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This paper investigates the problem of determining a binary-valued function through a sequence of strategically selected queries. The focus is an algorithm called Generalized Binary Search (GBS). GBS is a well-known greedy algorithm for determining a binary-valued function through a sequence of strategically selected queries. At each step, a query is selected that most evenly splits the hypotheses under consideration into two disjoint subsets, a natural generalization of the idea underlying classic binary search. This paper develops novel incoherence and geometric conditions under which GBS achieves the information-theoretically optimal query complexity; i.e., given a collection of N hypotheses, GBS terminates with the correct function after no more than a constant times logN queries. Furthermore, a noise-tolerant version of GBS is developed that also achieves the optimal query complexity. These results are applied to learning halfspaces, a problem arising routinely in image processing and machine learning.