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Math 142 Series

Mnemonic: PARTING CC
P-series, Alternating Series Test, Ratio and Root Tests, Telescoping Series, Integral Test, iNdividual Term Test for
Divergence, Geometric Series Test, Comparison Test, Limit Comparison Test

p-Series
Form:

X
1
p
n
n=1

Converges: If p > 1.
Diverges: If p 1.
P
P
P
Let b be any real number. Remember that n=1 ban = b n=1 an if n=1 an is convergent, so series like
P b
n=1 np are also convergent if p > 1. In particular, remember to look for constant multiples of the pseries
they come up a lot and are often useful for the Comparison Test.

Alternating Series Test


Form:

(1)n bn or

n=1

(1)n+1 bn

n=1

Converges: If (a) bn+1 bn for all n and (b) lim bn = 0.


n

This test applies only to alternating series. Also, note that we only need that {bn } is eventually a decreasing
sequence since a finite number of terms does not affect convergence.

Ratio Test
Suppose we have the series



an+1
.

an . Define L = lim
n
an

(1) If L < 1 the series is absolutely convergent (and hence convergent).


(2) If L > 1 the series is divergent.
(3) If L = 1 the test is inconclusive.
Use this test when the series contains factorials or other products (including a constant raised to the
nth power).

Root Test
Suppose we have the series

an . Define L = lim

p
n

|an | = lim |an |1/n .


n

(1) If L < 1 the series is absolutely convergent (and hence convergent).


(2) If L > 1 the series is divergent.
(3) If L = 1 the test is inconclusive.
Try this test when an = (bn )n .

Telescoping Series
A telescoping series is a series whose partial sums SN eventually only have a fixed number of terms after
cancellation. You can then evaluate the limit lim SN to determine whether the series converges or diverges.
N

(Partial fraction decomposition may be necessary.)


1

Integral Test
Suppose that f (x) is (a) continuous, (b) positive, (c) decreasing function on the interval [k, ) and that
(d) f (n) = an then

f (x) dx is convergent so is

(1) If
k

Z
(2) If

f (x) dx is divergent so is
k

an .

n=k

an .

n=k

This test applies only to series that have positive terms. Try this test when f (x) is easy to integrate.

Individual Term Test for Divergence


If lim an 6= 0 then

an diverges.

Look for the same degree in the numerator and denominator. This works for any series, including alternating
series.
Remember: If lim an = 0 then we know nothing.
n

Geometric Series
Form:

arn1

n=1

Converges: If |r| < 1.


Diverges: If |r| 1.
The form of the series is particularly important here. The sum must start at 1, and r must be to the
(n 1)th power. Some algebraic manipulation is often required to get a geometric series into the correct
form.

Comparison Test
Suppose that

an and

bn are series with positive terms:

P
P
(1) If P bn is convergent and an bn for all n, thenP an is also convergent.
(2) If
bn is divergent and an bn for all n, then
an is also divergent.
Use this test if the given series is similar to a p-series or geometric series. Remember, the terms of the series
being tested must be smaller than a convergent series or larger than a divergent series. It is often
useful to bound the numerator; for example, for n 1 we have arctan(n) /2, ln(n) n, en n, and
e1/n e. Weve seen all of these used in class.

Limit Comparison Test


P
P
Suppose that
an and
bn are series with positive terms:
an
If lim
= C, where C > 0 is a finite number, then either both series converge or both series diverge.
n bn
Try this test if an is a rational expression involving only polynomials or
This
Ppolynomials under radicals. P
test is often easier to apply than the Comparison Test if you are given
an which reminds you of
bn
but cannot find a relationship between the individual terms (i.e., which is bigger termwise).