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How to prepare a written case interview?

Hi, I just received an intercview day invitation, there is one part called Written Case, could anyone share some hints for me to prepare this kind of interview form? Many thanks!

Hi, I just received an intercview day invitation, there is one part called Written Case, could anyone share some hints for me to prepare this kind of interview form? Many thanks!

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Hi,

I've uploaded some samples here:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zor4m49eyx5qxal/AABeUN6mtiGkWhEklRjszX2Oa?dl=0

(ask me for a password)

The best way to prepare is the following:

  1. Check if the calculator is allowed. So far it was. If not - you have to train mental math. I posted the main tips here: https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/tips-to-do-big-multiplications-in-my-mind-726#a1422
  2. Prepare for a regular case interview - it helps a lot. Basically, prep lounge website is about it
  3. Practice making slides. Look for publically available MBB presentations for reference. Good books are "Pyramid Principle" and "How to make it with charts"
  4. Practice reading cases fast and prioritizing the information. I found useful two sources:
  • Written cases you'll be able to find in google or in case books. I've seen a couple in "Vault Guide to the Case Interview" and "Insead Business Admission Test"
  • Harvard cases - either buy or try to find online. You can find a couple of MIT cases here for free: https://mitsloan.mit.edu/LearningEdge/Pages/Case-Studies.aspx Unfortunately free cases don't have the prep questions.

The appropriate structure for BCG written case is:

Slide 1: Context, Objective, Recommendations

Slide 2-4: Analysis (Usually 1 slide with a table, 1 slide with graphs and 1 slide with pros and cons)

Slide 5: Next steps or risks & mitigation

Good luck!

Hi,

I've uploaded some samples here:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zor4m49eyx5qxal/AABeUN6mtiGkWhEklRjszX2Oa?dl=0

(ask me for a password)

The best way to prepare is the following:

  1. Check if the calculator is allowed. So far it was. If not - you have to train mental math. I posted the main tips here: https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/tips-to-do-big-multiplications-in-my-mind-726#a1422
  2. Prepare for a regular case interview - it helps a lot. Basically, prep lounge website is about it
  3. Practice making slides. Look for publically available MBB presentations for reference. Good books are "Pyramid Principle" and "How to make it with charts"
  4. Practice reading cases fast and prioritizing the information. I found useful two sources:
  • Written cases you'll be able to find in google or in case books. I've seen a couple in "Vault Guide to the Case Interview" and "Insead Business Admission Test"
  • Harvard cases - either buy or try to find online. You can find a couple of MIT cases here for free: https://mitsloan.mit.edu/LearningEdge/Pages/Case-Studies.aspx Unfortunately free cases don't have the prep questions.

The appropriate structure for BCG written case is:

Slide 1: Context, Objective, Recommendations

Slide 2-4: Analysis (Usually 1 slide with a table, 1 slide with graphs and 1 slide with pros and cons)

Slide 5: Next steps or risks & mitigation

Good luck!

Hello Vlad, — Yue on Sep 16, 2018

Would you share the password? Or how much does it cost? — Yue on Sep 16, 2018

Thank you! — Yue on Sep 16, 2018

I would like to access the material on drop box. Pls share the password. How do i pay — Somya on Sep 17, 2018

Hi Vlad, could you kindly share with me the password, please? Thank you. — Jasmine on Oct 07, 2018

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Hi Anonymous,

I would recommend you to focus on 5 areas to crack a presentation/written case; I have reported them below with some suggestions on how to prepare for each of them

1. Learn how to define a plan of action and stick to that

The first thing you should do in a written case is to define a plan and allocate in the best possible way your time. Assuming 60 minutes for the analysis, a good approach would include:

  • initial quick reading – 5-10 min
  • structure the approach – 5 min
  • make slides/answer to the questions adding detailed analysis and math – 35-40 min
  • final review – 10 min

You should then practice to stick to the time allocated, in order to maximize your final performance.

2. Practice graph interpretation

You will normally have to analyse graphs in a written case. The best way to practice is to take graphs from online resources and use a timer to test in how much time you can understand the key message. McKinsey PST graphs could be a good practice for that.

3. Work on quick reading and quick understanding of key information

You will not have time to read and prioritize everything, so you have to understand where to focus. The ideal way to practice is to use long cases such as HBS ones, and practice on reducing the time needed to absorb the key information that can answer a defined question. Quick reading techniques could also help.

4. Practice quick math

You will normally have math to do in a written case. GMAT and McKinsey PST math should work well to prepare on this.

5. Learn how to communicate your slides/answers

You may have to present your findings at the end of the case. I would apply the same structures of final sum up in a live interview case, that is:

  1. Sum up the main questions you have to answer
  2. Present your proposed answer and detail the motivation behind
  3. Propose next steps for the areas you have not covered

As you will not be able to double check hypothesis with the interviewer as in the live case before the presentation, it could make sense to clearly state when you are making hypotheses and that you will have to verify them with further analysis.

When you have to prepare slides, quoting a previous answer I would also recommend to work on

A) structure the order of the slides

Normally the structure for a 5-slide presentation is the following:

  • First slide sums up the question and provides the answer
  • Second, third and fourth slide have the supporting arguments for the first slide
  • Fifth slide has the next steps

B) structure the content of each slide

There are three basic components for slides:

  1. Title
  2. Chart or data
  3. Label for chart

Many people structure the title as the mere description of what the chart is telling. A great title, instead tells the implication of the graph. Eg say the graph is showing a cost structure for a division. A bad title would be: Cost structure from 2005 to 2015. A good title would be: Cost structure of Division XYZ is not sustainable”. A great title would be Cost structure of Division XYZ is not sustainable due to ABC, assuming you have insides on the cause. The rule of thumb for the title is that if you read all the titles of the slides together you should get a clear idea of what is going on.

C) present the slides

When you present, I would suggest the following steps for each slide:

  1. Introduce the slide: “Let’s move to slide 2, which will show us why we have an issue with this division”
  2. Present the main message of the slide: “As you can see, we have a cost structure which makes for us not feasible to be competitive in this market”
  3. Provide details: “The graph, indeed, shows how our fix cost is XYZ, while competitors can benefit from economies of scale. Indeed…”

Hope this helps,

Francesco

Hi Anonymous,

I would recommend you to focus on 5 areas to crack a presentation/written case; I have reported them below with some suggestions on how to prepare for each of them

1. Learn how to define a plan of action and stick to that

The first thing you should do in a written case is to define a plan and allocate in the best possible way your time. Assuming 60 minutes for the analysis, a good approach would include:

  • initial quick reading – 5-10 min
  • structure the approach – 5 min
  • make slides/answer to the questions adding detailed analysis and math – 35-40 min
  • final review – 10 min

You should then practice to stick to the time allocated, in order to maximize your final performance.

2. Practice graph interpretation

You will normally have to analyse graphs in a written case. The best way to practice is to take graphs from online resources and use a timer to test in how much time you can understand the key message. McKinsey PST graphs could be a good practice for that.

3. Work on quick reading and quick understanding of key information

You will not have time to read and prioritize everything, so you have to understand where to focus. The ideal way to practice is to use long cases such as HBS ones, and practice on reducing the time needed to absorb the key information that can answer a defined question. Quick reading techniques could also help.

4. Practice quick math

You will normally have math to do in a written case. GMAT and McKinsey PST math should work well to prepare on this.

5. Learn how to communicate your slides/answers

You may have to present your findings at the end of the case. I would apply the same structures of final sum up in a live interview case, that is:

  1. Sum up the main questions you have to answer
  2. Present your proposed answer and detail the motivation behind
  3. Propose next steps for the areas you have not covered

As you will not be able to double check hypothesis with the interviewer as in the live case before the presentation, it could make sense to clearly state when you are making hypotheses and that you will have to verify them with further analysis.

When you have to prepare slides, quoting a previous answer I would also recommend to work on

A) structure the order of the slides

Normally the structure for a 5-slide presentation is the following:

  • First slide sums up the question and provides the answer
  • Second, third and fourth slide have the supporting arguments for the first slide
  • Fifth slide has the next steps

B) structure the content of each slide

There are three basic components for slides:

  1. Title
  2. Chart or data
  3. Label for chart

Many people structure the title as the mere description of what the chart is telling. A great title, instead tells the implication of the graph. Eg say the graph is showing a cost structure for a division. A bad title would be: Cost structure from 2005 to 2015. A good title would be: Cost structure of Division XYZ is not sustainable”. A great title would be Cost structure of Division XYZ is not sustainable due to ABC, assuming you have insides on the cause. The rule of thumb for the title is that if you read all the titles of the slides together you should get a clear idea of what is going on.

C) present the slides

When you present, I would suggest the following steps for each slide:

  1. Introduce the slide: “Let’s move to slide 2, which will show us why we have an issue with this division”
  2. Present the main message of the slide: “As you can see, we have a cost structure which makes for us not feasible to be competitive in this market”
  3. Provide details: “The graph, indeed, shows how our fix cost is XYZ, while competitors can benefit from economies of scale. Indeed…”

Hope this helps,

Francesco

Book a coaching with Sidi

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Hi Anonymous,

please have a look at the following great article on Preplounge:

https://www.preplounge.com/en/bootcamp.php/interview-first-aid/master-the-problem-solving-test/written-tests-such-as-the-psts

This gives you a good overview on what is the purpose and the main focus areas of written cases at consultancies. The best form to prepare is obviously to do as many practice cases as you can possibly do. As with the "normal" case interviews, it is a mechanical skill and muscle that needs to be built with practice.

Cheers, Sidi

Hi Anonymous,

please have a look at the following great article on Preplounge:

https://www.preplounge.com/en/bootcamp.php/interview-first-aid/master-the-problem-solving-test/written-tests-such-as-the-psts

This gives you a good overview on what is the purpose and the main focus areas of written cases at consultancies. The best form to prepare is obviously to do as many practice cases as you can possibly do. As with the "normal" case interviews, it is a mechanical skill and muscle that needs to be built with practice.

Cheers, Sidi

Originally answered:

Writing exercise

Have a look at one of my previous post. It will provide info on written exercises.

Have a look at one of my previous post. It will provide info on written exercises.

Originally answered:

Written interview

Hi Anonymous,

that is an excellent question. A few comments from my side:

In general, there are two types of presentations: "Answer first" and "Answer last".

  • AF presentations lead with the answer / hypothesis and then add a bunch of material that supports the initially made statement.
  • AL first provide a bunch of material (results of analyses, research, blabla) that then logically lead to a final conclusion.

Both types of presentation have their merits and are appropriate in different situations.

As you have probably guessed by now, the Answer First presentation is better suited for interview situation. The main reason is that you will be hard pressed for time. So it is essential to at least get your key message accross. Not good if you present tons of good analysis and then have to rush through the conclusion.

So the structure you are proposing is entirely correct. Regarding the process, I suggest the following:

  1. Skim through the presented material quickly - on a 30 mins case 5 minutes max. Make sure to immediately write down key points of information (and the page you found them on!) to not waste time searching for them later on . Also important: Probably 90% of the material will not be relevant for the question at hand. This is also an exercise to see if you can focus and distinguish the important from the unimportant.
  2. Then immediately formulate your hypothesis on the question.
  3. Now come up with your line of argumentation / framework and design rough slides on paper once you have that nailed down. Then fill in the relevant data.
  4. Adding a framework slide makes sense if you intend to walk the interviewer through a framework. But, to be honest, in 30 mins you most likely will not have time for that. If there is an obvious framework to pick and you see that you will not have time for the entire framework, mention the framework and then say that you will limit your presentation to whatever makes most sense (2 of the 5 forces, only the "new customers" area of the Ansoff matrix, only the cost branches of a value driver tree, etc...). If you make this transparent and show that you are aware that you are not covering the entire framework, you should be ok.
  5. Do not try to come up with a new comprehensive framework on your own. You will get killed on time. If no framework with a good fit comes to mind, just use the arguments you have and present them in a structured manner (most important first)

One more comment on timing: Unless you are a slide-drawing wizard and have done a TON of presentations, you will have a hard time coming up with 4-5 meaningful (and legible) slides in 5 minutes. So do not allocate time at the end, coming up short. Rather once you have settled on a structure, immediately start in building the slides.

Hope that helps,

Elias

Hi Anonymous,

that is an excellent question. A few comments from my side:

In general, there are two types of presentations: "Answer first" and "Answer last".

  • AF presentations lead with the answer / hypothesis and then add a bunch of material that supports the initially made statement.
  • AL first provide a bunch of material (results of analyses, research, blabla) that then logically lead to a final conclusion.

Both types of presentation have their merits and are appropriate in different situations.

As you have probably guessed by now, the Answer First presentation is better suited for interview situation. The main reason is that you will be hard pressed for time. So it is essential to at least get your key message accross. Not good if you present tons of good analysis and then have to rush through the conclusion.

So the structure you are proposing is entirely correct. Regarding the process, I suggest the following:

  1. Skim through the presented material quickly - on a 30 mins case 5 minutes max. Make sure to immediately write down key points of information (and the page you found them on!) to not waste time searching for them later on . Also important: Probably 90% of the material will not be relevant for the question at hand. This is also an exercise to see if you can focus and distinguish the important from the unimportant.
  2. Then immediately formulate your hypothesis on the question.
  3. Now come up with your line of argumentation / framework and design rough slides on paper once you have that nailed down. Then fill in the relevant data.
  4. Adding a framework slide makes sense if you intend to walk the interviewer through a framework. But, to be honest, in 30 mins you most likely will not have time for that. If there is an obvious framework to pick and you see that you will not have time for the entire framework, mention the framework and then say that you will limit your presentation to whatever makes most sense (2 of the 5 forces, only the "new customers" area of the Ansoff matrix, only the cost branches of a value driver tree, etc...). If you make this transparent and show that you are aware that you are not covering the entire framework, you should be ok.
  5. Do not try to come up with a new comprehensive framework on your own. You will get killed on time. If no framework with a good fit comes to mind, just use the arguments you have and present them in a structured manner (most important first)

One more comment on timing: Unless you are a slide-drawing wizard and have done a TON of presentations, you will have a hard time coming up with 4-5 meaningful (and legible) slides in 5 minutes. So do not allocate time at the end, coming up short. Rather once you have settled on a structure, immediately start in building the slides.

Hope that helps,

Elias

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