Most of the time, we have an intuitive feel for whether a problem is hard or easy. But on tricky problems (problems that appear easy but are actually hard) our intuition can fail us.

There are special techniques and strategies that apply to the hard problems __only__. Do not apply the methods of this section to the easy or medium quantitative comparison problems.

**On Hard Quantitative Comparison Problems, The Obvious Answer (The Eye-Catcher) Will Almost Always Be Wrong.** (If one expression looks at first glance to be larger than

another, then it will not be.)

This is so because when people cannot solve a problem, they most often pick the answer-choice that “looks right.” But if that were the answer, most people would answer it correctly and therefore it would not be a “hard” problem.

**Example 1:**

**Column A **

*x*^{10}

**Column B**

*x*^{100}

*x* ≥ 1

- Column A is larger
- Column B is larger
- Column A and Column B are equal
- Not enough information to decide.

One would expect *x*^{100} to be larger than *x*^{10}. But this is a hard problem and therefore what we expect will not be the answer. Now, clearly *x*^{100} cannot always be less than *x*^{10}. And just as clearly *x*^{100} cannot always be equal to *x*^{10}. Hence, the answer is (D)—not-enough-information. (A double case can also be obtained by substituting *x *= 1 and then *x* = 2.)

**Example 2:**

**Column A**

The number of distinct prime factors of *x*

**Column B**

The number of distinct prime factors of 4*x*

- Column A is larger
- Column B is larger
- Column A and Column B are equal
- Not enough information to decide.

We expect the number of prime factors of 4*x *to be larger than the number of prime factors of *x*. But that is the eye-catcher. Now, the number of prime factors of 4*x* cannot be less than the number of prime factors of *x* since 4*x* contains all the factors of *x*. So the answer must be that either they are equal or there is not enough information. In fact, there is not enough information, as can be verified by plugging in the numbers *x* = 2 and then* x* = 3.

**Example 3:**

**Column A**

The area of a square with perimeter 12

**Column B**

The area of a parallelogram with perimeter 16

- Column A is larger
- Column B is larger
- Column A and Column B are equal
- Not enough information to decide.

We expect the area of the parallelogram to be larger. After all, the parallelogram could be a square with perimeter 16, which of course has a larger area than a square with perimeter 12. But that would be too easy. Hence, there must be a parallelogram whose area is equal to or less than the area of the square. (See whether you can draw it. Hint: Look at the extreme cases.) Thus, we have a double case, and the answer is (D)—not-enough-information.

**Note 1: When plugging in on quantitative comparison problems, be sure to check 0, 1, 2, – 2, and 1/2, in that order.**

**Note 2: If there are only numbers in a quantitative comparison problem, i.e., no variables, then (D), not-enough-information, cannot be the answer.**

**Note 3: When drawing geometric figures, don’t forget extreme cases. **

**Strategy: Eliminate Answer-Choices That Are Too Easily Derived or Too Ordinary**.

**Example 4:**

**Column A**

*x + y*

**Column B**

4

where *x* • *y* = 3

- Column A is larger
- Column B is larger
- Column A and Column B are equal
- Not enough information to decide.

The numbers 3 and 1 are solutions to the equation *x • y* = 3 because 3•1 = 3. So for this choice of *x* and *y*, Column A equals Column B, since 3 + 1 = 4. But that is too easy: Everyone will notice 1 and 3 as solutions of the equation *x • y* = 3. Hence, there must be another pair of numbers whose product is 3 and whose sum is not 4. In fact, there are an infinite number of pairs. For example, 9 • 1

≠ 4. This is a double case and therefore the answer is (D) because there is not enough information.

**Example 5:**

**Column A**

The greatest number of regions into which two straight lines will divide the shaded region.

**Column B**

4