In this explainer, we will learn how to calculate the sum of the terms in a geometric sequence with a finite number of terms.

Let us consider a sequence where each term is found by multiplying the previous term by a constant, for example, .

We call this constant multiplier the common ratio. Another way to describe the sequence would be to say that each term in the sequence is equal to the previous term multiplied by the common ratio.

This is known as a geometric sequence, in this case with a first term equal to 2 and a common ratio of 3. If our sequence just consisted of, say, the six terms above (or indeed any specific number of terms), then we would call it a finite geometric sequence because it has a finite number of terms. If the sequence followed this pattern forever, as the ellipsis at the end implies, then we would call it an infinite geometric sequence.

### Definition: Geometric Sequence

A geometric sequence is a sequence that has a common ratio, , between consecutive terms. The first term is denoted by or , the second term , the third term , and so on. The term is denoted by .

Each term is equal to the previous term multiplied by the common ratio:

This can also be expressed as the first term multiplied by powers of the common ratio:

Returning to our initial geometric sequence above, if we know the numbers in the sequence, we can calculate the common ratio by dividing the value of one term by the value of the previous term. Since the ratio is common between all successive pairs of terms, it does not matter which pair we choose for our calculation.

The ratio of the first two terms is , the ratio of the second two terms is , and so on.

### Definition: The Common Ratio

Since we multiply one term by the common ratio to get the next term, we can express this generally as and by dividing both sides of the equation by , we get

Alternatively, with the definition that one term is the result of multiplying the previous term by the common ration, we find that

The sum of the terms in a sequence is called a series. Given that a geometric sequence is , the corresponding geometric series could be represented as shown below:

In this case, by adding together the first 10 terms in the series, we can see that the sum of these terms is 59โโโ048.

We will now derive a formula for the sum of the first terms of a geometric sequence.

Consider a geometric sequence with first term and common ratio . The first terms can be written as , so the sum of the first terms of a geometric sequence can be written as follows:

If we multiply both sides of our equation by , we have

Subtracting equation (2) from equation (1), all the terms on the right-hand side apart from and cancel out.

So,

Factoring from the right-hand side and from the left-hand side will allow us to create an equation for :

Alternatively, we could have subtracted (1) from equation (2) to obtain the formula

### Definition: The Sum of a Finite Geometric Sequence

The sum of the first terms of a geometric sequence, with first term and common ratio , is denoted by :

Generally, we use the first version when and the second one when .

If , all the terms of the geometric sequence are the same, so we would just need to multiply the first term by the number of terms: .

In our first example, we will calculate the sum of the first six terms of a geometric sequence, given its common ratio and first term.

### Example 1: Calculating the Sum of Certain Terms in a Finite Geometric Series

A geometric series has a first term of 3 and a common ratio of 5. Find the sum of the first 6 terms.

### Answer

In order to answer this question, we will use the formula to calculate the sum of the first terms of a geometric sequence, with first term and common ratio :

We are told in the question that the first term is 3, the common ratio is 5, and we are calculating the sum of the first 6 terms; so, let , , and :

The sum of the first 6 terms of the geometric sequence is 11โโโ718.

In our second example, we will use the formula for the term of a finite geometric sequence to help us calculate the number of terms and, hence, find the sum of the series.

### Example 2: Finding the Sum of a Finite Geometric Sequence

Find the sum of the geometric sequence .

### Answer

We define the first term of a geometric sequence as . Let .

We can calculate the value of the common ratio, , by dividing any term by the term that precedes it:

The common ratio of the sequence is equal to . Let .

The last term of the sequence is 256. If we define the number of terms in the sequence to be , then we can say that . The formula for the term of a geometric sequence with first term and common ratio is given by

We know that

So,

Therefore,

To find the sum of the series, we can now use the formula , with , , and :

The sum of the geometric sequence is 176.

In our next example, we will need to rearrange our formulae to calculate the number of terms in a particular geometric sequence.

### Example 3: Finding the Number of Terms of a Finite Geometric Sequence given Its Sum

The number of terms of a geometric sequence whose first term is 729, last term is 1, and sum of all terms is 1โโโ093 is .

### Answer

We define the first term of a geometric sequence as . Let .

The last term , where and is the common ratio between terms:

Using the quotient rule for exponents, , we can rewrite the right-hand side of our equation such that

Next, we recall the formula for the sum of the first terms of a geometric series as . Let ; then,

From equation (3), we can substitute for :

The common ratio of the sequence is , which we can substitute back into equation (3) to calculate :

Using the product rule for exponents, , we can rewrite the left-hand side of our equation such that

Therefore, .

The number of terms of a geometric sequence whose first term is 729, last term is 1, and sum of all terms is 1โโโ093 is 7.

In the fourth example, we need to find the geometric sequence, given information about some of its properties.

### Example 4: Finding the Geometric Sequence given Its Last Term, Common Ratio, and the Sum of All Its Terms

Find the geometric sequence given the sum of all the terms is 3โโโ339, the last term is 1โโโ696, and the common ratio is 2.

### Answer

We define the common ratio of a geometric sequence as . Let .

The last term , where , and is the first term:

Using the quotient rule of exponents, , we can rewrite the right-hand side of our equation such that

The sum of all the terms of the geometric series , where :

We know from equation (4) that , so let us substitute this into equation (5) to create an equation in terms of that we can solve:

Therefore, the first term of the sequence is 53 and the common ratio is 2.

This means that the second term of the sequence is . The third term is . We find the following terms by multiplying the previous term by 2.

The geometric sequence is .

In our final example, we are given a multiplicative relationship between two nonconsecutive terms in a geometric sequence, and the sum of two different nonconsecutive terms. We need to use our knowledge of geometric sequences in order to establish the first term and common ratio of the sequence and then find a finite sum of terms.

### Example 5: Finding the Sum of n Terms of a Geometric Sequence under a Certain Condition

Find the sum of the first 7 terms of a geometric sequence given and .

### Answer

The term of a geometric sequence, whose first term is and common ratio is , is denoted by , where .

This means that and .

Substituting these expressions into the first equation, , we find

The first term of the geometric sequence is not equal to zero since the sum of two of its terms is nonzero. As and are nonzero, we can divide both sides of the equation by :

Now that we know the value of the common ratio, we can use the second equation, , where and .

So,

Substituting ,

Therefore, the first term of the sequence is and the common ratio is .

We can now calculate the sum of the first seven terms of the geometric sequence using the formula

Let and :

The sum of the first 7 terms of the geometric sequence is .

We will finish this explainer by recapping some of the key points.

### Key Points

- A finite geometric sequence has the form , where is the first term, is the common ratio, and is the number of terms in the sequence.
- The term of a geometric sequence is .
- The common ratio, , of a geometric sequence whose term is is given by or .
- The sum of the terms in a sequence is called a series.
- The sum of the first terms of a geometric sequence, with first term and common ratio , is denoted by , where