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February 27, 2012

judgement quiz

On our first day of RDM, we had a go at 'judgement quiz'. Somehow, it was one of the most difficult tests over the last 5 years or so, but that's not the point.

There were two questions that caught my attention:

2. Estimate the percentage of word in the English language that begin with the letter ''a''.

3. Estimate the percentage of words in English language that have the letter ''a'' as their third letter.

To estimate the first value, I thought that there are roughly 24 letters in the alphabet - then there should be 4% of all words beginning with ''a''. However, if anyone used a dictionary in the past one will know that some letters are more and some less popular. If I remember right, there were quite a few pages for ''a'' words so I had a guess it's 7%.

Then for the next question, I tried to come up with some words meeting criteria and I found only 1... This is not the case of English not being my native language - I had a go in Polish and the result was the same! However, I somehow felt there might be more of them, but since 7% above was high and I lack knowledge I went for 2%. It turned out that the answer was 9% so my feeling was true!

The problem is that I lacked proof, and had more data about the second question hence the results. What was wrong with my thinking? Would my answer be correct if i.e. in the past I had seen a list of words with ''a'' being 3rd letter (as I had a change with ''a'' being the first)? At the end of the day, all decision will be made on what we know. Here, I knew I lack information so my way was based on what I knew better - I know it's a risky approach, but at least I could base my decision on some data from the past. On the other hand, I could have questioned if my estimate for the second question was right - but then would you question all the knowledge you have? You must make up your mind based on something, otherwise next time I will be questioning if 2+2 = 4 - maybe I'm wrong?

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