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How U.S. News Calculated the 2015 Best Graduate Schools Rankings

Objective measures are important to the rankings, as are the opinions of peers and recruiters.

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Each year, U.S. News ranks professional school programs in business, education, engineering, law and medicine. The 2015 Best Graduate Schools rankings are based on two types of data: expert opinions about program excellence and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school's faculty, research and students.

The data come from surveys of administrators at more than 1,350 programs and more than 13,500 academics and professionals, conducted during the fall of 2013 and early 2014.

As you research course offerings and weigh schools' intangible attributes, the information on our website can help you compare concrete factors such as faculty-student ratio and placement success upon graduation. It's important that you use the rankings to supplement – not substitute for – careful thought and your own inquiries.

Beyond the five disciplines ranked annually, we also periodically rank programs in science, social sciences and humanities, health and many other areas based solely on the ratings of academic experts.

This year peer assessment surveys were conducted and new rankings published for science Ph.D. programs in biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, mathematics, physics and statistics as well as key specialties associated with those disciplines. The new science Ph.D. rankings were based on the results of the two latest surveys, in 2009 and 2013.

Rankings of graduate health fields, Ph.D. programs in social sciences and humanities and master's degree programs in public affairsfine arts and library and information studies are based on earlier surveys and will be republished. The year that the ranking was first published appears at the top of each list.

To gather the peer assessment data, we asked deans, program directors and senior faculty to judge the academic quality of programs in their field on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding). In business, education, engineering, law and medicine, we also surveyed professionals who hire new graduates.

Statistical indicators used in these disciplines fall into two categories: inputs, or measures of the qualities that students and faculty bring to the educational experience, and outputs, measures of graduates' achievements linked to their degrees. As inputs, for example, we use the appropriate admissions test scores for each discipline: the LSATGMATMCAT or GRE.

In a change from previous years’ rankings, we asked all ranked schools in the fields of law and education to supply U.S. News with names of working professionals or company contacts in their disciplines who hire their new graduates. U.S. News used a sampling of those names as the basis for creating the pool of nonacademics surveyed in those fields who were asked to rate the schools, as had been done for many years in the fields of business, engineering and medicine.

Also new this year: In the medical school ranking model for admissions data, U.S. News used the MCAT median total score and median undergraduate GPA instead of the average of those two factors as had been the case previously.

Different output measures are available for different fields. In business, for example, we use starting salaries and the ability of new MBAs to find jobs upon graduation or three months later. In law, we look at employment rates and state bar exam passage rates.