How to prepare for case interviews alone

the image displays a candidate preparing for a mckinsey case interview

Case interview preparation is a lengthy and tedious process, which for many applicants lasts over a month in parallel to their other commitments.

Case interview practice can be tough

It is difficult to find good quality interview partners in sufficient numbers and full case interview drills take 40 to 60 minutes including a proper feedback session. In the end, you can only do so many real case interview drills in your preparation, even if you would like to do more. Hence, a question we receive often is if there are any shortcuts to it. How can you get more exposure to cases in a shorter or the same amount of time?

Practice case interviews

One particular idea we always recommend is to split your case practice into mock interviews with peers and professional interview coaches as well as going through mock cases on your own. The latter complements your interactive case practice with others, saves time, and also improves your effectiveness of solving cases since you can train for the most crucial elements of a case by yourself.

There are several ways you can practice consulting case interviews alone:

Learn everything about case interviews

We have written several articles on this. Familiarize yourself with the rationale for case interviews, case interview skills, the different types of case interviews, how long to prepare, and the interview process.

More specifically for McKinsey, learn about their unique interview process here.

Read through cases

Get a hold of some case interview collections from your university’s consulting club or some case interview books. Then, read through the cases presented to get an initial perspective of how the mechanics of case interviews work. What is the natural case flow, what are the similarities across cases, and what are the habits that you should internalize to crack them? Additionally, you learn more and more about different industries and solutions to common case prompts. The more cases you read, the bigger will be your repertoire to use, and the better you will be able to recall some of it during the real case interview.

Leverage interactive cases from firm websites

Consulting firms such as BCG, Oliver Wyman, and others offer interactive cases on their recruiting websites that mirror all elements of a real case interview. Go through them, practice every step like you would in a real interview, e.g., communicate with yourself, and verbalize your structured thoughts. Then click through the multiple-choice questions to solve the case.

Convert articles into case prompts

Open a magazine like the Economist, find a headline and turn it into a case prompt. This way you can practice the most crucial habits needed in a case interview such as problem structuring, creative thinking, and communication. Using the headline as a case prompt, think about clarification questions you would ask, then draft your initial structure on how you would approach the analysis (going both broad and deep, basically displaying maximum creativity), and communicate it out loud in the same way as you would do with an interviewer. Use a hypothesis-driven approach when drafting your structure.

Practice reading and presenting charts

Similarly to above, use the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, or any other suitable medium to scout for charts. Analyze them and present your findings top-down including a ‘so-what’. What have you learned from the chart and what does it mean in the context of the article? Check out our article on case interview exhibit interpretation here.

Practice simple math

In the articles you scouted, find some numbers that relate to each other. Use them to come up with your own pen and paper calculations. Lead the imaginary interviewer through the calculations as you would do in a real interview. Check out our article on case interview math here.

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 mimick the McKinsey, BCG, and Bain case interview math for you here: the Case Interview Math Mastery.

Take an interviewer’s hat

Reverse point 4 and use the article headline from an interviewer’s perspective. Think about what questions the case interviewer would ask and draft a list of questions. This helps with developing intuition in what directions case interviews can go.

Bonus tip: Whenever you talk, record yourself and listen to it afterward to spot minor (e.g., filler words) and major issues (e.g., lack of top-down communication) in your presentation.

First, get the case interview habits right

Before venturing out on your own, it is important to get the right case habits down and make them second nature. Once you have established a solid foundation and understand how to approach each stage and challenge of a case regardless of industry, type of case, or framework, your individual case preparation will be much more effective. We offer 1-on-1 case practice as former McKinsey interviewers and experienced case coaches.

In our approach, we teach you the right habits and tools to tackle every potential challenge and solve any case with an outstanding performance. If you are interested, check it out below or reach out to us via the contact form. We are happy to tailor the case training to your needs.

Also, check out our 40-part video series, covering all aspects of the McKinsey interviews.


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