Urn A contains 4 white balls and 2 red balls. Urn B contains 3 red balls and 3 black balls. An urn is randomly selected, and then a ball inside of that urn is removed. We then repeat the process of selecting an urn and drawing out a ball, without returning the first ball. What is the probability that the first ball drawn was red, given that the second ball drawn was black?

I encountered this problem in my AoPS textbook, as a complete newcomer to conditional probability. Is the answer 1/2? I would really appreciate a solution, as I have no way to check my work.


Randomly select an urn, draw a ball without replacement, then again randomly select an urn and draw a second ball. Let $D_n$ be the colour of the $n^{th}$ draw, and $U_n$ be the urn from which it is drawn.

Using k for black, the urns are: $a = \{(w,4), (r,2)\}, b = \{(r,3), (k,3)\}$

Now, if we know a black ball is going to be removed in the second draw, then only one of the other two black balls, or one of the three red balls, could be removed from the second urn during the first draw.

So the probability of drawing a red ball in the first draw give that knowledge is: $$P(D_1=r \mid D_2=k) \\ = P(D_1=r \cap U_1=a \mid D_2=k)+P(D_1=r \cap U_1=b \mid D_2=k) \\ = P(U_1=a)P(D_1=r \mid U_1=a \cap D_2=k)+P(U_1=b)P(D_1=r \mid U_1=b \cap D_2=k) \\ = \frac{1}{2}\frac{2}{6}+\frac{1}{2}\frac{3}{5} \\ = \frac{7}{15}$$

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so much for responding to an older post of mine! Much appreciated :) $\endgroup$ – Ayesha Apr 24 '14 at 2:02

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