I am a non-traditional student interested in entering a graduate program in statistics or applied mathematics (to study probability / complex systems modeling). I have an undergraduate degree in a liberal arts subject - little to no technical coursework.

My question comes in two parts:

  • If I self-study and score well (90%+) on the GRE Math Subject Test, would I be able to take advanced undergraduate courses as a non-degree student with prerequisites waived?

  • Would your typical graduate program consider a student with only advanced courses but not the "basics" (calc, linear algebra, etc.)?

Certain life restraints (financial, geographical and existential) make it difficult for me to go back and take the classes.

Thanks in advance.

closed as off-topic by Brian Borchers, Brian Tompsett - 汤莱恩, S. Kolassa - Reinstate Monica, Ric, jakebeal May 3 '16 at 21:13

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  • 2
    We're really in no position to answer this question. Rather, you should address the question to an academic advisor where you're thinking of taking advanced undergraduate courses. – Brian Borchers May 3 '16 at 15:55

The details will certainly vary from place to place, but, as your questions suggest, what is required is not coursework per se, but knowledge of the material.

The Math GRE subject test is perhaps not the most convincing way to demonstrate competence in calculus and linear algebra. Instead, you should directly negotiate with your target undergrad institution to see how they'd want to be convinced that you're ready to do upper-division coursework. They may have advanced-placement exams, or may have you take the final in Calc IV, etc. It will vary, and it might be a mistake to invest time and energy in doing the GRE subject test, since this might not suffice.

I can't speak for "typical" grad programs, but mine and many others look much more seriously at upper-division coursework (or equivalent!) than lower-division. It is not at all unusual that people destined for math grad school tested-out (or whatever verb applies) of a year or two of calculus, due to taking good courses in high school, or from a community college while in high school, or self-study. The coursework (or equivalent) that matters much more is top-end upper-division or beginning graduate level.

  • Thanks for the advice! I'll try to contact some departments. – Charles Chu May 4 '16 at 11:12

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