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9.12: Probability of Compound Events

Difficulty Level: Basic Created by: CK-12
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Suppose you're playing a card game, and you need to draw two aces to win. There are 20 cards left in the deck, and one of the aces has already been drawn. What is the probability that you win the game? How would you go about calculating this probability? Are drawing your first card and drawing your second card independent or dependent events? In this Concept, you'll learn the definitions of independent and dependent events and how to calculate the probability of compound events like this one.


We begin this Concept with a reminder of probability.

The experimental probability is the ratio of the proposed outcome to the number of experimental trials.

\begin{align*}P(success)= \frac{number \ of \ times \ the \ event \ occured}{total \ number \ of \ trials \ of \ experiment}\end{align*}P(success)=number of times the event occuredtotal number of trials of experiment

Probability can be expressed as a percentage, a fraction, a decimal, or a ratio.

This Concept will focus on compound events and the formulas used to determine the probabilities of such events.

Compound events are two simple events taken together, usually expressed as \begin{align*}A\end{align*}A and \begin{align*}B\end{align*}B.

Independent and Dependent Events

Example A

Suppose you flip a coin and roll a die at the same time. What is the probability you will flip a head and roll a four?


These events are independent. Independent events occur when the outcome of one event does not affect the outcome of the second event. Rolling a four has no effect on tossing a head.

To find the probability of two independent events, multiply the probability of the first event by the probability of the second event.

\begin{align*}P(A \ and \ B)=P(A) \cdot P(B)\end{align*}P(A and B)=P(A)P(B)


\begin{align*}P(tossing \ a \ head)&=\frac{1}{2}\\ P(rolling \ a \ 4)&=\frac{1}{6}\\ P(tossing \ a \ head \ AND \ rolling \ a \ 4)&=\frac{1}{2} \times \frac{1}{6}=\frac{1}{12}\end{align*}P(tossing a head)P(rolling a 4)P(tossing a head AND rolling a 4)=12=16=12×16=112

When events depend upon each other, they are called dependent events. Suppose you randomly draw a card from a standard deck and then randomly draw a second card without replacing the first. The second probability is now different from the first.

To find the probability of two dependent events, multiply the probability of the first event by the probability of the second event, after the first event occurs.

\begin{align*}P(A \ and \ B)=P(A) \cdot P(B \ following \ A)\end{align*}P(A and B)=P(A)P(B following A)

Example B

Two cards are chosen from a deck of cards. What is the probability that they both will be face cards?

Solution: Let \begin{align*}A = 1st \ Face \ card \ chosen\end{align*}A=1st Face card chosen and \begin{align*}B = 2nd \ Face \ card \ chosen\end{align*}B=2nd Face card chosen. The total number of face cards in the deck is \begin{align*}4 \times 3 = 12\end{align*}4×3=12.

\begin{align*}P(A)&= \frac{12}{52}\\ P(B) & = \frac{11}{51}, \ \text{remember, one card has been removed.}\end{align*}P(A)P(B)=1252=1151, remember, one card has been removed.

\begin{align*}P(A \ AND \ B)= \frac{12}{52} \times \frac{11}{51} \ & or \ P(A \cap B) = \frac{12}{52} \times \frac{11}{51} =\frac{33}{663}\\ P(A \cap B) & = \frac{11}{221}\end{align*}P(A AND B)=1252×1151 P(AB)or P(AB)=1252×1151=33663=11221

Mutually Exclusive Events

Events that cannot happen at the same time are called mutually exclusive events. For example, a number cannot be both even and odd or you cannot have picked a single card from a deck of cards that is both a ten and a jack. Mutually inclusive events, however, can occur at the same time. For example a number can be both less than 5 and even or you can pick a card from a deck of cards that can be a club and a ten.

When finding the probability of events occurring at the same time, there is a concept known as the “double counting” feature. It happens when the intersection is counted twice.

In mutually exclusive events, \begin{align*}P(A \cap B)=\phi\end{align*}P(AB)=ϕ, because they cannot happen at the same time.

To find the probability of either mutually exclusive event \begin{align*}A\end{align*}A or \begin{align*}B\end{align*}B occurring, use the following formula:

To find the probability of one or the other mutually exclusive or inclusive event, add the individual probabilities and subtract the probability they occur at the same time.

\begin{align*}P(A \ or \ B)=P(A)+P(B)-P(A \cap B)\end{align*}P(A or B)=P(A)+P(B)P(AB)

Example C

Two cards are drawn from a deck of cards. Let:

\begin{align*}A\end{align*}A: \begin{align*}1^{st}\end{align*}1st card is a club

\begin{align*}B\end{align*}B: \begin{align*}1^{st}\end{align*}1st card is a 7

\begin{align*}C\end{align*}C: \begin{align*}2^{nd}\end{align*}2nd card is a heart

Find the following probabilities:

(a) \begin{align*}P(A \ \text{or} \ B)\end{align*}P(A or B)

(b) \begin{align*}P(B \ \text{or} \ A)\end{align*}P(B or A)

(c) \begin{align*}P(A \ \text{and} \ C)\end{align*}P(A and C)


(a) \begin{align*}& P(A \ or \ B)=\frac{13}{52}+\frac{4}{52}-\frac{1}{52}\\ & P(A \ or \ B) =\frac{16}{52}\\ & P(A \ or \ B) =\frac{4}{13}\end{align*}P(A or B)=1352+452152P(A or B)=1652P(A or B)=413

(b) \begin{align*}& P(B \ or \ A)= \frac{4}{52} + \frac{13}{52}-\frac{1}{52}\\ & P(B \ or \ A) = \frac{16}{52}\\ & P(B \ or \ A) = \frac{4}{13}\end{align*}P(B or A)=452+1352152P(B or A)=1652P(B or A)=413

(c) \begin{align*}& P(A \ and \ C) = \frac{13}{52} \times \frac{13}{51}\\ & P(A \ and \ C) = \frac{169}{2652}\end{align*}P(A and C)=1352×1351P(A and C)=1692652

Video Review


Guided Practice

A bowl contains 12 red marbles, 5 blue marbles and 13 yellow marbles. Find the probability of drawing a blue marble and then drawing a yellow marble.


Let \begin{align*}A = blue \ marble \ chosen \ 1st \end{align*}A=blue marble chosen 1st and \begin{align*}B = yellow \ marble \ chosen \ 2nd \end{align*}B=yellow marble chosen 2nd. The total number of marbles in the bowl is \begin{align*}12+5+13=30\end{align*}12+5+13=30.

\begin{align*}P(A)&= \frac{5}{30}\\ P(B) & = \frac{13}{29} \ \text{Remember, one marble has been removed.}\end{align*}P(A)P(B)=530=1329 Remember, one marble has been removed.

\begin{align*}P(A \ AND \ B)= \frac{5}{30} \times \frac{13}{29} \ & or \ P(A \cap B) =\frac{5}{30} \times \frac{13}{29} =\frac{65}{870}\\ P(A \cap B) & = \frac{13}{174}\end{align*}P(A AND B)=530×1329 P(AB)or P(AB)=530×1329=65870=13174

Explore More

  1. Define independent events.

Are the following events independent or dependent?

  1. Rolling a die and spinning a spinner
  2. Choosing a book from the shelf and then choosing another book without replacing the first
  3. Tossing a coin six times and then tossing it again
  4. Choosing a card from a deck, replacing it, and choosing another card
  5. If a die is tossed twice, what is the probability of rolling a 4 followed by a 5?
  6. Define mutually exclusive.

Are these events mutually exclusive or mutually inclusive?

  1. Rolling an even and an odd number on one die.
  2. Rolling an even number and a multiple of three on one die.
  3. Randomly drawing one card and getting a result of a jack and a heart.
  4. Randomly drawing one card and getting a result of a black and a diamond.
  5. Choosing an orange and a fruit from a basket.
  6. Choosing a vowel and a consonant from a Scrabble bag.
  7. Two cards are drawn from a deck of cards. Determine the probability of each of the following events:
    1. \begin{align*}P\end{align*}(heart or club)
    2. \begin{align*}P\end{align*}(heart and club)
    3. \begin{align*}P\end{align*}(red or heart)
    4. \begin{align*}P\end{align*}(jack or heart)
    5. \begin{align*}P\end{align*}(red or ten)
    6. \begin{align*}P\end{align*}(red queen or black jack)
  1. A box contains 5 purple and 8 yellow marbles. What is the probability of successfully drawing, in order, a purple marble and then a yellow marble? {Hint: In order means they are not replaced.}
  2. A bag contains 4 yellow, 5 red, and 6 blue marbles. What is the probability of drawing, in order, 2 red, 1 blue, and 2 yellow marbles?
  3. A card is chosen at random. What is the probability that the card is black and is a 7?

Mixed Review

  1. A circle is inscribed within a square, meaning the circle's diameter is equal to the square’s side length. The length of the square is 16 centimeters. Suppose you randomly threw a dart at the figure. What is the probability the dart will land in the square, but not in the circle?
  2. Why is \begin{align*}7-14x^4+7xy^5-1x^{-1}=8x^2 y^3\end{align*} not considered a polynomial?
  3. Factor \begin{align*}72b^5 m^3 w^9-6(bm)^2 w^6\end{align*}.
  4. Simplify \begin{align*}2^5-7^3 a^3 b^7+3^5 a^3 b^7-2^3\end{align*}.
  5. Bleach breaks down cotton at a rate of 0.125% with each application. A shirt is 100% cotton.
    1. Write the equation to represent the percentage of cotton remaining after \begin{align*}w\end{align*} washes.
    2. What percentage remains after 11 washes?
    3. After how many washes will 75% be remaining?
  1. Evaluate \begin{align*}\frac{(100 \div 4 \times 2-49)^2}{9-2 \times 3+2^2}\end{align*}.

Answers for Explore More Problems

To view the Explore More answers, open this PDF file and look for section 9.12. 

Notes/Highlights Having trouble? Report an issue.

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experimental probability

The experimental probability is the ratio of the proposed outcome to the number of experimental trials. P(success)= \frac{number \ of \ times \ the \ event \ occurred}{total \ number \ of \ trials \ of \ experiment}

Independent Events

Two events are independent if the occurrence of one event does not impact the probability of the other event.

mutually exclusive

Events that cannot happen at the same time are called mutually exclusive events.

mutually inclusive

Unlike mutually exclusive events, mutually inclusive events can occur at the same time.


A mutually exclusive pair of events are complements to each other. For example: If the desired outcome is heads on a flipped coin, the complement is tails.


An event is a set of one or more possible results of a probability experiment.


Probability is the chance that something will happen. It can be written as a fraction, decimal or percent.

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Difficulty Level:
8 , 9
Date Created:
Feb 24, 2012
Last Modified:
Aug 11, 2016
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