Entries in Harvard (5)

Excel or calculator OK for exams at HBS

Peter Park, a second year student at HBS comments:

For class: HBS classes are laptop-down, including finance classes. You can use calculators during the class to follow along with the discussion.  For the most part, there is no need for a financial calculator; a regular calculator will probably be enough.  I had a financial calculator, but never used it for functions beyond mult/division during class.

For exams: All HBS exams are case-based, usually with a 4-5 hour time limit, and grades are based on a written response/analysis of the case.  For FIN 1 & 2 exams, you're required to attach exhibits to support your analysis from an excel model you build during the exam.  Everything's open book and open note w/exception of online sources, and you can use calculators and Excel.  Since the response requires a lot of excel, I never used a calculator.  I'd say the same for most of my classmates. 

Posted on Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 11:35AM by Registered CommenterPeter Regan in , , , | Comments2 Comments

Excel - Single Biggest Challenge at HBS

Comments from a second year at Harvard:

At HBS, we use Excel heavily in the first year – daily for a few hours per day. We use Excel heavily every day for our Finance courses (both 1st and 2nd semester), and moderately in the 2nd semester for the Strategy, Macroecon, and Negotiations courses as well. First year did not include any use of regressions or stats programs, however.

Getting up to speed on Excel was the single biggest challenge I had at HBS. Formal excel prep through HBS for new students comes in three forms:

1) Analytics , which is a pre-MBA 2 week boot camp for select students (about 250/900 students enroll). Analytics provides some excel help through tutors, but not in a formal class, and as a result, I found that I knew a bit more about Excel after Analytics, but not nearly enough in terms of shortcuts, quickly thinking through how to best configure/set up spreadsheets. The time factor for Excel newbies like me killed me during the first year when there’s so little time to do all your cases, etc.

2) For all students: Finance, Accounting, and Quantitative Methods (QM) pre-Matriculation online modules : These were required for all students to complete after acceptance but before formal matriculation – failure to complete these modules would result in HBS retracting their offer letter. We had to use Excel on all these, but again, it didn’t show us how to use Excel, or use it effectively and efficiently. QM shows us how to use statistics, run regressions, and interpret the data, Finance, Accting self-explanatory.

3) For all students: Excel CD-ROM and workbook. The companion book with the online modules specific for Excel use. Somewhat helpful, but very basic, and not nearly enough, esp again in terms of setting up spreadsheets efficiently and knowing how to do the shortcuts in formatting, etc.

During HBS, students (usu PE or I-Bankers) would sometimes hold informal Excel tutorial sessions for their respective sections. We had a great, and very helpful section relative to others, so we had 2 shortcut help sessions and several sessions going through each case led by students. The 2 shortcut sessions were literally my lifesavers – it so dramatically helped my learning curve on how to use Excel that none of the other formal programs compared, and it was the first time I felt Excel was no longer a barrier to begin doing some “real learning”. We covered the following at these sessions:

1) General rules on formatting and setting up a spreadsheet:

a. Setting up hard coded inputs vs. formula dependent numbers with a color coding system (highlighted cells, blue/red text)

b. Setting up an assumptions box, etc.

2) How to create “if” statements, and then how to create switches (“yes”, “no” cell) to change scenarios

3) How to use goalseek

4) How to use the paint function to help format spreadsheets

5) Keyboard shortcuts to insert and delete rows, columns

6) Using F2, F4

7) Using ALT, T, U, A to check dependents

Posted on Monday, December 3, 2007 at 12:34PM by Registered CommenterPeter Regan in , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Incoming Students Build Quant Skills

Blogging has been slow while I've been getting admitted students ready for their summer pre-MBA quantitative preparations.  Cornell (Johnson), Dartmouth (Tuck), and Washington St. Louis (Olin) have purchased MBA Math subscriptions for all incoming students.  Georgetown (McDonough) will do so in the next day or so. 

Separately, admitted students from dozens of MBA programs have found their way to MBA Math on their own in recent weeks and are working through the twenty-two lessons covering Excel spreadsheets, finance, accounting, microeconomics, and statistics.  Students subscribing in the past six weeks will be attending the following prominent MBA programs in the fall: Boston College, Carnegie Mellon, Chicago, Columbia, Duke, Georgia Tech, Harvard, INSEAD, London Business School, MIT, Michigan, Purdue, Rice, Rochester, USC, Stanford, UT Austin, Wake Forest, William and Mary, and Yale.

Discussion boards and regular office hour online chats provide communication between students and me and among students.

MBA Math Testimonial for Harvard

Here is a testimonial from Peter Park, a first-year student at Harvard Business School and member of the MBA Math Board of Advisors, about his pre-MBA use of the MBA Math online quantitative preparation course:

Prior to business school, I spent three years in Eldoret, Kenya, where I worked with Indiana and Moi Universities on the development of an HIV control system for western Kenya. I was responsible for ‘income security’ strategies for our HIV+ patient base, and linked sustainability measures with HIV care and prevention.

While my work in Eldoret certainly called for sound business intuition, I had historically been a poet of sorts with a mean non-profit bent. As an undergrad at Middlebury College, I studied religion and environmental studies, and after Midd, I spent a year on a non-profit fellowship at Indiana University called the Jane Addams - Andrew Carnegie Fellowship in Philanthropy. So by the time I had my admit letters for business school, while I understood the general feel for business, I still had hardly ever opened an Excel file, and terms such as ‘equity’ conjured up notions of poverty alleviation or social justice or something.

I am now a first-year student/RC at Harvard Business School, and through some smart pre-MBA prep, the transition into HBS life has been markedly smooth and my first semester went really well. While I used a number of resources during the summer, MBA Math was the cornerstone of my independent preparations for a number of reasons. For me, I found it to be the best way to become familiar with unfamiliar terminology early on, the best introduction to the process of solving problems in Excel, and perhaps most importantly, a painless and efficient way to learn the essentials. It was definitely a lot more effective than the books I bought over the summer but never quite got around to reading, and the reason is that MBA Math is structured in a way that makes it easy and effective to learn independently.

Posted on Thursday, April 5, 2007 at 08:36PM by Registered CommenterPeter Regan in , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Do MBAs Need Calculus? No at HBS

The answer from a first year at Harvard Business School is a resounding NO.

1. Does your program suggest brushing up calculus skills before starting the first year?


2. Does your program provide any calculus pre-term teaching?  If yes, is it done on campus?


3. Have you used calculus in your MBA studies?  If yes, in what classes?

No. While some of the applications could have required calculus, the prof worked through the proofs for us, and told us to keep focus on the ‘big picture’ as opposed to the math.

Posted on Friday, March 9, 2007 at 12:44PM by Registered CommenterPeter Regan in , , | CommentsPost a Comment