How much statistics/probability is needed for a prospective math PhD.

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  • #1
My question is how much probability or statistics would I need to take if I want get into a math PhD program. Right now, I'm taking an intro to stats courses that touches on probability theory, but I don't know if it will be prep well enough for the math GRE. Would you recommend taking a probability course?

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  • #2
They do a breakdown of the subject matter on the GRE page, probability theory is one of a couple of dozen side topics in the 'Additional' section, which is worth 25% of your total score. Given an even distribution, you should assume that there might be at most a couple of probability questions on the test all together. They probably expect minimum competence, I would be surprised if your course isn't good enough presuming it's a basic calculus centered stats course.

That being said, I think probability is pretty interesting and useful (especially for an applied math person, don't know if you're one or not) so I would recommend that you either take an additional course or just self study (I find probability to be pretty fun and intuitive, I don't know if you have the same outlook though).
  • #3
See here:

On this website, there is a list of the number of problems (from the four sample exams) that are from the "Additional Topics" sections in the math GRE test. It turns out that there are more probability questions than any other topics in the "additional" section.

I am not surprised by this number; I used old math GRE exams to prepare myself for this test in October, and I actually found there are about 3 to 5 probability questions on each exam. You can probably answer most of them by only knowing basic combinatorics, but they do occasional throw in words like "jointly distributed random variables..." and such.

In short, I don't think it would hurt to take a course in probability (provided it's a calculus-based course), since you might see some of them on the exam. Besides, I actually enjoyed probability more than I thought. If you like applied math or analysis, you might enjoy the subject too!

I have not, however, seen any statistics question on MGRE yet... I've never taken a course in statistics, so I don't really know what it is to begin with. But I don't think not knowing statistics hurt my MGRE score.

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