A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is a graduate-level program, so you can’t expect it to be easy. However, you don’t need to be a full-fledged mathematician to handle the quantitative requirements of an MBA curriculum, either. Students should approach this master’s degree program with a strong quantitative background and high scores on graduate-level tests if possible, and if not, they must be prepared to take some mathematics review coursework before they begin working toward the MBA degree. While your curriculum probably won’t include graduate classes in pure mathematics, a number of the courses you take as an MBA student will require you to have excellent analytical and quantitative skills. The more quantitative your MBA specialization, the more math-related classes you should expect to take.
Math Needed for Graduate School Admissions
The first challenge you must meet as a prospective MBA student is getting into a program. Different MBA programs have different prerequisites, or courses that students are required to have completed to gain entry into the program. Some business schools have an extensive list of quantitative proficiencies MBA applicants should have, including basic calculus, exponents, data relations, systems of equations, functions, graphs and logarithms like compound interest. For other MBA programs, the requirements are simpler, like an online MBA math course that is mandatory for all entering students.
As MBA programs are becoming more popular across populations of prospective students with different backgrounds, it has become more common for students to be accepted into MBA programs without a history of quantitative coursework, according to U.S. News & World Report. To help these students strengthen their quantitative skills, many business schools now offer an MBA Math Camp, or an intensive math-review course, that students complete prior to the start of the first semester of an MBA program.
Even if you have taken the math classes required for admission to an MBA program, you also need to be good enough at math to succeed in graduate-level standardized exams. Most business schools use your score on the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), but the broader Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test is becoming more widely accepted among MBA admissions offices than it once was. While both exams evaluate your readiness for graduate school, they measure slightly different skills.
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The GMAT has a reputation for being more quantitative in focus, with generally harder math questions, which is one reason why many MBA and Master of Finance programs have historically preferred this exam. However, the exception is questions related to one specific branch of mathematics: geometry. Generally, the GRE focuses more on geometry than the GMAT, which asks fewer geometry questions in favor of including more logic problems, according to U.S. News. If your strengths lie in areas outside of math, then you might be better off taking the GRE because this test places a greater emphasis on creativity and verbal skills.
On average, students spend more than 100 hours studying for the GMAT exam. Statistically, the fewer hours you devote to studying, the lower and less competitive your score will be.
Graduate-Level Math for MBA Students
Once you get into an MBA program, the real work begins. MBA courses such as Strategic Cost Analysis and Decision Making, Quantitative Analysis for Business Managers, Real Estate Decision Analysis, Financial Risk Analysis and Management, Applied Marketing Research and Marketing Analysis and Decision-Making test your analytical skills. Even in courses that aren’t specifically designed to teach math skills, your quantitative skills are important, and the stakes can be high. Some MBA courses put students in charge of a real investment portfolio, which will win or lose real money depending on the success of the student’s asset management and investment planning choices.
One factor that determines how many of your MBA classes have a mathematical component is your area of specialization. While an MBA degree is broad in scope, most programs offer specializations that allow students to develop real expertise in an area of interest. Students who pursue a concentration in human resources, marketing or another aspect of business that requires more soft skills are likely to find that their courses involve less math than students of finance, business analytics or supply chain management MBA programs.
There are dozens of different MBA concentrations out there, ranging from fairly general to very niche. In fact, the chance to specialize in an area of interest is a major reason financial specialists earn a master’s degree, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.