Exemption Exams

We are strong believers in the value of our curriculum. However, we recognize that many of our students have considerable background in certain areas of our academic program, and we wish to grant them the flexibility to take additional electives in place of fixed core courses or elective prerequisites whose content they have already mastered. Such mastery is determined by passing an exemption exam, which is comparable to a final exam in a given subject. Exemption exams are available for: Accounting I, Financial Accounting; Managerial Statistics, Corporate Finance, Capital Markets, and Real Estate Finance.

We have created the following FAQs to help you navigate the exemption process. If you have questions that are not addressed here, please e-mail AskEMBA-NewYork@gsb.columbia.edu.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I be exempted on the basis of my previous academic work? Why do I have to take an exemption exam?

Exemptions are only granted upon passing the exam, not on credentials. Students have to pass an exemption exam to prove proficiency in a course based on the standards of the materials taught at Columbia Business School, since content can vary from school to school. Through this process, we ensure that Columbia MBAs have a consistent level of knowledge in our core curriculum when the program is completed.

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Can I exempt from elective pre-requisites?

Though not a core course, Capital Markets & Investments is a prerequisite for most upper-level finance courses. Students may attempt to waive this course by taking an exemption exam at any time prior to the term in which he or she takes a finance elective. Capital Markets is only offered in term 3 for all EMBA students, so students should consider taking the exemption prior to term 3.

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When are the exemption exams offered?

Exemption exams for all fixed first- and second-semester exemption exams are offered prior to the start of the relevant term's classes.

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Where can I find information to help me prepare for the exams?

Entering students will have access to an Exemption Exams course link on their home page in Canvas once they've registered for the Pre-MBA Program and been notified by email that they can log on to the site. There they will find materials for each of the exemptable courses, which may include a syllabus, sample class notes, sample assignment and sample exam. Students may use textbooks from prior courses, library books, etc. The amount of information posted to the page is at the faculty's discretion.  There will also be information regarding the format of the exam and what materials can be brought into the exam room. (See Pre-MBA information on the admitted students website.)

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Is it permissible to use materials or notes from current or past Columbia Business School students as preparation materials for exemption exams?

No, this would be considered a violation of the Honor Code. You should refer to the exemption exam information on canvas, which provides the necessary background and has been approved for use by the faculty.

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When do I find out if I've passed an exemption exam?

Exemption exam results are available to students prior to the end of each add/drop round unless otherwise specified. Students will be emailed as soon as their exam results are available.

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Should I still attend the course after I've taken the exemption exam?

While awaiting results of exemption exams, students will remain registered in their courses and should continue to attend in case they do not pass the exemption.

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What grade is required to pass the exemption exam?  Does everyone pass?

The grade required to pass the exemption exam is at the discretion of the grading faculty.  All decisions are final.  Please be aware that while we encourage students to attempt to exempt, there is no guarantee of passing the exam. 

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What should I do if I learn I've passed an exemption exam?

Students who exempt out of core courses should contact the EMBA academic and student affairs team to inquire about which Global elective block weeks might be available to replace the exempted course at AskEMBA-NewYork@gsb.columbia.edu .

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Does passing an exemption exam reduce the number of courses I need to take in order to graduate?

No, exemptions do not reduce the number of credits required for the MBA degree; they simply enable students to take additional electives.

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What electives can I take if I pass an exemption exam?

Students may take Global Elective block week electives that have available seats, as long as they’ve fulfilled that course’s prerequisites. Course descriptions and prerequisites are found in the EMBA Course schedule located on BOSS.  You must be logged into BOSS to see full course descriptions.

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If I fail an exemption exam, does it appear on my transcript?

Though a passed exemption will appear on the transcript, failing results are not recorded; there are no negative consequences to taking and failing an exemption exam.

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If I fail an exemption exam, may I retake it at a later date?

A student may only attempt each exemption exam once; exemption exams may not be retaken.

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What should I do if I'm not satisfied with the grade I received on my exemption exam?

Exemption grades are final — there are no grade appeals.

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