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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) = \u00bd

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.

Rule #1

Basic Probability

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

Complementary Events

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

Conditional Probability

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.

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