BCG Written Case Interview: The Comprehensive Guide

the image is the cover of an article on how to ace the bcg written case interview

Last Updated on February 5, 2024

Navigating BCG’s written case interview? This guide distills essential strategies and tips to excel in this critical component of BCG’s hiring process. Discover how to analyze written cases, draft persuasive recommendations, and present your analysis with confidence.

BCG Written Case Interview: A Quick Introduction

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) uses written case interviews during their recruiting process in addition to the traditional face-to-face case interviews.

What Is a Written Case Interview?

A written case interview is a specialized format employed in management consulting to assess how candidates tackle business problems, mirroring real consultant tasks. It usually unfolds in five stages: receiving case documents and questions that need to be answered, analyzing the information, creating analytical slides, presenting findings in front of one or two interviewers, and engaging in a Q&A session.

A unique aspect of the BCG written case is the preparation time allowed, necessitating a thorough analysis of extensive information. During that time, candidates are required to analyze the situation and craft slides to convey their analysis and recommendations, simulating the consultant’s role in client meetings.

More specifically, the BCG written case interview asks you to answer 3 to 4 questions about a challenging client situation that you receive in a fictitious partner email. You need to derive recommendations for each.

In the process, you are bombarded with a ~40-page slide deck, which contains far too much information, data, graphs, and press articles to comprehend within the 2-hour preparation time. Rather, you have to work hypothesis-driven and link the questions to the provided information to quickly zero in on the relevant bits of data and then, conduct your analysis.

Based on this analysis, you should draft a short consulting-style presentation, crafting your own storyline and narrative.

When Does the BCG Written Case Interview Occur?

This written interview typically occurs after passing initial resume screenings and the BCG Online Case Casey in the recruitment process.

While the traditional case interview is always part of the BCG assessment, the written case interview serves as an equally critical tool in consulting recruitment for several BCG offices. Yet, you should be aware that the written case interview is not always part of the BCG recruiting process as each individual office can adjust their recruiting process.

Keep that in mind when creating your consulting interview preparation plan.

If the written case is included in your assessment, do not worry.

After all, the written case interview presents you with a slight variation of the classic case interview. Hence, preparing for the case interview also helps you with your performance with the written case and vice versa.

The Skills Needed in the BCG Written Case Interview

BCG evaluates a number of different skills in the written case interview:

  • Analytical Thinking: Assessed by how well you can interpret and draw conclusions from complex data sets, identifying critical information relevant to the case.
  • Problem-Solving Ability: Evaluated through your approach to forming hypotheses and developing actionable solutions to business problems presented in the case.
  • Time Management: Judged by your ability to efficiently allocate time to different tasks, ensuring thorough analysis and preparation of recommendations within the given timeframe.
  • Communication Skills: Gauged by the clarity and persuasiveness of your presentation, including how effectively you articulate your recommendations and insights.
  • Attention to Detail: Measured by your ability to notice and consider small yet significant pieces of information in the data, which could influence the outcome of your analysis.
  • Creativity and Innovation: Observed in the originality of your solutions and the ability to think outside the box when faced with challenging scenarios.
  • Business Acumen: Assessed through your understanding of the case’s business context, industry specifics, and the feasibility of your recommendations.
  • Quantitative Skills: Evaluated by your ability to perform accurate calculations and use numerical data to support your hypotheses and recommendations.
  • Composure Under Pressure: Determined by how well you handle the stress of the interview situation, especially during the Q&A session where your findings are scrutinized.
  • Presentation Skills: The visual and structural quality of your slides, and your ability to present information in a logical, engaging manner.

BCG Written Case Fact Pack

  • Duration: 2 hours 40 minutes in total (120 minutes to prepare, 40 minutes to present and debate)
  • Data: A partner email plus 40 slides packed with information on a specific client’s issue. The partner asks you a few specific questions that you need to answer
  • Output: Blank slides to develop your storyline and recommendations. Draft a consulting-style mini slide-deck
  • Format: You prepare 3-5 slides to present your recommendation and analysis/ supporting arguments based on the question in the email. You will get challenged by the interviewer to see how you would react in a real client situation
  • Math: The numerical problems are relatively straightforward; calculators are allowed. The trick is to figure out what you should calculate to reach new insights and draft sensible recommendations
  • Focus: All industries or functions are fair game
  • Target group: The written case interview is currently employed almost globally, for instance in North America, Asia, selected European countries, and many others. Make sure to contact HR or recruiting of your target office in advance to clarify whether or not you would be in the target group for the test
  • Twist: You are not allowed to write on the materials which makes it much harder to keep track of your thoughts or highlight specific information
  • Preparation: Use case study examples and case study templates to recreate the actual test conditions

The Stages of the BCG Written Case Interview

Stage 1: Case Reception

Candidates are provided with the case and all pertinent materials, which may include printed PowerPoint slides or A4 pages, ranging between 20-40 pages in total.

The questions you could expect to answer for the BCG partner are along the lines of the following:

  • “I think the client should enter the Chinese market first. Do you agree? What would make China attractive to them?”
  • “Which product category has the best chances of being successful and profitable in China?”
  • “What are the strengths of the client that allows for its products to be competitive in the Chinese market? How does the client compare to the local competitors?
the image is the starting point email of the bcg written case interview
Actual screenshot of a real BCG written case interview prompt (Source: BCG)

Stage 2: Hypothesis Formation and Data Analysis

Before moving on to slide preparation, candidates should engage in a thorough analysis of the provided materials. This involves creating and testing hypotheses based on the data at hand.

It’s a critical step where analytical skills are put to use to sift through the information, identify key data points, and formulate initial hypotheses that will guide the subsequent preparation of slides.

this image is a screenshot from a table taken from the bcg written case interview

The screenshot from the BCG written case interview above is just one of 40 slides presented to you as a candidate. The amount and complexity of the data is something you need to be able to handle through clever hypothesis creation and testing.

Stage 3: Slide Preparation

Armed with insights from the data analysis, candidates proceed to synthesize their findings into presentation slides. This involves selecting, analyzing, and interpreting data to support their hypotheses and crafting slides that succinctly summarize their analysis, insights, evidence, and proposed solutions.

Stage 4: Presentation Delivery

Following the 2-hour preparation phase, candidates are required to present their findings and recommendations to the interviewers within 15 minutes. The interviewer acts either as the client or your project leader. A well-structured presentation typically includes a case summary, articulated hypotheses, supporting charts/graphs/insights, and conclusive recommendations.

Stage 5: Question and Answer Session

The interview concludes with a 15-minute question-and-answer period, allowing for a thorough exploration of more personal subjects related to you or to address specific details of your presentation.

During this time, interviewers may probe the candidates on their findings and challenge their analyses to assess their preparedness and depth of understanding.

Candidates need to note that rigorous questioning of assumptions or conclusions is part of the evaluation process, designed to test their ability to defend and substantiate their recommendations confidently under pressure.

BCG Written Case Interview Tips

BCG recommends the following to tackle their interviews:

  • Enjoy the challenge
  • Manage your time
  • Focus your efforts/ messages. Does this piece of information/ analysis support my conclusion?
  • Present conclusive answers to the questions outlined in the case description
  • Produce clear and concise output (3-5 slides)
  • Deliver the most important message in the slide title
  • Use text with bullets and sub-bullets wherever you present conclusions or qualitative analyses
  • Use graphs/ tables for quantitative analyses (unless you present 1-dimensional data)
  • DON’T panic under time pressure
  • DON’T give in to the temptation to read all the available material
  • DON’T postpone formulating your hypothesis until you’ve collected all important information
  • DON’T get lost in analyses unrelated to your question
  • DON’T prioritize output quantity over quality
  • DON’T oversimplify your message

While these tips are helpful, they do not allow for a structured problem-solving process. Hence, we created one ourselves for our clients to go through.

BCG Written Case Interview Strategy

We have compiled a tested strategy to help you to effectively tackle this type of assessment. Below is our 6-step approach to written case interviews that focuses your efforts, makes sure you zero in on the crucial bits of the case, swiftly analyze and synthesize the available information, and provide a strong recommendation.

1. Have a Plan Before You Start the BCG Written Case

Since time is usually limited, you should have a plan on how long you want to spend on each task of the assignment beforehand. For a typical 2-hour BCG case take:

  • 5 minutes for a quick scan of the documents
  • 5 minutes to plan your approach (i.e. what do you need to figure out, what information is important, what analyses would you have to do, what output documents do you have to draft)
  • 20 minutes to draft your output slides (doing this early helps you to focus your analytical efforts)
  • 70 minutes to conduct analyses and work through the case
  • 20 minutes to populate your slides with your findings and recommendations.

Prepare using case study examples and case study templates that can be found here.

Given the constraints of the clock, it’s reasonable to expect that not everything will go perfectly. Thus, while allocating specific time slots for each task is essential for preparation, it’s also wise to incorporate a buffer period for unexpected delays or to revisit any parts of the case that may require further refinement.

Ace written case interviews with our dedicated preparation packages.

2. Quickly Separate Crucial Information From the Noise

Written cases usually present you with an information overload that you need to sort out. First, figure out what information is crucial so you can conduct the necessary analyses to reach a recommendation. Write down what the actual question is that you need to solve right away and constantly relate back when you work on the written case.

Make sure you understand the questions that are being asked and create a hypothesis for the potential answer for each. Since time is a luxury you don’t have, it’s impractical to cover every analysis and hypothesis. Focus on tackling the pivotal questions that are key to shaping your recommendation, ensuring that your presentation zeroes in on what matters most.

That way you should be able to read with a certain objective in mind and improve your comprehension speed. Second, look up the relevant information, structure your analysis, and dive right in. Similar as to a case interview, take a hypothesis-driven approach to frame your structure and thoughts. Synthesize each bit of your analysis to draw proper conclusions.

You can practice this by looking at business school cases, such as

Additionally, try to increase your reading speed with apps such as Spreeder, Reedy, or Read Me!

3. Interpret and Distill Key Insights From Charts and Data Tables 

Written cases bombard you with charts, graphs, tables, and other visual depictions of data that you should use to test your hypotheses. Learn how to quickly read and interpret them.

  • What are the key messages and insights?
  • How does the information of several charts/ tables, etc. relate to each other?
  • What information is relevant to the case?

To prepare these skills, go through The Economist, the Wall Street Journal or similar and use their graphs or tables to train your reading and interpretation skills. Alternatively, look at practice McKinsey Problem Solving Test or BCG potential test graphs. Time yourself while doing it, e.g. giving yourself 30 seconds before you are able to communicate what the graph is all about and what you would infer from it (what is the ‘so what’?).

You can also use our Consulting Chart and Data Interpretation Course and Drills to improve how consultants analyze charts and generate insights quickly.

4. Quickly Draft Formulas and Conduct Pen-and-Paper Math

Get into the habit of quickly setting up and simplifying calculations. Practice quick pen-and-paper math as well as estimations similar to what you would do in a normal case interview. To prepare and practice, look into McKinsey PST, BCG potential test exercises as well as GMAT questions.

If you need to brush up on your math skills, we have created a program with detailed insider learning materials and close to 2,000 practice drills that mimic the McKinsey, BCG, and Bain case interview math for you here: the Case Interview Math Mastery.

5. Draft a Compelling Storyline and Tell It With Visually Appealing Outputs

Create a top-down storyline of your recommendations. State your primary recommendation, then use supporting arguments to strengthen your position.

In practice, you would have one key slide talking about your finding and recommendation, i.e. what or how the client should solve the problem, Then, you would have several supporting slides, discussing arguments for your solution, i.e. why your approach is the best.

Lastly, put a slide talking about the next steps to hedge your bets or show possible risks (what else would you like to know to make your recommendation even stronger) and demonstrate that you think ahead.

As for the slide design, use an action title on each, then some visual aids like a graph (remember to have a graph title as well) and some supporting bullet points, or if not applicable, just bullet points.

  • The action title should convey the so-what of your analysis. You need to show the implication of what you present rather than a description of what you have found
  • The headings of each slide together should tell the full story. Everything below the heading ARE details to the story and should support your key message

6. Communicate and Defend Your Recommendation

If you have to present your findings at the end of the case, follow the top-down approach of your slide deck. Be confident and engaging when going through your recommendations and supporting arguments.

First, present your headlines, e.g. “The client needs to cut cost by x% to break even within the next 5 years”; then move on to the details of the slide such as “Our manufacturing cost has increased by 25% over the last 3 years,..”

Follow this structure:

  1. Offer your recommendation succinctly.
  2. Back it up with compelling evidence and reasoning.
  3. Outline potential risks linked to your strategy.
  4. Advise on the next steps to further improve your analysis or move towards implementation.

Remember, reiterating the case prompt isn’t necessary—it’s a prudent use of precious time to dive straight into your insights.

This approach is very much like the recommendation you would give at the end of a normal case interview.

Point out when you are using hypotheses and assumptions that you were not able to fully verify.

Lastly, be open and ready to debate. The interviewers will definitely challenge your recommendation. It is important that you confidently stand your ground unless they make you aware of an obvious mistake on your part. In the latter case, demonstrate that you are coachable and save the situation by providing a plan of action on how to re-do the analysis to cross-check and improve your results.

Learn more about consulting case interview communication here.

Practice for the BCG Written Case Interview

Preparing effectively for the BCG written case interview is crucial to securing that coveted consulting role. For BCG case interview preparation, employ consulting case study tips and robust case interview strategies to navigate the challenges and ace your assessment.

If you want to test your ability to work on a written BCG case, click the following link that redirects you to a real example by BCG.

Here are six key strategies to polish your skills for a standout performance:

  1. Refine Rapid Reading Abilities: Speed reading is essential due to the voluminous information you’ll face. Learn to quickly identify key data, which is vital when under time constraints. Employ techniques such as using a tracker or pacer and practice using speed reading apps on your computer and phone.
  2. Hone Consulting Math Proficiency: Sharp mental arithmetic is a must for consultants who work with numbers daily. Using a calculator is not allowed. Strengthen your mental math with daily practice, starting with small steps and building up to complex calculations.
  3. Develop Data Analysis Skills: The core of a hypothesis-driven approach is the ability to analyze data to support your recommendations. Focus on the three key processes: Analyzing the data presented, contextualizing within the case’s framework, and interpreting the results to drive business insights.
  4. Grasp Case Interview Basics: The fundamental skills of a traditional case interview apply here too. Familiarize yourself with concepts like issue trees, MECE principles, structured communication, and top-down analysis.
  5. Master Consulting-Style Slide Creation: In consulting, presentations are the end-product of your analysis. Learn to organize content in a clear, impactful way, even if the actual design isn’t your responsibility. Look for resources that guide you through crafting slides that resonate with a consulting audience.
  6. Practice with Mock Interviews: Simulate the interview experience with mock sessions. Seek out former consultants and expert interview coaches who can provide informed feedback and guidance.

Diligent practice in these areas can significantly enhance your readiness and confidence for the written case interview, setting you apart in the competitive field of consulting.

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