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Clarifying questions

Tim asked on Mar 21, 2018 - 3 answers

Hi, I have a question about asking clarifying questions at the beginning of the case. I've been told to only ask these if I don't understand something, but normally, I feel that I pretty much understand what I'm being asked to do upfront. In that case, do I just skip the clarifying questions, or are there other things I should be asking or thinking about at the beginning of every case?

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Vlad updated his answer on Mar 21, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School


I suggest asking the following questions:

1) Clarify the business model / how the business actually makes money. Even if you think you understand it, try to repeat it to make sure that you understand it correctly. e.g. if the case is about oil&gas company which revenues are declining, ask if it is Up / mid / down-stream problem. In this case, defining a revenue stream is critical to setting up the right structure.

2) Clarify the objective. Here make sure that your goal is:

  • Measurable
  • Has a time-framed
  • Has / has no limitations

e.g. Should I invest 100k in this business for 1 year if I want to get 15% return?

3) Ask the questions that will help you build a relevant structure and remove ambiguity.



replied on Mar 25, 2018
Former BCG decision round interviewer with 300+ real interviews in 8 years

Besides the above, usually helps to clarify scope of case (geography, business units, time). Should try to keep clarifying questions below three, so it doesn’t blur with case solving.

hope it helps,


Someone replied on Mar 22, 2018

Hey Tim,

On top of Vlad's good points, just be careful not to ask problem solving questions, i.e., the ones whose answers you need in order to solve the problem rather than to structure it (e.g., asking for total size of the market or how is demand evolving)