Get Active in Our Amazing Community of Over 458,000 Peers!

Schedule mock interviews on the Meeting Board, join the latest community discussions in our Consulting Q&A and find like-minded Case Partners to connect and practice with!

McKinsey First Round Case Expectations

Actively preparing for interviews with McKinsey First Round McKinsey McKinsey & Company McKinsey first round
New answer on May 11, 2022
7 Answers
1.9 k Views
Anonymous A asked on May 10, 2022

Hi Guys, 

I was wondering what to expect from the case study in the first round at McKinsey, since i heard it is relatively “special” but follow is specific structure. 

Thank you!


Overview of answers

  • Upvotes
  • Date ascending
  • Date descending
Best answer
Content Creator
replied on May 11, 2022
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

Hi there, 

Basically, you can expect the following:

  • Main beats of the interview: You'll be provided with a business situation: a client who does this and that and currently has this problem. You'll basically be asked how you'd go about solving this problem. Then you have to come up with a structure. Then you'll be asked other questions and at times you'll be provided with additional pieces of information. The main types of questions you can receive are either: structural / framework (like the initial question), brainstorming (you need to come up with a few creative ideas / solutions ideally also in a structured manner), chart interpretation (you are meant to comment on the main insights), calculation (you are solve a complex math problem), conclusion / recommendation (you're meant to provide an overall recommendation to the client based on everything that you've learned during the case)
  • Interviewer leading: for McKinsey, the interviewer leads the case. So all you have to do is to make sure that you answer correctly, thoughtfully and in a structured manner. You might be asked questions that follow-up naturally from the one you were just asked. That doesn't mean that you're doing anything wrong, it just means that this is the direction where the interviewer wants to take you. 
  • Getting interrupted: It's customary for the interviewer to interrupt you or ask follow-up questions. That also means that you're doing nothing wrong. Just make sure you stay focused and don't get discouraged.
  • Keeping it conversational: The interview is testing not only your ability to ‘solve’ the case or show that you're decent with numbers, but that you can relate and connect well with somebody. At the end of the day, the job is all about connecting with clients and you need to display emotional intelligence as much as IQ. 
  • No set length / # of questions: Usually there are 3-4 questions that you get asked but that is by no means fixed. you could also do two in depth or get to five. 
  • Take time to think before answering - you are not expected to answer on the spot. Yes. I'll say that again. You're not expected to answer on the spot. Somehow many people believe that is the case. Always go for a quality answer even if it's slow rather that a quick yet wrong answer. 
  • Always aim for structured, thought out answers. Your ability to communicate clearly, concisely and in a structured manner is a dimension you're getting measured on. Make sure you get it right. 
  • With every new piece of information you receive, reflect how this affects the client situation (i.e., the so what). You are meant to show the interviewer that you can integrate different data points from across the case and craft a story for the client. This story is basically the recommendation that you are constantly refining for them. 

I could keep on going, but I'd start with these :) It might be overwhelming at first but you'll get the hang of it quite quickly. The point is to start as soon as possible and don't get discouraged.



Was this answer helpful?
Content Creator
replied on May 11, 2022
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

There are 4 main differences that you will find in interviews at McKinsey compared to other companies:

1) McKinsey includes the PEI (Personal Experience Interview) as part of the fit part. 

  • They will usually ask for one story per dimension in each interview out of Inclusive Leadership, Personal Impact and Entrepreneurial Drive.
  • Other companies may or may not ask something similar, while at McKinsey you should expect one story in every interview with a consultant, unless otherwise stated.
  • For more info on PEI you can check this – PEI Dimensions.

2) McKinsey follows an interviewer-led approach in most cases. 

  • This means that after presenting the answer to a question, the interviewer will ask you the following question he/she planned, irrespectively of where you want to move the analysis.
  • When a company uses an interviewee-led approach, instead, you have to propose a plan of action and the interviewer will leave to you to follow that approach, only occasionally correcting you (meaning you have to lead the case).
  • The interviewer-led approach is easier to follow for most candidates, meaning that if you know how to manage an interviewee-led case you should not have issues with it (the opposite instead is not true - if you only know how to navigate interviewer-led cases you may have issues driving a case in an interviewee-led case).
  • In final rounds, you may occasionally get interviewee-led cases also at McKinsey.

3) The structure expected at McKinsey should have several levels

  • If you are already used to have detailed structures, this should not have an impact.
  • If that’s not the case, you have to work to ensure your structure is detailed in all the parts required for the analysis.

4) McKinsey cases don’t usually have conclusions

  • However, occasionally they may still ask for them.

Besides that, before the case interviews you normally have to take the Imbellus/Solve Game. You can find some information on that here:

▶ McKinsey Problem Solving Game

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

As next steps for your preparation for each of the previous points, I would recommend the following:

  1. Write down 2 stories for each of the 3 PEI dimensions (6 stories in total).
  2. Prepare for interviewer-led cases but be ready for interviewee-led as well. The reason why you need both is that (i) occasionally you may get interviewee-led cases at McKinsey as well (normally in finals) and (ii) if you can manage interviewee-led cases you won’t have problems with the interviewer-led approach, while the opposite is not true.
  3. Develop structures that are articulated with several levels of detail. If you are used to very complete structures, you may be already fine with this.
  4. Review how to structure conclusions, even if they are not common. Most of the time there won’t be one, but occasionally they may request to provide it.

If you need help for McKinsey please feel free to PM me, I have a DB with 200+ real case questions they asked for different offices worldwide. You can check if I cover yours on my profile here.



Was this answer helpful?
Content Creator
replied on May 11, 2022
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


I am guessing you are the author of a similar post asking about McKinsey and interviewer vs. interviee lead. Let me give you my perspective here regarding the case, and I know it differs than it from other coaches. 

I have seen so many candidates in the past putting such focus on trying to conduct a case in an interviewer vs. interviewee lead way (or vice-versa) in the past, that they get their eyes off the ball and what really matters here. 

Think it this way, because it´s really this simple: you will be confronted with a business problem and someone with quite an experience in solving those would evaluate the way you think, structure and problem-solve. Hence, just focus on that: an impressive solution and process. 

Regarding FIT, its a quite in depth assessment from round 1 on. If you want to deep dive on the topic, the "Integrated FIT guide for MBB" has been recently published in PrepLounge´s shop (

It provides an end-to-end preparation for all three MBB interviews, tackling each firms particularities and combining key concepts review and a hands-on methodology. Following the book, the candidate will prepare his/her stories by practicing with over 50 real questions and leveraging special frameworks and worksheets that guide step-by-step, developed by the author and her experience as a Master in Management professor and coach. Finally, as further guidance, the guide encompasses over 20 examples from real candidates.

Furthermore, you can find 3 FREE Expert Articles on PreLounge, in a sreies dedicated to preparing for the different parts of FIT:




Feel free to PM me for disccount codes for the Integrated FIT Guide, since we still have some left from the launch




Was this answer helpful?
Content Creator
replied on May 11, 2022
1300 5-star reviews across platforms | 500+ offers | Highest-rated case book on Amazon | Uni lecturer in US, Asia, EU

Hey there,

McKinsey interviews are indeed different as they follow an interviewer-led format. The interviewer drives the case and will ask you a set of questions.

For every question

  • structure
  • chart
  • math

you have time to think and then answer it exhaustively.

The main differences are

  • The structure in the beginning of the case
  • The way you move through the case

Let's tackle both:

1. The initial framework of the case

At the core, McKinsey wants to see creative ideas communicated in a structured manner, the more exhaustive the better.

Your goal should be to come up with a tailored and creative answer that fits the question. The framework should - broadly speaking - follow these three characteristics:

  • Broad
  • Deep
  • Insightful

You would also need to go into more detail and qualify your answer with practical examples and more details, ideally highlighting how your different buckets relate to each other.

While for other firms in candidate-led interviews you have 1-2 minutes to present the framework, in a McKinsey interview, you can take up to 6-8 minutes to present your structure, your qualification, and hypotheses. This is due to the interviewer-led format that McK employs. The interviewer will only ask 'what else' if you 

  • haven't gone broad or deep enough
  • did not explain your ideas well enough for them to stand out (again, you have time here)

The firm wants to see exhaustive and creative approaches to specific problems, which more often than not do not fit into the classic case interview frameworks that were en vogue 10 years ago...

Again, this only applies if everything you say

  • adds value to the problem analysis
  • is MECE
  • is well qualified
  • includes a detailed discussion of your hypotheses at the end

2. The way to move through the case

Once you have answered your question in a McKinsey case, the interviewer will move the case forward and ask you another question. Simple and the big benefit is that you cannot really get lost along the way.

In a candidate-led case, you would use your initial framework as a roadmap of the different analyses you would like to conduct and guide the interviewer through each bucket, asking for more data and information to figure out the problem. You would present your framework briefly, focus only on the most important parts of the problem, then start drilling into the framework on your own - all based on your hypotheses. Once you get new information, you would synthesize it in the context of the case and move on until you have unterstood the root cause of the problem, then work on recommendations.

In the latter format it is much easier to get lost or waste time on areas of the framework, which are not relevant for the problem at hand.

The difference in format and way of answering the questions is the reason why I recommend preparing very differently for McK interviews vs. other consultancies.

I have written a detailed insider perspective on the McKinsey case interview here:

Check out my profile if you have any questions or want professional coaching. I have specialized in the McKinsey interviewing format and had tremendous success with my approach over the last 18 months.




Was this answer helpful?
Anonymous B replied on May 11, 2022

I actually just had a recruiter walk me through the interview process late last week in terms of what to expect over the upcoming month for my interview, I think it certainly has changed compared to their past process (at least for experienced hires in the US). 

1) Step 1: HR Screening via Zoom, seems like you've already completed this part

2) First round: PSG (Imbellus/Solve game) + 1 Case Interview with a McKinsey alum or Consultant over the phone/zoom (30 min call, focusing only on the case portion). If you pass both of these 1st round components, you'll then move onto the 2nd/final round

3) Final round: 3 back-to-back interviews with senior management/partners, each lasting ~50 min, and each having a 10-15 min PEI section, followed by a 25-30 min case. 

I know this is a bit different than what was being administered to candidates even a few months ago (where you had to do the Imbellus/PSG, AND 2 first round interviews for the 1st round). I think they're trying to follow BCG's steps and make the 1st round a bit less demanding (for eg. in the past, BCG also had 2 1st round interviews, but last week my first round interview with BCG consisted of 1 interview (fit/behavioral only) and 1 case administered by the Casey Chatbot ("Chatbot case"). 

So perhaps that's what the “special” could mean for your upcoming McKinsey first round?

Was this answer helpful?
Content Creator
replied on May 11, 2022
ex-McKinsey EM & Interviewer | 7/8 offer rate for 4+ sessions | 90min sessions with FREE exercises & videos

Hi there,

McKinsey interviews do indeed follow a somewhat predictable script. Does it make them easier to pass? Absolutely not!

Here's what to expect:

PEI (Personal Experience Interview)

  • This is you telling a story that illustrates your capabilities with regards to the 3 dimensions McKinsey cares about
  • At a very high level, the key to succeed is to really understand the dimensions and to do great story telling
  • Expect interviewer to dig very deep and get very granular, which makes it tough to not loose the thread - beware
  • Use recent stories and never make up a story because you will get caught


  • McKinsey cases are fundamentally different from other cases because they're interviewer-led
  • You will be given a prompt and asked a series of questions, which test a variety of skills that McKinsey deems critical
  • Cases always include analysis of drivers (+ MECE structuring), graphs (deriving insights qualitatively and quantitatively) and straight up math questions
  • Key to succeed is to answer questions well, obviously, and establish interconnections between bits and pieces of data/insights as they become available throughout the case
  • Icing on the cake is top down communications, which is the key to avoid rambling and winning over any McKinsey consultant

I could write a book about this (and I have, actually - at least a very comprehensive McKinsey interview guide). But this is it in a nutshell.

My advice for McKinsey preparation is always to get some professional coaching with a former McKinsey interviewer as part of your study plan. They will be able to provide you with real cases and the insights needed to succeed.

Let me know if you'd like to learn more. I used to be a McKinsey interviewer and know exactly what it takes.

Best of luck!

Was this answer helpful?
Content Creator
replied on May 11, 2022
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi there,

This is a pretty big topic! First of all, I recommend you do more googling + reading!

McKinsey is “special” in that:

1) The case is interviewer-led (not candidate led)

2) The Behavioral/fit is the PEI (much more in-depth)

There is a lot that goes into #1 and #2 so I suggest you get started ASAP - most people give themselves months to prepare!

Here's some case reading to get you started:

And here's some fit/behavioral reading:


Was this answer helpful?
Cristian gave the best answer


Content Creator
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach
Q&A Upvotes
222 Reviews
How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or fellow student?
0 = Not likely
10 = Very likely
You are a true consultant! Thank you for consulting us on how to make PrepLounge even better!