# Proof of the Ratio Test

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We can now provide the proof of the ratio test. Recall the ratio test:

The Ratio Test
To apply the ratio test to a given infinite series

k = 1 ∞ a k , {\displaystyle {\begin{aligned}\sum _{k=1}^{\infty }a_{k},\end{aligned}}} we evaluate the limit

lim k → | a k + 1 a k | = L . {\displaystyle {\begin{aligned}\lim _{k\rightarrow \infty }{\Big |}{\frac {a_{k+1}}{a_{k}}}{\Big |}=L.\end{aligned}}} There are three possibilities:

1. if L < 1, then the series converges
2. if L > 1, then the series diverges
3. if L = 1, then the test is inconclusive

## Proof

Our proof will be in two parts:

1. Proof of 1 (if L < 1, then the series converges)
2. Proof of 2 (if L > 1, then the series diverges)

### Proof of 1 (if L < 1, then the series converges)

Our aim here is to compare the given series

k = 1 ∞ a k {\displaystyle \sum _{k=1}^{\infty }a_{k}} with a convergent geometric series (we will be using a comparison test).

In this first case, L is less than 1, so we may choose any number r such that L < r < 1. Since

lim n → | a n + 1 a n | = L , L < r {\displaystyle \lim _{n\rightarrow \infty }{\Big |}{\frac {a_{n+1}}{a_{n}}}{\Big |}=L,\quad L<r} the ratio |an+1/an| will eventually be less than r. In other words, there exists an integer N such that

| a n + 1 a n | < r , w h e n e v e r   n ≥ N {\displaystyle {\Big |}{\frac {a_{n+1}}{a_{n}}}{\Big |}<r,\quad \mathrm {whenever} \ n\geq N} This follows from the formal definition of limit, which not all calculus students have covered. Those students who have not covered a formal definition of limit may wish to consult a calculus textbook on this (any of the textbooks listed on the Recommended Resources page cover it).

We can rearranged our expression to

| a n + 1 | < | a n | r , w h e n e v e r   n ≥ N {\displaystyle |a_{n+1}|<|a_{n}|r,\quad \mathrm {whenever} \ n\geq N} If we let n {\displaystyle n} equal N, N + 1, N + 2 in the previous equation we obtain

| a N + 1 | < | a N | r | a N + 2 | < | a N + 1 | r < | a N | r 2 | a N + 3 | < | a N + 2 | r < | a N | r 3 {\displaystyle {\begin{aligned}|a_{N+1}|&<|a_{N}|r\\|a_{N+2}|&<|a_{N+1}|r<|a_{N}|r^{2}\\|a_{N+3}|&<|a_{N+2}|r<|a_{N}|r^{3}\\\end{aligned}}} and, in general,

| a N + k | < | a N | r k , w h e n e v e r   k ≥ 1 {\displaystyle |a_{N+k}|<|a_{N}|r^{k},\quad \mathrm {whenever} \ k\geq 1} Now the series

k = 1 ∞ | a N | r k = | a N | r + | a N | r 2 + | a N | r 3 + … {\displaystyle \sum _{k=1}^{\infty }|a_{N}|r^{k}=|a_{N}|r+|a_{N}|r^{2}+|a_{N}|r^{3}+\ldots } is convergent because it is a geometric series whose common ratio r {\displaystyle r} is known to satisfy 0 < r < 1. By the Comparison Test, the series

n = N + 1 ∞ | a n | = | a N + 1 | + | a N + 2 | + | a N + 3 | + … {\displaystyle \sum _{n=N+1}^{\infty }|a_{n}|=|a_{N+1}|+|a_{N+2}|+|a_{N+3}|+\ldots } is convergent, and so our given series

k = 1 ∞ a k {\displaystyle \sum _{k=1}^{\infty }a_{k}} is also convergent (adding a finite number of finite terms to a convergent series will create another convergent series).

Therefore, our series is absolutely convergent (and therefore convergent).

### Proof of 2 (if L > 1, then the series diverges)

Here the Divergence Test implies that the given series diverges. Indeed, if

| a n + 1 a n | → L > 1 {\displaystyle {\Big |}{\frac {a_{n+1}}{a_{n}}}{\Big |}\rightarrow L>1} then the ratio

| a n + 1 a n | {\displaystyle {\Big |}{\frac {a_{n+1}}{a_{n}}}{\Big |}} will eventually be greater than 1; that is, there exists an integer N such that

| a n + 1 a n | > 1 , f o r   n ≥ N {\displaystyle {\Big |}{\frac {a_{n+1}}{a_{n}}}{\Big |}>1,\quad \mathrm {for} \ n\geq N} For this same N , {\displaystyle N,} chaining these inequalities together shows that | a N + k | > | a N | > 0 {\displaystyle |a_{N+k}|>|a_{N}|>0} for all k ≥ 1 {\displaystyle k\geq 1} . This clearly implies that the sequence { a n } {\displaystyle \{a_{n}\}} cannot converge to 0. Therefore, the given series diverges by the Divergence Test.

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### 2 Responses to Proof of the Ratio Test

1. Sam Wong says:

There is a typo in the proof of 1. The R.H.S of equality involving the series \sum_{k=1}^\infty |a_N|r^k is wrong. There should be no a_{N+1}, a_{N+2} terms on the R.H.S.

2. Nelson says:

I think there is an error in the equation just above the paragraph that starts “is convergent because it is a geometric…”. To rhs of the equation should have a common factor |a_N| not factors |a_{N+k}|