Best to prepare math- and visual- heavy cases

case interview preparation Graph graph heavy case Table
New answer on Sep 30, 2021
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Anonymous A asked on Nov 30, 2018

What do you suggest to practice graphs and charts-heavy cases? Comparing different visuals and deducing math work are very important for some firms that give out graph and table-heavy cases, especially under time pressure. How do you practice reviewing graphs and charts and get into the habit of quickly identifying the most important concepts that I need for doing the math work to solve cases? I can read tables and graphs just like other people do, but I am particularly frustrated because I tend to miss the keypoint or take a long time identifying the most important piece of information that is crucial for setting up my math work.

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replied on Nov 30, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

Always take a little bit of time to figure out what you are looking at, then follow a repeatable structure that you can learn and apply everytime. The one I use is:

1. What am I looking at? Explain what the exhibit talks about, what's the lay of the land

2. What is the story? Read the data (high level please, no reading every single data point) and explain what is happening

2'. Calculate some stuff as relevant; might be before or after 2

3. What is the insight? How is this relevant to the analysis, what am I going to do with it? Refine your hypothesis as relevant.

Using this 3 step frame work, I was able to crack my 2nd interview in the 1st round in just 15 minutes - definitely the case of my life, I haven't done as well before or since; more to the point, it allowed me to overcome a weak 1st interview and be invited to the 2nd round, which ultimately led to me joining BCG. So there you have it, 3 easy steps = MBB admission :)

Good luck...

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Content Creator
replied on Nov 30, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


You can use the following approach:

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

Sources to learn from (prioritized):

  1. Study "Say it with Charts" book by Barbara Minto
  2. Learn basic statistics (Any GMAT or MBA prep guides)
  3. Check all available MBB presentations and publications. Practice to derive conclusions and check yourself with the actual ones from the article / presentation
  4. GMAT IR part (Official guide and Manhattan prep)
  5. "Consulting Bible" and "Vault guide for consulting" - check the chapters on cases with graphs in these books

Good luck!

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Lucy on Nov 30, 2018

Barbara Minto wrote "Pyramid Principle". Not aware of any chart book by Barbara Minto...


replied on Sep 30, 2021
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger | FIT | Market Sizing | Former Head Recruiter

Let me add something to the other coaches' answers.

Most candidates tend to just mention what seems to be most relevant. So they are pointing to something that is meaningful, but then they just say whatever the slide/graph/chart says.

That's not the objective. The objective is to connect that with the goal you want to achieve / decision you want to make.

If I show a graph where segment X is growing, I don't expect you do say the segment is growing. I expect you to say what is the implication of that. Is is good or bad for the company? Is is worse vs. the competitors? Does it support the investment thesis?

A lot of times candidates are thinking about this, but they don't say it. But if you don't say it, the interviewer doesn't know what you are thinking.

Remember, you ALWAYS have to link the slide/chart to the objective of the case. ALWAYS!

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Anonymous replied on Aug 15, 2020

Dear A,

I recommend you to use the following approach:

To interpret a graph or chart, read the title, look at the key, read the labels. Then study the graph to understand what it shows.

Read the title of the graph or chart. The title tells what information is being displayed.

Look at the key, which typically is in a box next to the graph or chart. It will explain the symbols and colors used in the graph or chart

Read the labels of the graph or chart. The labels tell you what variables or parameters are being displayed.

Draw conclusions based on the data. You can reach conclusions faster with graphs than you can use a data table or a written description of the data.
To practice all these bullets GMAT Integrated Reasoning questions help you a lot!

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Guennael gave the best answer


Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews
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