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McK Frameworks

BCG Bain McKinsey
New answer on Jun 23, 2020
6 Answers
1.9 k Views
Anonymous A asked on Jun 21, 2020


I've recently been invited to interview for McK following around 2-3 years work experience in consulting. While solving cases, I've tried to use more common sense and think about how I would actually solve this problem on the ground, instead of using Chengs frameworks or likes wherever possible. However, while practicing it seems that most of the feedback from partners revolves around 3C's, 4P's etc. Is it preferable to focus on these high-level frameworks?

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replied on Jun 21, 2020
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers


"(...) most of the feedback from partners revolves around 3C's, 4P's etc. Is it preferable to focus on these high-level frameworks?"

Absolutely not!

This is a very common problem with practice partners - most of peers have a very incomplete (or most of the time even wrongly distorted) view on how a case should be approached in order to show the qualities that McKinsey is actually looking for. You have a classical "blind leading the blind"-problem here. Let me assure you that those generic high level frameworks like 3Cs etc. are more or less your guarantee to fail, if you use them to structure the entire case!

Your initial hunch "to use more common sense" is a MUCH better approach to start with! However, it is imperative that you know what "commen sense" in the McKinsey world means! It is NOT gut feeling! Never! McKinsey does not believe in gut feeling, but in rational decision making, based on facts and analysis. So approaching a case with "common sense" essentially means to

1. Clearly define the core question

2. Understand the underlying objective

3. Define the criterion according to which the core question question can be clearly answered (this is directly linked to the objective)

4. Outline and run the analysis/analyses needed to get to a definite answer on whether the criterion is met/can be met or not

5. Answer the core question accordingly

The instrument to set up and tackle such structure is top-down logic, which can essentially aplied to any strategic question. If you are able to demonstrate the capacity to think and analyze in this way, you will outshine 99.9% of candidates, because this is not taught (or even scratched) in any "classical" case prep book I have ever seen.

Cheers, Sidi

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Content Creator
replied on Jun 21, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

Well, let me say it depends on your case practice partners, and how professional they really are. Based on your high-level summary I can't say it's right or wrong, but it depends on the situation and how to use the framework.

So let me give you a bit more background information about using standard business frameworks first, before coming to a conclusion to really answer your question from a more wholistic perspective.

Interestingly, you often hear in discussions about case interviews that you should not use standard business frameworks and concepts at all, because they just don’t fit to the specific case question and interviewers don’t like it when candidates use standard frameworks to solve cases. However, when challenging this shallow, generalized and popularized statements, there aren’t any of those arguments remaining on the table.

It is most definitely true that you can't crack a realistic interview case by relying solely on standardized frameworks - but all those business frameworks and concepts are extremely helpful templates which you can and even should put into your toolbox and use them whenever appropriate (if not to the full extent, at least partly!). Such a standard business framework is just a tool - and the tool itself is rarely good or bad, it mainly depends on how and for which purpose you use it.

At the same time, for basically all of my coaching candidates getting the case interview’s structure right is their single largest issue in cracking case interviews. As this is clearly a huge pain point for case interview candidates, it's definitely worth looking more closely at this matter. And in addition you might have heard the term "ABS" (Always Be Structured) - even though McKinsey is the most pickiest one when it comes to structure, all top tier consulting firms have a very strong focus on being rigidly structured all the time in your interviews.

For looking more closely at structuring case interviews, let's distinguish 2 parts of a typical case interview where frameworks usually apply:

1) Structure for the overall case at the beginning of the case interview

2) Answering specific questions in later stages of the case interview

ad 1) Structure for the overall case at the beginning of the case interview

This is when you typically need to develop an overall structure on how you want to tackle this case. Interviewers often ask something like "What are the issues you need to consider here?" or "Let's assume you are the project manager of this consulting assignment - which areas would you like to investigate?".

It is highly unlikely that you will be able to fit a realistic case interview question into a standard framework - if it would be that easy, nearly all candidates would make it into the top management consulting firms, and clients could solve their business problems without paying millions of dollars to consulting firms by simply applying a standardized framework.

So, whatever your approach will be, it needs to be very flexible because you will need to adapt it to a huge extent to your specific, individual interview question. And yes, it is your approach which needs to be flexible to make it fit to the case question, and not the other way round.

(This is exactly what case interviewers hate when candidates use standard frameworks – when candidates use the framework as they are, and try making the case question fit to the framework instead the other way round. Otherwise, nothing is wrong for case interviewer when you are using standard frameworks!)

In general, I can see two different approaches for this stage of the case interview:

Approach #1: Get your hands on some overall case interview structures (like Victor Cheng's Case Interview Frameworks slides, and in addition it is worth reading Victor Cheng's approach on case interview frameworks on his website).

Approach #2: Based on your case interview experience (i.e. having solved dozens of case interviews and having read through even much more of them) you can also try to develop the first level of your case interview structure (or in other words, the main areas or buckets you want to investigate) 100% individually from scratch. It probably really takes a lot of experience to do this well – but the good thing is that you can easily combine this approach #2 with approach #1 at any time!

Whatever approach you are using, this will mainly get you to the first and second level of your structure. However, this won’t be enough to impress your interviewers – depending on the specific case question, it is usually favored to have at least one more level of structure.

And exactly for this additional level, knowing the most common business frameworks and concepts is extremely helpful to all candidates. It is just so much easier to further structure your case interview if you don't have to start from scratch, but can apply existing frameworks and concepts. And even though you might be able to use maybe only 60% or 80% of a framework and need to adapt it to make it fit to the specific question, you are nevertheless already far ahead than if you would need to develop all that from scratch.

Given the high mental pressure and time pressure in a consulting case interview, it is extremely difficult even for the best candidates to come up with the right issues, and at the same time remaining structured in a MECE way – this is just another reason highlighting the advantage of knowing the most important business frameworks and concepts, as they will not only help you to come up with a structure at all, but keeping it MECE and saving precious time in the case interview as well.

ad 2) Answering specific questions in later stages of the case interview

For answering specific questions later on in the case interview, it is as important to remain structured in whatever you say as in the beginning of your case. Sometimes it might be well enough to use internal vs. external, short-term vs. long-term, pro vs. contra and similar basic structures, but more often than not this will not differentiate you from other candidates (merely solving a case is usually not enough, you need to impress your interviewer by clearly standing out from the crowd of other applicants).

Also here, knowing standardized business frameworks and concepts comes in very handy. As opposed to the overall case interview question at the beginning, most questions later in the interview are much more focused and narrow - therefore chances are higher that you can use a standardized business framework to a very large extent just as it is to answer the question.

I can just say from more than 1,000+ case interview coaching sessions over the last decade (stopped counting at some point in time.. and quantity is not to be mixed up with quality anyway) that a lot of otherwise very strong candidates would struggle answering this kind of more specific questions without knowing any standardized business frameworks - because it is still incredibly difficult to come up with a correct answer, and at the same time being MECE again.

For structuring case interviews, I actually wrote an ebook which helps candidates to understand the most commonly used and thus most important frameworks you should be familiar with, and also how to apply them on a real-life-case step by step. You can find the ebook here in case of interest:

Hope that helps - if so, please be so kind and give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!


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Content Creator
replied on Jun 22, 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

my considerations are the following:

  • Cheng’s frameworks, 3Cs and 4Ps are not sufficient for a good initial structure today
  • You need to create your own structures. You can do this in the following way
    • Long way
      • Start from some basic structures for the main types of cases. You probably already have some at this stage
      • Start practice cases in person, online, or reading MBA handbooks. Every time you find a new approach to solve a case that is not present in your structure, write it down and add it to your structure keeping a MECE approach.
      • Eliminate or consolidate the sections in your structures that you don’t find useful to solve cases.
      • Find commonalities between structures, so that you don’t have to remember 7-8 structures completely different, but just few differences between them.
      • Once received the initial information from the interviewer, present the structure adapting it to the specific goals of the client
      • Usually you need somewhere between 30 and 100 cases
    • Short way
      • Book a coach that can speed up your structuring skills and provide the right toolkit to use
      • You will still need to practice cases on your own but can leverage from the beginning the right way to approach cases

There is also a myth you should not have any framework in mind and always start from scratch in any case. This is not true. You just need to have the right toolkit to use. Which is not the one offered by Cheng, 3Cs and 4Ps alone.

If you are interested to learn more on how to improve the structuring part, you can PM me at the following link:



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Content Creator
replied on Jun 21, 2020
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi there,

My much shorter answer to the others is: Do not use high level frameworks! Definitely keep doing what you're doing when you say "use common sense and think about how I would actually solve this problem on the ground"

You have no idea how much work I do with candidates to shift FROM rote memorization of high level frameworks to actually thinking about the problem. Please please don't regress back now that you've learned such a rare mindset shift!

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Content Creator
replied on Jun 23, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


To add on top what has been already commented.

If Cheng´s or the classical frameworks where enaugh, then we would not use this methodology to test candidates, it would bejust too easy!

Those are good to start your education and your prep, but nothing else. You will need to build on top.

Hope it helps!



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Content Creator
replied on Jun 23, 2020
BCG |NASA | SDA Bocconi & Cattolica partner | GMAT expert 780/800 score | 200+ students coached


The framework that you have mentioned are quite outdated and definetely not enough to be prepared for McKinsey interviews. My suggestion is to start from the frameworks that you can find on casebooks and then to build your own ones, enriching them everytime that you do a new case.
Feel free to write me if you want some guidelines on them.


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Sidi gave the best answer


McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers
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