How to improve notes taking during case interview

Case Interview Notes notetaking Taking Notes
New answer on Jan 12, 2021
6 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jan 10, 2021

Hi community!

I am struggling with notes taking during the interview. I am very slow and find it hard to write and listen at the same time.

I have tried to do what other case experts suggest, which is "trying to take as much as you could then summarize what you have and check what you have missed with the interviewer" the problems with this method are as follows:

1- I tend only to gather the first two/three facts and miss the rest, always.

2- The interviewer does not focus enough to correct me when I have a mistake while taking the notes! (Example: Today, I had an interview, I heard the interviewer says the population is 16 M, I wrote it down and check it with him, he did not note it, so he did not correct me, it turns out later that it is 60 M, not 16 M. I used 16 M in my math calculations, the good thing is that I walked him through the approach)

Do you have suggestions that could help me to take notes more effectively?


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replied on Jan 11, 2021
Bain | passed >15 MBB interviews as a candidate

Hi A!

Note taking is of course a critical piece of a strong case delivery, so it will pay off to practice this early on in your preparation.

Whatever system you chose (and practice), it needs to fulfill 3 main purposes:

  • Allow you to note down the critical data and information you hear during the case prompt and have the readily available whenever you need them
  • It needs to enable you to note down an initial framework and track the execution against it
  • It should provide room to store your key insights (1-2 numbers or 1 short bullet point per branch of your framework)

There are certainly many different styles of note taking that provide these three functions, so you should find our which one works for you and enables you to focus on the case execution, rather than the note taking. Keep in mind that you should practice this system early on in your journey, so you are comfortable with this method when you go into the interviews.

Find below a screenshot of the notetaking system that works for me personally. In this system, I first draw one vertical and one horizontal line. Then I use the column on the left side to take the initial notes during the case prompt and clarifying questions. Then I write down the key question of the case in the top row and develop the framework in the main area on the page.

During the case, I scribble less important stuff on separate pages (e.g. notes during the quant part). However, I will write down the key insights of each branch of the framework at the bottom of my main page. That way, when I get to the recommendation, I can simply read the notes from left to right to have the supporting arguments for the case recommendation.

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Content Creator
updated an answer on Jan 11, 2021
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

In regards to #1, skip the one you miss. The moment you miss something, forget about it. Draw a quick line so you know to ask about it, but move on. Don't let missing 1 thing cause you to miss all the rest.

In regards to #2, please don't expect the interviewer to fix you on a list of confirming numbers...this is your job! You need to actually call out when you missed a number. Do this with "flow" i.e. "Ok, so I have x for a, y for b, and sorry, was it z for c?" You can clarify 1 or 2 numbers, but you need to be explicit.

Other general tips:

1) Decide physical vs virtual - are you a faster typer or writer?

2) If virtual, pick the best tool - try outlook draft emails (so you can store/organize with your email), try notepad, try a tablet so you can write on it, etc....find the one that works for you

3) Only write down what is important - you should know this! You don't need to capture everything. Just like in a case, figuring out what information is not needed is just as valuable as figuring out what information is needed.

4) And then, what you do write down, write it in shorthand!

I.e. If I say "Your client is Bills Bottles. They earn $800M in profits each year by manufacturing bottles to soda companies in the US and Europe. Over the past two years they've seen profits falling and have brought you in to investigate"

You should write:

  • Bills Bottles
  • Manufacture
  • Client = soda comp
  • 800M P
  • P [down arrow] 2 yrs
  • US + Europe
  • Obj: Fix P


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replied on Jan 11, 2021
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


As for the first, I guess the issue is not in the note-taking but rather in asking the right clarifying questions.

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.


As for the second - I doubt there is anything else you can do, other than stressing the numbers clearly with your voice.


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Content Creator
replied on Jan 11, 2021
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies

Hi there,

it might be useful to practice with any kind of text. Use the descriptions of the cases that you find online. The more you do it, the more you become accustomed to what’s relevant and what’s not. Interview simulations with somebody who's more experienced than you will help, too.

Tips for more efficiency:

  1. Use abbreviations, write in shorthand. It doesn’t matter what signs and letters you use as long as it works for you.

  2. Divide the sheet into sections and use them for different types of information.

  3. Try a mind-map approach.

  4. Always write down the entire question and go back to it before answering every part of the case.

Hope it was helpful,



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Content Creator
replied on Jan 11, 2021
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

In terms of #1: I would recommend the following:

  • Ask the interviewer to repeat in case you missed information. It is better to ask for missing information upfront rather than later
  • Do a recap after the prompt. This ensures you took notes correctly since the interviewer will correct you otherwise
  • Use abbreviations. Eg, for revenues use R, for costs use C, for increase use an arrow directed up, etc.
  • Write down essential information only. You do not have time to write everything, thus you should exercise in writing down only the necessary information. If you have a client that produces steel which has four plants, with a revenue problem, your notes could be something as Steel producer, R (arrow down), 4 plants
  • Keep a separate sheet for math if you tend to be disorganized in that part

In terms of #2: interviewers won’t mislead you, but sometimes they will miss you reported the wrong number. There is not much you can do if that happens. Normally they will correct you and you will be fine.

Hope this helps,


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Content Creator
replied on Jan 12, 2021
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello A!

This is a topic that has been frequently asked in this Q&A, I would advise you to surf to some of the posts, you will find insightful info there.

My opinion is that this is highly personal, and there is no secret trick. What personally helps me is to take notes in bullets.

Hope it helps!



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Henning gave the best answer


Bain | passed >15 MBB interviews as a candidate
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