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Exhibit interpretation approach

chart Exhibit Interview
Edited on Aug 13, 2020
6 Answers
1.4 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Aug 11, 2020


What is the best approach to follow when presented with an exhibit/chart/table:

1- start confirming what the exhibit is about and confirm units and labels

2- Immidiately start identifying trends (not finding it helpful because I would jump all over )


1- start confirming what the exhibit is about and confirm units and labels

2- Ask for 1 minute to brainstorm (allows me to get structured)

3- Present 3-4 conclusions (like trends)

What are your thoughts? What should the candidate do first upon receiving the chart ?

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Content Creator
replied on Aug 12, 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

The second method is better but not perfect. This is what I would suggest:

1. Read the graph

  • Ask for one minute of time to understand the graph
  • Summarize what the graph is about. Read in particular the graph title (often forgotten), the axes and the legend

2. Analyze the graph

  • Repeat the question you have to answer. Many people don’t spend time to clarify the question they have to answer; consequently, they answer the wrong question. Don’t be one of them and be sure to restate what is the main insight you have to derive
  • Provide an analysis related to the question. Analyze how the graph can help to answer the question you just repeated

3. Provide a conclusion for the graph.

  • Answer to the question asked. Again, very often people simply state what the graph is about, without providing any conclusion. A great candidate will provide a clear answer based on data
  • Present the next steps to follow. As a last step, a great candidate will present what should be done next to help further the client



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updated an answer on Aug 13, 2020
Ex-McK Experienced Hire and EM - I show you how to perform at your best


Good question - I think a lot of people try too hard to impress the interviewer here and therefore make mistakes.

You are being tested for three things:
1) Can you read a chart?
2) Can you draw information that is relevant to the case
3) Can you use the information to suggest various ideas (depends on the question)

You'll notice that as you move from #1-3, you move from a more closed question to a more open-ended question.

Therefore - this is the key:
1) Start with the simple task of demonstrating you know how to read a chart.
2) Then draw out some information that you can discuss with the interviewer
3) Only then should you pause and try to come up with a structured set of creative ideas

If you go straight to #3, you are risking going down the wrong path and failing to demonstrate #1. Also, would you ever go straight to #3 in a real-life consulting engagement? Align with the team on #1 first! Just don't spend too much time on #1.

Finally, don't forget the question that was asked! Sometimes the interviewer will say, "The client brought you this data. What does this imply?" in which case it's much more open ended. But sometimes the interviewer will make it easier for you by asking, "What does this chart tell you about the proposed strategy?"

What do you think?


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Content Creator
replied on Aug 11, 2020
Top rated Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /12 years recruiting experience

It is always best practice to ask for time to look at new information. No one can process information in real time

  • Take a minute or so to look at the data.
  • Reflect on what it is saying - what are the axes, what is the data telling you, what are the main trends and most importantly what does it mean oveall (e.g., overall profits are increasing year on year)
  • Contextualize it to the case/question - how does this fit into the case - especially in the current question and even with regards to previous information
  • What is the 'so what' or the implication of it with regards to the question - this is where you go beyond what the chart tells you and think about implications of what it tells you (and this is the part that makes you a strong candidate)

All the best,


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Anonymous replied on Aug 12, 2020

Dear A,

For me your second option looks better, when you first look at the exhibit and first read the name and the numbers, try to find the correlation and think how it might be connected to the situation. Only after that you can come up with some conclusions of how you can use it further.


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Content Creator
replied on Aug 13, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

Please don't waste your interviewer's time by stating the obvious for more than a few seconds in the beginning. You can use that tactically to have a few seconds to orient yourself on the chart, but nothing more than that - I trust that you can read so no need to prove it in that moment.

The key is "beyond the obvious". Interpreting a graph means deriving appropriate insights given the context of the case at hand. This is where to focus on - as simple as that.

Hope that helps - if so, please be so kind and give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!


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Content Creator
replied on Aug 13, 2020
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi there,

The 2nd option looks best, but ideally it takes you more like 15 seconds not a minute!

In terms of being able to interpret charts/graphs effectively

1) Read the title - and understand it

2) Read the legends - and understand them

3) Remind yourself of the objective / hypothesis in the case, to see where this might fit

4) Find the differences - where does the line graph plummet or spike? Which column is a lot smaller or bigger than the others? Where does change occur? The differences are what matter

5) Talk outloud while interpreting - first, it helps you think and process your thoughts, second, it lets the interviewer provide guidance and course correct if needed.

Best Rote Practice

Rocket Blocks:

Best Practice Strategy

1) Read the Economist (especially the daily graph and Financial Time frequently

2) Ask case partners to focus particularly on your chart-reading skills (i.e. by providing you with cases with many charts) - Bain and Deloitte cases tend to be chart heavy

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Francesco gave the best answer


Content Creator
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching
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