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I'm preparing to attend graduate school for political science here in Canada and I'm having something of a crisis. Midway through my degree program I chose to drop my first love (English) to focus on what I was more interested in professionally. I'm now completing a honours degree in political science and international relations. Thing is, I've lost much of my quantitative ability (not that I had much to begin with). I was able to do some differential calculus a couple years ago, but I fear I've forgotten much of what I knew how to do.

I've become fascinated with quantitative methodology and want to practice quantitative research in graduate school. I'm currently on track to study theory. So here's my question: If I want to be able to use quantitative methods in grad school (say negative binomial regression, for example) how much math should I know prior to entering? Multivariable calculus? Linear algebra? Differential equations? When it comes to eventual knowledge, the sky's the limit, but I'm immediately concerned with applied maths. Pardon any ignorance inherent in this post.

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Do the places you want to study at not have a list of requirements to study your area of choice? To be honest, I think a much better place to ask this question would be to look at Academia SE (, or to just contact someone attached to the graduate program you're thinking of doing. – Andrew D Oct 2 '13 at 22:45
up vote 5 down vote accepted

For quantitative social science, the more math you can learn before you get to grad school, the better. A minimal preparation would be something like:

  • Three semesters of calculus, which is usually two of single-variable and one of multi
  • One semester of linear algebra
  • One semester of probability and statistics

If you have time, the following courses would look good:

  • Differential equations
  • Advanced probability or mathematical statistics courses
  • Real analysis, which might be called advanced calculus

Topology also couldn't hurt, in case you want to learn functional analysis later on. You should certainly take a couple of computer science courses.

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Nice list. Do you think game theory should be included? – TheBirdistheWord Oct 2 '13 at 23:19
I thought about mentioning game theory, yeah. It would be optional, to be sure, not in the core. – Kevin Carlson Oct 3 '13 at 23:12

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