Engaging the interviewer while doing math / figuring out an exhibit

exhibits mental math
New answer on Nov 16, 2020
4 Answers
2.4 k Views
Anonymous A asked on May 02, 2018


While I'm doing math or figuring out what insights I can extract from a given exhibit, how should I engage the interviewer? Just thinking out loud to share my thinking process?

Any other best practices?


Overview of answers

  • Upvotes
  • Date ascending
  • Date descending
Best answer
Content Creator
replied on May 02, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


For math you should:

  1. Present the interviewer your approach (formula, calculation steps, equation, etc)
  2. Check with him whether the approach is correct
  3. Start calculations
  4. Come back to the interviewer with some midpoint numbers to keep him engaged and to make sure you are on the right track. Also, it makes sense to check what is his tolerance for rounding the numbers
  5. Present the final answer

For an exhibit (table / graph) 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 - correlations, outliers,
  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!

Was this answer helpful?
Linlin on May 28, 2020

how do i know the mid point number i selected is the one that the interviewer has the answer? cos in some calcuation, i can choose the different mid point number

Anonymous A replied on May 02, 2018

Thanks Vlad!
Regarding the Exhibit part of your answer - in section 1 "Take a minute to look at the graph": should I ask for a moment to look at the graph?

Was this answer helpful?
Vlad on May 02, 2018

Yep, ask for 30 sec or so

Content Creator
replied on Nov 16, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


The best practice is to walk the interviewer through your thougts, as he/she had a direct window to your brain and see how you are advancing.

Hope it helps!



Was this answer helpful?
Anonymous replied on Jul 22, 2020

Dear A,

First I would recommend you to look at exhibits and ask to take some time,

After you think about your framework you can share it with the interviewer

Also I wouldn't recommend you say out loud your calculations. Rather present them when it's ready, shortly explaining the process.

Wish you good luck,



Was this answer helpful?
Vlad gave the best answer


Content Creator
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School
Q&A Upvotes
185 Reviews