B-Schools Prove Even Liberal Arts Majors Can Learn Math

B-Schools Prove Even Liberal Arts Majors Can Learn Math

Business schools are introducing initiatives aimed at accommodating liberal arts applicants.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a number of flagship MBA programs, including Carnegie Mellon University, Yale SOM and Columbia Business School, are helping former English literature and political-science majors prepare for math-intensive coursework prior to starting their MBA education.


Historically, the GMAT has given an advantage to applicants with strong quantitative skills. Yet, a number of b-schools are now accepting the GRE, a standardized exam geared more towards social science and humanities programs. 91% of US b-schools surveyed by Kaplan Test Prep last fall reported accepting the GRE for admission, up from 24% of schools in 2009.

67% of surveyed schools reported that offering the GRE option has increased enrollment of students from more diverse backgrounds outside the traditional business tracks, such as finance and consulting.

B-Schools Helping Prep Students In Math

Every summer, the Yale School of Management enrolls roughly 20% of its incoming class of students to a three-day math camp that covers topics such as statistics and calculus, according to The Wall Street Journal. Students selected for the camp often show weaker quantitative backgrounds in their undergraduate transcripts and exam scores.

“For some of the students, when they first walk in, this is all Martian,” Professor Jonathan Feinstein, who runs the course at Yale SOM, tells The Wall Street Journal. In the end, “the students who are struggling quantitatively almost always make it through.”

At Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, a third of the incoming students’ admission to its MBA program is contingent on completion of a five-week online summer math course and passage of a three-hour final exam. Specifically, as The Wall Street Journal reports, the course is aimed at students who may struggle to fulfill Tepper’s calculus requirement.

“We want to be able to recruit people who have strong analytical ability but may not have the most extensive quants background,” Kathryn Barraclough, head of Tepper’s M.B.A. program and a distinguished service professor of finance, tells The Wall Street Journal.

Similarly, at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, 41% of the incoming class are required to complete a month-long online course aimed at preparing students for the math skills needed in business.

“We explain to them, this is not to punish you,” Christie St-John, director of M.B.A. admissions at Owen, tells The Wall Street Journal. “If you’re coming from a background of no quant, no math, you need to get yourself prepared.”

Dawna Clarke, executive director of admissions and financial aid at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, says it’s impressive when applicants come in having already completed business-focused training.

“I want to encourage people to take those quantitative classes before they even apply. It makes life easier when you’re in an M.B.A. program, and it increases your chances of getting in,” she tells The Wall Street Journal.

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, Kaplan Test Prep

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