4 simple ways to improve your case study interview skills

In a previous article we collected what are the 7 fundamental skills you must develop in order to successfully pass every case study interview and become a management consultant at one of the best firms. This article explores how you can acquire these skills and become confident while using them. The below practices helped us to secure an offer at our dream consulting firms:

  1. Solving GMAT problems

  2. Reading business papers

  3. Using our Case Library

  4. Mock interviewing as much as possible

Solving GMAT problems

GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is probably familiar for many of you. This is a standardized test used by many graduate schools to assess applicants' analytical and quantitative skills. Although GMAT is not perfect to improve every skill necessary to pass case study interviews, we highly benefited from it to boost our ability to solve problems and perform mental math.

GMAT's Problem Solving section is a perfect tool to remove the dust and perform some calculations you used to do in high school. We used this free forum to perform some calculations on paper in order to improve our mental math skills. GMAT's Integrated Reasoning similarly supports your mental math, but also adds another layer. A chart, or written context is given, so some aspects of problem-solving is covered. This is the free forum we used back when we were looking for practice materials.

Reading business papers

I think we can agree on that reading business newspapers sounds quite old-school. However, this is one of most useful exercises you could do (especially if you have no business background) in order to improve your business acumen. A good paper keeps you up-to-date about market movements, trends, business risks and opportunities. You will get used to the business lingo, which is crucial when it comes to communicating some insights/analysis that you have observed/performed. Since consulting firms bring case studies to interviews from industries they are specialized in, you can also deepen your knowledge on specific topics to improve your chances.

If you try to take a look at the big picture and try to understand the motives and context of the news, you can accelerate your critical thinking skills. By thinking about alternative options, or long-term consequences you can boost your creativity. For example: Why would Facebook ban newspapers from publishing their content on its platform? What could Alibaba do to stabilize itself in its uncertain political environment? What are the long-term internal and external implications if a company pursues inorganic growth? These are some of the examples I was thinking of in 2021, when I was getting ready for my case study interviews. I can highly recommend Financial Times, The Economist, and the Harvard Business Review. These all have short articles to read on the subway, or next to a cup of coffee, as well as long articles for the evenings. The internet is also abundant of free, high-quality business articles.

Ways to improve case study interview skills
4 ways to improve case study interview skills

Using the AGnowledge Case Library

We created our own Case Library to bring together the best practice materials that can support you on your journey to become a full-time management consultant. These materials include:

  • MBB-level problem solving tests to sharpen your case solving skills. Since we also include the solution in the documents, this is a perfect tool to practice alone in your own free time

  • Big 4 written case studies people from our network faced during their application. Since they simulate a case interview (in a written format), this can still be handy if you are applying for an MBB firm

  • MBB-level mock case interviews we needed to solve when we were interviewing with MBB or ex-MBB consultants. These are really good options if you have a mate you can practice with

Mock interviews

We always say: the only way to be a successful case solver is through practicing day and night. There is no general rule on the number of months / cases you must practice before you should apply for a consultant position. However, increasing your experience with cases will have a significant impact on your performance. Personally, we practiced for around 4-5 months and solved at least 50 case studies just to be on the safe side.

How many cases should I solve?

Mock interviews are useful from multiple perspectives. First, routine can save you so much time. There are certain parts of a case you must do: recap the problem, ask certain clarifying questions, draw up a framework, analyze charts, calculate and develop a recommendation that contains predetermined elements etc. We notice on our students that the more experience they have, the less time they spend on thinking about the next part of a case study. Routine will drive your quick, efficient and precise solutioning.

Secondly, case studies are relatively similar to each other. Of course, it can differ by topic (e.g. market entry, M&A, profitability cases), but after solving the 10th M&A case, your 11th will be relatively easy. Each and every case will teach you something that you can use during the next case. Furthermore, solving case studies is a good way to gain industry insights. Although you are not expected to know every industry by heart during an interview, familiarity does give you a huge advantage.

How should I practice mock interviews? Should I pay to a professional coach?

It would not be true to say that practicing with your peers is a waste of time. Saying that you must practice with paid coaches is a lie! However, believing that practicing with peers only will surely land you an offer is stupid.

Based on our experience, asking your peers to interview you is a really simple, "free" way to gain routine in solving cases. The only risk you must pay attention to is learning something incorrect. We have had many mentees, who used a certain structure because another student convinced them that that was the right way to do solving. Maybe they were also told by somebody else. It is like gossips. Spreads via word-of-mouth, but changes a little every time. By the end, the original (probably useful advice) becomes a malformed idea.

On the other end of the sword, being an interviewer and interviewing your peers is the best opportunity to see how and what interviewers are looking for. You might realize how painful it is to listen to an excessive, 5-minute-long framework explanations and recommendation developments. Or how strange it feels to state your hypothesis at the beginning of the case without having any data to rely on. These will all support your personal development and will make you a sharper interviewee.

Most importantly, we highly recommend to engage with a professional coach. They can point out mistakes that you and your peers have not identified. They can share first-hand experience on interviewing at MBB (or other target) companies. They can easily remove you from your comfort-zone and put you under pressure - something super helpful so you will not be shocked during a real case interview. We recommend a healthy 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 combination. If you plan to practice 30 cases, we recommend to have at least 10-10 with your peers as interviewee and interviewer, and at least 10 cases with professional coaches, who ideally work as full-time consultants.