 1/2 + 1/2 = 1 wall/hour.

The basic questions of work rate are of the following form:

If A, working independently, completes a job in 10 hours and B, working independently, completes a job in 5 hours, how long will they take to complete the same job if they are working together?

Since A completes a job in 10 hours, his rate of work is 1/10th of the job per hour. B's rate of work is 1/5th of the job per hour.

Their combined rate of work would then be 1/10 + 1/5 = 3/10th of the job per hour.

As we said before, Rate of work = Work done/Time so 3/10 = 1/T (because 1 job has to be done)

or T = 10/3 hours.

This implies that A and B will together take 3.33 hours to do the job.

Note: Time taken when A and B work together will obviously be less than time taken by A or B when they are working independently.

Coming back to your question (finally! I know!), if A takes 5 hours to fill a lot and B takes x hours, and together they fill it in 2 hours, what is x?

Rate of work of A = 1/5th of the lot per hour

Rate of work of B = 1/xth of the lot per hour

Combined rate of work = 1/2 of the lot per hour

1/2 = 1/5 + 1/x

x = 10/3 hours

Note: Without solving, I know that E cannot be the answer since they both together take 2 hours to complete the work so one person alone can definitely not do the work in less than 2 hours.

Time for a Teaser: A and B, working together, can finish a job in 10 days, B and C, working together, can finish the same job in 12 days and A and C, working together, can finish the same job in 15 days. If all three work together, how long will they take to finish the same job?

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Karishma

Veritas Prep GMAT Instructor

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