MCAT question – please help

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  • #46052
    Med4MomMed4Mom
    Participant

    Ok, this is probably a really really stupid basic question, but since I haven’t studied trig in about 18 years, I am looking for some help.

    When given y and x (opposite and adjacent sides of a triangle), it is pretty easy to calculate tan of the angle. But how (without a calculator :confused: ) do you then calculate what the angle is in degrees? For example, from the Kaplan review, if we know that tan is 5/3 (or 1.67) how do we then get to knowing that the angle therefore is 59 degrees???? The kaplan book just automatically goes to that conclusion and I don’t know how to get it without a calculator.

    Please help….

    #46053
    spacecadetspacecadet
    Participant

    There are a couple of special triangles that you should know. They are the 30/60/90 triangle (sides are 1,sqrt(3)/2,2 or some multiple). The other is the 45/45/90 triangle (sides are 1,1,sqrt(2) or some multiple).

    You need to know sines/cosines for these triangles, but that’s it. If it’s a non-standard triangle, they will give you the info you need.

    I found a website that describes these two triangles. http://id.mind.net/~zona/mmts/miscellaneousMath/tri454590306090/tri454590306090. htm. I tried to post a link but it’s not working.

    Hope this helps!

    Pam

    #46054
    Med4MomMed4Mom
    Participant

    Thanks Pam,

    I checked out the site and it looks pretty helpful. Your comments are pretty much what I thought, but when Kaplan presented this problem and then in the solution just made the leap to saying that tan of 5/3 corresponds to an angle of 59 degrees, I thought maybe I was missing some technique for solving this by hand. 😮

    I knew that a right triange with 45 degree acute angles should have a tan of 1, but didn’t know how to figure out what the angle is when the value of tan is easily determined, but is a value other than 1.

    Thanks for your help.

    Mimi

    #46055
    spacecadetspacecadet
    Participant

    Mimi,

    This was a problem in the review book? I noticed that some of the problems in the review books and on the topical test were dang near impossible without a calculator!

    Pam

    #46056
    womansurgeonwomansurgeon
    Participant

    Daaaaang!!!

    You guys are makin’ me awful glad I’m done with that stuff. Guess how often you use trig in clinical practice.

    Yup. ZERO.

    Just another hoop to leap through, I suppose… :rolleyes:

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