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Recommendations for mastering graphs and charts quick interpretation?

graphs interpreting charts reading
New answer on Sep 30, 2021
5 Answers
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Nisreen asked on Oct 11, 2019

Some have mentioned the book "Case in Point: Graph Analysis for Consulting and Case Interviews"; is it recommended?
Is there an ebook version (beside kindel)? I can only find paperback


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replied on Oct 11, 2019
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


You can use the following approach:

  1. Take a minute to look at the graph
  2. Read the graph title
  3. Look at the graph type and define the type (pie chart, line chart, etc)
  4. Look at the legend (ask for clarifying questions if necessary)
  5. Identify whats going on on the graph. Look for: Trends, % structures,
  6. Look for unusual things (consultants love to integrate these traps in charts) - correlations, outliers, etc
  7. Make 3-4 conclusions from the graph. Think of potential hypothesis on what could be the root cause / what are the consequences
  8. Prioritize the most important for your current analysis and move forward with the case

Sources to learn from (prioritized):

  1. Study "Say it with Charts" book by Barbara Minto
  2. Learn basic statistics (Any GMAT or MBA prep guides)
  3. Check all available MBB presentations and publications. Practice to derive conclusions and check yourself with the actual ones from the article / presentation
  4. GMAT IR part (Official guide and Manhattan prep)
  5. "Consulting Bible" and "Vault guide for consulting" - check the chapters on cases with graphs in these books

Good luck!

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Content Creator
replied on Oct 31, 2019
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

I would reccomend the following approach:

1. Read the graph

  • Ask for one minute of time to understand the graph.
  • Summarize what the graph is about. Read in particular the graph title (often forgotten), the axes and the legend.

2. Analyze the graph

  • Repeat the main question you have to answer. Many people don’t spend time to clarify the specific question they have to answer; consequently, they answer the wrong question. Don’t be one of them and be sure to restate what is the main insight you have to derive
  • Provide an analysis related to the question. Once you have a clear understanding of the graph, then, and only then, you can move to an analysis of how the graph can answer the question you have repeated.

3. Provide a conclusion for the graph.

  • Answer to the question asked. Again, very often people simply state what the graph is about, without providing any conclusion. A great candidate will provide a connection between the analysis done and the previous question formulated, with a clear summary of the whole analysis
  • Present the next steps to follow based on such conclusion. As a last step, a great candidate will present what can be done next to help further the client on the particular question raised.

Hope this helps,


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replied on Sep 30, 2021
Bain | EY-Parthenon | Private Equity | Market Estimates | Fit Interview

Most candidates tend to just mention what seems to be most relevant. So they are pointing to something that is meaningful, but then they just say whatever the slide/graph/chart says.

That's not the objective. The objective is to connect that with the goal you want to achieve / decision you want to make.

If I show a graph where segment X is growing, I don't expect you do say the segment is growing. I expect you to say what is the implication of that. Is is good or bad for the company? Is is worse vs. the competitors? Does it support the investment thesis?

A lot of times candidates are thinking about this, but they don't say it. But if you don't say it, the interviewer doesn't know what you are thinking.

Remember, you ALWAYS have to link the slide/chart to the objective of the case. ALWAYS!

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Anonymous replied on Aug 14, 2020

Dear A!

Here are some pieces of advice on how you can interpret graphs and charts.

To interpret a graph or chart, read the title, look at the key, read the labels. Then study the graph to understand what it shows.

Read the title of the graph or chart. The title tells what information is being displayed.

Look at the key, which typically is in a box next to the graph or chart. It will explain the symbols and colors used in the graph or chart

Read the labels of the graph or chart. The labels tell you what variables or parameters are being displayed.

Draw conclusions based on the data. You can reach conclusions faster with graphs than you can use a data table or a written description of the data.

To practice all these bullets GMAT Integrated Reasoning questions help you a lot!



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Content Creator
replied on Jul 16, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


I wuold suggest you to practice with GMAT.

GMAT unfortunately only gets better with practicing. Good news is that there are many ways of doing so!

There are free exams in the internet that you can use for practice (the one of LBS MBA page, Verits prep, as well as some free trials for courses such as the one of The Economist (

Hope it helps!



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Vlad gave the best answer


McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School
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