MPAff Quantitative Sequence and Validation Exams

MPAff Quantitative Sequence and Validation Exams

MPAff Quantitative Prerequisites 

In order to enroll in the beginning course of the quantitative sequence, PA 397: Introduction to Empirical Methods for Policy Analysis (IEM), a student must have completed either formal undergraduate coursework with a grade of C or better in calculus and statistics or passed the LBJ validation exam(s).

If you have already taken those prerequisite courses as part of your undergraduate curriculum, they will show in your admissions transcript and you need to do nothing else.  You can always ask the Admissions Coordinator.

If you have not taken the required course(s), you have several options between your admission date and fall orientation in August:

  • The LBJ School will offer PA 325: An Introduction to Quantitative Methods for Policy Analysis during the Summer I term prior to the student's first (fall) semester in the program. Successfully completing this course, taught by an LBJ professor, will satisfy the both the calculus and statistics pre-requisites.
  • You may take the course at a local college. You should bring transcripts or grade reports to the Admissions Coordinator before new student registration during orientation in August.
  • You may do self-study and take the validation exams during orientation in August.
  • If you have questions about enrolling in a certain course, the Camp LBJ quantitative syllabus is a source of information about course content. If you have the URL or syllabus for a prospective course you may send either to the Admissions Coordinator or Graduate Adviser for advice.

​Validation Exams

The first semester of the two-semester core quantitative sequence for a Masters in Public Affairs at the LBJ School, (i.e., PA 397: IEM), is a fast-paced course which assumes all students begin the course with a some exposure to, and experience in, statistical analysis and calculus concepts. In IEM, we typically cover more than one (undergraduate) semester of statistics in about one-half the semester. The other half of the IEM semester focuses on decision Analysis and optimization concepts. Both of these "management science" topics draw heavily on the mathematical concepts developed in a basic undergraduate math course. It is nearly impossible to succeed in IEM without some background in statistics, algebra, and pre-calculus. Some familiarity with differential calculus (i.e., derivatives) is also expected. The validation exams ensure that all students enrolling in IEM have the preparation needed to succeed in the course, if they haven't already prepared in these areas at the undergraduate level.

Summer Review

For new students who need to brush-up on their algebra, calculus, and/or statistics, a quantitative segment is offered as part of Camp LBJ. This segment is not a substitute for those who have never had an undergraduate math course.

Quantitative Course Sequence

PA 397: Introduction to Empirical Methods for Policy Analysis (IEM)
This course introduces students to the concepts, tools and pitfalls of quantitative analysis in decision-making. Its primary objective is the development of analytic thinking and communication skills through quantitative models.

Analytic ability is an indispensable element of a successful public administrator or policy analyst. While most of the core courses in the MPAff curriculum are designed to help develop this ability, this course focuses on one particular aspect: the rational approach to decision-making with emphasis on mathematical and statistical methodology. The intent of this course is neither to advocate this approach in public policy nor to dwell on the mechanics of specific techniques. Rather, the emphasis is on the abilities to conceptualize and to communicate issues in precise, analytic terms. Such abilities will be of prime importance in public service careers. The quantitative techniques acquired in this course should be considered beneficial side-products.

The course is offered only in the fall semester. 

PA 397C: Advanced Emprical Methods for Policy Analysis (AEM)
AEM is a required flexible course that offers students opportunities to study quantitative applications in depth. A range of topics are offered, from which MPAff students must select at least one. Successful completion of the beginning methods course is a prerequisite.

One section of the course is offered during the fall; four or five sections are normally offered during the spring semester. As a flexible core course, it may be taken more than once if topics differ.  Some course topics offered in the past several years include: management methods, program evaluation, econometrics, government economic statistics, and advanced regression. 

Quantiative Validation Exams

Who needs to take the quantitative validation exams? 
Any MPAff student who has not successfully completed (with a grade of "C" or better), at least one semester of statistics and one semester of calculus, at the undergraduate level. (Note: There are two validation exams, one for statistics and one for calculus. You need take only the exam for which you have not had an undergraduate course. Basic algebra skills are a must, and are included in both statistics and calculus courses and exams.) If you are unsure about whether or not you should plan to take the exam, contact the Admissions Coordinator.

How do I let you know I've completed statistics and/or calculus at the undergraduate level?
If you have one semester (at least 3 credit hours, or equivalent) of a basic statistics and/or calculus listed on the transcript(s) used to apply to the LBJ School, then we already know that you've met that requirement. No further action is necessary on your part.

If you are unsure whether or not a particular course on your undergraduate transcript satisfies the statistics and/or the calculus requirements, contact the Admissions Coordinator.  The LBJ School requires all transcripts for undergraduate work whether or not those courses were used towards graduation.  If the course title is not plain - such as Basic Statistics 101 - then you may want to check with us.

If necessary, the Graduate Adviser may require further information from you in order to determine if you've satisfied the quantitative prerequisites, including:

  1. The name and number of the course in question, as listed on your transcript.
  2. A brief description of the course (usually from the school catalog), and
  3. Either a syllabus from the course, or the title and author(s) of the text used in the course, (indicating which chapters were covered by the course), as well as
  4. Some proof of the grade received in the course, such as a transcript copy, grade report, etc.

If I don't have either statistics or calculus, or both, on an undergraduate transcript, am I required to take the validation exam(s)?
Yes!  You must demonstrate proficiency in statistics and calculus, either through successful completion of an undergraduate course in the subject(s), or by passing the validation exam for each subject, before you will be allowed to register for IEM.

What is the best way to satisfy the statistics proficiency requirement if I haven't taken any undergraduate statistics courses?
Historically, self-study has not been a successful way of preparing for the validation exam. We strongly recommend that you consider taking an undergraduate course in statistics from a local community college or undergraduate institution, this is the best way to prepare for IEM (PA 397). This course should include concepts such as descriptive statistics, hypothesis testing, and an introduction to regression modeling. Successful completion of this course (with a grade of "C" or better) means that you do not need to take the statistics validation exam.

The LBJ School offers a undergraduate course that satisfies both the statistics and calculus requirements.  The course is normally offered during the 1st summer term (June through the middle of July).  Unfortunately, for newly admitted students neither financial aid nor fellowships awarded to begin in the fall semester will not be available for use.

Do I really need to take, or have undergraduate credit for, a full semester of calculus to satisfy the pre-requisites?
Not really. IEM and other "quantitative" courses at the LBJ School require familiarity with the concepts of differential calculus (derivatives and optimization). Integral calculus, which is usually included in a one semester undergraduate calculus course, is not required to successfully complete the LBJ quantitative courses. You can learn the requisite differential calculus concepts through a variety of means such as internet courses, short courses, self-study, etc. However, you will still be required to demonstrate your proficiency in differential calculus by taking, and passing, a validation exam.

Will an undergraduate course taken on the internet satisfy the requirement for a course in statistics and/or calculus?
Yes, you can use an internet course to meet your requirement for an undergraduate statistics course and/or an undergraduate calculus course as long the on-line course is from an "accredited" institution. The Admissions Coordinator has a list of "approved" internet courses. If your wish to substitute another course, then please send the following information to us for approval:

  1. A brief description of the course (usually from the school catalog), and
  2. Either a syllabus from the course, or the title and author(s) of the text used in the course, (indicating which chapters are covered by the course), as well as
  3. The URL for the course

How do I prepare for the validation exams?
Study!  Do practice problems! You can do this in whatever way fits your learning style. If you don't take a formal undergraduate course in statistics and/or calculus, you can prepare/study for the validation exam by (1) studying the topic on your own using one or more recommended texts, (2) taking a short course on the internet or from any other source, (3) supplementing your study by attending Camp LBJ quantitative review sessions, or (4) forming informal study groups. (Note: Camp LBJ quantitative review classes are intended to be just that – "reviews." They are not intended to be introductory courses in statistics or calculus, nor are they necessarily intended to provide all that one needs to know to pass either validation exam.)

When and where will the validation exams be given?
You may take the exams on during new student orientation in August or on a date during the Fall semester to be determined.

How long will the validation exams take?
The exams are "proctored in-class" exams. A maximum of two hours are allowed for the statistics exam and two hours for the calculus exam.

What reference material can I use during the exam?
Both exams are Open notes / Open Book. You are welcome to bring any materials, books, calculators, computers, notes, etc. you'd like to use as reference. You should also bring a couple of pencils. We'll provide the scratch paper.

If I do not pass a validation, can I take it again?
Yes, but not the same day. No re-exams are allowed during August. You may retake the exam(s) on the tentatively scheduled dates in during fall or early January. Re-exams outside these dates are on an "exception only" basis.

When will I know if I passed the validation exam(s)?
We will notify you before registration. For exams taken in December or January,  we will notify you of your status before the add/drop access period re-opens in January.

What if I take the validation exam(s) but don't pass it (or both)?
You won't be allowed to register for IEM (a required core course) until you pass the exam(s) or successfully complete an undergraduate course in that subject. (The Graduate Adviser can suggest some undergraduate courses that will help fulfill these requirements locally.)

What if I need to take both exams, but pass only one of them?
See the answer above. You must qualify in both statistics AND calculus.

What is the effect of not passing the quantitative validation exams?
You will not be permitted to take the two quantitative courses required for your MPAff unless you have satisfied the quantitative prerequisites. If you delay the start of your quantitative courses until your second year (fall semester) and you intend to take the Internship for credit, you will not have fulfilled all the requirements necessary to do your internship during summer. (Note: In order to register for your Internship course, you must have completed at least five of six "core" courses – i.e., Introduction to Empiral Methods, Advanced Empirical Methods, Applied Microeconomics, Public Management, Public Financial Management, and Politics and Process). IEM must be completed before you can enroll in your internship.