Get Active in Our Amazing Community of Over 459,000 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!

Need to learn skills in the ample free time, I have before starting at an MBB. What should I do?

and Bain BCG McKinsey Middle East
Recent activity on May 11, 2020
8 Answers
5.6 k Views
Anonymous A asked on May 10, 2020


I am a recent graduate with a lot of time on my hands before I join a consulting firm in the Middle East. I am thinking of doing something productive that will help me in the long run as an Analyst in the firm. Can you suggest me things, courses and skills that I should learn before starting?

I am willing to give it all since I have a lot of time on my hands these days.



Overview of answers

  • Upvotes
  • Date ascending
  • Date descending
Best answer
Content Creator
replied on May 10, 2020
FREE 15MIN CONSULTATION | #1 Strategy& / OW coach | >70 5* reviews |90% offers ⇨ | MENA, DE, UK

Hi there,

Well done on the offer!

Looking back to when I started, I would say what would have served me in good stead would have been:

  • Excel shortcuts
  • Learning how to build a model
  • PowerPoint shortcuts and Horizontal/Vertical Logic (nice to have)

Excel: To get really good at Excel as consultants use it, approach it in terms of:

  1. Mechanics - use Excel quickly and efficiently
  2. Tools - learn the tools you will need
  3. Process - understand how to think about what you need it to do

1. Mechanics

  • Use the keyboard, only!
  • Learn the Alt Key shortcuts (type alt shows you all the shortcuts for accessing the toolbar)
  • Memorise the key ones - Shift + Arrow (select cells), Ctrl + Space (select column), Shift + Space (select row), Ctrl + Shift + +/- (add or remove Columns or rows)
  • Find more here:

2. Tools

  • The other answers have covered most of these - Lookups, Sum Ifs, Count Ifs, Sum Products, Index Match, Pivot Tables
  • This is good enough for 90% of what you will need to know

3. Processes

  • This is more around how do you think about how to build a model and run analysis
  • Instead of jumping straight into, consultants will spend time thinking about the structure of their model first
  • Ask friends in banking or consulting or those who were in the year above you at university, for examples of these - DM me if you want some examples
  • Also, running checks are super important - having checks throughout is commonplace in good models - if you show this when you join, you will be a step above most others in your class

Learning to Model: look at or trainthestreet. Learn about creating business case models and basic cash flow ones

PowerPoint: learn the keyboard shortcuts for commonly used functions - check out this video:



Was this answer helpful?
Content Creator
replied on May 10, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


Congrats of that offer!

If there is one thing I wish I had done before joining McKinsey, that would have been Excel. It can really be a game changer, so I would really focus on that (more than pptx, industry knowledge, etc., that are nice-to-have, but not deal breakers).

Excel skills are part of the core skill-set of consultants, and it´s great that you want to practice them. PFB a list of the most popular commands:

  • Basic operations: SUM, SUMPRODUCT
  • Text transformations: CONCATENATE, LEFT, RIGHT, & operator,
  • Connecting different datasets: VLOOKUP, HLOOKUP, INDEX(MATCH(),MATCH())
  • Conditional-based operations: SUMIF, COUNTIF, SUMIFS, COUNTIFS, COUNTA
  • Learn how to analyze data using Pivot Tables

There are plenty of online materials:

Hope it helps!



Was this answer helpful?
Anonymous replied on May 10, 2020

Hi there,

Congrats on the offer! You are in for an amazing and hectic consulting life (in Dubai I suppose).

As a Business Analyst, I think it will be helpful if you already start working on the following:

1) GCC market knowledge (very important):

  • Read about all the gov. transformation programs of the GCC countries (mainly Vision 2030 of Saudi Arabia) - read about all its objectives, projects, projects will definitely be around those topics
  • Read about the biggest gov. sovereign funds (e.g. PIF) and about their latest investments (they will be your clients)
  • Read about the industries you are interested in, specifically in the context of the middle east (example: if you would like to work in automotive, read about Saudi Arabia's latest investment to build local automotive capabilities and the challenges it is facing - if you like e-commerce learn about what are the local players ( doing to compete with Amazon)
  • Know the KPIs for the favorite industries (example: if you like oil and gas, learn about product cost per barrel and fiscal breakeven oil prices per country)

2) Excel skills know/how:

  • Pivot tables and data tables (when and how to use them - how to add calculated fields, how to manage your databases)
  • Interactive dashboard design (there are many youtube videos on that topic)
  • Medium/advanced formulas and functionalities: index/match, data validations, array functions, etc
  • Once you mastered all the above, learn to do them without using your mouse :) ... not joking, you actually need to learn to navigate excel without using your mouse!

3) Financial modeling and analysis:

  • Learn how to create nice looking P&Ls and how to link that model to the other financial statements (how to model a balance sheet, cash flow statement, etc.)
  • Learn how to analyze P&Ls and Balance Sheets (what are the typical KPIs/ratios that are used and what do they mean)

Feel free to reach out for any additional specific points you have in mind.



Was this answer helpful?
Anonymous replied on May 11, 2020


Congrats for the offer. I could think off a couple of things that you can do:

  1. Read articles from your future firm that describe the framework,tools and thinking being used / developed. This might help you in solving problems in your future projects
  2. If you have not, brush up your financial analysis skill and knowledge
  3. Learn the technique / logic of developing a financial model - Not the excel formulas/function but the actual logic of how to structure a world class financial model
  4. Learn the basic excel formula/ functions (This could support point no 3)

If y ou can divide an 8 hours day into 2 hours block of the above activities I think you should be fine. Remember discipline is the key.

Lastly, don't forget to also enjoy your free time before consulting :)

Was this answer helpful?
Anonymous replied on May 11, 2020

Hi there,

Since you would be joining as Analyst, the most important skills you can practice now is excel (including modelling) and PPT writing.

On top of these hard skills, you can read the MBB articles to see how they approach an issue, what the latest trend / thinking is, etc.

Last but not least, chill and have some fun! Life would be tough once you start, so enjoy it now. :)



Was this answer helpful?
Content Creator
replied on May 10, 2020
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

1) Daily Reading

  • The Economist, The Financial Times, BCG/Mskinsey Insights

2) Industry deep-dives

  • Learn, in-depth, how the industries/companies your office advises, work. (PM me for an industry overview template)

3) Analytics tools

  • Alteryx, Tableau, etc.

4) Excel

  • Like everyone below has mentioned

5) Powerpoint

  • Best practices/standards
  • Different layouts
  • Quickly editing/updating slides
  • Thinking in PowerPoint

6) Presentation skills / sharp communication

  • There are some online/virtual classes for this

Feel free to reach out - I can provide you resources for all the above and/or spend time training you in them!

Was this answer helpful?
Anonymous replied on May 11, 2020

Dear A,

y congratulations to your offer! It's a first great step in your career!

For the candidates like you I have developed a specific program which is called "Get ready for your successful career". for the first 100 days and long-term career planning.

See details in my profile, where I'm covering all the aspect, skills and mindset which you will need to develop in order to become a successful consultant.

I, myself, was promoted from the consultant to the project-manager within 3 years which is extremely fast in terms of consulting, so I've put all my experiences in this programm, so I'm happy to share it with you in order to help you to build a successful career

If you are interested, drop me a line, and we can have a call with you to meet your objectives.



Was this answer helpful?
Content Creator
replied on May 11, 2020
150+ interviews | 6+ years experience | Bain, Kearney & Accenture | Exited startup| London Business School

There is a lot of merits in understanding the ME market and culture(s). In terms of a hard skill, Excel is simply the basics, but this will not make you stand out. If you are looking for a USP, you can invest some time into programming or data visualization.

Was this answer helpful?
Raj gave the best answer


Premium + Coaching Expert
Content Creator
FREE 15MIN CONSULTATION | #1 Strategy& / OW coach | >70 5* reviews |90% offers ⇨ | MENA, DE, UK
Q&A Upvotes
39 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!