This post introduces a new weekly feature intended to help prospective MBA students to self assess their proficiency with the quantitative building blocks of the MBA first year curriculum.
Thousands of incoming admitted students each year use the self-paced, online MBA Math quantitative skills course to build a solid quant foundation for the MBA core curriculum. Also, many MBA applicants complete the course and submit their MBA Math transcript as part of their admissions package.
As a complement to the GMAT's aptitude focus, MBA Math's focus is proficiency with the most MBA-relevant quantitative basics of finance, accounting, economics, statistics, and spreadsheets.
I created the MBA Math course based on years of teaching multi-day pre-orientation quant skills courses at Dartmouth's Tuck School and Cornell's Johnson School. I also teach second-year consulting practice courses at Tuck and Duke's Fuqua School.
Each Monday, I'll post a sample exercise and a step-by-step solution with audio commentary. Exercises will cycle through finance, accounting, economics, and statistics, becoming progressively harder with each iteration.
Cook School of Business at Saint Louis University recommends MBA Math for admitted students who need quantitative skills preparation.
Iowa's Tippie School of Management purchased MBA Math subscriptions for the second year for all incoming full-time students and recommends MBA Math for all incoming part-time students.
Kathleen Voboril writes in her BusinessWeek MBA Journal midway through her first year at UT Austin's McCombs School about the challenges as a "more qualitative student" of absorbing the quant-heavy first-year curriculum, the blending of skills within her study group, and her surprising discovery:
Numbers are my friends.
Numbers win arguments.
Numbers put stakes in the ground.
Numbers confirm assumptions, land bigger paychecks, and nail interviews.
I love numbers.
McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin purchased MBA Math subscriptions for the third year for all incoming Full-Time, Houston, Dallas, and Evening students.
Here's a response, from a student at a top MBA program who wishes to remain anonymous, to my question about whether the tight recruiting market affects the recommending quantitative skills preparation for incoming students:
Speaking as a marketer, I do not believe that additional quantitative preparation is necessary in the current recruiting market. Analytical and quantitative skills are critical, but can all be acquired during the first year of business school.
I am interested in current student input on the following question:
Does the tighter recruiting market, which is likely to persist, affect the level of quantitative preparation you would advise for incoming students?
Is your answer different for those interested in finance vs. other fields?
Here's a response, from a student at a top MBA program who wishes to remain anonymous, to my question about what students wish they had known in the spring before starting b-school about how best to use the time between admission and arrival on campus:
Admitted students should spend their time before beginning b-school enjoying their summer and familiarizing themselves with basic economics and finance terminology and timely issues in business. This can be accomplished through MBA Math and supplemented by articles in the Wall Street Journal.
All the students that I know that took summer classes prior to b-school would not recommend the choice to others. They all seem to feel that the curriculums rarely address the same set of topics that will later be seen in business school.
As well as preparing for classes, and taking time for yourself, I recommend making sure you block off plenty of time to get settled at your new school because once classes start it will be incredibly difficult to work in personal time to finish unpacking, take care of administrative needs, etc.
I am interested in current student input on the following question:
What do you wish you had known in the spring before starting b-school about how best to use the time between admission and arrival on campus?
Obviously, I'm curious about quant prep but I welcome responses that put such efforts in the context of the other pre-MBA challenges of exiting work, moving, and perhaps taking a break to clear your head.
Recently admitted students receive a lot of information and suggestions from various sources. To hit the ground running at your program, what preparation would you categorize as most and least useful?
I participated in a seminar yesterday on The Art and Craft of Discussion Leadership put on by Harvard Business Publishing and led by HBS Emeritus Prof. William Bruns. Sitting in a classroom with 30 or so other faculty members from about a dozen schools learning about teaching was a terrific experience.
I learned so much, from my peers and from Prof. Bruns. Part of the loud lesson was how quiet Prof. Bruns could be when the case discussion was going well. A question here, a challenge there, a redirect now and then.
I've taught MBA students for 11 years, mostly instinctively and from adapting what I saw my professors do or imagining what I wish they had done. My teaching deals with analytical subjects and I mostly teach "directively", meaning that I talk and students listen.
It's tempting to think that the subject demands it. That's certainly how I learned.
But I'd like to be more effective and creative by incorporating more student-driven discussion in my classes.
We had good side discussions during breaks of how case-based learning, which seems a natural method for learning strategy or entrepreneurship, could be applied effectively for more analytical subjects.
Yesterday was a great first step.
For the second year, I'll be teaching a morning quantitative skills workshop for the second timeat the Forté Foundation MBA Women's Conference in New York on Friday, June 26. Students admitted to Forté Sponsor schools are welcome to attend.
Here's a workshop description:
This two-hour workshop will build on the pre-work coverage of finance and accounting basics to develop insight into the ongoing credit market crisis. Rather than do a broad but shallow survey of quant skills needed in the MBA first year, I've picked a few tools and a relevant topic from the current business press. We'll dig into the basics of bond valuation and balance sheet leverage with two goals in mind:
- Whet your appetite for your upcoming MBA coursework
- Provide a status check on your quantitative proficiency.
To learn more about the broader conference, visit the Forté conference site. As of this posting, the site has information about last year's event. Information about this year's event will appear as the event planning comes together. If this link becomes obsolete, then you can start at the Forté events page.
To learn more about the workshop or to take a look at the pre-work material on finance and accounting as an example of the MBA Math lecture material, visit the MBA Math workshop site.
Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University purchased MBA Math subscriptions for the third year for all incoming one year and two year program students.
Here's an excerpt from a Michigan (Ross) Waitlist chat hosted by Linda Abraham of Accepted.com with Soojin Kwon Koh, Director of Admissions at Ross:
Steve (Jan 22, 2009 12:22:50 PM)
Soojin: How is the MBAmath.com course considered in comparison to a single subject course from a local college as a means to show adequate quant skills?
SoojinKwonKohROSS (Jan 22, 2009 12:23:06 PM)
Steve, it's comparable.
I recently completed teaching the second-year decision science elective Professional Decision Modeling at Duke's Fuqua School. Students work in teams to value an industrial asset involved in a spin-off negotiation. The case evolves over the six week course as it did in the nine-week project from which the case was adapted.
Second-year MBA elective teaching allows me to see just how far students come from their tentative return to the classroom for pre-orientation quant skills courses that I teach at Dartmouth and Cornell.
Those early days are as much about the social challenge of becoming a student again as they are about the quant mechanics of Excel, finance, accounting, etc.
When students walk into my second-year class, they have had a full first-year curriculum learning individual disciplines in short case-a-day immersions.
The challenge in my consulting practice course is to integrate across disciplines as needed and to stick with one problem for many weeks. Students will need ad hoc integration and project management skills to yield results in their post-MBA jobs.
I teach students additional decision science skills for modeling large problems, doing simulation of future scenarios, and optimizing resource allocation. Teams are responsible for pulling in their learning about finance, accounting, negotiation, and strategy from other courses.
Perhaps the strongest lesson this year for my Fuqua students was just how hard it is to craft a compelling presentation with less than one hour to cover hundreds of team hours of effort. The temptation is great to tell decision makers everything you've done but the most effective presentations focus on what the decision makers need to know to share your insights about the path forward.
The students were terrific, worked hard, and generated very professional results. Fuqua's physical plant has been upgraded from last year with the completion of Breeden Hall, which houses the new library among other improvements.
Here is a testimonial from Amber Rieg, a first-year student at Cornell's Johnson School and member of the MBA Math Board of Advisors, about her pre-MBA use of the MBA Math online quantitative preparation course:
I attended Wake Forest University where I majored in Communications and played varsity volleyball. My first job was with the Baltimore Orioles, where I was responsible for VIP ticket sales during the 2003 baseball season. In 2004, I moved to Boston and began working for a communications consulting firm where my responsibilities included: managing the development and execution of a range of marketing communications strategies as primary client contact for corporate and political campaigns, creating and implementing crisis communications and strategic plans, authoring op-eds and letters to the editor and representing corporations as spokesperson for print, radio and television interviews.
I am currently a first year student at the Johnson School participating in the Strategic Brand Immersion. Because my background was not quant-heavy, before beginning classes at the Johnson school, I used MBA Math to learn the fundamental quantitative skills that were needed throughout my first year.