Definite Integrals Made Easy: Tips & Tricks for Success

Definite Integrals

The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus

Definite integrals are a fundamental concept in calculus. They allow us to calculate the area under a curve between two specific points. Mastering definite integrals is essential for success in many fields, including mathematics, physics, and engineering. In this article, we’ll explore the basics of definite integrals and provide you with valuable tips and tricks to make solving them a breeze.

Understanding Definite Integrals

A definite integral is a way to find the exact area under a curve between two points on the x-axis, denoted by \( a \) and \( b \). The notation for a definite integral is:

\( \displaystyle \int^a_b f(x) dx \)


  • \( \displaystyle \int \) is the integral symbol
  • \( a \) is the lower limit of integration
  • \( b \) is the upper limit of integration
  • \( f(x) \) is the function being integrated
  • \( dx \) indicates that we are integrating with respect to \(x\)

The Fundamental Theorem of Definite Integrals

The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus (FTC) is the foundation for solving definite integrals. It states that if \( F(x) \) is an antiderivative of \( f(x) \), then:

\( \displaystyle \int^a_b f(x) dx = F(b)-F(a) \)

In other words, to find the definite integral of a function, we first find an antiderivative of the function, then evaluate it at the upper and lower limits of integration and subtract the results.

Tips & Tricks for Solving Definite Integrals

Now that you understand the basics of definite integrals, let’s explore some tips and tricks to make solving them easier.

Tip 1: Simplify the Integrand

Before attempting to integrate, simplify the function as much as possible. This may involve expanding brackets, combining like terms, or using trigonometric identities. Simplifying the integrand can make the integration process more manageable and help you avoid mistakes.

Tip 2: Choose the Right Integration Technique

There are various integration techniques, such as substitution, integration by parts, and partial fractions. Familiarise yourself with these techniques and learn to recognise when to use each one. Choosing the right technique can save you time and effort in solving definite integrals.

Tip 3: Use Symmetry to Your Advantage

If the function you’re integrating is symmetric about the \(y\)-axis or the origin, you can often simplify the problem by using this symmetry. For example, if \( f(x) \) is an odd function (i.e., \( f(-x) = -f(x)) \), and the limits of integration are \( -a \) and \(a\), then:

\( \displaystyle \int^{-a}_a f(x) dx = 0 \)

Similarly, if \( f(x) \) is an even function (i.e., \( f(-x) = f(x) \) ), and the limits of integration are \( -a \) and \( a \), then:

\( \displaystyle \int^{-a}_a f(x) dx = 2 \times \int^0_a f(x) dx \)

Tip 4: Break Up the Integral

Sometimes, it may be easier to break up a definite integral into smaller parts. This is especially useful when the integrand is a piecewise function or when the limits of integration span different intervals with different functions. By splitting the integral into smaller parts, you can solve each part separately and then add the results together.

Tip 5: Practice, Practice, Practice Definite Integrals

As with any skill, the key to mastering definite integrals is practice. Work through a variety of problems, from simple to complex, and don’t be discouraged if you encounter difficulties. With time and effort, you’ll develop a strong understanding of definite integrals and be able to solve them with confidence.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

When solving definite integrals, there are a few common pitfalls to watch out for:

  1. Forgetting to evaluate the antiderivative at the limits of integration
  2. Misapplying integration techniques or using the wrong technique altogether
  3. Neglecting to simplify the integrand before attempting to integrate
  4. Misinterpreting the limits of integration or the function being integrated

By being aware of these potential pitfalls and double-checking your work, you can minimise errors and ensure your solutions are accurate.

Conclusion of Definite Integrals

Definite integrals are a crucial concept in calculus, with applications spanning numerous fields. By understanding the basics of definite integrals, choosing the right integration techniques, and practising regularly, you can master this topic and excel in your studies.

Remember to simplify the integrand, use symmetry when possible, and break up complex integrals into smaller parts. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to make mistakes – they are a natural part of the learning process.

With the tips and tricks provided in this article, you’ll be well on your way to conquering definite integrals and achieving success in your calculus endeavours. Happy integrating!

For a continuous function $f(x)$ with antiderivative $F(x)$, $$\displaystyle \int_{a}^{b}{f(x)}dx = F(b)-F(a)$$

Properties of Definite Integrals

The following properties of definite integrals can all be deducted from the fundamental theorem of calculus:

  • $\displaystyle \int_{a}^{a}{f(x)}dx = 0$
  • $\displaystyle \int_{b}^{a}{f(x)}dx = -\int_{a}^{b}{f(x)}dx$
  • $\displaystyle \int_{b}^{a}{f(x)}dx + \int_{c}^{b}{f(x)}dx = \int_{c}^{a}{f(x)}dx$
  • $\displaystyle \int_{b}^{a}{\big[f(x) \pm g(x)\big]}dx = \int_{b}^{a}{f(x)}dx \pm \int_{b}^{a}{g(x)}dx$
  • $\displaystyle \int_{b}^{a}{c}dx = c(a-b)$
  • $\displaystyle \int_{b}^{a}{cf(x)}dx = c\int_{b}^{a}{f(x)}dx$

Example 1

Prove $\displaystyle \int_{a}^{a}{f(x)}dx = 0$.

\( \begin{align} \displaystyle
\int_{a}^{a}{f(x)}dx &= \big[F(x)\big]_{a}^{a} \\
&= F(a)-F(a) \\
&= 0
\end{align} \)

Example 2

Prove $\displaystyle \int_{b}^{a}{f(x)}dx = -\int_{a}^{b}{f(x)}dx$.

\( \begin{align} \displaystyle
\int_{b}^{a}{f(x)}dx &= \big[F(x)\big]_{a}^{b} \\
&= F(a)-F(b) \\
&= -\big[F(b)-F(a)\big] \\
&= -\int_{a}^{b}{f(x)}dx
\end{align} \)

Example 3

Prove $\displaystyle \int_{b}^{a}{f(x)}dx + \int_{c}^{b}{f(x)}dx = \int_{c}^{a}{f(x)}dx$.

\( \begin{align} \displaystyle
\int_{b}^{a}{f(x)}dx + \int_{c}^{b}{f(x)}dx &= \big[F(x)\big]_{b}^{a} + \big[F(x)\big]_{c}^{b} \\
&= \big[F(a)-F(b)\big] + \big[F(b)-F(c)\big] \\
&= F(a)-F(c) \\
&= \int_{c}^{a}{f(x)}dx
\end{align} \)

Example 4

Prove $\displaystyle \int_{b}^{a}{\big[f(x) + g(x)\big]}dx = \int_{b}^{a}{f(x)}dx + \int_{b}^{a}{g(x)}dx$.

\( \begin{align} \displaystyle
\int_{b}^{a}{\big[f(x) + g(x)\big]}dx &= \big[F(x) + G(x)\big]_{b}^{a} \\
&= \big[F(a) + G(a)\big]-\big[F(b) + G(b)\big] \\
&= \big[F(a)-F(b)\big] + \big[G(a)-G(b)\big] \\
&= \int_{b}^{a}{f(x)}dx + \int_{b}^{a}{g(x)}dx
\end{align} \)

Example 5

Prove $\displaystyle \displaystyle \int_{b}^{a}{cf(x)}dx = c\int_{b}^{a}{f(x)}dx$.

\( \begin{align} \displaystyle
\int_{b}^{a}{cf(x)}d &= \big[cF(x)\big]_{b}^{a} \\
&= cF(a)-cF(b) \\
&= c\big[F(a)-F(b)\big] \\
&= c \int_{b}^{a}{f(x)}dx
\end{align} \)

Example 6

Prove $\displaystyle \displaystyle \int_{b}^{a}{c}dx = c(a-b)$.

\( \begin{align} \displaystyle
\int_{b}^{a}{c}dx &= \big[cx\big]_{b}^{a} \\
&= c \times a-c \times b \\
&= c(a-b)
\end{align} \)

Example 7

Find $\displaystyle \int_{1}^{2}{8x^3}dx$.

\( \begin{align} \displaystyle
\int_{1}^{2}{8x^3}dx &= \bigg[\dfrac{8x^{3+1}}{3+1}\bigg]_{1}^{2} \\
&= \bigg[\dfrac{8x^{4}}{4}\bigg]_{1}^{2} \\
&= 2\big[x^4\big]_{1}^{2} \\
&= 2\big[2^4-1^4\big] \\
&= 30 \text{ units}^2
\end{align} \)

Example 8

If $\displaystyle \int_{1}^{4}{f(x)}dx=10$ and $\displaystyle \int_{4}^{9}{f(x)}dx=15$, find $\displaystyle \int_{1}^{9}{f(x)}dx$.

\( \begin{align} \displaystyle
\displaystyle \int_{1}^{9}{f(x)}dx &= \displaystyle \int_{1}^{4}{f(x)}dx + \displaystyle \int_{4}^{9}{f(x)}dx \\
&= 10 + 15 \\
&= 25
\end{align} \)

Example 9

If $\displaystyle \int_{-1}^{1}{f(x)}dx=5$, find $\displaystyle \int_{1}^{-1}{f(x)}dx$.

\( \begin{align} \displaystyle
\int_{1}^{-1}{f(x)}dx &= -\int_{-1}^{1}{f(x)}dx \\
&= -5
\end{align} \)

Example 10

If $\displaystyle \int_{-1}^{1}{f(x)}dx=2$, find $\displaystyle \int_{1}^{-1}{(f(x)+5)}dx$.

\( \begin{align} \displaystyle
\int_{1}^{-1}{(f(x)+5)}dx &= \int_{1}^{-1}{f(x)}dx +\int_{1}^{-1}{5}dx \\
&= -2 + 5(-1-1) \\
&= -2 + 5 \times (-2) \\
&= -12
\end{align} \)

Example 11

If $\displaystyle \int_{-1}^{1}{f(x)}dx=5$, find $\displaystyle \int_{-1}^{1}{2f(x)}dx$.

\( \begin{align} \displaystyle
\int_{-1}^{1}{2f(x)}dx &= 2\int_{1}^{-1}{f(x)}dx \\
&= 2 \times 5 \\
&= 10
\end{align} \)

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