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How to prepare for the written case interview at BCG final interview rounds?

Chiao asked on Oct 26, 2017 - 26 answers

Hi, I have been invited to BCG final interview rounds and found out that there will be a written case interview. How can I best prepare for this? The interview is in 2 weeks.

Thanks!

26 answers

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Francesco
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updated his answer on May 07, 2017
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Hi Anonymous,

I would recommend you to focus on 5 areas to crack a 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 (if required)

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.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

(edited)

Guennael
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replied on Oct 29, 2015
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Congrats on getting these interviews in the first place! We are looking for the same qualities in the written case as in the verbal one. You should have 1 hour to prepare so there's a little more time, but obviously you must actually prepare slides for the presentation. It comes down to time management. For example, agree in advance you will allocate 5 minutes to figure out what's going on, 30 minutes to the actual case prep, another 5 to confirm the order of the slide (story line) and the remaining time to go into pure slide-development mode. Ultimately though, if you can crack a regular case, you should be able to crack the written one as well. Relax, good luck :)

Quirin replied on May 06, 2017
Preparing for full-time interviews at Bain & BCG (1st & 2nd round)

I have not done a BCG-specific written case, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.
Generally for written cases where a lot of information is presented to you up-front, it is important to not let the data guide your structure. What I mean by that is you should set up your problem solving structure and hypotheses before looking at the data in detail.

There is three problems with letting the data dictate your structure:

  • Some parts of the data may be irrelevant for figuring out the case: If you include this data in your analysis, you're proving to be inefficient in your problem solving process.
  • Some necessary data may be missing: If you build your structure solely based on the data that is presented to you, you might miss some crucial aspect to figuring out the problem simply because there was no data related to it presented to you.
  • Some data may be there to mislead you: If you include purposefully misleading data in your analysis, you show a lack of critical reasoning skills.

My recommendation would be to skim the data they provide you with after reading the objective, then setting up your issue tree/hypotheses. Use the provided data only to validate/dismiss your hypotheses, make assumptions or ask the interviewer when there is no data included to validate/dismiss a specific hypothesis.

Hope this helps and good luck!

Vlad
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replied on Oct 26, 2017
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Hi,

Here I've uploaded some written case samples (incl BCG)

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

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 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.

Good luck!

Hi Vlad, what's the password to the dropbox with written case examples? Thanks! — Lucy on Jun 13, 2018

I'll be grateful if you could share the password to the dropbox link with me. Thank you! — J on Sep 12, 2018

Hey Vlad, thanks for your answers! Could you please share the Dropbox password with me? — Nambaya on Oct 15, 2019

Jacopo
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updated his answer on Nov 26, 2017
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Hi anonymous A,

Congrats on getting to second round. Regarding the written case, BCG is looking for the same qualities as in the oral one. Even though you will have more time to prepare, preparing the slides will be time consuming: it comes down to time management. Assuming 3 hours for the analysis, I would allocate:

  • 20 minutes to a quick reading to digest the important information and figure out what's going on
  • 20 minutes to structure your approach
  • 15 minutes to confirm the order of the slides (story line)
  • 110 minutes to make the maths, detailed analyses and slides
  • 15 minutes for a final review

If you can crack a regular case, you should be able to crack the written one as well.

I have added here an example of a written case from BCG.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/tqrn34hddrpg696/AABCpypFAmyaWEFSCFGIDpafa?dl=0

Also, you will find plenty of additional tips in the Q&A section here on Preploung.

Good luck :)

Jacopo

(edited)

Ben replied on Feb 14, 2017

I replied to the message under the Bain question.

I've done a 2nd round written case. Not Bain... there are some differences but the key points are the same.

Just like any case, remember to:

a) Answer the questions asked

b) Ensure you communicate your methodical approach/framework/decision criteria

c) Continually update where you're going as new information comes out (hypothesis testing etc)

The biggest difference is that, because you're alone in a room, you don't get a chance to ask clarifying questions.

Therefore you have to make assumptions.

Its highly likely that things that a clarifying question could be used to answer in a regular case (what are the clients, specific goals? what are their resources? can you tell me more about their product? etc) will *NOT* be answered in the case prompt. Therefor you have to fill in that gap or you can't do your job.

This shouldn't be scary, but it is an important thing to consider early on - some people, due to having industry knowledge, or simply "good business instinct" - don't take the time to understand the assumptions they make to start a case. During regular cases the ability to ask clarifying questions might allow them to get aroudn this, but without that opportunity... its very important to state your assumptions up front. You can (and should) make sure to highlight how risky/likely these assumptions are and the upside/downside if thy are not true. But so long as your assumptions are identified and reasonable, there is no reason to stress about this too much.

The other thing to note is that - especially in AT Kearney, but often in other written cases as well - the 'opportunity', or key to the case, lies in unknowns and intangibles. These intangiables include assumptions, but just as important are things like... If you have several different exhibits, are they all from the same sources? Are they apples to apples/in the same units, and... with some basic assumptions... can you use one to infer things about the other?

These intangibles are really an opportunity to show things like initiative and ability to sell your ideas, which are things a regular case can't really do. And as you know. these are very important fundamental aspects to a successful consultant.

Lastly, on a practical level, you're judged on the same thigns you are for a regular case. Confidence, conciseness, good synthesis-making ability, sticking to the topic, client friendly, etc.

I keep my written cases close to the vest, because... well, I really like the firms involved and would the cases I have aren't widely disseminated. I plan to interview there again at my first opportunity, and would hate But if you message me I'll help as much as I can.

Ben

Anonymous replied on Oct 26, 2017

Preparing for a written case is no different than an oral case. Repetition is the key. I recommend (for cost effectiveness reasons) that you figure out what your key weaknesses are. There are 3 fundamental aspects that the interviewer is judging on both an oral and written case presentation:

  • Analytical thinking: The ability to use causal relationships in problem solving.
  • Quantitative thinking: The ability to think analytically in a quantitative setting.
  • Conceptual thinking: The ability to see patterns, infer relationships, and build conceptual in inductive problem solving.

You need to be distinctive on either Analytical, Conceptual or something else. Quant will NOT get it. Send me a message if you need more details free of charge. Or, anyone else.

Astrid replied on Feb 07, 2017
PrepLounge Community & Marketing Manager

Hi Anonymous A,

thanks for asking your question on our Consulting Q&A :)

If you haven’t already, you might want to check out this Q&A: Bain Written Case

It is about the written case with Bain, but might contain some useful information for the BCG written case, as well!

Hope this helps,

Astrid

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Originally answered:

Written case

Peter
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replied on May 20, 2016
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It'll be quite similar to an oral case, but you might be expected to fill in some graphs, organise some slights and write a summary before presenting to someone typically at a level around Manager.

I'd make the following recommendations: - Be very aware of time. Do you have enough time to do calculations to one decimal place, or will you need to estimate?

- Make sure you've thought through how you are going to communicate the story. Do you have the slides with good context, an answer and then a logical proof behind it?

- Sounds a simple one, but write clearly and don't make a mess. Draft up a chart on scrap paper before editing a handout if you're not sure, for example

Good luck!

Originally answered:

Written case

Alex replied on May 23, 2016

I had written case in first round of BCG. The biggest challenge was to separate important information from red herring, as they are giving to candidates a folder with lots of documents - some of them are relevant, but most - are not.

If you have the same format, then understand the problem, draw you issue tree, and collect the informarion based on specific needs. You'll be out of time if you try to read and analyze everyting.

Than candididate needs to do extensive calculations (try to find the shortcuts, otheriwse you'll be out of time).

Finally candidate needs to draw a couple of slides and show off communicatioin skills to deliver solution to interviewer.

Good luck!

Anonymous replied on Oct 31, 2015

I would add one note to Guennael's great response below. We're also looking for decent presentation skills and ability to answer questions or be open to feedback without getting too nervous or (on the other end of the spectrum) coming across as arrogant. So, practice a case interview by yourself start to finish (with Guennael's timeline below if you'd like), then present your slides aloud, to yourself! You may feel funny talking to yourself, but it really helped me. Then, grab a friend, present to them, and get them to ask you questions. Sounds crazy, but it works!

Victor replied on Aug 24, 2018

Hey - Thanks for the question! How did the written case go? Do you have any insights you could share?

Rajat replied on Nov 29, 2017
Looking for solid partners to practice one case a day. Currently preparing for interviews

Thanks a lot for the pointers.

Thomas replied on Feb 08, 2017
Currently in prep for BCG interview in Feb and looking for like-minded case prepers

I know that Victor Cheng has some advice (and probably an example) on his page - you might want to check that out. Cheers

Anonymous replied on Nov 02, 2015

Hi Alexander,

Verbal or non-written cases pressure tests 3 elements, your LISTENING, thinking and verbalization, typically in a 30 minute interview; however, the written cases test only 2 elements, your READING and thinking, in 45 minutes period followed by a separate verbalization evaluated afterwards. Hence, by design the written is much easier - you just have to practice the key elements that gives you the advantage to do well.

Book a session and I'll share with you the secrets of how to crack the written cases as they are far easier than the verbal cases.

Cheers,

Nick

Alexander replied on Oct 31, 2015

Dear Meghan and Guennael, Thank you for your replies! They are indeed helpful! :)

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