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How to write my case notes in a more structured/organised manner?

Anonymous A asked on Dec 29, 2018

Hello.

I recently got feedback saying that my case notes are unorganised, so I'm looking for advice on how to be more organised and structured with my notes + workings when moving through a case?

The interviewer said my verbal explanations of what I was doing were fine, precise + logical. But when he reviewed my notes after the interview, he couldn't follow and cross-check everything we did.

My thoughts were that maybe I should be labelling my workings more? i.e. making sure to add headers and labels on workings, drawing boxes around my notes where appropriate, putting in references (stars, asterixes, numbers etc.) back to the initial framework?

I've realised that when I'm in a case I often have a good 'mental' sense of where I'm going, so I can verbally describe what I'm doing, but I don't do a great job of documenting (writing) my work, so my note paper ends up looking a tad messy.

Any tips to resolve this would be much appreciated!

P.S. I got through to the next round, so bad notes weren't a deal breaker, but I definitely want to improve for the next interview.

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Francesco replied on Dec 31, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

in order to write better notes, my recommendations would be to divide the paper in 4 areas as reported below for the first page; when talking notes, you can then put the information in the appropriate box. Sometimes you would have to do back and forth, as you may get information, objective 1, additional information, objective 2, etc.

  • top-left: who is the client
  • bottom left: initial information
  • top right: objectives
  • bottom right: structure

After the first page, you could still divide the page in four parts. Left and right could now be at the same distance. Top areas should be smaller to leave more space for the structures:

  • top-left: name of the first area analysed
  • bottom left: structure for the first area
  • top right: name of the second area analysed
  • bottom right: structure for the second area

Besides that you should also

  • 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 which produces steel which has four plants, with a revenue problem, your notes could be something as Steel producer, R (arrow down), 4 plants

Hope this helps,

Francesco

Stephane replied on Jan 02, 2019
Former VC Principal, looking to practice as many cases as possible.

My personal approach is super simple:

  • Underline anything that needs to be clarified
  • Circle anything that I synthesized i.e. the result of a series of calculations, or some conceptual understanding
  • Square anything that needs to be included in the recommendation

As I go through the case I'll also tick items in my framework to make sure I don't miss anything.

Ive found anything more complicated than that fails me.

Anonymous replied on Dec 30, 2018

I generally suggest candidates to use three pieces of paper:

On the first page, you write the case information on the left and the key question on top while the interviewer is giving you the case prompt. Then you add your structure in the middle.

The second page is your scrap page on which you scribble down stuff you might want to remember in the remainder of the case. You can also use this page for math - although it is a scrap page, try to not write too untidy as you might want to show the interviewer parts of your maths.

The last page is for brainstorming exercises within the case - try to structure your thoughts by listing distinct buckets when you generate ideas.

I hope this helped - it's always a bit difficult to explain without being able to show you the pieces of paper :)