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Struggling with initial structure

Case Interview case structure Framework MECE Structure
Recent activity on Jan 24, 2018
3 Answers
6.3 k Views
Levente asked on Jan 23, 2018
50+ live cases, BCG 1st round on 18th of June

Hi guys,

I am struggling with initial structure. I have read Victor Cheng, went through his LOMS, read Case in Point, soon to acquire "Interview Math" by Lewis C Lin, did 25 cases (around 8 with actual McK consultants) but still I seem like to miss the initial structure's point. Whenever I am doing brainstorming/idea generation I am MECE, but whenever I do initial structures I am not. How can I improve on this? I am not super bad, but let's say medicore.

What do you recommend on reading?

How to best structure my steps to improve?

How did you acquire having a strong upfront structure?

I still have around 24 days until my first round, so hopefully I am not hopeless. :)




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replied on Jan 24, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


It definitely comes with practice. Here is an algorithm how to develop this skill:

  1. Make sure you understand all the different types of cases that you may face
  2. Identify the most appropriate structure for each type
  3. Solve 30-50 cases and try to understand where do they fit in your categorizations
  4. Based on your experience think of the potential variations in structures within each of the case types

Here is some inspiration for you. Below you can find a list of the most common case types and some high-level recommendations on structuring:

  1. Market sizing - structuring from the supply or demand side. Structuring using a formula or using an issue tree
  2. Profitability - basic profitability framework. Remember about different revenue streams and product mix
  3. Market context cases (Market Entry, New product, Acquisition, etc). Always start with the big picture "market". Finish with something specific to the case (e.g. How to enter?"). Structure it as if you are defining the work streams for the real project.
  4. Operational math problem (e.g. Should we increase the speed of an elevator or just buy a second one? How should we reduce the queues? Etc.) - Structuring as a process / value chain, with inflows, operations, and outflows
  5. Cost cutting - I provided the recommendations on structuring it here:
  6. Valuation - Purely financial structure with cash flows, growth rate, WACC / hurdle rate, etc.
  7. Synergies - revenue synergies (price, qty, mix) and cost synergies (value chain).
  8. Social / economics cases (e.g. How to improve the quality of life in the city? How to increase the revenues of the museum?) - huge variability. Practice 3-5 social cases before the interview

This is just for inspiration. You should ideally make your own system.

Best of luck!

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Vlad on Jan 31, 2018

And don't forget about various industries - they might impact the structure. The best source of industry knowledge is the companies annual reports

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replied on Jan 24, 2018
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Levente,

below you can find the standard way I would suggest to improve your structures:

  1. Create some basic structures for your frameworks. Case in point should work well for that, although it presents too many frameworks, many of which not very useful. Still, it’s a good starting point. I am personally not a fan of the VC approach which sounds to me too simplistic for business situations.
  2. Start practicing cases (ideally, you should get to 50+) in person, online, or reading MBA handbooks. Every time you find a new approach to solve the case that is not present in your structure, write it down and add it to your framework keeping a MECE approach.
  3. Eliminate or consolidate the sections in your frameworks that you do not find useful to solve cases.
  4. Find commonalities between frameworks, so that you do not have to remember 7-8 structures completely different, but just few differences between frameworks.
  5. Once received the initial information from the interviewer, present the framework adapting it to the specific goals of the client, mentioning why you would like to explore a particular area and the connection of that area with the goals previously communicated by the interviewer.

Key Resources: Case In Point, PrepLounge Resources section, MBA Handbooks, Expert sessions

Since you have already read plenty of material, it seems that there is something missing in your preparation, not necessarily related to the structures per se. It could be related to one of the following:

  • Poor initial case listening
  • Poor initial clarification questions
  • Not structured notetaking for initial information
  • No error/performance tracking when reading material/doing cases to improve
  • Attempt to memorize too many frameworks (this is the main drawback of Case in point in my opinion)

These elements may not be easy to spot on your own. Expert sessions at your stage could thus be the best investment to identify any "hidden" element needed in your preparation (full disclosure: I am an expert myself). With proper coaching, given your current preparation, in few sessions you should be able to identify any further improvement and optimize structures to reach the level needed to perform well in interviews.



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Liam replied on Jan 24, 2018

Hey Levi--

I thought a good way to train was to make cases for just everyday stuff. As a college student: Do I go to class today, do I take notes on my computer or write them down, do I walk or take the bus? This is effective for just generally training your mind to be MECE.

If its specifically business acumen MECE, maybe try reading business section headlines and just creating a framework for why and how. Then read the article. This is useful for 1. training for MECE but also 2. gaining instincts.

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Vlad gave the best answer


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