Set Notation
What is set notation?
 Set notation is a formal way of writing groups of numbers (or other mathematical entities such as shapes) that share a common feature – each number in a set is called an element of the set
 You should have come across common sets of numbers such as the natural numbers, denoted by , or the set of real numbers, denoted by
 In probability, set notation allows us to talk about the sample space and events within in it
 S, U, , are common symbols used for the Universal set
In probability this is the entire sample space, or the rectangle in a Venn diagram  Events are denoted by capital letters, A, B, C etc
 The events “ ”, “”, “” are denoted by etc
(Strictly pronounced “A prime” but often called “A dash”)
is called the complement of A
 S, U, , are common symbols used for the Universal set
 In probability we are often looking at combined events
 The event A and B is called the intersection of events A and B , and the symbol ∩ is used
i.e. A and B is written as On a Venn diagram this would be the overlap between the bubble for event A and the bubble for event
 From Basic Probability, for independent events
 The event A and B is called the intersection of events A and B , and the symbol ∩ is used

 The event A or B is called the union of events A and B , and the symbol is used
i.e. A or B is written as On a Venn diagram this would be both the bubbles for event A and event B including their overlap (intersection)
 From Basic Probability, for mutually exclusive events
 The event A or B is called the union of events A and B , and the symbol is used

 The other set you may come across in probability is the empty set
The empty set has no elements and is denoted by
 The other set you may come across in probability is the empty set
The intersection of mutually exclusive events is the empty set,
 And finally,
How do I solve problems given in set notation?
 Recognise the notation and symbols used and then interpret them in terms of AND (), OR () and/or NOT (‘) statements
 Venn diagrams lend themselves particularly well to deducing which sets or parts of sets are involved draw miniVenn diagrams and shade them
 Practice shading various parts of Venn diagrams and then writing what you have shaded in set notation
 With combinations of union, intersection and complement there may be more than one way to write the set required
 e.g.
Not convinced? Sketch a Venn diagram and shade it in!  In such questions it can be the unshaded part that represents the solution
 e.g.
Worked Example
The members of a local tennis club can decide whether to play in a singles competition, a doubles competition, both or neither.
Once all members have made their choice the chairman of the club selects, at random, one member to interview about their decision.
is the event a member selected the singles competition.
is the event a member selected the doubles competition.
Given that and , find
(i)
(ii)
(iii)
(iv)
Exam Tip
 Do not try to do everything using a single diagram – whether given one in the question or using your own; use miniVenn diagrams and shading for each part of a question
 Do double check whether you are dealing with union () or intersection () (or both) – when these symbols are used several times near each other in a question, it is easy to get them muddled up or misread them
Conditional Probability
What is conditional probability?
Conditional probability is where the probability of an event happening can vary depending on the outcome of a prior event
 You have already been using conditional probability
e.g. drawing more than one counter/bead/etc from a bag without replacement
(Note that, mathematically, that drawing one, not replacing then
drawing another is the same as drawing two at the same time.)
 Consider the following example
e.g. Bag with 6 white and 3 red buttons. One is drawn at random and not replaced. A second button is drawn. The probability that the second button is white given that the first button is white is .
 The key phrase here is “given that” – it essentially means something has already happened.
 In set notation, “given that” is indicated by a vertical line (  ) so the above example would be written
 There are other phrases that imply or mean the same things as “given that”
 Venn diagrams are helpful again but beware – the denominator of fractional probabilities will no longer be the total of all the frequencies or probabilities shown
 “given that” questions usually reduce the sample space as an event (a subset of the outcomes of the first event) has already occurred
 The diagrams above also show two more conditional probability results
(These are essentially the same as letters are interchangeable)
 For independent events we know so
and similarly
 The independent result should make sense logically – if events A and B are independent then the fact that event B has already occurred has no effect on the probability of event A happening
Worked Example
The Venn diagram below illustrates the probabilities of three events, .
Exam Tip
 There are now several symbols used from set notation in probability – make sure you are familiar with them
 union ()
 intersection ( )
 not (‘)
 given that (  )
 If given a Venn diagram with all the separate probabilities you may find it easier to work out P(A), P(B) etc first
TwoWay Tables
What are twoway tables?
 In probability, twoway tables list the frequencies for the outcomes of two events – one event along the top (columns), one event down the side (rows)
 The frequencies, along with a “Total” row and “Total” column instantly show the values involved in finding probabilities
How do I solve problems given involving twoway tables?
 Questions will usually be wordy – and may not even mention twoway tables
 Questions will need to be interpreted in terms of AND ( , intersection), OR (, union), NOT (‘) and GIVEN THAT (  )
 Complete as much of the table as possible from the information given in the question
 If any empty cells remain, see if they can be calculated by looking for a row or column with just one missing value
 Each cell in the table is similar to a region in a Venn diagram
 With event A outcomes on columns and event B outcomes on rows
 (intersection, AND) will be the cell where outcome meets outcome
 (union, OR) will be all the cells for outcomes and including the cell for both
 Beware! As union includes the cell for both outcomes, avoid counting this cell twice when calculating frequencies or probabilities
 With event A outcomes on columns and event B outcomes on rows
(see Worked Example Q(b)(ii))
 You may need to use the results
 (for independent events)
Worked Example
The incomplete twoway table below shows the type of main meal provided by 80 owners to their cat(s) or dog(s).
Dry Food 
Wet Food 
Raw Food 
Total 

Dog 
11 

8 

Cat 

19 

33 
Total 
21 



Find the probability
Exam Tip
 Ensure any table – given or drawn  has a “Total” row and a “Total” column
 Do not confuse a twoway table with a sample space diagram – a twoway table does not necessarily display all outcomes from an experiment, just those (events) we are interested in