**Learn to master an area the GMAT loves to test. **

The Cartesian Plane (a.k.a. the x-y plane) is a favorite GMAT topic, especially on GMAT Data Sufficiency. It’s a simple topic, but with just enough subtlety that the testmakers can spin endless questions from it.

## Quadrants

The quadrants begin with I, where both x and y are positive, and rotate counterclockwise from there. Notice

## Mixing in arithmetic operations

OK, still relatively simple, but now what happens when you multiply or divide the x- and y-coordinates? Both (positive)*(positive) and (negative)*(negative) are positive, but if one factor is positive and one is negative, the product is negative. Similarly, (positive)/(positive) and (negative)/(negative) are positive, but if dividend is positive & divisor negative, or vice versa, the quotient is negative. Thus:

Already, that’s rich fodder for GMAT Data Sufficiency. Now, what happens when we add the x- and y-coordinates? (positive) + (positive) = (positive), and (negative) + (negative) = (negative), but (positive) + (negative) — hmmm — the sign of the sum depends on which has a larger absolute value. Thus:

In QI, x + y > 0

In QII, the sign of x + y is unclear (i.e. it depends on the values of x & y)

In QIII, x + y < 0

In QIV, the sign of x + y is unclear (i.e. it depends on the values of x & y)

Even worse: subtraction! We know a (positive) – (negative) must be positive, and a (negative) – (positive) must be negative, but if we have either a (positive) – (positive) or (negative) – (negative), then the sign of the difference depends on which has a larger absolute value. Thus:

In QI, the signs of (y – x) and (x – y) are unclear (i.e. it depends on the values of x & y)

In QII, y – x > 0 and x – y < 0

In QIII, the signs of (y – x) and (x – y) are unclear (i.e. it depends on the values of x & y)

In QIV, y – x < 0 and x – y > 0

Now, you probably have some appreciation of how many potential Data Sufficiency Questions the GMAT could concoct simply on the quadrants and the signs of x & y coordinates. A simple topic, but one worth thinking through thoroughly so you are ready on test day.

## Practice questions:

1) Is the point (x, y) in the fourth quadrant?

(1) xy > 0

(2) y > 0

2) http://gmat.magoosh.com/questions/1031

The question at that link will be followed by a video explaining the solution.

## Practice question explanations

1) This DS question is a yes/no question. We don’t actually need to determine the quadrant of (x, y), only whether it’s in QIV.

Statement #1: xy > 0

This inequality means that the (x,y) is either in QI or QIII, as we saw above. We don’t know which, but in either case, we can definitively say: no, it’s not in QIV. Because the statement allows us to arrive at a definitive answer — and it doesn’t matter one peep whether it’s a yes or no answer, as long as it’s definitive — the statement is sufficient. We got a definitive no answer to the question, so Statement #1 is *sufficient*.

Statement #2: y > 0

This inequality means that the point (x,y) is north of the x-axis, in either QI or QII. We don’t know which, but in either case, we can definitively say: no, it’s not in QIV. Again, definitive answer to the question, so Statement #2 is *sufficient*.

Both statements sufficient: answer = **D**.

The solution & explanation to question #2 are available at the link above.

one of the most beautiful post.

thanks Mikey

Mike – As I was going through this great article, I noticed one thing – under ‘even worse – subtraction’ section, at one point, it says (negative) – (positive) will always be positive. But, it should always be negative.

Please make the update.

As always, I simply like reading your articles.

Rahul

Rahul,

Yes! Thank you for pointing out this typo — I just corrected it. Thank you very much for your kind words.

Mike 🙂

I really appreciate this post. I’ve been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thank you again

Thank you for your kind words. Best of luck to you.

Mike 🙂

Quadrant IV is shown as III ?

Hi, Suresh! Sorry about that– it should be fixed now 🙂

Best,

Margarette

Hi Margaretta,

Quardrant IV is still shown as III.

Thanks,

Suresh

Suresh,

We fixed that. Thanks for pointing it out.

Mike 🙂