Frequently Asked Questions–Rankings

Methodology FAQ.

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For example, suppose that a single school scores higher than all others on the U.S. News ranking model. It then has Rank 1. Now suppose that three schools are tied with the second-highest score. Each of those three schools will have Rank 2. Then the next-highest-scoring school will have Rank 5. The fifth-ranked school achieves a third-highest score, but because of the three-way tie among schools achieving the second-highest score, there are four schools that rank higher, so the third-highest-scoring school has Rank 5, not Rank 3. In this example, no school has a rank of 3 or 4.

For rankings of specialties within these areas and programs outside of them, we have used the visual device of printing the rank of tied schools only once, to emphasize that the schools are tied on our ranking lists.


Back to top. 9. How do the U.S. News rankings compare with other graduate school rankings?


First, there aren't a lot of graduate school rankings. The National Research Council (NRC) last released rankings of graduate programs in September 1995. The NRC has been collecting data at 10-year intervals and is currently evaluating various methodologies for its next study. Also under consideration is the question of whether the NRC will publish rankings or adopt another format for presenting its evaluations.

Researchers Evan Rogers and Sharon J. Rogers have compared rankings produced by the 1995 NRC study with those U.S. News has developed, looking specifically at the U.S. News rankings based on peer assessment data only. They concluded that there was "a very high positive association between U.S. News peer assessment scores and rankings and those reported by the NRC." Their article in the May 1997 issue of the American Association of Higher Education Bulletin further discusses this topic.

Some other organizations compile business school rankings. Our ranking methodology differs, giving different results. If you choose to consult other rankings, we encourage you to study the methodology to understand the differences between the U.S. News rankings and those of other organizations.


Back to top. 10. How does U.S. News get a peer assessment score?


One way of getting at the quality of a graduate program is to survey the people in the best position to have an informed opinion-academics who administer and teach in these programs and people who hire or work directly with graduates of these programs. For all disciplines we rank, we surveyed deans or program directors as well as department chairs or faculty members, asking them to rate the quality of each program in their field on a scale from "marginal" (1) to "outstanding" (5). If the respondent was unfamiliar with any program, s/he had the option of indicating "don't know."

A second survey was sent out to practitioners in the fields of business, education, engineering, law, and medicine. These people—recruiters of recent graduates from business or engineering schools, school superintendents, professionals in legal fields, including law firm hiring partners, judges and state attorneys general, and directors of medical residency programs—were surveyed using the same survey format (a five-point Likert scale) used with academics.


Back to top. 11. What are "input" measures of academic quality?


Input measures of academic quality reflect the relative performance of factors brought to the graduate education process. These factors include the academic preparation of the entering class, faculty-student ratio, and research funding.
Back to top. 12. What are "output" measures of academic quality?


Output measures of academic quality are measures we use to gauge how well an institution succeeds in its mission of preparing its graduates for professional life. These measures include job placement rates, starting salaries for M.B.A. program graduates, and bar passage rates for law graduates.
Back to top. 13. What does it mean when schools are tied?


Schools that achieve the same score on our ranking model are published with the same rank. This means that, taking into account all the factors considered in the ranking model, tied schools are comparable overall. However, tied schools may vary in their performance on certain individual factors that go into determining overall rank. Look at the detail provided in our table to see how tied schools perform on individual factors, especially those of importance to you. For example, tied schools may show differences in research expenditures or student-faculty ratios.