Do you look at the axis/titles first? Or the most outstanding numbers?
How do you analyze a graph or chart when it's first given to you in a case interview?
as a general first step, before every graph analysis, it is important to ask for time to be able to read it.
After you took some time you should proceed with the following.
- Summarize what the graph is about. Read in particular the graph title (often forgotten), the axes and the legend.
- Repeat the main question you have to answer. Many people don’t spend the time to clarify the specific question they have to answer; consequently, they end up answering the wrong one. 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. Once you have the graph crystal clear as for the content, then, and only then, you can move to an analysis of how the graph can answer the question you have repeated.
- Provide a conclusion for the graph that answers the original question. Again, very often people simply state what the graph is about, without providing any conclusion. A great candidate will provide a connection between the analysis done and the previous question formulated, with a clear summary of the whole analysis
- Present the next steps to follow based on such a conclusion. As the last step, a great candidate will present what can be done as additional steps to help further the client on the particular question raised.
First, give the lay of the land, what the exhibit talks about
Second, read the data, what's the story
Third and most important, what's the insight, what will you do with this.
I had a case at BCG 1sr round, consisting of a half dozen exhibits, one after the other. I followed these steps, aced the case in 15 minutes, got into the 2nd round in spite of a disappointing 1st case.
You can use the following approach:
- Take a minute to look at the graph
- Read the graph title
- Look at the graph type and define the type (pie chart, line chart, etc)
- Look at the legend (ask for clarifying questions if necessary)
- Identify whats going on on the graph. Look for: Trends, % structures,
- Look for unusual things (consultants love to integrate these traps in charts) - correlations, outliers, etc
- Make 3-4 conclusions from the graph. Think of potential hypothesis on what could be the root cause / what are the consequences
- Prioritize the most important for your current analysis and move forward with the case
Sources to learn from (prioritized):
- Study "Say it with Charts" book by Barbara Minto
- Learn basic statistics (Any GMAT or MBA prep guides)
- Check all available MBB presentations and publications. Practice to derive conclusions and check yourself with the actual ones from the article / presentation
- GMAT IR part (Official guide and Manhattan prep)
- "Consulting Bible" and "Vault guide for consulting" - check the chapters on cases with graphs in these books
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