Probability

Overview

In this section we will cover:

Expressing probabilities

GMAT Probability Rule #1

GMAT Probability Rule #2

GMAT Probability Rule #3

GMAT Probability Rule #4

Probability

You may encounter questions on the GMAT that ask the probability of an event

occuring. For instance:

\u2022

Sara rolls two fair, six-sided dice. What is the probability she will roll two 6s?

\u2022

Roland flip two fair coins. What is the probability that neither of the coins will

land on tails?

\u2022

A bag contains six blue marbles and six red marbles. If Teresa randomly chooses a marble from the bag, what is the probability that the marble is blue?

All of these problems are probability problems.Probability is a measure of the

likelihood of an event occurring.

Expressing Probability

The probability of an event occurring is expressed as a number

between 0 and 1. A probability of 0 means the event can never

happen. A probability of 1 means the event is certain to happen.

You may see probability express on the GMAT in terms of a percent, a

decimal, or a fraction. For instance, the probability of a fair coin

landing on tails can be expressed as

Fraction1/2

Decimal.5

Percent50%

Sometimes you may see notation similar to that below:

P(A) = 1/2

This means that the probability of an event A is 1/2.

Probability Rules

There are four probability rules you need to memorize in order to master GMAT

probability questions:

1. The probability of an event A occurring is the number of outcomes that

result in A divided by the total number of possible outcomes.

2. The probability of an event occurring plus the probability of the event not

occurring equals 1.

3. The probability of event A AND event B occurring is the probability of event A times the probability of event B given that event A has already occurred.

4. The probability of event A OR event B occurring is the probability of event

A occurring plus the probability of event B occurring minus the probability

of both events occurring.

The probability of an event A occurring is the number of outcomes that

result in A divided by the total number of possible outcomes.

Example: Raphael tosses a fair coin. What is the probability the coin will

come up heads?

Probability of heads = [heads]/[heads, tails]

Probability of heads = 1/2

Example: Tom rolls a fair die. What is the probability that the die will roll an

even number?

Probability of even number = [2, 4, 6]/[1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]

Probability of even number = 3/6

Probability of even number = \u00bd

Rule #2

The probability of an event occurring plus the probability of the event not

occurring equals 1.

In other words, we can say with 100% certainty that an event will either occur or not

occur. For instance, the probability of a fair, six-sided die rolling a 4 is 1/6. The

probability of the die not landing on 4 is (1 - 1/6) or 5/6. 1/6 + 5/6 = 1.

This concept can be very helpful on the GMAT. Sometimes it is easier to determine

the probability of an event not occurring than determining the probability of an event

occurring. Once your know the probability of an event not occurring, you can

subtract the probability from 1 to find the probability of an event occurring.

Rule #3

The probability of event A AND event B occurring is the probability of event

A times the probability of event B given that event A has already occurred.

Example: Joseph rolls two fair, six-sided die. What is the probability that

both die will roll a 6?

Probability of 1st die coming up 6: 1/6

Probability of 2nd die coming up 6: 1/6

Probability of both die coming up 6: (1/6) * (1/6)

Probability of both die coming up 6: 1/36

Example: A bag contains three blue marbles and three red marbles. If two

marbles are drawn randomly from the bag, what is the probability that they

are both blue?

This problem is a dependent probability. Two events are said to be dependent

events if the outcome of one event affects the outcome of the other event. The

probability of drawing the second marble depends on the outcome of the first

marble. If the first marble is red, there is no possibility of drawing two blue marbles.

Thus, the probability of drawing a second blue marble is calculated after the first blue

marble has been drawn.

Probability of drawing blue on first draw: 3/6

If a blue is drawn on the first draw, there are three red marbles and two blue

marbles remaining in the bag.

Probability of drawing blue on second draw (given that first was blue): 2/5

Probability of drawing two blue: (3/6) * (2/5)

Probability of drawing two blue: 6/30

Probability of drawing two blue: 1/5Rule #4

The probability of event A OR event B occurring is the probability of event A occurring plus the probability of event B occurring minus the probability of both events occurring.

Example: Charles rolls a fair, six-sided die. What is the probability of Charles

rolling a 2 or a 4?

Probability of 2: 1/6

Probability of 4: 1/6

Probability of a 2 or 4: 1/6 + 1/6

Probability of a 2 or 4: 2/6

Probability of a 2 or 4: 1/3

In the previous problem, the events were mutually exclusive. Mutually exclusive means that the events cannot occur together. There is no way to roll a 2 and a 4 at the same time. The events in the following problem are NOT mutually exclusive.

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