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Thread: Real Analysis for admissions vs 1st year survival - myths and realities

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    Real Analysis for admissions vs 1st year survival - myths and realities

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    I followed this forum very closely last year and was led to believe real analysis is the do or die of phd first year econ.

    I feel I should give some new observations give one semester a a good phd program in the US. RA is useful, for first year micro, but you can learn how to wrote proofs and follow the definition-theorem-proof approach without RA as well (sure it will make life harder, but by no means is it impossible if you put in the hours and dedication - at the end of the day its just learning a new technique).

    While proof writing is important, my view is being completely comfortable with math stat & linear algebra and being able to solve large systems of equations (particularly macro) or complex functions is equally - if not more - important.

    RA serves as a signal for admissions but if anyone tells you you cant survive a good phd program without RA they're deluded. At the end of the day its about being able to put in the hours and remaining dedicated during the tough times. The rest falls into place.

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    Re: Real Analysis for admissions vs 1st year survival - myths and realities

    The purpose of taking analysis is for its signaling ability, apart from gaining maturity in mathematical logic. Tough math courses are seen as a good signal since adcoms will rather take in students who have proven that they can cope with mathematical rigour and then not use them (if they've decided to not go down the theory route), rather than a poorly (with respect to math) prepared student. As always, more is better than less when it comes to PhD admissions.

    Most good schools explicitly mentioned on their website that good candidates should have a year of calc, algebra and have some exposure to mathematical analysis. Plus, they almost always mention that more math is preferred.

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    Re: Real Analysis for admissions vs 1st year survival - myths and realities

    Honestly, I've never heard anyone say you can't survive a good phd program without RA. Do people really say that? Also, counterfactual? How can you measure how hard it would've been without RA. Saying that it's not impossible doesn't provide much insight since the reality is we have constraints (24 hours in 1 day).

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    Re: Real Analysis for admissions vs 1st year survival - myths and realities

    Who led you to believe that? Do you have examples?

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    Re: Real Analysis for admissions vs 1st year survival - myths and realities

    There's heterogeneity in program rigor, and it's not observable before your applications and visit days. Taking RA is worthwhile as a guarantee that you'll survive the first year.

    I took first-year graduate courses at a second-tier PhD program when I was an undergrad. Around 20% of the class failed out of the first year (not voluntary departures). Around 20% had to retake at least one first year course. All of these students had real analysis or a decent amount of proof-based courses in economics before they matriculated in the program. In this program, there is virtually no chance that someone without previous proof-writing experience would have survived the first year.

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    Re: Real Analysis for admissions vs 1st year survival - myths and realities

    I'm sorry but its tough to agree with this. I'm sure there's heterogeneity in the curriculums, particularly in macro, but many of us in my program have been practicing relevant questions from qualifiers from the likes of upenn for instance, including our own (T30). Taking RA is hardly a garauntee that we will pass quals or that someone who hasnt has relatively lower probablity. I took RA and have friends who didnt, consequently got a very good grade in math camp compared to those who didnt. But once the semester started over time he figured out how to write good proofs - there's just waay too many assignments for you NOT to learn it if you're committed. On the other hand the mids and finals and quals test the ability to solve complex and large systems of equations (along with the ability to write proofs).

    Take macro for instance, we'll be solving big general equilibrium models (not necessarily proving theorems). In micro as well we generally have one question on general equilibrium/financial market uncertainty.
    [QUOTE=chateauheart;1012864]There's heterogeneity in program rigor, and it's not observable before your applications and visit days. Taking RA is worthwhile as a guarantee that you'll survive the first year.

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