Percents and Ratios: Introduction to Percents

What is a percent? This video “Introduction to Percents” will give you the basics. Once you have this lesson down, check out our other video lessons on percents and ratios.

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Transcript of Video: Introduction to Percents

Percents and Ratios: What Is a Percent?

Well fundamentally, a percent is a fraction. The word percent comes from the Latin, per centum, which means per 100. Similarly, even the percent sign can be thought of as a stylized version of divided by 100. So that looks vaguely like that.

Thus, percent means divided by 100.

And 37% means the fraction 37/100 or the decimal 0.37. Similarly, 0.03% means the fraction 0.03/100, which of course is 3/10,000, or the decimal 0.0003. As you see, many of the rules covered in the decimal videos, especially Multiples of Ten, are relevant here.

And if what we’re doing here, moving the decimal place back and forth, is not familiar to you, I highly recommend that you watch the Multiples of Ten video before you watch the rest of this video. Because the rest of this video is not gonna make much sense if you don’t understand how to multiply and divide by 100, and move the decimal place around.

So talking about that, changing from percents to decimals, this is simply dividing by 100, so we move the decimal point two places to the left.

percents, decimals - magoosh

Image By TypoArt BS

Here we have some percents and we wanna change them to decimals, so we move two places to the left. In some cases, we have to insert place holding 0’s. Changing from decimals to percents, we’re doing the opposite. Un-dividing by 100, which is essentially multiplying by 100. Thus, we move the decimal point two places to the right.

We have several decimals here. We’re gonna move two places to the right. Notice that the final one, if we have a decimal greater than 1, it becomes a percent greater than 100%. Changing from percents to fractions, this is easy. We just have to put the percent over 100.

After that, we may have to simplify a bit. So for example, 20%, that’s 20/100, which is 1/5. 92%, that’s 92/100, which is 23/25. 0.02%, which is 0.02/100, or 2/.10,000, and that simplifies to 1/5,000.

All three of them very easily become fractions. Changing from fractions to percents is trickier, unless you know the fraction to decimal conversion discussed in Conversions: Fractions and Decimals.

So, again, if you’re not familiar with that particular video and those concepts are not familiar, please watch that. And then come back and watch the rest of this video–because this video is not gonna make a whole lot of sense if you don’t know those conversions. Here we have some fractions. We want to change these to percents.

In order to change them to percents, first we’re going to change them to decimals. And we know that we can approximate 3/8 as 0.375. We can approximate 2/3 as 0.666 repeating, we’ll write it here as 0.6667. Once we have them in decimal form, we just slide the decimal place two places over to get a percent. Of course for fractions with 100 or 1,000 in the denominator, it’s very easy to change to a decimal, which would give us a percent.

So for example, 59/100, well, that obviously just becomes 59%. 17/1,000, that becomes 0.017, and we can write that as 1.7%. Those recommendations are for exact conversions from fractions to decimals.

Often, on the test, we need to approximate percents from fractions or from division. So for example, 8 /33, suppose we multiply the numerator and the denominator by 3, then we get 24/99.

Well, 24/99 is gonna be slightly larger than 24/100. Of course, when we make the denominator larger, we make the fraction a little bit smaller. 24/100 of course is 24%, so 8/33 is gonna be slightly larger than 24%. That’s a very good approximation.

11/14, here we can multiply the numerator and denominator by 7, and we’ll get 77/98. And of course that’s gonna be slightly larger than 77 /100, which is 77%. So, 11/14 is gonna be something slightly larger than 77%. That’s also an excellent approximation.

So, in summary, we talked about what a percent is.

We talked about changing between percents and decimals, changing back and forth. We talked about changing back and forth between percents and fractions. And we talked about the very important topic of approximating fractions as percents.

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  • Mike MᶜGarry

    Mike served as a GMAT Expert at Magoosh, helping create hundreds of lesson videos and practice questions to help guide GMAT students to success. He was also featured as "member of the month" for over two years at GMAT Club. Mike holds an A.B. in Physics (graduating magna cum laude) and an M.T.S. in Religions of the World, both from Harvard. Beyond standardized testing, Mike has over 20 years of both private and public high school teaching experience specializing in math and physics. In his free time, Mike likes smashing foosballs into orbit, and despite having no obvious cranial deficiency, he insists on rooting for the NY Mets. Learn more about the GMAT through Mike's Youtube video explanations and resources like What is a Good GMAT Score? and the GMAT Diagnostic Test.

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