Welcome to Decision Making and Modeling, DECS 450

Dear students,

This page should answer your questions about my course, DECS 450, and more generally describe Kellogg's DECS requirements.


DECS 450 is an advanced course in decision making and modeling. You can use this course to substitute for Kellogg's DECS 433, but you will still need to satisfy the DECS 434 (statistics) requirement.

DECS 450 assumes knowledge of elementary probability and spreadsheet skills. This frees up more time to go into greater depth into cases, concepts, and state-of-the-art modeling and simulation tools.

Bottom line: If you are analytically inclined, and you want to pursue analytically focused courses and career, then you should take DECS 450.


One of Kellogg's core requirements is knowledge of decision making skills and principles. Skills include statistical data analysis, spreadsheet modeling, and simulations. Principles are conceptual frameworks that use probability theory and statistical concepts to prepare you to make better decisions. This material is an essential component of your future career and course work.

At Kellogg, the default option for those with no prior exposure to probability or spreadsheets is to take:

Option 1- The basic (slow) sequence: DECS 433 (decision making) and DECS 434 (statistics)

Students who already know the content of these courses can waive either one or both courses by taking the appropriate waiver tests. Information is available at:

DECS 450 is an attractive option for students who cannot (or do not want to) waive DECS 433. Taking the course requires prior exposure to *basic* quantitative and spreadsheet skills. Although we still cover the elementary concepts in DECS 433, we do so in an accelerated way, leaving more time for applications, cases, and advanced modeling skills. To enroll in this course you need to take the DECS Diagnostic Exam (see the url above) and do reasonably well on the first 3 questions.

Under this option, you can satisfy the DECS requirements by taking

Option 2- Advanced decision analysis sequence: DECS 450 and DECS 434.

Note that you still have to satisfy the DECS 434 (statistics) requirement by either taking this course or waiving it.

Finally, if you have a strong background in decision making and in statistics, and you qualify by taking the DECS Diagnostic Exam, then you have:

Option 3-Turbo version: DECS 445

This option will satisfy both the DECS 433 and 434 requirements. Turbo has the same coverage as the basic sequences (Option 1); the only difference is the speed: it goes twice as fast, covering 20 weeks of material in 10. Turbo does not cover topics in any more depth. Students who want firmer grounding in decision making, should consider DECS 450.

Advantages of taking DECS 450:

-- More cases and real-world examples
-- State-of-the-art simulation and decision tree software (Palisade's @Risk and PrecisionTree)
-- Counts towards the Managerial Analytics Major
-- Deeper coverage of concepts


1-What knowledge prerequisite do I need for DECS 450?

--Basics of probability: are you familiar with the concepts of: (a) the rules of probability; (b) Expectation, variance, and covariance; (c) the normal distribution.
--Basics of Excel: do you either know (or can independently learn): (a) references to cells in a spreadsheet; (b) use of the =RAND() function; (c) use of the SUMPRODUCT function.

If you already know the above (perhaps after a quick refresher), then this is a strong signal that you are ready for DECS 450. These and other concepts will be *very* quickly reviewed in DECS 450. If you haven't seen these concepts before, the basic course is what you should take.

2-Does DECS 450 cover more material?

Yes. It covers roughly 20-25% more material than DECS 433 and at a deeper conceptual level. The additional material consists of more cases, real-world applications, and in depth analysis of key concepts. DECS 450 also uses the industry-standard modeling tools by Palisade which includes @Risk and PrecisionTree software.

3- Is DECS 450 more work?

Yes, but only marginally so if you have the background.

4-What advantages does DECS 450 offer?

Your transcript will show the more advanced course and you will end up with a course counting towards the Decisions Sciences Major and the Managerial Analytics Major. The biggest advantage is the added knowledge and depth the course offers. This will help you in your future career and Kellogg course work.

5- Do other courses use simulations?

Only DECS 450 uses Palisade's @Risk and PrecisionTree. These are powerful (and fun) tools. You will be given all the support you need to master them and to use them effectively in

6- Is there data analysis in DECS 450?

No. Data analysis is the subject of DECS 434. DECS 450 is focused on decision making and modeling.

7-If I register in DECS 450 and I find that I am not up to it, can I then switch back to DECS 433?

Yes, within the period allowed by the Kellogg Registrar.

8-If I register in DECS 433 and I find that I can perhaps handle the more advanced course, can I switch?

Yes, within the period allowed by the Kellogg Registrar, and assuming there is space available.

    Information about you

    This will provide me with information to contact you if needed and to assist you with any question you might have.
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    Excel Skills

    The purpose of this section is to help you verify that you know some basics of Excel. These basics will be assumed and will not be covered in class.
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    Background knowledge of probability

    I will assume that you have had prior exposure to *very* elementary probability concepts. I will mention these in class, but we will not dwell on them as the basic course would do.
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    Questions and Decision

    If after reading the above, you have questions for me, please indicate them below or email me directly at al-najjar@northwestern.edu. I will get to you promptly.
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