Distance, Time and Speed Word Problems | GMAT Maths

Problems involving Time, Distance and Speed are solved based on one simple formula.

Distance = Speed * Time

Which implies →

Speed = Distance / Time   and

Time = Distance / Speed

Let us take a look at some simple examples of distance, time and speed problems.
 
Example 1. A boy walks at a speed of 4 kmph. How much time does he take to walk a distance of 20 km?

Solution

Time = Distance / speed = 20/4 = 5 hours.
 
Example 2. A cyclist covers a distance of 15 miles in 2 hours. Calculate his speed.

Solution

Speed = Distance/time = 15/2 = 7.5 miles per hour.
 
Example 3. A car takes 4 hours to cover a distance, if it travels at a speed of 40 mph. What should be its speed to cover the same distance in 1.5 hours?

Solution

Distance covered = 4*40 = 160 miles

Speed required to cover the same distance in 1.5 hours = 160/1.5 = 106.66 mph
 
Now, take a look at the following example:

Example 4. If a person walks at 4 mph, he covers a certain distance. If he walks at 9 mph, he covers 7.5 miles more. How much distance did he actually cover?

Now we can see that the direct application of our usual formula Distance = Speed * Time or its variations cannot be done in this case and we need to put in extra effort to calculate the given parameters.

Let us see how this question can be solved.

Solution

For these kinds of questions, a table like this might make it easier to solve.

Distance Speed Time
d 4 t
d+7.5 9 t

 
Let the distance covered by that person be ‘d’.

Walking at 4 mph and covering a distance ‘d’ is done in a time of ‘d/4’

IF he walks at 9 mph, he covers 7.5 miles more than the actual distance d, which is ‘d+7.5’.

He does this in a time of (d+7.5)/9.

Since the time is same in both the cases →

d/4 = (d+7.5)/9            →        9d = 4(d+7.5)   →        9d=4d+30        →        d = 6.

So, he covered a distance of 6 miles in 1.5 hours.
 
Example 5. A train is going at 1/3 of its usual speed and it takes an extra 30 minutes to reach its destination. Find its usual time to cover the same distance.

Solution

Here, we see that the distance is same.

Let us assume that its usual speed is ‘s’ and time is ‘t’, then

Distance Speed Time
d s t min
d S+1/3 t+30 min

 
s*t = (1/3)s*(t+30)      →        t = t/3 + 10      →        t = 15.

So the actual time taken to cover the distance is 15 minutes.

Note: Note the time is expressed in terms of ‘minutes’. When we express distance in terms of miles or kilometers, time is expressed in terms of hours and has to be converted into appropriate units of measurement.

 

Solved Questions on Trains

Example 1. X and Y are two stations which are 320 miles apart. A train starts at a certain time from X and travels towards Y at 70 mph. After 2 hours, another train starts from Y and travels towards X at 20 mph. At what time do they meet?

Solution

Let the time after which they meet be ‘t’ hours.

Then the time travelled by second train becomes ‘t-2’.

Now,

Distance covered by first train+Distance covered by second train = 320 miles

70t+20(t-2) = 320

Solving this gives t = 4.

So the two trains meet after 4 hours.
 
Example 2. A train leaves from a station and moves at a certain speed. After 2 hours, another train leaves from the same station and moves in the same direction at a speed of 60 mph. If it catches up with the first train in 4 hours, what is the speed of the first train?

Solution

Let the speed of the first train be ‘s’.

Distance covered by the first train in (2+4) hours = Distance covered by second train in 4 hours

Therefore, 6s = 60*4

Solving which gives s=40.

So the slower train is moving at the rate of 40 mph.
 

Questions on Boats/Airplanes

For problems with boats and streams,

Speed of the boat upstream (against the current) = Speed of the boat in still water – speed of the stream

[As the stream obstructs the speed of the boat in still water, its speed has to be subtracted from the usual speed of the boat]

Speed of the boat downstream (along with the current) = Speed of the boat in still water + speed of the stream

[As the stream pushes the boat and makes it easier for the boat to reach the destination faster, speed of the stream has to be added]

Similarly, for airplanes travelling with/against the wind,

Speed of the plane with the wind = speed of the plane + speed of the wind

Speed of the plane against the wind = speed of the plane – speed of the wind

 

Let us look at some examples.

Example 1. A man travels at 3 mph in still water. If the current’s velocity is 1 mph, it takes 3 hours to row to a place and come back. How far is the place?

Solution

Let the distance be ‘d’ miles.

Time taken to cover the distance upstream + Time taken to cover the distance downstream = 3

Speed upstream = 3-1 = 2 mph

Speed downstream = 3+1 = 4 mph

So, our equation would be d/2 + d/4 = 3 → solving which, we get d = 4 miles.
 
Example 2. With the wind, an airplane covers a distance of 2400 kms in 4 hours and against the wind in 6 hours. What is the speed of the plane and that of the wind?

Solution

Let the speed of the plane be ‘a’ and that of the wind be ‘w’.

Our table looks like this:
 

Distance Speed Time
With the wind 2400 a+w 4
Against the wind 2400 a-w 6

 
4(a+w) = 2400 and 6(a-w) = 2400

Expressing one unknown variable in terms of the other makes it easier to solve, which means

a+w = 600 → w=600-a

Substituting the value of w in the second equation,

a-w = 400

a-(600-a) = 400 → a = 500

The speed of the plane is 500 kmph and that of the wind is 100 kmph.
 

More solved examples on Speed, Distance and Time

Example 1. A boy travelled by train which moved at the speed of 30 mph. He then boarded a bus which moved at the speed of 40 mph and reached his destination. The entire distance covered was 100 miles and the entire duration of the journey was 3 hours. Find the distance he travelled by bus.

Solution

Distance Speed Time
Train d 30 t
Bus 100-d 40 3-t

 

Let the time taken by the train be ‘t’. Then that of bus is ‘3-t’.

The entire distance covered was 100 miles

So, 30t + 40(3-t) = 100

Solving which gives t=2.

Substituting the value of t in 40(3-t), we get the distance travelled by bus is 40 miles.

 

Alternatively, we can add the time and equate it to 3 hours, which directly gives the distance.

d/30 + (100-d)/40 = 3

Solving which gives d = 60, which is the distance travelled by train. 100-60 = 40 miles is the distance travelled by bus.
 
Example 2. A plane covered a distance of 630 miles in 6 hours. For the first part of the trip, the average speed was 100 mph and for the second part of the trip, the average speed was 110 mph. what is the time it flew at each speed?

Solution

Our table looks like this.

Distance Speed Time
1st part of journey d 100 t
2nd part of journey 630-d 110 6-t

 

Assuming the distance covered in the 1st part of journey to be ‘d’, the distance covered in the second half becomes ‘630-d’.

Assuming the time taken for the first part of the journey to be ‘t’, the time taken for the second half becomes ‘6-t’.

From the first equation, d=100t

The second equation is 630-d = 110(6-t).

Substituting the value of d from the first equation, we get

630-100t = 110(6-t)

Solving this gives t=3.

So the plane flew the first part of the journey in 3 hours and the second part in 3 hours.
 
Example 2. Two persons are walking towards each other on a walking path that is 20 miles long. One is walking at the rate of 3 mph and the other at 4 mph. After how much time will they meet each other?

Solution

Distance Speed Time
First person d 3 t
Second person 20-d 4 t

 
Assuming the distance travelled by the first person to be ‘d’, the distance travelled by the second person is ’20-d’.

The time is ‘t’ for both of them because when they meet, they would have walked for the same time.

Since time is same, we can equate as

d/3 = (20-d)/4

Solving this gives d=60/7 miles (8.5 miles approximately)

Then t = 20/7 hours

So the two persons meet after 2 6/7 hours.
 

Practice Questions for you to solve

Problem 1

A boat covers a certain distance in 2 hours, while it comes back in 3 hours. If the speed of the stream is 4 kmph, what is the boat’s speed in still water?

A) 30 kmph
B) 20 kmph
C) 15 kmph
D) 40kmph

Answer 1

B.

Explanation

Let the speed of the boat be ‘s’ kmph.

Then, 2(s+4) = 3(s-4) → s=20

Problem 2

A cyclist travels for 3 hours, travelling for the first half of the journey at 12 mph and the second half at 15 mph. Find the total distance he covered.

A) 30 miles
B) 35 miles
C) 40 miles
D) 180 miles

Answer 2

C.

Explanation

Since it is mentioned, that the first ‘half’ of the journey is covered in 12 mph and the second in 15, the equation looks like

(d/2)/12 + (d/2)/15 = 3

Solving this gives d=40 miles


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12 Comments

  1. kavya says:

    Meera walked to school at a speed of 3 miles per hour. Once she reached the school, she
    realized that she forgot to bring her books, so rushed back home at a speed of 6 miles per
    hour. She then walked back to school at a speed of 4 miles per hour. All the times, she
    walked in the same route.
    please explain above problem

  2. Akshay says:

    When in a sum given two km/h and he come before some time and after some time then find distance how ?

  3. rajan prajapati says:

    a man covers a distance on a toy train.if the train moved 4km/hr faster,it would take 30 min. less. if it moved 2km/hr slower, it would have taken 20 min. more .find the distance.

    • P.Vishal Reddy says:

      Let the speed be x. and time be y. A.T.Q, (x+4)(y-1/2)=d and (x-2)(y+1/3)=d. Equate these two and get the answer

  4. nakshathra says:

    2 girls meenu and priya start at the same time to ride from madurai to manamadurai, 60 km away.meenu travels 4kmph slower than priya. priya reaches manamadurai and at turns back meeting meenu 12km from manamaduai. find meenu’s speed?

  5. Rohit kumar says:

    A train can travel 50% faster than a car. Both start from point A at the same time and reach point B 75 KMS away from A at the same time. On the way, however the train lost about 12.5 minutes while stopping at the stations. The speed of the car is:

    • shyam says:

      Let speed of the CAR BE x kmph.

      Then, speed of the train = 3/2(x)
      .’. 75/x – 75/(3/2)x= 125/(10*60) — subtracting the times travelled by two them hence trains wastage time

      therefore x= 120 kmph

  6. Naman Gupta says:

    when a person is moving with speed x km/hr is reaching office in t time. when he increases speed by 20km/hr, he reaches 40 min early. but when he decreases speed by 20 km/hr, he reaches 40 min late. what is the distance

  7. Anjali says:

    A boat moves with velocity 5km/hr relative to water at time t=0.The boat passes through a piece of wood floating in water while moving downstream.If it turns back after 30m,when and where does the boat meet the piece of wood again.Velocity of flow of water is 2km/hr.

  8. Anju Tripathi says:

    1.Data sufficiency :

    On the certain day it took bill three times as long to drive from home to work as it took Sue to drive from home to work. How many kilometers did Bill drive from home to work?

    a) sue drove 10 kms from home to work, and the ratio of distance driven from home to work time to drive from home to work was the same for Bill and Sue that day.

    b) The ratio of distance driven from home to work time to drive from home to work for Sue that day was 64 kms/hr

  9. Thembinkosi says:

    A cyclist completes a distance of 60 km at the same speed throughout. She travels 10 km in one hour. She stops every 20 km for one hour to have a break. What are the two variables involved in this situation?

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