FAQ for the MSc in Statistics

List of Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is my background suitable for the MSc in Statistics ?
  • What is the necessary level of mathematics ?
  • Can I enrol in a Minor ?
  • Where can I find a course list ?
  • Can I be exempted from taking a core course ?
  • Do I need to know French ?
  • How does the MSc in Statistics differ from the MSc in Data Science ?

Is my background suitable for the MSc in Statistics ?

The program is aimed at a wide variety of students with a BSc or MSc degree. A very good GPA in your last degree and a solid mathematical foundation is expected, and strong computational abilities are also very desirable. As with other courses at EPFL, admission is very selective, with decisions on admission made by an EPFL-level committee. If a candidate is judged promising but has a deficient background, this committee may impose additional courses during the first year of
an MSc program. Further information about admission criteria can be found here.

What is the necessary level of mathematics ?

Mathematical maturity and a grasp of core material up to the second year of a BSc degree in engineering, physics, computer science or mathematics. As an absolute minimum you should be very much at ease with concepts such as:
• Analysis: scalar and vector calculus up to and including Jacobians,         change of variables, multivariate integrals, partial derivatives, etc.
• Linear Algebra: Linear transformations, eigenvalues and eigenvectors, vectors and matrices (inverse, transpose, orthogonality, spectral decomposition, singular value decomposition, etc.).
• Probability and statistics: Scalar and vector random variables, marginal, conditional, and joint probabilities, moments, covariance matrices. Basic discrete and continuous distributions including the multivariate normal. Notions of estimation (bias, mean square error, moment and maximum likelihood estimation, . . . ) and hypothesis testing (including basic methods for normal samples). Straight-line regression.

Can I enrol in a Minor ?

You can choose a minor, which has to be validated by the program coordinator. A list of minors offered at EPFL can be found here. If you choose to do a minor, it is undertaken in parallel with the MSc, so it will in principle lengthen the duration of your MSc. For instance, you would have to obtain the 60 ECTS of courses required for the MSc, the 30 ECTS required for the minor, and do both the internship/specialisation semester and the MSc thesis (which lasts a semester).

Where can I find a course list ?

A list of the courses available for the academic year 2022–2023 can be found here. If you would like to attend an course that is not on the list, you should ask the program coordinator for permission. A detailed study plan and a rule book (in French) are available.

Can I be exempted from taking a core course ?

A formal request for an equivalence would have to be addressed to the secretary of the MSc program. More details can be found here.

Do I need to know French ?

Most of the proposed MSc-level courses are taught in English, so French is not essential for your studies, but it may be useful because some elective courses are taught in French. Before enrolling in a course, you should check its description (in principle the title of a course gives its language). If you don’t already speak French then it would make sense to use your time at EPFL to learn it, both for cultural reasons and to help in your daily living-English is widely spoken on the campus, but French is useful in shops and social settings elsewhere. Courses and other resources are provided at the Language Center.

How does the MSc in Statistics differ from the MSc in Data Science ?

The MSc in Statistics is less oriented towards computational topics (e.g., information theory/security, computationally-intensive deep learning techniques, or data management) and gives a deeper training in the theoretical and methodological foundations of statistics, in computational topics within statistics and in applications.
Core courses of the MSc in Statistics are intended to develop critical statistical thinking, to provide a solid foundation in statistical theory and methods, and to teach you how to tackle data-driven problems, as well as to extract and interpret information from complex data in a thorough, efficient, and ethical way. The electives, tailored to your interests or chosen according to a specific track (biostatistics, finance, . . .) deepen your statistical and mathematical knowledge in specialized and interdisciplinary areas.