What's the most effective way to prep for consultancy?

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New answer on Apr 30, 2020
12 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Apr 04, 2020

I have been practicing for a while. What I do is doing cases with partners and review them after wards by myself, I take notes of the things I learned. Nowdays I feel I don't always know how to solve them and I don't remember all the solutions. Am I doing something wrong? Is it normal? Is there any more effective way to prep I am missing? Thank you

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Luca
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replied on Apr 05, 2020
BCG |NASA |20+ interviews with 100% success rate| 120+ students coached |GMAT expert 780/800 score

Dear anonymous,

Your feeling is really common and you shouldn't worry too much about this. The most effective way to prepare is to practice both with other candidates and coaches that can give you a reliable feedabck.
Regarding what you wrote, you don't have to try to remember something by heart. If you do that you could get in trouble, because a small difference in the statement is enough to invalidate the solution of the similar case that you are trying to remember. Plus, you would look quite academical in your resolution, without any "outside-the-box" idea.

The only thing that you should try to learn and remember are the initial frameworks, because they give you a good base to start with in the highest pressure part of the interview. Write down your own framework for each case typology and everytime that you solve a new case, test your framework and eventually enrich it with new useful segments.

Regarding the general preparation, I suggest the following approach:

  • Read the Case in Point (Cosentino) in order to get a first approach with the Case interviews
  • When you have read most of it, start doing cases on yourself practicing with frameworks, math and structure of the interview.
  • Practice with other people (candidates/coaches)
  • Read some chapters of the Case Interview Secrets
  • Listen to the recordings of the LOMS program

While you are practicing for your cases, you have to consider also some time to prepare your CV/Cover Letter and the Fit Interview that is a fundamental part of the interview.
Consider that you will need around 1.5/2 months to prepare and at least 40/50 cases.

Feel free to contact me if you want to have some help to stucture your workplan.
Best,
Luca

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Vlad
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replied on Apr 05, 2020
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

Hi,

I recommend the following approach

1) Start with "Case in point" book - you can download this book for free everywhere. It's not the best guide on how you should approach the cases, however, it will give you the basic understanding.

2) Start practicing cases with partners here or find them locally. !!! Find experienced partners or coaches who can provide a good feedback!!!

3) Purchase and read Viktor Cheng Book (Amazon Kindle store) and listen to LOMS (his website). I recommend to reread the book and listen to LOMS every 15 cases. Every time, having more experience, you’ll be finding something new.

4) Practice fast math

  • Learn how to multiply double digit numbers (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ndkkPZYJHo)
  • Learn the division table up to 1/11 (i.e. 5/6 = 83.3)
  • Learn how to work with zeros (Hint: 4000000 = 4*10ˆ6)
  • Use math tools (Mimir math for iOS), Math tool on Viktor Cheng website to practice

5) Below you can find a list of the most common case types and some high-level recommendations on structuring:

  • Market sizing - structuring from the supply or demand side. Structuring using a formula or using an issue tree
  • Profitability - basic profitability framework. Remember about different revenue streams and product mix
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Cost cutting - I provided the recommendations on structuring it here: https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/operations-cases-mck-1105#a2134
  • Valuation - Purely financial structure with cash flows, growth rate, WACC / hurdle rate, etc.
  • Synergies - revenue synergies (price, qty, mix) and cost synergies (value chain).
  • 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

6) Also, I would try to focus on the most common industries in the following priority(sorted by probability of getting a case): 1-retail and CPG; 2-airlines; 3-Telecom; 4-banking; 5-natural resources; 6-tech

7) ! Important: don't forget about the FIT interview part. Crafting you stories and backups stories will require a couple of weeks!

PS

Here is a good list of articles regarding the different parts of the case:

1) Start with clarifying questions

https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/clarifying-questions-1786#a3956

2) Communicating while structuring. Here is a long post by me on how to communicate the structure during the case study:

https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/how-to-communicate-its-structure-for-the-case-study-1313#a2806

3) Using hypothesis. I made a post about hypothesis here:

https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/how-to-state-a-hypothesis-and-match-to-the-structure-1156#a2268

4) Communicating while making calculations:

  • Always tell the interviewer your approach
  • Check with the interviewer that your approach is correct
  • Come to the interviewer with some preliminary answers
  • Check your assumptions with the interviewer

5) Communicating during the analysis of graphs / tables

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

6) Communicating while having questions on creativity

  • Ask an interview for a minute to think
  • Think of several buckets of ideas (e.g. organic growth / non-organic growth / differentiation). Remember to think as big as possible
  • Narrow down to each bucket and generate as many ideas as possible
  • Present the structure (buckets) and then your ideas

7) Communicating your conclusion. You can find a good example I've posted here:

https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/how-much-answer-first-should-the-conclusion-be-1231#a2493

8) Communicating your FIT stories

Use the top-down approach while communicating your stories. "The Pyramid Principle" is the must-read by ex McKinsey on this topic.

I recommend using the STAR framework:

  • In Situation, you should briefly provide the context, usually in 1 or 2 sentences
  • Task usually includes 2 or 3 sentences describing the problem and your objective.
  • Then you provide a list of specific actions you took to achieve the goal. It should take 1 or 2 sentences per action (Usually 3-4 actions). Note that the interviewer can stop you any minute and ask for more details.
  • The results part should have 1 or 2 sentences describing the outcomes. This part is finalizing your story - make sure it can impress the interviewer and stay in the memory.

Best!

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Francesco
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replied on Apr 05, 2020
#1 Expert for Coaching Sessions (3.600+) | 1.300+ Reviews with 100% Recommendation Rate | Ex BCG | 8+ Years of Coaching

Hi there,

if I understood correctly, you don’t remember well the previous solutions of the cases you have done. In general you should not target to know the solution per se, but actually a structure that can lead you to derive that solution.

Since you are taking notes for the cases you have done, my hypothesis here is that the issue may be one of the following:

  • You are not reviewing your notes often enough
  • You are not trying to do cases for which you have discovered you have issues often enough
  • You are not updating your structures with the learnings you have from cases

I would thus concentrate on one or more of those areas according to what is applicable in your case.

In terms of general preparation, I would recommend the following steps, you may want to review if there is anything you can add to what you are currently doing:

  1. Define a calendar for your preparation. Identify how many hours you have before your expected interviews, then allocate a time slot for preparation in your calendar for each day, working on the following points.
  2. Read Case In Point or Case Interview Secrets for a general understanding of what a consulting interview is. Don’t focus on the structures proposed in the books though, as they are not good enough nowadays.
  3. Start reading good MBA Consulting Handbooks – you can find several for free online (Insead is a good one to start). Read the cases and try to apply your structure. Whenever you see there is something missing, upgrade your structure with the new insides. Try to read at least a new case per day – in this way you will absorb a lot better the information with constant learning. Structure your remaining daily preparation with at least 5-10 minutes per day for each of the following: market sizing, fit questions and mental math.
  4. After you have read the first 10 cases in books/handbooks and basic theory, start to practice live. There is a relevant part of the interview score that is based on your communication, which you cannot practice at all if you read cases only. Keep track of your mistakes and see if you repeat them. If so, try to identify the source of the mistake (feedback of experienced partners would be particularly useful for this). Be sure to focus on both fit and case.
  5. Once you feel you are not improving anymore, if you have a tight time constraint or if you want a realistic assessment of your level, consider using support from experts to strengthen your performance
  6. Before the interview, be sure to prepare your questions for the interviewer –great way to show you prepare in advance and to connect more with the interviewer for a good final impression.

Best,

Francesco

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Iman
Expert
replied on Apr 05, 2020
BCG | Strategy& |Roland Berger | Interviewed >100 candidates in formal hiring process

From you description I think you did all the right thing. There are only so many type of cases in case interview (e.g. market entry, profitabiity, growth, M&A, investment). If you have practice all those cases the next steps is to practice various combination of those cases (e.g. growth using M&A, investmetn with profit considerations)

I think a good formula to not memorizing solution is to always think Questions - Information to answer question - analysis to get the information - data to do the analysis

Hygiene thing to do - Don't forget to spend 5-10 minutes a day practice mental math.

Hope this helps :)

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Emily
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replied on Apr 05, 2020
BCG Project Leader | 3+ years interview experience for BCG SEA recruiting | Kellogg MBA, NTU, Peking University

Hi there,

Quick thoughts here - don't try to remember the solutions. Every case is different and solution should be different. Just like in real world when we work on client project, we draw learnings from experience but there is no solution from other projects that can be directly applied. What you need is to the "train your muscle" and become proficient in your approach/skill of problem solving, which would be applicable across different cases.

If you find yourself plateauing after practicing a good amount of cases, maybe it is time to get some professional help. Feel free to DM me and I can help you diagnose.

Best,

Emily

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Robert
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replied on Apr 04, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

Assuming you are talking primarily about case interviews (i.e. not personal fit part) I see a gradual shift from theoretical background knowledge to interactive case interviews with other persons.

Depending on your background, the theoretical foundation inkl. clear structured thinking might be there sooner or later. However, I recognize many people studying case interview theory for too long before moving on to interactive case interview prep. It's like learning to drive a car - you definitely need the theory behind, but it won't make you a great driver without enough practice. The same is true for case interviews - it's neither brain surgery nor rocket science, it's mainly persistance in high-quality prep.

One issue I would like to highlight in particular - practicing cases with peers vs. professional coaches is like day vs. night in terms of increasing your case interview proficiency. Most defiinitely you will need both to have reasonable chances especially in current siutation of MBB recruiting - a few sessions with a professional coach to take your learning curve to the next level and actually understand what are good and bad habits during case interviews (how could a peer know that without consulting recruiting experience?), as well as "practice" sessions with peers to apply your learnings from the sessions with a professional coach.

Since I understand that the price tag for a professional coach might be a hurdle for many candidates, I explicitly offer risk-free coachings to guarantee your benefit from a session. Only if we find significant improvements in your case interview skills the session will remain paid - otherwise I will refund your investment immediately after our session (you can read more about it in my profile).

Hope that helps - if so, please be so kind and give me a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!

Robert

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Anonymous replied on Apr 04, 2020

Hi,

Here is what I recommand :

1) Read a book like case in point to get familiar with all frameworks / classical methodologies to crack a case

2) Train with partners (e.g. from your school)

3) Have 2-3 sessions with coaches

4) Train through real interviews (try to schedule interviews with firms your prefer the most after interviews with other firms)

Best

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Dorothea
Expert
replied on Apr 04, 2020
Ex-Oliver Wyman with 100% interview success rate - specialized in female career coaching

Hi anonymous,

it takes some time to get a feeling for cases as you practice. Most of my clients do something between 25 and 50 case meetings until they feel they know what they are doing. It is also fairly normal to experience some kind of setback after a certain number of case meetings. This will improve as you continue practicing. It's not about "knowing all the solutions", but rather about developing a feeling for different case types.

Would you consider yourself as somebody who needs to understand the theory before putting things into practice? If so, there is very useful BootCamp here on preplounge (resources --> bootcamp) that you may go through. However, as stated above, the only way to get better is practice.

Hope this helps!

Best
Dorothea

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Antonello
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Content Creator
replied on Apr 30, 2020
McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

Hi,
I recommend reading Cosentino's Case in point to fix the theory. Then, what will be really important is practicing mock cases with other candidates here on Preplounge. After almost 20 cases you should notice an important improvement in your performance

Best,
Antonello

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Clara
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replied on Apr 06, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Have your considered working with a coach that can build a tailored coaching plan for you?

Cheers,

Clara

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Daniel
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replied on Apr 06, 2020
McKinsey / ex-Interviewer at McKinsey / I will coach you to rock those interviews

Hi!

Here are my 5 tips:

1) Practice mental calculation daily (percentages, decimal places, large numbers, arithmetic) – even though it's not the most important part of the interview and it's allowed to make mistakes, you need to master your numbers very comfortably. If you don't, during the interview you will start feeling nervous and will perform worse on other things. Here are some good apps for your phone I can recommend: Brain Booster Games and Mental Math Practice.

2) Cases, cases, cases – do as many as you can. After you gather a bit of experience of practicing with your fellow students, try to find a person who is now working or has worked in the past at the MBB's recruting and ask them to simulate an interview with you (e.g. coach on preplounge).

3) Prepare and practice personal fit interviews – they are as important as the cases. Write down your stories, practice telling them with your fellow students, or with an expert.

4) Beware of your mental state – try not to stress too much before and during the interview (I know it's easier said than done). Do sports, take care of your health, try yoga, meditation – whatever makes you less stressed. I've seen so many candidates pale as a sheet of paper during my time as an interviewer at McKinsey, all worried and jittery – as you can imagine this doesn't help your performance.

5) If you get rejected, it's not the end of the world, do prepare yourself mentally for this thought! A close friend of mine became depressed for months after being rejected at McKinsey. I think it was because she treated this as a "do or die" situation. Do not do that! There are infinite options of different careers and adventures out there, you don't need to become a strategy consultant to be happy. Just try to embrace this before going into the interview room – and you will be better prepared for both failure and success.

Best,
Daniel

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Marcello
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replied on Apr 06, 2020
FREE Coaching tailoring | Active Associate @MonitorDeloitte | Interviewer @Monitor@Altran

Hi!

The number one way to master cases is practice, practice, practice.

It is important that you do than in an interview format environment, i.e. like via skype on preplounge, using coaches or with your friends/collegues face to face. The most important thing is to get used to the format of interviewing and the pressure of being LIVE solving the case.

Aside from that, you need to make sure that the people your practice with can give you feedback based on real consulting interviewer targets. There is where the value of practicing with current consultants or preplounge coaches come... that you can get the tips that will make sure you land an offer.

Also, you can read good books like Case in Point to get the basic concepts of frameworks and case examples. But remember that case solving should be naturally structured and these frameworks should only be taken as a basis.

Hope this helps!

M

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Luca gave the best answer

Luca

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BCG |NASA |20+ interviews with 100% success rate| 120+ students coached |GMAT expert 780/800 score
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