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Coordinate Geometry

Geometry: Coordinate Geometry

Read the following SAT test question and select the correct answer. 

Approach every question the same way to minimize mistakes.  Start by reading the question carefully and identifying the bottom line.  Then assess your options and choose the most efficient method to attack the problem.  When you have an answer, loop back to verify that it matches your bottom line.

In the xy-plane, line l passes through the points (0, 0) and (2, 5). Line m is perpendicular to line l. What is the slope of line m?

Bottom line: slope m = ?

Assess your Options:  You could draw out a graph and solve this visually, but that is a waste of time if you know the formula to find the slope of a line.

Attack the Problem:  You are given the most information about line l, so start with that line.  You should have the formula for slope memorized:


It is easiest just to think about slope as the change in y-values over the change in x-values.  If you look up at the original points that you have been given, from zero the y-values go up to 5 and the x-values go up to 2.  You now have 5 over 2.

The slope of line l is .

At this point, some students will think they are finished and select answer (D).  However, your bottom line was the slope of line m!  The problem tells you that line m is perpendicular to line l.  In order to find a perpendicular line, you must take the opposite reciprocal of the first line; in essence you must flip the sign (negative or positive) and the numbers (a fraction or whole number).

The slope of line m is .

Loop Back:  You solved for your bottom line, so look down at your answer choices.

(A) 
(B) 
(C) 
(D) 
(E) 5

The correct answer is (B). 


On sat.collegeboard.org, 47% of the responses were correct.

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