Excel Skills

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New answer on Mar 14, 2021
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Anonymous A asked on Mar 04, 2021

Hi Experts,

I am social sciences major and will start working as a consultant soon. I worry about my excel skills because I almost never use at my uni. My questions

1)What excel feature should I master ?

2)What type of graph/chart/tables should I master ?

3)Is there any online course/website to learn more about excels for consulting ?

Thank you for your help

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Content Creator
replied on Mar 04, 2021
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

Teach yourself:


Q&A: https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/free-online-resources-to-learn-excel-basics-6946

Pay for a Course:

https://www.udemy.com/share/101Wde/ (Udemy is excellent. $15...basically free)

Important Tip: Don't just learn formulas etc. Test yourself! Download a free data set, ask yourself a question, and try to solve for it. Play with actual data solving real questions and building a real dashboard etc. Don't just passively take lessons :)

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Content Creator
replied on Mar 04, 2021
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience


I strongly recommend you learn by doing and not passive learning through courses etc.

Have a look at this site- https://www.ons.gov.uk/

There are tons of data sets on the site. Download a few data sets and try following:

  • Filters
  • Vlookup
  • Pivot Tables
  • Data tables
  • Conditional formatting
  • Charts- various types
  • Slicers
  • Countif
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Content Creator
replied on Mar 06, 2021
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


Congrats of that offer!

You do very well trying to anticipate here: if there is one thing I wish I had done before joining McKinsey, that would have been Excel. It can really be a game changer, so I would really focus on that (more than pptx, industry knowledge, etc., that are nice-to-have, but not deal breakers).

Excel skills are part of the core skill-set of consultants, and it´s great that you want to practice them. PFB a list of the most popular commands:

Basic operations: SUM, SUMPRODUCT

Text transformations: CONCATENATE, LEFT, RIGHT, & operator,

Connecting different datasets: VLOOKUP, HLOOKUP, INDEX(MATCH(),MATCH())

Conditional-based operations: SUMIF, COUNTIF, SUMIFS, COUNTIFS, COUNTA

Learn how to analyze data using Pivot Tables

There are plenty of online materials:

Microsoft Support: https://support.office.com/en-us/excel

Kubicle: https://kubicle.com/personal (go for the 7 days free trial - Excel for Business Analytics)

Hope it helps!




It´s much better than the old test used to be.

It's a gamified test

Divided into 2 games, 1h to complete both of them:

1st one is a game about keeping an ecosystem balanced

2nd one is a defense game

It´s fun and there is not really a "way" to prep for it.

My advise would be to be fresh when you do it and pick a right enviroment -during my BCG test in their office there was construction in the patio and the screen was even shaking-.

Hope it helps!



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Content Creator
replied on Mar 05, 2021
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.400+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ InterviewOffers.com) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

You will learn a lot on the job and the consulting firm will probably offer training courses. It is good though if you do some practice in advance.

In terms of your questions:

  1. Top functions to know are Vlookup and Pivot Tables. Other useful ones are Concatenate, Sumifs, Countifs and Sumproduct. The best way to learn is to play with the data and think about how you may automate a repetitive action instead of doing it over and over – there is probably a function for that
  2. No need to learn specific graphs – just play with the data and see how each shows numbers. It is also good if you take a look at graphs (either in news such as the Economist, in business cases you saw or in publications of the company you are going to join) and think about why a graph like that was used
  3. I cannot recommend a specific training program, however on Udemy, Coursera, EdX, Khan Academy or similar websites you should easily find a course you like, as mentioned by Ian. One key thing to learn is how to use keyboard shortcuts instead of the touchpad – this will skyrocket your productivity

Some companies also use Tableau and Alteryx, you may want to have a look to them as well if you have time.



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Alexander replied on Mar 04, 2021

It is essential that you practice. There are large numbers of free courses and - most importantly - data sets available online which you can use. Some of the most crucial is around not simply understanding elements like Pivot but to be able to build you own tables so you can effectively apply Pivot.

I nice way of practicing is also: build you own household finance management tool with graphics and all. You can then knock yourself out and try out all the various features relevant to a consultant.

All that being said... in most operational businesses, the data sets have become too large. I am not talking big-data here, just the run-of-the-mill 6k SKUs, 1m lines order intakes, etc. Running even basic vlookup, sumproduct, etc. functions over 580k lines tends to kill Excel or your computer. So I strongly advise you to pick a tool like PowerBI or Tableau and learn using those. They are already state of the art, they will not get you around having to learn Excel, yet they are the tools I have already been using for the last 3-4 years. Also, you can easily assess a candidates capabilities in them as part of interview processes. Think of them like Excel-on-Steroids.

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Content Creator
replied on Mar 05, 2021
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies

Hi there,

Some useful links were already shared above.
What about Excel it is indeed important in the consulting. You’ll learn a lot only by practicing and it’s absolutely fine.

Good luck for your start,

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replied on Mar 05, 2021
Bain | passed >15 MBB interviews as a candidate

I agree with most of what Adi mentioned, and would add:

  • Sumif
  • Index, Match (and in combination: Index(Match(....),Match(...))

but would discount charts. Those will be done in other programs when you work at the big firms (either MekkoGraphcis or Thinkcell)

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replied on Mar 05, 2021
Expert Financial Services | ex-FinTech Unicorn Manager | 250+ real interviews | 14y+ int work exp | ESCP Business School

Hi there,

some useful links were already shared...

And learning by doing is absolutely fine. However, it also depends on you personality. You will only learn (a lot) by doing, if you take the time ta ask your colleagues how to deal with excel and which functions to use, even if it is a stressful situation. And consulting is usually stressful.

The more you're uncomfortable with botherin your colleagues ("can you please show me quickly...") for excel feature, the more you should train on your own.

And last but not least: Excel is very important in the consulting business ;-)

I wish you good luck for your start!


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Content Creator
replied on Mar 14, 2021
Strategy&| ex-interviewer | 170+ coached over career |95% success @ MBB, S&, RB, LEK, OW, Big4 [SUCCESS STORIES BELOW]

To get really good at Excel as consultants use it, approach it in terms of:

  1. Mechanics - use Excel quickly and efficiently
  2. Tools - learn the tools you will need
  3. Process - understand how to think about what you need it to do

1. Mechanics

  • Use the keyboard, only!
  • Learn the Alt Key shortcuts (type alt shows you all the shortcuts for accessing the toolbar)
  • Memorise the key ones - Shift + Arrow (select cells), Ctrl + Space (select column), Shift + Space (select row), Ctrl + Shift + +/- (add or remove Columns or rows)
  • Find more here: https://macabacus.com/excel/keyboard-shortcuts

2. Tools

  • The other answers have covered most of these - Lookups, Sum Ifs, Count Ifs, Sum Products, Index Match, Pivot Tables
  • This is good enough for 90% of what you will need to know

3. Processes

  • This is more around how do you think about how to build a model and run analysis
  • Instead of jumping straight into, consultants will spend time thinking about the structure of their model first
  • Ask friends in banking or consulting or those who were in the year above you at university, for examples of these - DM me if you want some examples
  • Also, running checks are super important - having checks throughout is commonplace in good models - if you show this when you join, you will be a step above most others in your class

Resources - Macabacus, Stack Overflow

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Ian gave the best answer


Content Creator
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