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This question is read-only because it has been merged with How to take better, clearer notes during case interviews?.

Taking Notes McKinsey Led

Alice asked on Jan 11, 2017 - 2 answers

Questions regarding note-taking, if anyone is familiar:

Admittedly I got confused by my own notes in "normal" "interviwee led" cases too. E.g. Had three seperate categories of papers (1. Note taking notes=initial + follow up info, 2. calculations, and 3. structure/isue tree to show the interviewer). Often mixed them up in the end, e.g. did calcs in the "notes"-paper, and vice versa when things got stressed, wrote down extra info on the "structure paper", etc. Watched so many youtubes on this and read Cheng's responses in a thread, but still struggling. If anyone has found a "super formula" on how to do this that has really worked for consistency, feel free to share. To what paper do you transfer "mini-conclusions", etc. to not be messy? However, now the even bigger problem is this:

Note-taking in a MCKINSEY STYLE-case. The structure becomes even more bewildering. First, you take your Structure/Issue tree paper when the interviewer asks you for the initial "how would you set this up"-question. That is fine. But often-times (depending on case) it might progress and you might not even work with that structure. So question is, do you transfer subsequent "anwers" to this paper? Or do you just ignore it. Do you take one paper each now for each question that will follow and label them Q2), Q3) etc.? Or should this too contain some division on info/notes, calcs, mini-conclusions. And, of course, where the "hypothesis" and revised hypothesis fit into this type of interview style and where to write them down if applicable.

I also believe the issue might be amplified if you are asked to write everything up on a white board. Since there could be a logical division for half of the board notes and half calcs, but if the case progresses with Q2, Q3 etc. I'm not sure what to do

Feel free to inbox or write here! Many thank you!


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replied on Jan 12, 2017
Current partner @ Andreessen Horowitz (VC firm). Ex-Mckinsey, ex- strategy guy at Google.
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I almost always keep a "master sheet" for case-solving and rest of the sheets are "scratch sheets" (though you can't just write completely unorganizedly in there). The master sheet is:

1. divided horizontally into 2/3rd and 1/3rd and the 1/3rd is used for mostly figures/numbers, e.g., revenue in 2011 was xxM and fell to yyM in 2015, etc.

2. use the 2/3rd of the page for the primary case - the main facts, etc (e.g., company X is a mfg firm, profitability loss since 2011, etc etc.). Also your main structure goes here as well as hypothesis1, 2, 3...

3. Use other papers for solving the case, but return to the main sheet to write down the important results. E.g., profitability in 2011 was xx% and y% in 2015, etc.

4. Keep going back to the main sheet to remind yourself of your structure and current hypothesis you are working towards proving/disproving.

I know this seems like extra work but the few seconds you spend writing / duplicating some data on master will save you minutes of efforts and confusion later.


Thank you thank you! Makes sense. Also, so one can probably transfer small "mini-conclusions" to the master sheet in order to know what the conclusion/synthesis should be in order to avoid confusion then — Alice on Jan 12, 2017

Astrid updated her answer on Jan 13, 2017
PrepLounge Community & Marketing Manager

Hi Alice,

Thanks for asking your questions. We're happy to see that you are tapping the full potential of our Consulting Q&A! :)

A great answer by Hermant on how to structure your notes!

Just in case you haven’t seen it, yet, here is another Q&A on organising your notes. Our expert Dolf gives his “best practice”:

Sheet 1 is for the overall structure of the case. If the case is about profit, it could be the general profit formula. If the case is about growth drivers (just an example), it could be a tree with X growth drivers or something. (Bonus trick - turn it into landscape, that's how consultants think, and you will always find the sheet, even if things get hectic).

Sheet 2 is for detailing out the main points of the structure in Sheet 1. For example, if on sheet 1 you have "Profit = Revenue - Cost", then you would start on Sheet 2 with "Revenue", underline it, and detail it out, then the next point.

Sheet 3 is optional, to be used for side calculations to not mess up Sheet 2.

As you can see, there are many different approaches of taking notes. You can try them out and see which one suits you best.

Best of luck for your prep,


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