Hello I'm going to be a sophomore in college and planning on taking exam P for actuarial science. One of my weakest topic is probability. What "entry level" book would you recommend before I start studying exam P material.

I've included a copy of they syllabus, taken from the Society of Actuaries website:

  1. General Probability
    • Set functions including set notation and basic elements of probability
    • Mutually exclusive events
    • Addition and multiplication rules
    • Independence of events
    • Combinatorial probability
    • Conditional probability
    • Bayes Theorem / Law of total probability
  2. Random Variables with univariate probability distributions (including binomial, negative binomial, geometric, hypergeometric, Poisson, uniform, exponential, gamma, normal, and mixed)
    • Probability functions and probability density functions
    • Cumulative distribution functions
    • Sums of Independent Random Variables (Poisson and normal)
    • Mode, median, percentiles, and moments
    • Variance and measures of dispersion (including coefficient of variation)
    • Moment generating functions
    • Transformations
  3. Random Variables with multivariate probability distributions (including the bivariate normal)
    • Joint probability functions and joint probability density functions
    • Joint cumulative distribution functions
    • Central Limit Theorem
    • Conditional and marginal probability distributions
    • Moments for joint, conditional, and marginal probability distributions
    • Joint moment generating functions
    • Variance and measures of dispersion for conditional and marginal probability distributions
    • Covariance and correlation coefficients
    • Transformations and order statistics
    • Probabilities and moments for linear combinations of independent random -variables
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    $\begingroup$ What topics does exam P cover? $\endgroup$
    – Sycorax
    Jul 27, 2016 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ I looked up a syllabus and pasted it in. $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2016 at 18:46

2 Answers 2


Exam P is entry level probability, so you can't get much more basic than that. The SOA syllabus has a list of suggested texts, all of which are good. Older textbooks are just as good as new ones, without the added expense.

Depending on your style of learning, if you just want a quick overview, the Schaum's "Introduction to Probability and Statistics" by Seymour Lipschutz is good, or anything else in the Schaum's series you can find at your local library. This is not enough to prepare you for passing the exam, however.

The syllabus textbooks are all good, and for all intents and purposes equivalent in material they cover. Whichever one is "best" depends on your own particular learning style.


I would recommend going straight to a study manual for the exam. I've used and liked the ASM manuals

Edit: Since my above answer "doesn't answer the question", I'll expand on my answer. I'll explain why I suggest skipping an intro stats book and going straight to the manuals. An intro stats book will have way more information than necessary. Way, way more. You'll spend a lot of time learning stuff you will not need for P. If you want that knowledge for the sake of knowledge, no problem. If you want to learn with the goal of passing the exam, go to the manuals.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review $\endgroup$ Jul 27, 2016 at 19:24
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @Green How does this not address the question? $\endgroup$
    – whuber
    Jul 27, 2016 at 19:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ (+1) Thanks for the edit drj3122, it think it defiantely improves your answer. There's no need to point out what parts of your post were original and which are edits here. We all have the habit of obsession over our answers and improving them, if we always pointed that out, half the site would be the word "Edit". $\endgroup$ Jul 28, 2016 at 20:27

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