Bad Experience with Victor Cheng Case Interview Material - alternatives?

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Edited on Jun 03, 2022
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 08, 2018

Hi everyone!

About two years ago prepared for an internship case interview. Back tehn I used Victor Chengs LOMS and his book case interview secrets as prep material. While I managed to land the internship offer in the end, I really struggled during the interview. I noticed that hearing other candidates solve cases doesn't really help to solve them myself...

So now I'm applying for entry level positions at MBB and I want to be the best prepared I can be. PrepLounge seems like a good start as it is more practice oriented... do you agree? How should I go about it? What would you say is the best source and way to prepare at the moment?

Looking forward to get some help!

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Vlad
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 09, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

Hi,

Viktor Cheng material is good, however, it is definitely not enough to pass the interview. I recommend rereading and relistening Cheng every 10-15 live cases you do - you'll find many new things there.

In addition to cheng it may help:

1) Start with "Case in point" book - you can download this book for free everywhere. It's not the best guide on how you should approach the cases, however, it will give you the basic understanding.

2) Start practicing cases with partners here or find them locally. !!! Find experienced partners or coaches who can provide a good feedback!!!

3) Practice fast math

  • Learn how to multiply double digit numbers (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ndkkPZYJHo)
  • Learn the division table up to 1/11 (i.e. 5/6 = 83.3)
  • Learn how to work with zeros (Hint: 4000000 = 4*10ˆ6)
  • Use math tools (Mimir math for iOS), Math tool on Viktor Cheng website to practice

4) Below you can find a list of the most common case types and some high-level recommendations on structuring:

  • Market sizing - structuring from the supply or demand side. Structuring using a formula or using an issue tree
  • Profitability - basic profitability framework. Remember about different revenue streams and product mix
  • Market context cases (Market Entry, New product, Acquisition, etc). Always start with the big picture "market". Finish with something specific to the case (e.g. How to enter?"). Structure it as if you are defining the work streams for the real project.
  • Operational math problem (e.g. Should we increase the speed of an elevator or just buy a second one? How should we reduce the queues? Etc.) - Structuring as a process / value chain, with inflows, operations, and outflows
  • Cost cutting - I provided the recommendations on structuring it here: Operations Cases? McK
  • Valuation - Purely financial structure with cash flows, growth rate, WACC / hurdle rate, etc.
  • Synergies - revenue synergies (price, qty, mix) and cost synergies (value chain).
  • Social / economics cases (e.g. How to improve the quality of life in the city? How to increase the revenues of the museum?) - huge variability. Practice 3-5 social cases before the interview

5) Also, I would try to focus on the most common industries in the following priority(sorted by probability of getting a case): 1-retail and CPG; 2-airlines; 3-Telecom; 4-banking; 5-natural resources; 6-tech

6) After solving 15-20 cases start preparation for the tests (Serch for PST / BCG online test here on preplounge)

7) ! Important: don't forget about the FIT interview part. Crafting you stories and backups stories will require a couple of weeks!

PS

Here is a good list of articles regarding the different parts of the case:

1) Start with clarifying questions:

Clarifying questions

2) Communicating while structuring. Here is a long post by me on how to communicate the structure during the case study:

How to communicate the structure for the case study

3) Using hypothesis. I made a post about hypothesis here:

How to state a hypothesis and match to the structure?

4) Communicating while making calculations:

  • Always tell the interviewer your approach
  • Check with the interviewer that your approach is correct
  • Come to the interviewer with some preliminary answers
  • Check your assumptions with the interviewer

5) Communicating during the analysis of graphs / tables

  • Take a minute to look at the graph. Read the graph title. Look at the graph type and define the type (pie chart, line chart, etc). Look at the legend (ask for clarifying questions if necessary). Identify whats going on on the graph. Look for: Trends, % structures. Look for unusual things - correlations, outliers,
  • Make 3-4 conclusions from the graph. Think out loud on potential hypothesis on what could be the root cause / what are the consequences
  • Prioritize the most important for your current analysis and move forward with the case

6) Communicating while having questions on creativity

  • Ask an interview for a minute to think
  • Think of several buckets of ideas (e.g. organic growth / non-organic growth / differentiation). Remember to think as big as possible
  • Narrow down to each bucket and generate as many ideas as possible
  • Present the structure (buckets) and then your ideas

7) Communicating your conclusion. You can find a good example I've posted here:

How much answer-first should the conclusion be?

8) Communicating your FIT stories

Use the top-down approach while communicating your stories. "The Pyramid Principle" is the must-read by ex McKinsey on this topic.

I recommend using the STAR framework:

  • In Situation, you should briefly provide the context, usually in 1 or 2 sentences
  • Task usually includes 2 or 3 sentences describing the problem and your objective.
  • Then you provide a list of specific actions you took to achieve the goal. It should take 1 or 2 sentences per action (Usually 3-4 actions). Note that the interviewer can stop you any minute and ask for more details.
  • The results part should have 1 or 2 sentences describing the outcomes. This part is finalizing your story - make sure it can impress the interviewer and stay in the memory.

Best!

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Sidi
Expert
updated an answer on Jun 03, 2022
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi Anonymous,

a lot of helpful comments already! I just want to emphasize one central point that candidates unfortunately nearly never understand when using Victor Cheng or Case in Point: these sources provide you with a very good basic toolbox in terms of which areas to look into for certain types of problems. However, they are very poor regarding HOW TO APPROACH a case and HOW TO DRAFT A ROADMAP for solving the case. This needs to be rooted in rigorous logic, and unfortunately the "framework learning philosophy" brought forward by, e.g., Case in Point, is the very reason why an overwhelming majority of candidates will not get an offer.

By and large, most (or probably all) casebooks on the market are teaching a fundamentally flawed way how to think about business / strategy / organizational problems! A framework as such is worth nothing if it is not embedded into the specific context of the situation! This means, each element that you want to scrutinize ("building blocks" of the framework so to speak) needs to clearly relate back to the question that you want to address!

This is why you ALWAYS start from the specific question that you want to answer! From there, you define the criterion or criteria that need to be met in order to anwer this core question in one way or another.

In 95% of cases, value creation will be the central element. Ultimately, this is nothing else than profit generation over a specific time frame. You then draw a driver tree for profitability in order to isolate the numerical drivers for your solution. And then, only after you have drawn out the driver tree, you can map out the relevant qualitative "framework elements" to the sub branches. This approach, visualized by means of a rigorous driver tree, is much much clearer then any framework you will find in any case book. And, contrary to such frameworks, which are hanging in the air and do not logically relate back to the specific question, this is a bullet proof approach when done rigorously.

The caveat is: this requires time and qualified coaching to internalize. But ultimately, this is how consultants think about problems - how can we optimize for value creation?

Cheers, Sidi

_______________________

Dr. Sidi Koné 

(Former Senior Engagement Manager and Interviewer at McKinsey | Former Senior Consultant and Interviewer at BCG)

(edited)

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Andrea
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Content Creator
replied on Jun 08, 2018
Former BCG Principal and decision round interviewer

While I understand where you come from, I still believe to go through that program is a good starting point. And i underline starting. Below my suggestions for a more complete and holistic preparation schedule:

1. Read the fundamentals (cosentino, cheng (yes, I still list it here), MBA consulting club books)

2. Practice 10-15 cases with peers

3. Have first check-in with expert to nip in the bud any vices in your form

4. Practice 10 more cases with peers

5. Start alternating 5-10 cases with peers with 1-2 with experts (according to time, ability and willingness to invest, capability with case-type interviews). I’ve seen people be ready to go with as little as 20 cases in total and I’ve seen people who practiced 150 cases and I could tell that they would need a dose of luck to pass their interview (even though they would have made amazing consultants)

6. Finish off with just expert interviews according to need

7. Do not do anything besides relaxing and sleeping the 24-48 hours before interview

Take the above with a grain of salt, one size doesn’t fit all and the above is clearly a high-level, albeit prescriptive, structure that I would recommend to someone I do not know but that I would like to set up for success.

hope it helps,

Andrea

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Guennael
Expert
updated an answer on Jun 09, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

My answer will be slightly different here:

1. I strongly suggest you disregard Consentino's book, except perhaps for the market sizing question. Knowing how to crack a case isn't rocket science, and I question anyone who says otherwise. KISS!

2. LOMS is what got me into MBB. 5 BCG friends of mine who all gave me a case before and a case after agreed: I wasn't making process before I got that product, but became a new person after

3. You still need to put it in practice though. I listened to LOMS 3 times in repeat, and by the end knew the candidates' answers before they said them. Yet I also kept practicing my math skills, and kept doing mock live interviews as well

4. Bonus 4th part: I wish something like PrepLounge had existed back then. The amount of material and knowledge present here is phenomenal. I can't recommend enough that you spend the time to leverage that.

Good luck

G.

ex-BCG Dallas

(edited)

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Tyson on Jul 10, 2018

Absolutely agree with Guennael. Studying Marc Consentino's (admitedly well-written) Case-in-Point is not essential to success in today's environment. Perhaps there was a time when these templates were the gold standard in Management Consulting, but that time is past. This framework approach is out-dated, intellectually unsound, and unlikely to result in ultimate success.

Francesco
Expert
Content Creator
updated an answer on Jun 13, 2017
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.400+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

I agree that Victor Cheng may not be sufficient alone for an optimal preparation for MBB today, although is still a valid resource. There are two main reasons for that:

1) The Victor Cheng approach has become mainstream. The VC approach is already several years old and one of the main source of preparation, which means that

  • several of the consultants involved in recruiting actually studied on that
  • more people practice on that compared two 4-5 years ago

As a consequence, the average candidate knows Victor Cheng, and if you want to be more than average, the interviewer will have expectations that you can do MORE than what Victor Cheng presents in his framework. This was not true some years ago, when VC approach was less popular, and there was less material for consulting preparation (PrepLounge for example was not present 5 years ago).

2) The Victor Cheng approach lacks elements some frameworks. While presenting a very good profitability framework, the approach is not 100% comprehensive. Some of the areas that are not covered in the approach which are required in todays’ interviews are:

  • Complete structure to increase revenues/decrease costs
  • M&A valuation
  • Operation frameworks

This was not an issue some years ago, again since the average candidate had less material to prepare on. However, as of today, expectations are that you should be able to go deeper than the traditional business situation framework with the 3Cs.

All in all, Victor Cheng is still a good resource for preparation, although as mentioned, compared to some years ago, it should be integrated with additional resources. The average candidate would have to work on 100-120 cases to be sure to have a very solid preparation and manage to get an offer to MBB. Following the Victor Cheng approach may be equivalent to do 20 to 40 cases. This means that you should still practice on a good amount of cases to complete the preparation, in addition to VC.

Coming then to your question, there are two ways you can complement the Victor Cheng approach, and present a more comprehensive framework, which does not appear as a cliché.

  1. Free approach | 60-80 hours. Do 60-80 cases on your own in addition to Victor Cheng to develop business acumen. This would mainly require to go though good MBA handbooks (many are available online for free), read the cases, understand how the VC structures could be integrated, and develop therefore your own unique frameworks. You should also add some live practice, in order to develop good communication during the case. This is the cheapest way to strengthen your preparation, although it takes some time.
  2. Paid approach | 4-8 hours. Book an expert on PrepLounge or equivalent platforms, asking to mainly focus on the structure for the different type of cases, rather than case simulation only. Based on my experience, an expert session should be equivalent to 10-15 hours on your own.

The best approach would then depend on two factors: how much time you have before the interview and your opportunity cost for the time you would spend practicing with the free approach, which you could actually spend on something else instead.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

(edited)

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Avya on Sep 30, 2020

Hi, could you please provide these handbooks to me on a******@g****.com? Additionally, which handbooks are the best to use with a comprehensive approach?

Francesco on Oct 01, 2020

Hi Avya, please feel free to PM me

Olu replied on Jun 02, 2017
Looking for solid partners (10+Cases) . Currently preparing for MBB,Tier II & Big 4- Given and Done 15+ cases

I have gone through most of Victor Cheng's material, and I must say they are indeed very insightful and helpful as you have alluded to. Now to your point on is approach not being feasible, this can be interpreted in two ways:

  1. A new approach exist and victor’s is extinct or a paradigm shift is taken place
  2. You are referring to the fact that following is approach to a tee , can be perceived as being vanilla or lacking “Extra Sauce”

On the first point, I would respectfully disagree. Let me explain, Victor’s approach is to follow an hypothesis based method of problem solving i.e. After clarifying case details and understanding the case objective, form a hypothesis and develop a structure to test said hypothesis and then refine appropriately as you go through the analysis and uncover insights. Of course you still need to maintain structure, do math fast and accurately, be confident, remain clam, be creative and communicate effectively. This in short is still an effective high level strategy for doing well in case interviews in general (including @ MBB).

On the second point, I would agree. Victor’s program is pretty much main stream and most folks (like myself) gearing up for interviews will most likely use some of his material. As such, you can expect that over time interviewers at least the experience ones can decipher who is following a program/reading frameworks or force fitting them and who has instead taken time to understand what fundamentals are required /essential to succeed at case interviews in general. I would borrow a saying from Victor Cheng and advice you read the last statement over again x3.

To address your question more specifically, cramming frameworks, the notion of a framework that covers all relevant aspect of any case (if this existed, why would consultant still exist?), and a well-known versus a non-well known framework are not the key drivers to doing good at case interviews and as such should not be where you spend most of your time and energy. Rather spend time

1. Understanding the fundamentals or key drivers essential for success at case interviews (see point one above)

2. Understanding typical or traditional frameworks, not cramming but rather analyzing to develop intuition

3. Developing business acumen (can be done by learning and understanding typical industries business models and their key performance drivers, reading and analyzing business publications etc.)

4. Finally, practice..practice….practice and did I say practice again? YES! More practice. Good quality live practice and acting on constructive feedback will do miracles to your casing skills.

In conclusion, doing the 4 things above would allow you to understand what is relevant and not relevant and as such help develop smarter hypothesis that help you develop an appropriate structure that is case specific (not reciting a framework or being vanilla), which in turn would allow you efficiently zone in on the key area(s) in which the main problem(s) lie(s).

P.s: I am not an expert, nor have I worked at a consulting firm or received any offers, but I am sharing what I have learned from several hours of studying, and giving and solving over 30 cases.

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Avya on Sep 30, 2020

Would you be able to recommend me some business publications (something specific to India will be great, if not please provide me with the best ones you know of) Thanks

Anonymous replied on Apr 30, 2020

Dear A,


In general, I would recommend you to use multiple resources, not only this book, because it has natural limitations. You can also for you studying list Case in point book by Cosentino and Casebook from London Business School.

Also, remember that the best way to prepare is to practice cases with partners. You can find them here on he Preplounge platform or make it with coach who can provide good feedback.

If you need any sort of preparation material or advice, feel free to contact me.

Best,
André

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Anonymous C replied on Jun 04, 2017

I agree in principle with the querent. Victor Cheng's framework is too broad, and isn't as MECE as I would like - there's considerable overlap. The best method by far is to come of with a framework on the spot.

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Clara
Expert
Content Creator
replied on May 28, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

On top of the insights already shared in the post, next week will be pusblished in PrepLounge´s Shop material related.

In concrete, the "Integrated FIT guide for MBB". It provides an end-to-end preparation for all three MBB interviews, tackling each firms particularities and combining key concepts review and a hands-on methodology. Following the book, the candidate will prepare his/her stories by practicing with over 50 real questions and leveraging special frameworks and worksheets that guide step-by-step, developed by the author and her experience as a Master in Management professor and coach. Finally, as further guidance, the guide encompasses over 20 examples from real candidates.

Here I leave you the link > https://www.preplounge.com/en/shop/tests-2/integrated-fit-guide-for-mbb-34

Feel free to PM me for disccount codes!

Hope you find it useful!

Best,

Clara

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Vlad gave the best answer

Vlad

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McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School
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