Case interview - Business terms

Case Interview
New answer on May 30, 2023
7 Answers
asked on May 24, 2023

Good evening,

What are the most common business terms that I ( a non-business background applicant ) need to be aware of for the case interview?

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replied on May 24, 2023
300+ coached cases | Former McKinsey interviewer + recruiting lead| End-to-end prep in 2 weeks

Case interviews can be challenging, especially for candidates without a business background. However, by familiarizing yourself with key business terms, you can improve your chances of success. What's more important is understanding how the terms work together and what the formulas behind them are, especially in what contexts they should be used. Here are some of the most common business terms you should be aware of for a case interview:

  • Revenue: The total income generated from the sale of goods or services. It's crucial to understand how revenue is calculated and how it impacts a company's financial performance.
  • Cost: The expenses incurred in producing goods or services. Familiarize yourself with different types of costs, such as fixed costs (e.g., rent, salaries) and variable costs (e.g., raw materials, production costs).
  • Profit margin: The percentage of revenue that remains as profit after deducting costs. It's essential to grasp the concept of profit margin and how it reflects a company's profitability.
  • Market share: The portion of the total market that a company captures. Understanding market share helps evaluate a company's competitive position and growth potential.
  • Supply and demand: The fundamental forces that drive market economies. Supply refers to the quantity of goods or services available, while demand represents the consumers' desire and ability to purchase those goods or services.
  • SWOT analysis: An evaluation of a company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Conducting a SWOT analysis helps identify areas of competitive advantage and potential risks for a company.
  • Competitive advantage: The unique attributes or strategies that allow a company to outperform its competitors. Familiarize yourself with different sources of competitive advantage, such as cost leadership, differentiation, or niche focus.
  • Market segmentation: The process of dividing a market into distinct groups based on certain criteria (e.g., demographics, psychographics). Understanding market segmentation helps target specific customer segments effectively.
  • Value chain: The series of activities that a company performs to deliver a product or service to customers. It's important to grasp the concept of value chain and how it can be optimized for efficiency and cost reduction.
  • Return on investment (ROI): A measure of the profitability of an investment. ROI calculates the return (profit) generated relative to the investment cost, indicating whether an investment is worthwhile.

To further enhance your understanding of these business terms, I recommend exploring the following resources:

  • Investopedia ( A comprehensive financial education platform that provides definitions and explanations of various business terms.
  • Harvard Business Review ( A reputable source for business insights and case studies. Reviewing their articles can give you a better grasp of business concepts and their practical applications.
  • MorningBrew: I subscribe and read this morning newsletter everyday to understand what is going on in the industry. It's a great place to start out and for you to get familiar with reading business news!

In addition to familiarizing yourself with these business terms, it's crucial to practice solving case interview questions. Mock interviews with peers or joining case interview practice groups can greatly enhance your skills and confidence.

Remember, while a non-business background may present some initial challenges, demonstrating a strong understanding of these business terms and their application can set you apart as a candidate. Good luck with your case interview preparation!

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Content Creator
replied on May 25, 2023
#1 McKinsey Coach by rating & recommendation rate

Hi there, 

I would recommend that you try not to learn them by heart and outside of a case context. 

What I tell candidates to do is to expose themselves to as many cases as possible as whenever they come across a new term, to look it up. This way you'll realise that after doing a few dozen cases, 90% of these terms repeat themselves. That's when you achieved critical mass and basically know everything that you'd need for the actual interview. 


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Content Creator
replied on May 25, 2023
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi Mana,

This might sound like odd advice, but I recommend you actually organically build these up over time instead of trying to memorize from a list.


  1. Daily reading
  2. Listening to podcasts
  3. Casing

At the end of it all, then go through a list (Preplounge, investopedia etc). 

Now, in terms of formulas, the most important are:

  • ROI
  • Breakeven
  • NPV
  • Markup
  • Margin
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Anonymous replied on May 25, 2023

Dear candidate, 


The most common business terms would be included as an example in preplounge materials or under topics such as general management, MBA, finance, economics, organisational/HR, operations. Common business cases are market entry, company profit or performance improvements, marketing, new ventures, investments, for example. Best regards

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replied on May 25, 2023
FREE INTRO | Ex-Roland Berger and interviewer for 6+ years

I’ve seen some great answers here already but one point to add is that you CAN solve and answer case questions without being extensively familiar with a lot of jargons. A lot of it involves ability to showcase structured thought process, it is unlikely you can impress the interviewer much by simply using commonly used business terms. 

Having said that, the interviewer themselves may use a lot of these terms, jargons and concept throughout the case (especially interviewer-led ones). So you want to familiarize enough that you can understand and follow the explanation without getting flustered. 


Good luck!

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Anonymous A replied on May 24, 2023


there is a whole blog article about common terms of business, published by PrepLounge. 

You'll find them here.


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replied on May 30, 2023
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Roland Berger |Former Head Recruiter | Market Sizing

Here at Preplounge, go to the resources section → case interview basics → business concepts. 

This section should have 80% of what you need to know. The rest will come from case practice. But if you don't know something you can ask the interviewer.

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Emily gave the best answer


300+ coached cases | Former McKinsey interviewer + recruiting lead| End-to-end prep in 2 weeks
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