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!

Taking notes in case interview

Case Interview Notes organizingnotes
New answer on Jan 21, 2021
6 Answers
4.2 k Views
Marcel asked on Oct 08, 2018

Hi,

although this might be not the first time somebody asking this:

Do you have any tips writing down notes during case interviews?

During my prep cases, my notes look like a mess - I have a hard time organizing a nice and neat paper (which the interviewer sees of course in a real interview).

Is it allowed to prepare a clean sheet for insights as well as a scrap page for taking notes, doing some calcs etc.?

Happy to hear your thoughts on this

Overview of answers

Upvotes
  • Upvotes
  • Date ascending
  • Date descending
Best answer
Vlad
Expert
replied on Oct 08, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

Hi,

Split the main sheet into 2 parts and then the left part into 2 quadrants:

  • Upper left - initial information given at the beginning of the interview and while asking clarifying questions
  • Lower left - Your objective. The objective should be measurable and should have a timeline
  • Right part - Your structure and the whole case flow

Also, a good practice is to put the key numbers near the corresponding buckets.

! Have a separate sheet for math calculations !

Best!

Was this answer helpful?
Benjamin
Expert
replied on Oct 09, 2018
ex-Manager - Natural and challenging teacher - Taylor case solving, no framework

Hi,
I recommand the following :

- Works on single sheets : it's easier to navigate throught your notes without turning upside down all the papers

- Use two different type of sheets : A clean sheet with notes ,structure, and results. A working sheet with your calculation and other potential messy writings.

- When progressing in the case, refer to your clean sheet : this will both help you an dyou rinterviewer follow the flow of the reasoning.

Hope this helps

Best
Benjamin

Was this answer helpful?
Anonymous replied on Jan 21, 2021

Note taking is of course a critical piece of a strong case delivery, so it will pay off to practice this early on in your preparation.

Whatever system you chose (and practice), it needs to fulfill 3 main purposes:

  • Allow you to note down the critical data and information you hear during the case prompt and have the readily available whenever you need them
  • It needs to enable you to note down an initial framework and track the execution against it
  • It should provide room to store your key insights (1-2 numbers or 1 short bullet point per branch of your framework)

There are certainly many different styles of note taking that provide these three functions, so you should find our which one works for you and enables you to focus on the case execution, rather than the note taking. Keep in mind that you should practice this system early on in your journey, so you are comfortable with this method when you go into the interviews.

Find below a screenshot of the notetaking system that works for me personally. In this system, I first draw one vertical and one horizontal line. Then I use the column on the left side to take the initial notes during the case prompt and clarifying questions. Then I write down the key question of the case in the top row and develop the framework in the main area on the page.

During the case, I scribble less important stuff on separate pages (e.g. notes during the quant part). However, I will write down the key insights of each branch of the framework at the bottom of my main page. That way, when I get to the recommendation, I can simply read the notes from left to right to have the supporting arguments for the case recommendation.

Was this answer helpful?
0
Anonymous A on Aug 02, 2022

I think what would be more helpful is seeing the results of the actual note-taking process. I get drawing out your structure, that's table stakes. But let's say for example you start to get data that you realize is better in a table than in just bullet points. Or just simply how to keep things clean. I think maybe a youtube link of note-taking in action is what would be most helpful for everyone.

Clara
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 11, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

To add on top what´s been said, keep in mind that now with the online method this is less important than before.

If you find a method that works for you, even if it´s not the tidiest thing, won´t be prio1 anymore, since interviewers won´t see it anymore.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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

Dear A,

During the case interview you will be given sheet for taking note. Designate each sheet to each specialized task.

  • The data sheet is where you note down neatly and ideally in a table format all information, data, provided by the interviewer throughout the case. If you have additional data as the result of analyses or calculations performed, put them into the data sheet too.

  • The presentation sheet is literally what you use when speaking to interviewers. For example, if you say: “… problem A can be broken down into B and C”, literally draw those on this sheet and point to each one as you speak.

  • Lastly, the scratch paper is there for anything else you need to write out in interviews’ brainstorm ideas, calculations, etc. The purpose of this sheet is to make the other two clear and neat. So you don’t have to worry too much about what you write here on this scratch paper.

Also, below some general recommendation on how to take notes:

  • Write down all the important information. You can use abbreviations

  • Client name

  • Industry

  • Geography

  • Current situation

  • Goal/objective:

  • And for your analysis put the name of area you supposed to analysed and it structure

  • Name of the first area analysed

  • Structure for the first area

  • Name of the second area analysed

  • Structure for the second area

Hope it helps,

Best,

André

Was this answer helpful?
0
Guennael
Expert
replied on Oct 09, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

Here's a slightly different format:

Draw a line the length of the page, about 2 cm / 1 inch from the edge, and an horizontal one across the middle of that thin band.

In the large area (80% of the page basically), I write the question at the top, my framework just below, and any calculations lower still. I put important numbers in a box for use later.

In the thin band, I use the top rectangle to write a couple of words for each of my recommendations. This becomes handy when you are asked to give a conclusion without the benefit of 30 seconds of reflection - which is what BCG will do; in the lower recaltanle, I will write ideas I have through the case but that are not relevant at that exact moment. I'll use that to not forget anything - and if I dont get a chance to get back to these points before the case ends, they become my natural next steps at the end of the conclusion.

Note: I write small and little, so a page is more than enough for me. If you write big / a lot, feel free to use more than one sheet - but please remember what is where!

Was this answer helpful?
Vlad gave the best answer

Vlad

McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School
429
Meetings
12,323
Q&A Upvotes
127
Awards
4.9
186 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!