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Thread: Best way to make up for lack of mathematics at Oxford undergrad?

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    Best way to make up for lack of mathematics at Oxford undergrad?

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    I'm a UK student, and in October I'll be starting my BA in History and Economics at Oxford.

    For those that are not familiar with the programme, I'll be able to take the same economics options as PPE and E&M students, but combining them with a few history courses rather than politics, philosophy or management.

    Although it's early, I have recently begun to consider an economics PhD, however I realise that my BA is not particularly quantitative. I'm hoping to apply to top 10-20 schools in the US, since funding is not so generous in the UK and the placement records of even the best programmes here aren't amazing.

    Would a good performance on a UK Master's programme at Oxbridge/LSE/UCL be sufficient to make up for my lack of maths background? What else could I do to demonstrate my quantitative skills?

    Thank you for your time :)

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    Re: Best way to make up for lack of mathematics at Oxford undergrad?

    Good performance at a quantitatively rigorous masters programme (like LSE's EME) will definitely be a positive signal, and may help allay some concerns. However, it's unlikely that you'll do well in such a rigorous programme if you have not take any math courses, as graduate economics is significantly more mathematical than whatever you'll learn during your undergraduate studies.

    You can consider doing a Graduate Diploma in Mathematics before attending a rigorous masters programme. There are a number of them being offered in the UK. The cheapest one, and the one I'm most familiar with, is the Graduate Diploma in Mathematics from UOL (see here). You'll take 4 semester-long courses (or equivalent) over the course of 1 year. There are also 2 half-courses in statistics under this diploma, which is quite rigorous, since they use Casella and Berger.

    Lastly, it goes without saying that you ought to source out RA opportunities in Economics during your time in Oxford.

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    Re: Best way to make up for lack of mathematics at Oxford undergrad?

    Quote Originally Posted by tutonic View Post
    However, it's unlikely that you'll do well in such a rigorous programme if you have not take any math courses, as graduate economics is significantly more mathematical than whatever you'll learn during your undergraduate studies.
    This generally is not true in the UK - UK economics undergraduate programmes are heavily maths-based and always cover calculus, differential equations, and almost always "real analysis".

    Indeed, any good UK undergraduate economics programme requires entrants to have an A-level in maths. While what you say seems to be true for US undergraduate economics programmes, it is almost always false for UK undergraduate programmes.

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    Re: Best way to make up for lack of mathematics at Oxford undergrad?

    I am originally from a UK-based undergraduate programme. Notwithstanding, even if you were to look at LSE's BSc in EME, it does not cover the required mathematical abilities necessary for graduate coursework as there are no proof-based courses. Admittedly, their MA100 course covers a substantial amount of important material, but it still pales in comparison to a semester-long course in Analysis, where the central focus is on proofs, rather than solving questions. Furthermore, it's unlikely that the material covered in their only statistics course required can span the material covered in a proper course on probability theory. The only course at LSE that rivals a solid math and econ double major is their BSc in Mathematics and Economics since they have proper math courses taught by their math department. As a comparison with their MA100 course that all econ students take, this is the real analysis course that Math and Econ students take at LSE. The syllabus is completely different, and more in line with traditional analysis courses elsewhere.

    Lastly, the entrance requirement reflects the competitiveness of admissions, and not necessarily the rigour of the material being taught.

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    Re: Best way to make up for lack of mathematics at Oxford undergrad?

    Tutonic gives great advice here (as usual).

    Couple quick thoughts:

    1) Can you not transfer to a more quantitative course, i.e. Maths and Econ /pure Econ?
    2) I've seen many people from PPE degrees go into good graduate programmes. I'd research more and speak to people at Oxford very early on.

    Last comment. Tutonic it seems that the graduate diploma in Maths is not being offered this year. I'm not sure if this is something permanent (I hope not).

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    Re: Best way to make up for lack of mathematics at Oxford undergrad?

    Quote Originally Posted by tutonic View Post
    I am originally from a UK-based undergraduate programme. Notwithstanding, even if you were to look at LSE's BSc in EME, it does not cover the required mathematical abilities necessary for graduate coursework as there are no proof-based courses. Admittedly, their MA100 course covers a substantial amount of important material, but it still pales in comparison to a semester-long course in Analysis, where the central focus is on proofs, rather than solving questions. Furthermore, it's unlikely that the material covered in their only statistics course required can span the material covered in a proper course on probability theory. The only course at LSE that rivals a solid math and econ double major is their BSc in Mathematics and Economics since they have proper math courses taught by their math department. As a comparison with their MA100 course that all econ students take, this is the real analysis course that Math and Econ students take at LSE. The syllabus is completely different, and more in line with traditional analysis courses elsewhere.

    Lastly, the entrance requirement reflects the competitiveness of admissions, and not necessarily the rigour of the material being taught.
    Your own profile says that you have a distance learning Accounting & Finance undergraduate degree from a UK university. That is not the same as an Economics degree.

    Moreover, as I'm sure you well know, just looking at syllabi provides little (if any) information about what is actually taught during a course.

    Hence, my previous comments still stand.

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    Re: Best way to make up for lack of mathematics at Oxford undergrad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rohanps View Post
    Moreover, as I'm sure you well know, just looking at syllabi provides little (if any) information about what is actually taught during a course.
    Are you suggesting that programs in the UK don't adhere to their extremely detailed syllabi and course descriptions?

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    Re: Best way to make up for lack of mathematics at Oxford undergrad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rohanps View Post
    Your own profile says that you have a distance learning Accounting & Finance undergraduate degree from a UK university. That is not the same as an Economics degree.

    Moreover, as I'm sure you well know, just looking at syllabi provides little (if any) information about what is actually taught during a course.

    Hence, my previous comments still stand.
    Sure, some specific techniques of differential equations and whatnot might be integrated within the Economics courses but that does not equal taking those math courses individually and really understanding the theory behind Linear Algebra, RA, DE etc. Your typical US undergrad would have taken all those math courses on an individual level. Hence, the rigor is not comparable to UK undergrad and why almost everyone from Europe/UK needs to do a masters first.
    Last edited by Bayes; 04-30-2020 at 11:18 PM.

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    Re: Best way to make up for lack of mathematics at Oxford undergrad?

    Hey OP,

    The discussion here has become a bit side-tracked, but hopefully my experience will be helpful to you. I did PPE at Oxford (so as you say, had access to the same econ courses as you), and I'm now doing an economics PhD at a T10 in the US.

    Firstly, you're still very young and have lots of time, so give yourself at least a bit of time when you get to Uni to explore your interests and see what you actually enjoy - a PhD is really not the best choice for a lot of people (even if they'd be more than capable) and it took me a while to decide this is what I want - I'm glad for that, I think it's resulted in my PhD being more successful.

    That being said, if you do want to do one it's definitely possible from an Oxford undergrad. The most important thing is to take a majority of econ courses - i.e. 5 or your 8 should be econ. The optional courses in 3rd year are a great opportunity to explore what you're interested in, but if you want more quantitative experience this is also a good time to do that. Advanced micro theory is good prep for a grad level micro course, and does in fact include a lot of real analysis (regardless of what the above might say). I think metrics is also worth taking, as that was my weakest area when I left the course.

    I would then recommend doing a masters in the UK (LSE, UCL and Oxford would be my too 3 suggestions - maybe best not to do Oxford just so you can expand your academic network). You will get some research experience on your MSc from the thesis. I really don't think there's any need to do a maths diploma first though - I don't know what your maths background is (I did maths and further maths at A level) but I didn't find it that difficult to catch up.

    I then did 2 years in industry (a requirement of them funding my masters), which allowed me to get more research experience, and also just mature and work out what I want to do. Finally, even if you do everything right, it does to some extent come down to luck. So don't treat it like US or bust - the UK actually had some great programmes, and some (e.g. LSE) actually have similar funding to the top US courses. So definitely keep an open mind about them.

    Good luck and enjoy university!

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