I recently applied for and was accepted to WorldQuant University’s Master of Science in Financial Engineering (MScFE) program! So far I’m enjoying the experience and the online courses fit my lifestyle perfectly.

With some of the math heavy courses coming up I have been reflecting on the entrance exam, their Quantitative Proficiency Test. I found this test extremely hard to study for. First, I graduate almost 6 years ago, and this sort of math is not a part of my everyday work. Second, the topic list is extensive and fails to provide any details on how deep into each subject one should go. The Official Guidance:

“The Mathematics section comprises 20 questions, covering differential calculus, integral calculus, matrices and linear algebra, set theory, differential equations, complex numbers, sequences and series, logic and proofs, multivariate calculus, convergence of sequences and functions, and partial differential equations.
The Statistics section comprises 20 questions, covering exploratory data analysis, elementary probability, univariate random variables, bi-variate random variables, generating functions, statistical estimation theory, hypothesis testing and confidence intervals, and simple linear regression.”

WQU 2019

I figured I would share how I studied and hopefully this will give you a starting point.

I wanted to get a high-level overview and inspired so I started by watching and taking notes of the “Essence” series on YouTube by 3Blue1Brown.
Essence of Calculus
Essence of Linear Algebra
These two series are incredibly well put together, I found them genuinely entertaining, and a great place to start. NO these will not replace doing actual problems.

My next stop was practice problems and I turned to Khan Academy. Khan Academy seems to offer problems up to a first year of undergraduate university level or so. What I like about Khan Academy is that you can work through problems quickly, if you get stuck they have worked solutions, and they offer quizzes to test where you are. For me this meant that I could quickly hone in on specific areas I was weak on and cover these topics before getting into more difficult problems.
For each of the subjects linked here you can do the Course Challenge at the bottom. When you pass it you are ready to move on.
Differential Calculus
Integral Calculus
Multivariate Calculus
Linear Algebra
Differential Equations
Statistics and Probability

At this point I would say you are mostly ready to go. You’ve covered most of the topics and techniques you will need to know to do okay on the test.
BUT the test questions are certainly a level-harder than what I was seeing on Khan Academy. So at this point I would recommend heading over to MIT’s OpenCourseWare.
Here the topic list pretty much follows the same outline as that for Khan Academy, but the problem sets are much harder. If you have all the basics covered from Khan Academy you can do the mid-terms and exams from MIT right away. Then determine which lectures you need to review to get you through the more difficult problems.
Single Variable Calculus
Multivariable Calculus
Linear Algebra
Differential Equations
Introduction to Probability and Statistics
Probabilistic Systems Analysis and Applied Probability

Full Disclosure :
I gave myself two full weeks to review these topics and that was barely enough time for me. I was truly only able to get through all the Khan Academy material and was in the process of doing mid-terms and going deeper on each of the MIT courses when I wrote the test.
The exam I wrote (I assume they draw from a random bank of questions) had one question on differential equations, so the fact that I hadn’t gotten there yet wasn’t too bad.
Also, half the test is on statistics and probability, so logically you should spend half your study time on those topics if possible.

Hope this helps you get studying!

Thanks for reading,
Thomas


Update :
Wow I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on this post.
Initially, I planned on blogging a very specific study guide, directing you through external resources. Creating practice quizzes for each section with step-by-step solutions (all from my two weeks of notes and more). BUT ask anyone who has worked with LaTeX (spoiler alert you have to for the 3rd course 620:DTSP) and they will tell you it is incredibly time consuming, so I gave up on this idea.

BUT,
Do you want this? Would you pay for this if I created it?

What would you pay for a comprehensive study guide, practice questions with solutions?

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22 thoughts on “WorldQuant University Quantitative Proficiency Test

    1. Hi Sunny,

      Thanks for checking out my blog post.
      I studied full-time for about 2-weeks, and by that I mean pretty much all day for 14 days.
      I would estimate ~8-10 hours by 14 days, so 110-150 hours.

      I was familiar with all the topics having learned them years before (5+ years), but to go through and actually do problems of substantial enough difficulty takes a long time.

      Thanks for reading,
      Thomas

    1. Hi Lyudmil,

      From what I know you can try multiple times.
      After your first attempt, you can write it again right away.
      If you are not successful on the second try, you have to wait 30-days.

      So it is important to plan your attempts around the application deadlines.

      Thanks for reading,
      Thomas

  1. Thanks for this super useful post. A followup question… now that some time has passed, how demanding is the coursework? WQU say 25hrs per week. Do you find this to be true? Can you get away with less. This would be useful anecdotes for people doing this part-time and fitting in with work.

    1. Hi Guy,

      I’m just wrapping up the third course 620 – Discrete Time Stochastic Processes. My experience so far has been good.
      If you have some financial background or generally been interested in the space you will find the first course straightforward, definitely less than even 15 hours per week.
      610 – Econometrics : this was new to me and I spent a lot of time doing R tutorials and studying extra resources. Very doable around ~20 hours / week.
      620 – DSTP : first seriously hard course. The foundational knowledge on probability from a measure theory approach was all new to me. I had to get and read multiple books on the topic. This course is definitely in the 25-hours/week range.

      So it will really depend on your background. If you have graduate level math skills and a strong foundation in probability, you may have been able to breeze through DTSP too.

      Thanks for reading,
      Thomas

    1. Hi Kim,

      Hope your studying is going well! Almost the test deadline now.
      Khan Academy is a huge help, really the foundation needed to explore any topic deeper.
      Hopefully you have mastered most their topics and are onto some of the MIT courses.

      If you are feeling drained, the 3Blue1Brown Youtube videos are good for high-level thinking and motivation 🙂

      Thank you for reading and Good Luck!
      Thomas

  2. Thank you so much Thomas for this valuable information. I really want to enroll in this course but wasn’t sure of what to expect as far as the Quantitative Proficiency Test is concerned. I have a background in Computer science and Accounting and I should dive into these courses you have recommended before I attempt the test. Thanks once again.

  3. Hi Thomas,
    You did attempt the test rin 2019 right?
    Do Statistics and Probability have 20 qs/40qs?
    Can you tell me what kind of questions were there MCQs?
    Were there detailed and lengthy solving questions in probability and statistics?
    Can you mention important topics of Probability and Statistics that I should master at any cost?

    1. Hi Mahnoor,

      Yes I wrote the testing September 2019 and it was 40 MCQs with half being Statistics and Probability too.
      The questions were all fair, I didn’t feel like they were trying to trick me. They were maybe a 1/4 to 1/2 page of calculations and the “other” options were often not a solution you would get making a simple error. There were times that I forgot a “-1” on my calculator and the answer I got was none of the MC options. This gave me the chance to spot my mistake and get a correct answer.

      Probability wise there were a number of “Urn” style questions, you know the “there are 5 white balls and 4 black balls in an urn” etc.

      If you are feeling drained, the 3Blue1Brown Youtube videos are good for high-level thinking and motivation 🙂

      Thank you for reading and Good Luck!
      Thomas

  4. Thank you very much for this. It is quite straightforward and has given me a pathway to studying for the test.
    Before now, I was confused about what topics to study and resources. I am certain this will help a great deal.

    Kudos!

  5. Thank you Thomas for sharing this. My math ended in high school 13 years ago. The interest in the course is high and is my target now. Would like to make June 23 application.Kindly advise.

  6. Hello Thomas ,

    Thanks for the useful posts, what textbooks are prescribed for 560,620 and 622

    Thanks
    Siya

    1. Hi Siya,

      Thanks for your interest in my writing more posts!
      I will try to draft another quick post on some of the resources I have been finding useful.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,
      Thomas

  7. Hello Thomas,

    Are you guaranteed admission after completing their proficiency test because on the website it says that you will get conditional acceptance into the program? What does that mean?

    Thank you

    1. Hi FW,

      While things might have changes, I believe they say “conditional” acceptance because you have to send them transcripts, etc.
      So long as you pass the proficiency test AND omplete the rest of the requirements, you should move to full acceptance 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting,
      Thomas

  8. Dear Thomas
    Thank you very much for the rich information that you are always providing.
    But aside from Khan academy, MIT and 3Blue1Brown Youtube, is there any regular course that help passing Quantitative Proficiency Test as requested by WQU.

    Best regards

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