• Case Interview: A comprehensive guide
  • Pyramid Principle
  • Hypothesis driven structure
  • Fit Interview
  • Consulting math
  • The key to landing your consulting job
  • What is a case interview?
  • What do I need to learn to solve cases?
  • How do I practice for case interviews?
  • Fit interviews
  • Interview day - what to expect, with tips
  • How we can help

1. The key to landing your consulting job.

Case interviews - where you are asked to solve a business case study under scrutiny - are the core of the selection process right across McKinsey, Bain and BCG (the “MBB” firms). This interview format is also used pretty much universally across other high-end consultancies; including LEK, Kearney, Oliver Wyman and the consulting wings of the “Big Four”.

If you want to land a job at any of these firms, you will have to ace multiple case interviews.

It is increasingly likely that you will also have to solve online cases given by chatbots etc. You might need to pass these before making it to interview or be asked to sit them alongside first round interviews.

Importantly, case studies aren’t something you can just wing . Firms explicitly expect you to have thoroughly prepared and many of your competitors on interview day will have been prepping for months.

Don’t worry though - MCC is here to help!

This article will take you through a full overview of everything you’ll need to know to do well, linking to more detailed articles and resources at each stage to let you really drill down into the details.

As well as traditional case interviews, we’ll also attend to the new formats in which cases are being delivered and otherwise make sure you’re up to speed with recent trends in this overall part of consulting recruitment.

Before we can figure out how to prepare for a case interview, though, we will first have to properly understand in detail what exactly you are up against. What format does a standard consulting case interview take? What is expected of you? How will you be assessed?

Let's dive right in and find out!

Professional help

Before going further, if this sounds like a lot to get your head around on your own, don't worry - help is available!

Our Case Academy course gives you everything you need to know to crack cases like a pro:

Case Academy Course

To put what you learn into practice (and secure some savings in the process) you can add mock interview coaching sessions with expereinced MBB consultants:

Coaching options

And, if you just want an experienced consultant to take charge of the whole selection process for you, you can check out our comprehensive mentoring programmes:

Explore mentoring

Now, back to the article!

2. What is a case interview?

Before we can hope to tackle a case interview, we have to understand what one is.

In short, a case interview simulates real consulting work by having you solve a business case study in conversation with your interviewer.

This case study will be a business problem where you have to advise a client - that is, an imaginary business or similar organisation in need of guidance.

You must help this client solve a problem and/or make a decision. This requires you to analyse the information you are given about that client organisation and figure out a final recommendation for what they should do next.

Business problems in general obviously vary in difficulty. Some are quite straightforward and can be addressed with fairly standard solutions. However, consulting firms exist precisely to solve the tough issues that businesses have failed to deal with internally - and so consultants will typically work on complex, idiosyncratic problems requiring novel solutions.

Some examples of case study questions might be:

  • How much would you pay for a banking licence in Ghana?
  • Estimate the potential value of the electric vehicle market in Germany
  • How much gas storage capacity should a UK domestic energy supplier build?

Consulting firms need the brightest minds they can find to put to work on these important, difficult projects. You can expect the case studies you have to solve in interview, then, to echo the unique, complicated problems consultancies deal with every day. As we’ll explain here, this means that you need to be ready to think outside the box to figure out genuinely novel solutions.

2.1. What skills do case interviews assess?

Reliably impressing your interviewers means knowing what they are looking for. This means understanding the skills you are being assessed against in some detail.

Overall, it’s important always to remember that, with case studies, there are no strict right or wrong answers. What really matters is how you think problems through, how confident you are with your conclusions and how quick you are with the back of the envelope arithmetic.

The objective of this kind of interview isn’t to get to one particular solution, but to assess your skillset. This is even true of modern online cases, where sophisticated AI algorithms score how you work as well as the solutions you generate.

If you visit McKinsey , Bain and BCG web pages on case interviews, you will find that the three firms look for very similar traits, and the same will be true of other top consultancies.

Broadly speaking, your interviewer will be evaluating you across five key areas:

2.1.1.One: Probing mind

Showing intellectual curiosity by asking relevant and insightful questions that demonstrate critical thinking and a proactive nature. For instance, if we are told that revenues for a leading supermarket chain have been declining over the last ten years, a successful candidate would ask:

“ We know revenues have declined. This could be due to price or volume. Do we know how they changed over the same period? ”

This is as opposed to a laundry list of questions like:

  • Did customers change their preferences?
  • Which segment has shown the decline in volume?
  • Is there a price war in the industry?

2.1.2. Two: Structure

Structure in this context means structuring a problem. This, in turn, means creating a framework - that is, a series of clear, sequential steps in order to get to a solution.

As with the case interview in general, the focus with case study structures isn’t on reaching a solution, but on how you get there.

This is the trickiest part of the case interview and the single most common reason candidates fail.

We discuss how to properly structure a case in more detail in section three. In terms of what your interviewer is looking for at high level, though, key pieces of your structure should be:

  • Proper understanding of the objective of the case - Ask yourself: "What is the single crucial piece of advice that the client absolutely needs?"
  • Identification of the drivers - Ask yourself: "What are the key forces that play a role in defining the outcome?"

Our Problem Driven Structure method, discussed in section three, bakes this approach in at a fundamental level. This is as opposed to the framework-based approach you will find in older case-solving

Focus on going through memorised sequences of steps too-often means failing to develop a full understanding of the case and the real key drivers.

At this link, we run through a case to illustrate the difference between a standard framework-based approach and our Problem Driven Structure method.

2.1.3. Three: Problem Solving

You’ll be tested on your ability to identify problems and drivers, isolate causes and effects, demonstrate creativity and prioritise issues. In particular, the interviewer will look for the following skills:

  • Prioritisation - Can you distinguish relevant and irrelevant facts?
  • Connecting the dots - Can you connect new facts and evidence to the big picture?
  • Establishing conclusions - Can you establish correct conclusions without rushing to inferences not supported by evidence?

2.1.4. Four: Numerical Agility

In case interviews, you are expected to be quick and confident with both precise and approximated numbers. This translates to:

  • Performing simple calculations quickly - Essential to solve cases quickly and impress clients with quick estimates and preliminary conclusions.
  • Analysing data - Extract data from graphs and charts, elaborate and draw insightful conclusions.
  • Solving business problems - Translate a real world case to a mathematical problem and solve it.

Our article on consulting math is a great resource here, though the extensive math content in our MCC Academy is the best and most comprehensive material available.

2.1.5. Five: Communication

Real consulting work isn’t just about the raw analysis to come up with a recommendation - this then needs to be sold to the client as the right course of action.

Similarly, in a case interview, you must be able to turn your answer into a compelling recommendation. This is just as essential to impressing your interviewer as your structure and analysis.

Consultants already comment on how difficult it is to find candidates with the right communication skills. Add to this the current direction of travel, where AI will be able to automate more and more of the routine analytic side of consulting, and communication becomes a bigger and bigger part of what consultants are being paid for.

So, how do you make sure that your recommendations are relevant, smart, and engaging? The answer is to master what is known as CEO-level communication .

This art of speaking like a CEO can be quite challenging, as it often involves presenting information in effectively the opposite way to how you might normally.

To get it right, there are three key areas to focus on in your communications:

  • Top down : A CEO wants to hear the key message first. They will only ask for more details if they think that will actually be useful. Always consider what is absolutely critical for the CEO to know, and start with that. You can read more in our article on the Pyramid Principle .
  • Concise : This is not the time for "boiling the ocean" or listing an endless number possible solutions. CEOs, and thus consultants, want a structured, quick and concise recommendation for their business problem, that they can implement immediately.
  • Fact-based : Consultants share CEOs' hatred of opinions based on gut feel rather than facts. They want recommendations based on facts to make sure they are actually in control. Always go on to back up your conclusions with the relevant facts.

For more detail on all this, check out our full article on delivering recommendations .

Prep the right way

2.2. where are case interviews in the consulting selection process.

Not everyone who applies to a consulting firm will have a case interview - far from it!

In fact, case interviews are pretty expensive and inconvenient for firms to host, requiring them to take consultants off active projects and even fly them back to the office from location for in-person interviews. Ideally, firms want to cut costs and save time by narrowing down the candidate pool as much as possible before any live interviews.

As such, there are some hoops to jump through before you make it to interview rounds.

Firms will typically eliminate as much as 80% of the applicant pool before interviews start. For most firms, 50%+ of applicants might be cut based on resumes, before a similar cut is made on those remaining based on aptitude tests. McKinsey currently gives their Solve assessment to most applicants, but will use their resulting test scores alongside resumes to cut 70%+ of the candidate pool before interviews.

You'll need to be on top of your game to get as far as an interview with a top firm. Getting through the resume screen and any aptitude tests is an achievement in itself!

For readers not yet embroiled in the selection process themselves, let’s put case interviews in context and take a quick look at each stage in turn. Importantly, note that you might also be asked to solve case studies outside interviews as well…

2.2.1. Application screen

It’s sometimes easy to forget that such a large cut is made at the application stage. At larger firms, this will mean your resume and cover letter is looked at by some combination of AI tools, recruitment staff and junior consulting staff (often someone from your own university).

Only the best applications will be passed to later stages, so make sure to check out our free resume and cover letter guides, and potentially get help with editing , to give yourself the best chance possible.

2.2.2. Aptitude tests and online cases

This part of the selection process has been changing quickly in recent years and is increasingly beginning to blur into the traditionally separate case interview rounds.

In the past, GMAT or PST style tests were the norm. Firms then used increasingly sophisticated and often gamified aptitude tests, like the Pymetrics test currently used by several firms, including BCG and Bain, and the original version of McKinsey’s Solve assessment (then branded as the Problem Solving Game).

Now, though, there is a move towards delivering relatively sophisticated case studies online. For example, McKinsey has replaced half the old Solve assessment with an online case. BCG’s Casey chatbot case now directly replaces a live first round case interview, and in the new era of AI chatbots, we expect these online cases to quickly become more realistic and increasingly start to relieve firms of some of the costs of live interviews.

Our consultants collectively reckon that, over time, 50% of case interviews are likely to be replaced with these kinds of cases. We give some specific advice for online cases in section four. However, the important thing to note is that these are still just simulations of traditional case interviews - you still need to learn how to solve cases in precisely the same way, and your prep will largely remain the same.

2.2.3. Rounds of Interviews

Now, let’s not go overboard with talk of AI. Even in the long term, the client facing nature of consulting means that firms will have live case interviews for as long as they are hiring anyone. And in the immediate term, case interviews are still absolutely the core of consulting selection.

Before landing an offer at McKinsey, Bain, BCG or any similar firm, you won’t just have one case interview, but will have to complete four to six case interviews, usually divided into two rounds, with each interview lasting approximately 50-60 minutes .

Being invited to first round usually means two or three case interviews. As noted above, you might also be asked to complete an online case or similar alongside your first round interviews.

If you ace first round, you will be invited to second round to face the same again, but more gruelling. Only then - after up to six case interviews in total, can you hope to receive an offer.

2.3. Typical case interview format

Before we dive in to the nuts and bolts of case cracking, we should give you a bit more detail on what exactly you’ll be up against on interview day.

Case interviews come in very similar formats across the various consultancies where they are used.

The standard case interview can be thought of as splitting into two standalone sub-interviews. Thus “case interviews” can be divided into the case study itself and a “fit interview” section, where culture fit questions are asked.

This can lead to a bit of confusion, as the actual case interview component might take up as little as half of your scheduled “case interview”. You need to make sure you are ready for both aspects.

To illustrate, here is the typical case interview timeline:

  • First 15-30 minutes: Fit Interview - with questions assessing your motivation to be a consultant in that specific firm and your traits around leadership and teamwork. Learn more about the fit interview in our in-depth article here .
  • Next 30-40 minutes: Case Interview - solving a case study
  • Last 5 minutes: Fit Interview again - this time focussing on your questions for your interviewer.

Both the Case and Fit interviews play crucial roles in the finial hiring decision. There is no “average” taken between case and fit interviews: if your performance is not up to scratch in either of the two, you will not be able to move on to the next interview round or get an offer.

NB: No case without fit

Note that, even if you have only been told you are having a case interview or otherwise are just doing a case study, always be prepared to answer fit questions. At most firms, it is standard practice to include some fit questions in all case interviews, even if there are also separate explicit fit interviews, and interviewers will almost invariably include some of these questions around your case. This is perfectly natural - imagine how odd and artificial it would be to show up to an interview, simply do a case and leave again, without talking about anything else with the interviewer before or after.

2.4. Differences between first and second round interviews

Despite interviews in the first and second round following the same format, second/final round interviews will be significantly more intense. The seniority of the interviewer, time pressure (with up to three interviews back-to-back), and the sheer value of the job at stake will likely make a second round consulting case interview one of the most challenging moments of your professional life.

There are three key differences between the two rounds:

  • Time Pressure : Final round case interviews test your ability to perform under pressure, with as many as three interviews in a row and often only very small breaks between them.
  • Focus : Since second round interviewers tend to be more senior (usually partners with 12+ years experience) and will be more interested in your personality and ability to handle challenges independently. Some partners will drill down into your experiences and achievements to the extreme. They want to understand how you react to challenges and your ability to identify and learn from past mistakes.
  • Psychological Pressure: While case interviews in the first round are usually more focused on you simply cracking the case, second round interviewers often employ a "bad cop" strategy to test the way you react to challenges and uncertainty.

2.5. Differences between firms

For the most part, a case interview is a case interview. However, firms will have some differences in the particular ways they like to do things in terms of both the case study and the fit component.

As we’ll see, these differences aren’t hugely impactful in terms of how you prepare. That said, it's always good to know as much as possible about what you will be going up against.

2.5.1. Candidate led vs interviewer led case formats

Most consulting case interview questions test your ability to crack a broad problem, with a case prompt often going something like:

" How much would you pay to secure the rights to run a restaurant in the British Museum? "

You, as a candidate, are then expected to identify your path to solve the case (that is, provide a structure), leveraging your interviewer to collect the data and test your assumptions.

This is known as a “candidate-led” case interview and is used by Bain, BCG and other firms.

However, a McKinsey case interview - especially in the first round - is slightly different, with the interviewer controlling the pace and direction of the conversation much more than with other case interviews.

At McKinsey, your interviewer will ask you a set of pre-determined questions, regardless of your initial structure. For each question, you will have to understand the problem, come up with a mini structure, ask for additional data (if necessary) and come to the conclusion that answers the question.

McKinsey’s cases are thus referred to as “interviewer-led”. This more structured format of case also shows up in online cases by other firms - notably including BCG’s Casey chatbot (with the amusing result that practising McKinsey-style cases can be a great addition when prepping for BCG).

Essentially, these interviewer-led case studies are large cases made up of lots of mini-cases. You still use basically the same method as you would for standard (or candidate-led) cases - the main difference is simply that, instead of using that method to solve one big case, you are solving several mini-cases sequentially.

2.5.2. The McKinsey PEI

McKinsey brands its fit aspect of interviews as the Personal Experience Interview or PEI. Despite the different name, this is really much the same interview you will be going up against in Bain, BCG and any similar firms.

McKinsey does have a reputation for pushing candidates a little harder with fit or PEI questions, focusing on one story per interview and drilling down further into the specific details each time. We discuss this tendency more in our fit interview article. However, no top end firm is going to go easy on you and you should absolutely be ready for the same level of grilling at Bain, BCG and others. Thus any difference isn’t hugely salient in terms of prep.

2.6. How are things changing in 2023?

For the foreseeable future, you are going to have to go through multiple live case interviews to secure any decent consulting job. These might increasingly happen via Zoom rather than in person, but they should remain largely the same otherwise.

However, things are changing and the rise of AI in recent months seems pretty much guaranteed to accelerate existing trends.

Even before the explosive development of AI chatbots like ChatGPT we have seen in recent months, automation was already starting to change the recruitment process.

As we mentioned, case interviews are expensive and inconvenient for firms to run. Ideally, then, firms will try to reduce the number of interviews required for recruitment as far as possible. For many years, tests of various kinds served to cut down the applicant pool and thus the number of interviews. However, these tests had a limited capacity to assess candidates against the full consulting skillset in the way that case interviews do so well.

More recently, though, the development of online testing has allowed for more and more advanced assessments. Top consulting firms have been leveraging screening tests that better and better capture the same skillset as case interviews. Eventually this is converging on automated case studies. We see this very clearly with the addition of the Redrock case to McKinsey’s Solve assessment.

As these digital cases become closer to the real thing, the line between test and interview blurs. Online cases don’t just reduce the number of candidates to interview, but start directly replacing interviews.

Case in point here is BCG’s Casey chatbot . Previously, BCG had deployed less advanced online cases and similar tests to weed out some candidates before live case interviews began. Now, though, Casey actually replaces one first round case interview.

Casey, at time of writing, is still a relatively “dumb” chatbot, basically running through a pre-set script. The Whatsapp-like interface does a lot of work to make it feel like one is chatting to a “real person” - the chatbot itself, though, cannot provide feedback or nudges to candidates as would a human interviewer.

We fully expect that, as soon as BCG and other firms can train a truer AI, these online cases will become more widespread and start replacing more live interviews.

We discuss the likely impacts of advanced AI on consulting recruitment and the industry more broadly in our blog.

Here, though, the real message is that you should expect to run into digital cases as well as traditional case interviews.

Luckily, despite any changes in specific format, you will still need to master the same fundamental skills and prepare in much the same way.

We’ll cover a few ways to help prepare for chatbot cases in section four. Ultimately, though, firms are looking for the same problem solving ability and mindset as a real interviewer. Especially as chatbots get better at mimicking a real interviewer, candidates who are well prepared for case cracking in general should have no problem with AI administered cases.

2.6.1. Automated fit interviews

Analogous to online cases, in recent years there has been a trend towards automated, “one way” fit interviews, with these typically being administered for consultancies by specialist contractors like HireVue or SparkHire.

These are kind of like Zoom interviews, but if the interviewer didn’t show up. Instead you will be given fit questions to answer and must record your answer in your computer webcam. Your response will then go on to be assessed by an algorithm, scoring both what you say and how you say it.

Again, with advances in AI, it is easy to imagine these automated interviews going from fully scripted interactions, where all candidates are asked the same list of questions, to a more interactive experience. Thus, we might soon arrive at a point where you are being grilled on the details of your stories - McKinsey PEI style - but by a bot rather than a human.

We include some tips on this kind of “one way” fit interview in section six here.

3. What do I need to learn to solve cases?

If you’re new to case cracking. You might feel a bit hopeless when you see a difficult case question, not having any idea where to start.

In fact though, cracking cases is much like playing chess. The rules you need to know to get started are actually pretty simple. What will make you really proficient is time and practice.

In this section, we’ll run through a high level overview of everything you need to know, linking to more detailed resources at every step.

3.1. Business fundamentals

Obviously, you are going to need to be familiar with basic business concepts in order to understand the case studies you are given in the first instance.

If you are coming from a business undergrad, an MBA or are an experienced hire, you might well have this covered already.

However, many consultants will be entering from engineering or similar backgrounds and the major consulting firms are hiring more and more PhDs and non-MBA master's graduates from all subjects. These individuals will need to get up to speed on business fundamentals.

Luckily, you don’t need a degree-level understanding of business to crack interview cases, and a lot of the information you will pick up by osmosis as you read through articles like this and go through cases.

However, some things you will just need to sit down and learn. We cover everything you need to know in some detail in our Case Academy course. However, some examples here of things you need to learn are:

  • Basic accounting (particularly how to understand all the elements of a balance sheet)
  • Basic economics
  • Basic marketing
  • Basic strategy

Note, though, that learning the very basics of business is the beginning rather than the end of your journey.

Once you are able to “speak business” at a rudimentary level, you should try to “become fluent” and immerse yourself in reading/viewing/listening to as wide a variety of business material as possible, getting a feel for all kinds of companies and industries - and especially the kinds of problems that can come up in each context and how they are solved.

The material put out by the consulting firms themselves is a great place to start, but you should also follow the business news and find out about different companies and sectors as much as possible between now and interviews. Remember, if you’re going to be a consultant, this should be fun rather than a chore!

3.2. How to solve cases like a real consultant

This is the really important bit.

If you look around online for material on how to solve case studies, a lot of what you find will set out framework-based approaches. However, as we have mentioned, these frameworks tend to break down with more complex, unique cases - with these being exactly the kind of tough case studies you can expect to be given in your interviews.

To address this problem, the MyConsultingCoach team has developed a new, proprietary approach to case cracking that replicates how top management consultants approach actual engagements.

MyConsultingCoach’s Problem Driven Structure approach is a universal problem solving method that can be applied to any business problem , irrespective of its nature.

As opposed to just selecting a generic framework for each case, the Problem Driven Structure approach works by generating a bespoke structure for each individual question and is a simplified version of the roadmap McKinsey consultants use when working on engagements.

The canonical seven steps from McKinsey on real projects are simplified to four for case interview questions, as the analysis required for a six-month engagement is somewhat less than that needed for a 45-minute case study. However, the underlying flow is the same.

This video has more information on how frameworks can be unreliable and how we address this problem:

Otherwise, let's zoom in to see how our method actually works in more detail:

3.2.1. Identify the problem

Identifying the problem means properly understanding the prompt/question you are given, so you get to the actual point of the case.

This might sound simple, but cases are often very tricky, and many candidates irretrievably mess things up within the first few minutes of starting. Often, they won’t notice this has happened until they are getting to the end of their analysis. Then, they suddenly realise that they have misunderstood the case prompt - and have effectively been answering the wrong question all along!

With no time to go back and start again, there is nothing to do. Even if there were time, making such a silly mistake early on will make a terrible impression on their interviewer, who might well have written them off already. The interview is scuppered and all the candidate’s preparation has been for nothing.

This error is so galling as it is so readily avoidable.

Our method prevents this problem by placing huge emphasis on a full understanding of the case prompt. This lays the foundations for success as, once we have identified the fundamental, underlying problem our client is facing, we focus our whole analysis around finding solutions to this specific issue.

Now, some case interview prompts are easy to digest. For example, “Our client, a supermarket, has seen a decline in profits. How can we bring them up?”. However, many of the prompts given in interviews for top firms are much more difficult and might refer to unfamiliar business areas or industries. For example, “How much would you pay for a banking license in Ghana?” or “What would be your key areas of concern be when setting up an NGO?”

Don’t worry if you have no idea how you might go about tackling some of these prompts!

In our article on identifying the problem and in our full lesson on the subject in our MCC Academy course, we teach a systematic, four step approach to identifying the problem , as well as running through common errors to ensure you start off on the right foot every time!

This is summarised here:

Four Steps to Identify the Problem

Following this method lets you excel where your competitors mess up and get off to a great start in impressing your interviewer!

3.2.2. Build your problem driven structure

After you have properly understood the problem, the next step is to successfully crack a case is to draw up a bespoke structure that captures all the unique features of the case.

This is what will guide your analysis through the rest of the case study and is precisely the same method used by real consultants working on real engagements.

Of course, it might be easier here to simply roll out one an old-fashioned framework, and a lot of candidates will do so. This is likely to be faster at this stage and requires a lot less thought than our problem-driven structure approach.

However, whilst our problem driven structure approach requires more work from you, our method has the advantage of actually working in the kind of complex case studies where generic frameworks fail - that is exactly the kind of cases you can expect at an MBB interview .

Since we effectively start from first principles every time, we can tackle any case with the same overarching method. Simple or complex, every case is the same to you and you don’t have to gamble a job on whether a framework will actually work

In practice, structuring a problem with our method means drawing up either an issue tree or an hypothesis tree , depending on how you are trying to address the problem.

These trees break down the overall problem into a set of smaller problems that you can then solve individually. Representing this on a diagram also makes it easy for both you and your interviewer to keep track of your analysis.

To see how this is done, let’s look at the issue tree below breaking down the revenues of an airline:

Frame the Airline Case Study

These revenues can be segmented as the number of customers multiplied by the average ticket price. The number of customers can be further broken down into a number of flights multiplied by the number of seats, times average occupancy rate. The node corresponding to the average ticket price can then be segmented further.

It is worth noting that the same problem can be structured in multiple valid ways by choosing different means to segment the key issues.

That said, not all valid structures are equally useful in solving the underlying problem. A good structure fulfils several requirements - including MECE-ness , level consistency, materiality, simplicity, and actionability. It’s important to put in the time to master segmentation, so you can choose a scheme isn’t only valid, but actually useful in addressing the problem.

After taking the effort to identify the problem properly, an advantage of our method is that it will help ensure you stay focused on that same fundamental problem throughout. This might not sound like much, but many candidates end up getting lost in their own analysis, veering off on huge tangents and returning with an answer to a question they weren’t asked.

Another frequent issue - particularly with certain frameworks - is that candidates finish their analysis and, even if they have successfully stuck to the initial question, they have not actually reached a definite solution. Instead, they might simply have generated a laundry list of pros and cons, with no clear single recommendation for action.

Clients employ consultants for actionable answers, and this is what is expected in the case interview. The problem driven structure excels in ensuring that everything you do is clearly related back to the key question in a way that will generate a definitive answer. Thus, the problem driven structure builds in the hypothesis driven approach so characteristic of real consulting practice.

You can learn how to set out your own problem driven structures in our article here and in our full lesson in the MCC Academy course.

Join thousands of other candidates cracking cases like pros

3.2.3. lead the analysis.

A problem driven structure might ensure we reach a proper solution eventually, but how do we actually get there?

We call this step " leading the analysis ", and it is the process whereby you systematically navigate through your structure, identifying the key factors driving the issue you are addressing.

Generally, this will mean continuing to grow your tree diagram, further segmenting what you identify as the most salient end nodes and thus drilling down into the most crucial factors causing the client’s central problem.

Once you have gotten right down into the detail of what is actually causing the company’s issues, solutions can then be generated quite straightforwardly.

To see this process in action, we can return to our airline revenue example:

Lead the analysis for the Airline Case Study

Let’s say we discover the average ticket price to be a key issue in the airline’s problems. Looking closer at the drivers of average ticket price, we find that the problem lies with economy class ticket prices. We can then further segment that price into the base fare and additional items such as food.

Having broken down the issue to such a fine-grained level, solutions occur quite naturally. In this case, we can suggest incentivising the crew to increase onboard sales, improving assortment in the plane, or offering discounts for online purchases.

Our article on leading the analysis is a great primer on the subject, with our video lesson in the MCC Academy providing the most comprehensive guide available.

3.2.4. Provide recommendations

So you have a solution - but you aren’t finished yet!

Now, you need to deliver your solution as a final recommendation.

This should be done as if you are briefing a busy CEO and thus should be a one minute, top-down, concise, structured, clear, and fact-based account of your findings.

The brevity of the final recommendation belies its importance. In real life consulting, the recommendation is what the client has potentially paid millions for - from their point of view, it is the only thing that matters.

In an interview, your performance in this final summing up of your case is going to significantly colour your interviewer’s parting impression of you - and thus your chances of getting hired!

So, how do we do it right?

Barbara Minto's Pyramid Principle elegantly sums up almost everything required for a perfect recommendation. The answer comes first , as this is what is most important. This is then supported by a few key arguments , which are in turn buttressed by supporting facts .

Across the whole recommendation, the goal isn’t to just summarise what you have done. Instead, you are aiming to synthesize your findings to extract the key "so what?" insight that is useful to the client going forward.

All this might seem like common sense, but it is actually the opposite of how we relay results in academia and other fields. There, we typically move from data, through arguments and eventually to conclusions. As such, making good recommendations is a skill that takes practice to master.

We can see the Pyramid Principle illustrated in the diagram below:

The Pyramid principle often used in consulting

To supplement the basic Pyramid Principle scheme, we suggest candidates add a few brief remarks on potential risks and suggested next steps . This helps demonstrate the ability for critical self-reflection and lets your interviewer see you going the extra mile.

The combination of logical rigour and communication skills that is so definitive of consulting is particularly on display in the final recommendation.

Despite it only lasting 60 seconds, you will need to leverage a full set of key consulting skills to deliver a really excellent recommendation and leave your interviewer with a good final impression of your case solving abilities.

Our specific article on final recommendations and the specific video lesson on the same topic within our MCC Academy are great, comprehensive resources. Beyond those, our lesson on consulting thinking and our articles on MECE and the Pyramid Principle are also very useful.

3.3. Common case types and the building blocks to solve them

You should tackle each new case on its own merits. However, that’s not to say there aren’t recurring themes that come up fairly reliably in cases - there absolutely are. Business is business and case studies will often feature issues like profitability, competition etc.

Old fashioned framework approaches would have you simply select a defined framework for each kind of case and, in effect, just run the algorithm and wait for a solution to fall out.

We’ve already explained how frameworks can let you down. In this context, too many candidates will fall into the trap of selecting a framework for that case type that simply won’t work for their specific case.

The counterpoint in favour of frameworks, though, is that they are at least fast and prevent you having to start from the ground up with a common kind of case.

Ideally, you should have the best of both worlds - and this is why, in our articles on this site and in our MCC Academy course, we have developed a set of “building bocks” for common case themes.

As they name suggests, building blocks give you modular components for different kinds of case to help build out your own custom structures faster. These then allow you to leverage the symmetries between cases without inheriting the inflexibility of frameworks.

Let’s take a look at five different case types and get a brief idea of how our building block approach helps you with each. You can find more detail on each in the full length articles linked, as well as in the full-length video lessons in our MCC Academy course.

3.3.1. Estimation

Consultants need to push forward to provide definitive recommendations to clients in a timely manner despite typically not having access to full information on a problem. Estimation of important quantities is therefore at the heart of real life consulting work.

Estimation is thus just as fundamental to case cracking.

A case interview might centre on an estimation question, and this might be quite common for a first round interview. However, estimation is also very likely to be a crucial part of pretty well any other kind of case question you receive is likely to include estimation as a crucial component of your analysis.

The kinds of estimation you might be asked to make in a case interview can be very daunting:

  • How many bank branches are there in Italy?
  • How many cars are sold in Berlin in one year?
  • How many people will buy the latest high-tech smartphone on the market?

You might have no idea where to begin with these examples. However, tempting as it might be, your answer cannot ever be a simple guess .

A decent estimation does have a guessed element - though this should really be an educated guess based on some pre-existing knowledge. However, this guessed element is always then combined with a rigorous quantitative method to arrive at a reasonable estimation.

In context of a case interview, it’s important to realise that your interviewer doesn’t really care about the right answer (they don’t need to ask you to find out, after all). What’s important is showing the rational process by which you get to your answer.

A guess that was somehow exactly correct is no good compared to a “wrong” answer that was reached by a very sensible, intelligent process of estimation. In cases, this method will often be a matter of segmentation.

So, where would we start in working out how many cars are sold in Berlin, for example?

The key to estimation case questions is the ability to logically break down the problem into more manageable pieces. In consulting case studies, this will generally mean segmenting a wider population to find a particular target group. For example, starting from the total population of Berlin and narrowing down to the cohort of individuals who will buy a car that year.

There are usually many ways to segment the same starting population, and several different segmentation schemes might be equally valid. However, it is crucial to choose the specific method best suited to the goal in answering the question and allowing you to best leverage the data you have available.

Segmentation must be allied with assumptions in order to arrive at an estimation. These assumptions are the “guessed” element of estimations we mentioned above. Assumptions cannot just be plucked from thin air, but must always be reasonable .

The example below showcases both the segmentation and assumptions made in an estimation of the size of the wedding planning market in London:

Estimation Example Structure

Our articles on estimation and the MECE concept are great starting points in getting to grips with consulting estimation. However, the best place to learn how to make estimations is with the dedicated building block video lesson in our MCC Academy course.

Those of you from physics or engineering backgrounds will probably see a lot in common with Fermi questions . We have plenty of estimation cases for you to work through in our free case library. However, Fermi questions are a great way of getting a little extra practice and you can find a lifetime’s supply online.

3.3.2. Profitability

The fundamental goal of any normal business is to maximise profits - nobody is getting up and going to work to lose money. Even Silicon Valley tech start-ups are supposed to be profitable some day!

Profitability problems are thus bread and butter issues for management consultants.

Clients often tell consultants broadly the same story. The business was doing in well in recent years, with strong profits. However, some recent turn of events has upset the status quo and led to concerns around profit levels. Consultants are brought in as businesses are often sufficiently complex that it can be difficult to figure out precisely where and why the company is losing money - let alone how to then reverse the situation and restore healthy profits.

Despite steady growth in customer flow, the Walfort supermarket chain has seen falling profits in the past year. What is the reason for this decline?

Understanding profitability ultimately means understanding the various components that determine a company’s profit. You will need to learn to decompose profit first into revenues and costs (profit being the synthesis of these two factors). Crucially, you then need to segment further, distinguishing different specific revenue streams and separating various fixed and variable costs.

To take an example, just examining the revenue side of profit, the incoming revenues for an insurance firm might be broken down as follows:

Insurance Revenues

Improving profitability will inherently mean increasing revenues and/or decreasing costs. To solve profitability problems, we thus have to understand the ways we can minimise different costs, as well as ways to drive sales and/or optimise pricing to increase revenue. Importantly, you must be able to judge which of these options is best suited to address specific scenarios.

The key to tackling the complex kind of profitability questions given by MBB-level consultancies lies in this proper segmentation.

By contrast, old-fashioned case interview frameworks will simply have you look at aggregate cost and revenue data before recommending generic cost-cutting or revenue-driving measures. However, this will often lead to negative outcomes in more involved cases, making matters worse for the client.

For example, it might well be that a company actually makes a loss when it serves a certain cohort of customers. An airline, for instance, might lose money on economy class customers but make a healthy profit on each business class customer. Attempts to boost revenue by increasing sales across the board might actually reduce profit further by increasing the number of economy class customers. What is required is targeted measures to increase focus on business class and/or mitigate economy class losses.

You can start learning to segment these kinds of cases properly in our article on profitability , whilst the best way to really master profitability questions is our full lesson on the subject in the Building Blocks section of our MCC Academy course.

3.3.3. Pricing

For a company to be profitable at all, it is a pre-requisite that it charges the right price for whatever it sells. However, establishing what price to charge for any one product - or indeed a whole suite of related products - can be a highly complex business.

Consultants are often engaged to negotiate the many variables, with all their complex interdependencies, at play in pricing. Correspondingly, then, pricing is a common theme in case interviews.

  • A company launches a new smartphone with a significantly improved camera. How much should they charge?
  • A doughnut chain wants to start selling coffee in their shops. How much should they charge per cup?

Clearly, lot of different factors can influence the answers to these questions, and it can be difficult to know where to start. To get a handle on all this complexity, you will need to take a methodical, structured approach.

To really understand pricing, you must begin from fundamentals like the customer’s willingness to pay, the value captured by the company, and the value created for the customer. These basics are shown in the diagram below:

Pricing Basics

This might seem simple enough, but the exact level at which prices are ultimately set is determined by a whole host of factors, including product availability, market trends, and the need to maintain a competitive position within the market. In particular, if we are changing the price of an existing product, we must consider how the price elasticity of demand might cause sales to fluctuate.

Our four-step method for pricing starts from establishing the customer’s next best alternative, calculating the value added by our own product, and working from there. A summary of this method is given, along with an overview of pricing in general, in our article on the subject . However, the most complete resource is our pricing lesson in the MCC Academy .

3.3.4. Valuation

Valuation is fundamental to any kind of investment. Before allocating capital towards a particular opportunity, an investor must understand precisely what value it holds and how this compares to the other available options.

In short, valuation tells us how much we should be willing to pay to acquire a company or an asset.

There are many ways to value an asset - indeed the finer points are still subject to research in both the academic and private sectors.

Standard ways to assign value include asset-based valuations (notably the Net Asset Value or NAV) and the various multiples so widely used by market traders.

However, in consulting case interviews, you will only usually need to be familiar with Net Present Value (NPV) . This means you need to learn and master the NPV equation:

NPV Equation

CF = Cash Flow r = Discount Rate

Whilst this is a pretty simple equation on the face of it, in order to make proper use of it, you will also need to develop a feel for interest/discount rates appropriate to different cases. This will be essential, as you will often have to estimate rational values for these rates for different investments before plugging those values into the NPV equation. Our Case Academy course has more detail here.

Note, though, that NPV is only really half the story.

NPV provides a kind of “absolute” value for an asset. However, the fact is that the worth of any asset will be different for different buyers , depending largely upon what the buyer already owns. In just the same way a spare clutch for a 1975 Ford will be a lot less valuable to a cyclist than to someone restoring the relevant classic car, so a courier business will be more valuable to an online retailer than to an airline.

As such, what we call the Total Enterprise Value (TEV) of an asset is calculated as a function of that asset’s NPV and of the potential cost and revenue synergies resulting from an acquisition. This is shown in the useful structure below:

TEV

You can learn more about all aspects of valuation in our article here , as well as in our dedicated video lesson in MCC Academy . These include guides to the kind of interest rates typically required to finance different kinds of investment.

3.3.5. Competitive Interactions

Most of what we’ve discussed so far in terms of case themes and our building block approach to them will all depend upon the prevailing competitive landscape our client exists within. Product prices, profit levels and ultimately valuations can all change over time in response to competition.

What is more, the zero sum dynamics of competitive interactions mean that these things can change quickly .

Companies enjoying near monopolies for years or even decades can quickly see their values go to zero, or near enough, in the face of some innovation by a competitor coming onto the market.

Nokia and Kodak thoroughly dominated the mobile phone and photography markets respectively - until new companies with new products pulled the rug out from under them and led to precipitous collapses.

New market entrants or old competitors with new ideas can throw a company’s whole business model up in the air overnight . Complex decisions about profound changes need to be made yesterday. Firms trying to save themselves will often slash prices in attempts to maintain sales - though this can actually make things worse and result in a corporate death-spiral. Consultants are then frequently called in to help companies survive - with this type of engagement carrying over to inform case interview questions.

You are running an airline and a low-cost competitor, like Ryanair, decides to start operating on your routes. You are rapidly losing customers to their lower fares. How do you respond?

Your eventual solutions to competitive interaction problems will likely need to be novel and unique to the situation. However, the process by which we understand competitive interactions and move towards those solutions is usually very methodical, moving through the limited dimensions in which a company can take action.

The following structure neatly encodes the general options open to responding to new sources of competition:

Competitive Interaction Structure

Of course, we would never suggest that you blanket-apply any strict, inflexible methodology to a whole swathe of case questions – this is precisely the approach that causes so much trouble for candidates using old-fashioned frameworks.

This structure is only a starting point - a shortcut to a bespoke framework specific to the case question in hand. You might well have to alter the details of the structure shown and you will almost certainly have to expand it as you lead the analysis . How you build out your structure and the solutions you provide are necessarily going to depend upon the specific details of the case question.

Thus, in order to deal with competitive interactions, you will need to put in the time to understand how the different strategies available function - as well as how competitors might then react to implementing such strategies. With enough practice, though, soon you won’t be fazed by even the most complex cases of competition between firms.

You can learn more in our article here and in our dedicated video lesson on competitive interaction in the MCC Academy case interview course.

3.4. Mental mathematics

Almost every interview case study will feature some mental mathematics and this is an area where many many candidates let themselves down.

As such, it makes sense to out in the time and make sure you are fully proficient.

Nothing beyond high school level is required, but you probably don’t do much mental arithmetic day to day and will likely need to practice quite a lot to get good enough to reliably perform at pace, under pressure.

We give a high-level overview of what you need to know in our consulting math article , but devote a whole section of our MCC Academy course to a deep dive on consulting math, with plenty of practice material to get you up to scratch.

4. How do I practice for case interviews?

As we said above - case interviews are much like chess. The rules are relatively quick to learn, but you need to practice a lot to get good.

If you’re working through our MCC Academy course, we recommend getting through the core Problem Driven Structure section. After that, you should be practising alongside working through the remainder of the course and beyond. However you do things, you need to get up to speed with the fundamentals before practice is going to do much more than confuse you.

Of course, if you’re enrolled in one of our mentoring programmes , your mentor will let you know precisely when and how you should be scheduling practice, as well as tracking your progress throughout.

4.1. Solo Practice

For solitary preparation, one of the best uses of your time is to work on your mental mathematics . This skill is neglected by many applicants - much to their immediate regret in the case interview. Find our mental math tool here or in our course, and practice at least ten minutes per day, from day one until the day before the interview.

Once you've covered our Building Blocks section, you should then start working through the cases in My Consulting Coach's case bank alongside your work on the course. This is a large library of case interview questions and answers in different formats and difficulties.

To build your confidence, start out on easier case questions, work through with the solutions, and don't worry about time. As you get better, you can move on to more difficult cases and try to get through them more quickly. You should practice around eight case studies on your own to build your confidence.

4.2. Peer practice

One you have worked through eight cases solo, you should be ready to simulate the interview more closely and start working with another person.

Here, many candidates turn to peer practice - that is, doing mock case interviews with friends, classmates or others also applying to consulting.

If you’re in university, and especially in business school, there will very likely be a consulting club for you to join and do lots of case practice with. If you don’t have anyone to practice, though, or if you just want to get a bit more volume in with others, our free meeting board lets you find fellow applicants from around the world with whom to practice.

4.3. Professional practice

You can do a lot practising by yourself and with peers. However, nothing will bring up your skills so quickly and profoundly as working with a real consultant.

Perhaps think about it like boxing. You can practice drills and work on punch bags all you want, but at some point you need to get into the ring and do some actual sparring if you ever want to be ready to fight.

Of course, it isn’t possible to secure the time of experienced top-tier consultants for free. However, when considering whether you should invest to boost your chances of success, it is worth considering the difference in your salary over even a just few years between getting into a top-tier firm versus a second-tier one. In the light of thousands in increased annual earnings (easily accumulating into millions over multiple years), it becomes clear that getting expert interview help really is one of the best investments you can make in your own future.

Should you decide to make this step, MyConsultingCoach can help, offering the highest quality case interview coaching service available . Each MCC case coach is selected as an MBB consultant with two or more years of experience and strong coaching expertise.

Case interview coaching is hugely beneficial in itself. However, for those who want to genuinely maximise their chances of securing a job offer - and especially for time-poor, busy professionals or hard-pressed students who want to take the guesswork and wasted time out of their case interview prep - we also offer a much more comprehensive service .

With one of our bespoke mentoring programmes , you are paired with a 5+ year experienced, ex-MBB mentor of your choosing, who will then oversee your whole case interview preparation from start to finish - giving you your best possible chance of landing a job!

4.4. Practice for online cases

Standard preparation for interview case studies will carry directly over to online cases.

However, if you want to do some more specific prep, you can work through cases solo to a timer and using a calculator and/or Excel (online cases generally allow calculators and second computers to help you, whilst these are banned in live case interviews).

Older PST-style questions also make great prep, but a particularly good simulation is the self-assessment tests included in our Case Academy course . These multiple choice business questions conducted with a strict time limit are great preparation for the current crop of online cases.

5. Fit interviews

As we’ve noted, even something billed as a case interview is very likely to contain a fit interview as a subset.

We have an article on fit interviews and also include a full set of lessons on how to answer fit questions properly as a subset of our comprehensive Case Academy course .

Here though, the important thing to convey is that you take preparing for fit questions every bit as seriously as you do case prep.

Since they sound the same as you might encounter when interviewing for other industries, the temptation is to regard these as “just normal interview questions”.

However, consulting firms take your answers to these questions a good deal more seriously than elsewhere.

This isn’t just for fluffy “corporate culture” reasons. The long hours and close teamwork, as well as the client-facing nature of management consulting, mean that your personality and ability to get on with others is going to be a big part of making you a tolerable and effective co-worker.

If you know you’ll have to spend 14+ hour working days with someone you hire and that your annual bonus depends on them not alienating clients, you better believe you’ll pay attention to their character in interview.

There are also hard-nosed financial reasons for the likes of McKinsey, Bain and BCG to drill down so hard on your answers.

In particular, top consultancies have huge issues with staff retention. The average management consultant only stays with these firms for around two years before they have moved on to a new industry.

In some cases, consultants bail out because they can’t keep up with the arduous consulting lifestyle of long hours and endless travel. In many instances, though, departing consultants are lured away by exit opportunities - such as the well trodden paths towards internal strategy roles, private equity or becoming a start-up founder.

Indeed, many individuals will intentionally use a two year stint in consulting as something like an MBA they are getting paid for - giving them accelerated exposure to the business world and letting them pivot into something new.

Consulting firms want to get a decent return on investment for training new recruits. Thus, they want hires who not only intend to stick with consulting longer-term, but also have a temperament that makes this feasible and an overall career trajectory where it just makes sense for them to stay put.

This should hammer home the point that, if you want to get an offer, you need to be fully prepared to answer fit questions - and to do so excellently - any time you have a case interview.

6. Interview day - what to expect, with tips

Of course, all this theory is well and good, but a lot of readers might be concerned about what exactly to expect in real life . It’s perfectly reasonable to want to get as clear a picture as possible here - we all want to know what we are going up against when we face a new challenge!

Indeed, it is important to think about your interview in more holistic terms, rather than just focusing on small aspects of analysis. Getting everything exactly correct is less important than the overall approach you take to reasoning and how you communicate - and candidates often lose sight of this fact.

In this section, then, we’ll run through the case interview experience from start to finish, directing you to resources with more details where appropriate. As a supplement to this, the following video from Bain is excellent. It portrays an abridged version of a case interview, but is very useful as a guide to what to expect - not just from Bain, but from McKinsey, BCG and any other high-level consulting firm.

6.1. Getting started

Though you might be shown through to the office by a staff member, usually your interviewer will come and collect you from a waiting area. Either way, when you first encounter them, you should greet your interviewer with a warm smile and a handshake (unless they do not offer their hand). Be confident without verging into arrogance. You will be asked to take a seat in the interviewer’s office, where the interview can then begin.

6.1.1. First impressions

In reality, your assessment begins before you even sit down at your interviewer’s desk. Whether at a conscious level or not, the impression you make within the first few seconds of meeting your interviewer is likely to significantly inform the final hiring decision (again, whether consciously or not).

Your presentation and how you hold yourself and behave are all important. If this seems strange, consider that, if hired, you will be personally responsible for many clients’ impressions of the firm. These things are part of the job! Much of material on the fit interview is useful here, whilst we also cover first impressions and presentation generally in our article on what to wear to interview .

As we have noted above, your interview might start with a fit segment - that is, with the interviewer asking questions about your experiences, your soft skills, and motivation to want to join consulting generally and that firm in particular. In short, the kinds of things a case study can’t tell them about you. We have a fit interview article and course to get you up to speed here.

6.1.2. Down to business

Following an initial conversation, your interviewer will introduce your case study , providing a prompt for the question you have to answer. You will have a pen and paper in front of you and should (neatly) note down the salient pieces of information (keep this up throughout the interview).

It is crucial here that you don’t delve into analysis or calculations straight away . Case prompts can be tricky and easy to misunderstand, especially when you are under pressure. Rather, ask any questions you need to fully understand the case question and then validate that understanding with the interviewer before you kick off any analysis. Better to eliminate mistakes now than experience that sinking feeling of realising you have gotten the whole thing wrong halfway through your case!

This process is covered in our article on identifying the problem and in greater detail in our Case Academy lesson on that subject.

6.1.3. Analysis

Once you understand the problem, you should take a few seconds to set your thoughts in order and draw up an initial structure for how you want to proceed. You might benefit from utilising one or more of our building blocks here to make a strong start. Present this to your interviewer and get their approval before you get into the nuts and bolts of analysis.

We cover the mechanics of how to structure your problem and lead the analysis in our articles here and here and more thoroughly in the MCC Case Academy . What it is important to convey here, though, is that your case interview is supposed to be a conversation rather than a written exam . Your interviewer takes a role closer to a co-worker than an invigilator and you should be conversing with them throughout.

Indeed, how you communicate with your interviewer and explain your rationale is a crucial element of how you will be assessed. Case questions in general, are not posed to see if you can produce the correct answer, but rather to see how you think . Your interviewer wants to see you approach the case in a structured, rational fashion. The only way they are going to know your thought processes, though, is if you tell them!

To demonstrate this point, here is another excellent video from Bain, where candidates are compared.

Note that multiple different answers to each question are considered acceptable and that Bain is primarily concerned with the thought processes of the candidate’s exhibit .

Another reason why communication is absolutely essential to case interview success is the simple reason that you will not have all the facts you need to complete your analysis at the outset. Rather, you will usually have to ask the interviewer for additional data throughout the case to allow you to proceed .

NB: Don't be let down by your math!

Your ability to quickly and accurately interpret these charts and other figures under pressure is one of the skills that is being assessed. You will also need to make any calculations with the same speed and accuracy (without a calculator!). As such, be sure that you are up to speed on your consulting math .

6.1.4. Recommendation

Finally, you will be asked to present a recommendation. This should be delivered in a brief, top-down "elevator pitch" format , as if you are speaking to a time-pressured CEO. Again here, how you communicate will be just as important as the details of what you say, and you should aim to speak clearly and with confidence.

For more detail on how to give the perfect recommendation, take a look at our articles on the Pyramid Principle and providing recommendations , as well the relevant lesson within MCC Academy .

6.1.5. Wrapping up

After your case is complete, there might be a few more fit questions - including a chance for you to ask some questions of the interviewer . This is your opportunity to make a good parting impression.

We deal with the details in our fit interview resources. However, it is always worth bearing in mind just how many candidates your interviewers are going to see giving similar answers to the same questions in the same office. A pretty obvious pre-requisite to being considered for a job is that your interviewer remembers you in the first place. Whilst you shouldn't do something stupid just to be noticed, asking interesting parting questions is a good way to be remembered.

Now, with the interview wrapped up, it’s time to shake hands, thank the interviewer for their time and leave the room .

You might have other interviews or tests that day or you might be heading home. Either way, if know that you did all you could to prepare, you can leave content in the knowledge that you have the best possible chance of receiving an email with a job offer. This is our mission at MCC - to provide all the resources you need to realise your full potential and land your dream consulting job!

6.2. Remote and one-way interview tips

Zoom case interviews and “one-way” automated fit interviews are becoming more common as selection processes are increasingly remote, with these new formats being accompanied by their own unique challenges.

Obviously you won’t have to worry about lobbies and shaking hands for a video interview. However, a lot remains the same. You still need to do the same prep in terms of getting good at case cracking and expressing your fit answers. The specific considerations around remote interviews are, in effect, around making sure you come across as effectively as you would in person.

6.2.1. Connection

It sounds trivial, but a successful video interview of any kind presupposes a functioning computer with a stable and sufficient internet connection.

Absolutely don’t forget to have your laptop plugged in, as your battery will definitely let you down mid-interview. Similarly, make sure any housemates or family know not to use the microwave, vacuum cleaner or anything else that makes wifi cut out (or makes a lot of noise, obviously)

If you have to connect on a platform you don’t use much (for example, if it’s on Teams and you’re used to Zoom), make sure you have the up to date version of the app in advance, rather than having to wait for an obligatory download and end up late to join. Whilst you’re at it, make sure you’re familiar with the controls etc. At the risk of being made fun of, don’t be afraid to have a practice call with a friend.

6.2.2. Dress

You might get guidance on a slightly more relaxed dress code for a Zoom interview. However, if in doubt, dress as you would for the real thing (see our article here ).

Either way, always remember that presentation is part of what you are being assessed on - the firm needs to know you can be presentable for clients. Taking this stuff seriously also shows respect for your interviewer and their time in interviewing you.

6.2.3. Lighting

An aspect of presentation that you have to devote some thought to for a Zoom interview is your lighting.

Hopefully, you long ago nailed a lighting set-up during the Covid lockdowns. However, make sure to check your lighting in advance with your webcam - bearing in mind what time if day your interview actually is. If your interview is late afternoon, don’t just check in the morning. Make sure you aren’t going to be blinded from light coming in a window behind your screen, or that you end up with the weird shadow stripes from blinds all over your face.

Natural light is always best, but if there won’t be much of that during your interview, you’ll likely want to experiment with moving some lamps around.

6.2.4. Clarity

The actual stories you tell in an automated “one-way” fit interview will be the same as for a live equivalent. If anything, things should be easier, as you can rattle off a practised monologue without an interviewer interrupting you to ask for clarifications.

You can probably also assume that the algorithm assessing your performance is sufficiently capable that it will be observing you at much the same level as a human interviewer. However, it is probably still worth speaking as clearly as possible with these kinds of interviews and paying extra attention to your lighting to ensure that your face is clearly visible.

No doubt the AIs scoring these interviews are improving all the time, but you still want to make their job as easy as possible. Just think about the same things as you would with a live Zoom interview, but more so.

7. How we can help

There are lots of great free resources on this site to get you started with preparation, from all our articles on case solving and consulting skills to our free case library and peer practice meeting board .

To step your preparation up a notch, though, our Case Academy course will give you everything you need to know to solve the most complex of cases - whether those are in live interviews, with chatbots, written tests or any other format.

Whatever kind of case you end up facing, nothing will bring up your skillset faster than the kind of acute, actionable feedback you can get from a mock case interview a real, MBB consultant. Whilst it's possible to get by without this kind of coaching, it does tend to be the biggest single difference maker for successful candidates.

You can find out more on our coaching page:

Explore Coaching

Of course, for those looking for a truly comprehensive programme, with a 5+ year experienced MBB consultant overseeing their entire prep personally, from networking and applications right through to your offer, we have our mentoring programmes.

You can read more here:

Comprehensive Mentoring

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How to Write a Case Study and Increase YOY Revenue by 25%

Illustration Of Case Study Guide

Voices.com saw a 25% increase in year-over-year revenue after publishing its case study.

If you want to replicate its revenue growth in your company, you’re in the right place.

This guide outlines how to write a case study in seven high-level steps, along with three very different real-world case study examples.

How to Write a Case Study in 7 High-Level Steps

A powerful story convinces prospective customers that you’re the real deal. This section outlines the seven core steps of writing an effective case study that attracts your ideal customers on autopilot.

Step 1. Gather marketers and sales in the same room

Too often, we hear stories of marketing and sales playing the blame game—and it’s a shame as alignment between these two opposing departments breaks down silos and unlocks revenue acceleration in the long run.

How To Write A Case Study: Gather Marketers And Sales In The Same Room

Consider the following statistics from LinkedIn :

  • 60% of members believed that marketing-and-sales misalignment could damage financial performance
  • LinkedIn members exposed to a company’s marketing messages on the platform are 25% more likely to respond to a message from said company’s salesperson
  • Sales folks who often share quality content are 45% more likely to exceed their sales quota

CEOs (or other C-suite roles like CROs ) should gather marketing and sales in a room and get them on the same page. Rather than creating a marketing case study on the fly, let the sales team lead you .

Use the following questions to narrow down on the type of content you should create: 

Questions #1-#3 shape the elements of your customer success story, such as the product features, angle, and headline.  

Whereas, questions #4 and #5 identify your most profitable clients (a.k.a. your case study candidate) and the common attributes to focus on to attract more of them. 

Your sales team’s response provides one side of the story. To gain a better understanding of your best customers today, use a tool like Breadcrumbs Reveal .

It analyzes your marketing, sales, and product data and tells you what attributes and actions are the best predictors of revenue. To get started:

  • Connect your data sources with Reveal
  • Define your criteria for success (e.g., enterprise plan)

Breadcrumbs Reveal will return a detailed view of your best customers today. It will also reveal your data health and the data that can be trusted. 

Alt=&Quot;How-To-Write-A-Case-Study-Breadcrumbs-Reveal&Quot;

Use the data provided to pin down the candidates for your client case studies—and update your ideal customer profile (ICP) while you’re at it. 

Illustration Of Breadcrumbs Icp Worksheet

Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) Worksheet

Learn how to create an Ideal Customer Profile and build a successful sales strategy with this Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) Worksheet.

Breadcrumbs Reveal is free for a limited time. Grab your free account to identify the attributes and actions that drive your revenue today.

Step 2. Pick the best candidate 

Not all customers are equal. For example, a company that recently moved upmarket will focus on enterprise clients. 

Now that you’ve identified your best customers today and the customer objections you need to overcome, it’s time to find the right candidate.

Ideally, the right candidate for your before-and-after story ticks these two boxes:

  • Belongs in your best customer segments 
  • Achieves stellar results from your product or service 

GrowSurf, a referral software company, focused on newsletter publishers.

How To Write A Case Study: Pick The Best Candidate

Co-founder Kevin Yun explains his choice with Breadcrumbs, “They were running a great referral program and getting great results. The top five referrers had around 500 referrals collectively.” 

Step 3. Request a case study interview 

Writing case studies involves more than a compelling story, persuasive writing style, and authentic, real-world images that show the collaboration in action.

For all this to happen, you need to convince the client for an interview at the right time . 

There are two options, according to David Ciccarelli, CEO and founder of Voices.com. Either you ask after delivering the work or when you’re starting to see significant results.

He explains to Breadcrumbs, “Asking before you finish the work will get you a quick ‘no.’ However, when you wait until the client has experienced success, you’re far more likely to get a ‘yes.’”

This brings us to the next question: who should ask the client for an interview?  

Our take: the salesperson, as they’ve already established rapport and have the closest contact with the client.

At Voices.com, the account manager invites the customer for an interview. If it’s a yes, the account manager makes a nomination. 

How To Write A Case Study: Request A Case Study Interview 

This process involves filling a form in the CRM , indicating the company name, point of contact, project details, and a link to the deliverables. 

Next, these nominations are handed off to the communications manager, who acts as the case study’s creator and brand steward and determines if there’s a fit. 

If there is, the Voices.com team proceeds with the case study interview .

Run a contest to gain momentum in your case study initiative . At Voices.com, the sales rep who submits the most number of nominations wins a prize. 

Not only do you get the sought-after case study, but you also encourage the sales team to participate in a friendly game, boosting employee engagement by tenfold.

Step 4. Overcome concerns and objections

Sales reps who overcome objections enjoy a close rate as high as 64% —all the more reason you shouldn’t let the initial objections stop you from closing. 

Yes, this applies to case studies. 

There are various ways to bypass these initial nos.

If the client is sensitive about sharing results, instead of explicitly listing the exact figures in the case study, opt for a percentage format (e.g., “115% increase of revenue” rather than “…revenue increased to $593,938”).

Other ways to overcome objections include: 

(i) Anonymizing names, roles, or even the name of their companies 

(ii) Sharing process without diving into the strategy’s specifics

Describe the general approach to achieving results. Avoid the nitty-gritty that gives away your top strategies.

It’s a mouthful, but you get the idea.  

Sometimes, clients need more context before agreeing to a case study interview. Share how you plan to use and distribute it.

What you want to do here is sweeten the pot. 

Talk about how the case study improves their SEO or boosts visibility to potential customers .

Voices.com always tells its clients how it plans to share the case study via social media posts and its newsletter. Since the latter channel has hundreds of thousands of subscribers, it’s “sufficient enough to demonstrate the quality of the case study,” says David. 

“For many clients, the added brand visibility is a huge incentive.”

A word of caution, if the objection centers around legal restrictions or if the client just isn’t interested, move on to the next client.  

“Rather than jeopardizing our business relationship, we work at improving their experience,” adds David.

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Step 5. Interview the client and gather intel

It’s D-Day.

Prepare a list of open-ended questions that outlines the client’s before-and-after transformation. 

“When you frame your questions,” shares Kevin Yun, co-founder of GrowSurf, “You can synthesize the story from the transcript and craft a case study that resonates with prospects.”

Here are eight questions to get you started:

These answers are not only helpful in your case study, but also your customer research and content marketing strategy .

For example, #3 unearths insights about your competitors and shapes the backbone of your content strategy . This is also valuable if you’re wondering what to write for your product comparison posts.

Pro Tip : Keep the data at the back of your mind as you start planning for the case study content. While the customer quote adds the human element and the emotional ‘oomph’, it’s the data that proves your expertise.

“Consolidating all the data allows you to leverage key takeaways and highlights when building your first-ever business case study, “ shares Gabrielle Carreiro, founder of Binge Digital , with Breadcrumbs.

“This is important because not only do you want to back up your work with quantifiable results, but you also want to draw attention to the success you’ve driven and position yourself as a thought leader in your industry.”

Step 6. Create the case study and bring it to life

By now, you should have a lot of information at your fingertips. Review the interview transcript and edit the client’s answers into the following format:

  • Overview : Introduce the client and the current state of the company, along with a compelling headline
  • Problem : Describe the ‘trigger’ that led the client to look for your solution. Agitate the pain point and share what’s not working
  • Solution : Explain what you did to solve the problem. This is the perfect chance to spotlight your process and value proposition (or better yet, your unique selling proposition) 
  • Results : Share the results you delivered in exact figures. If it’s not possible, anonymize the data

Design follows copy. 

After writing the case study content, work with the design team to explore how you can bring the elements (e.g., case study headline, background colors) to life.

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Step 7. Distribute the case study and repurpose in other formats

Your new case study is finally completed. 

Now all that’s left to do is to promote it and show everyone what you have accomplished in your space.

Consider the following distribution ideas to boost visibility:

  • Upload it on a digital asset management platform (DAM) where every stakeholder can easily access the case studies
  • Promote it in all employees’ email signatures
  • Share it on social media and encourage your team to do the same
  • Cross-post on channels like LinkedIn and Medium. Don’t forget to link it back to the original source.
  • Guest post on relevant publications and non-competing blogs to add a backlink to your case study
  • Print your case study and distribute it to prospects at networking events and large conferences. This beats handing out business cards that are bound to go missing amid the chaos!
  • Pitch your case study to podcasts . Tell the podcast host about your unique process and offer your unique take to their listeners.
  • Repurpose or expand your case study into a webinar , infographic, checklist, blog post, or ebook
  • Subscribe to sourcing services like Help a Reporter (HARO) and Help a B2B Writer. Pitch your case studies when you come across a relevant opportunity

Content distribution is never a one-off task. Promote your case studies and repurpose them as needed to attract new clients . 

3 Very Different Case Study Examples (And Why They Work)

This section details a real-world case study analysis featuring some of our favorite startups. By the end of it, you’ll walk away with a few ideas to inspire your own.

1. GrowSurf

Alt=&Quot;How-To-Write-A-Case-Study-Growsurf-Example&Quot;

Headline : How A Business Strategy Newsletter Grows Subscribers By 25% Every Month Using GrowSurf

Results : 22% of lead sign-ups

Why it works :

GrowSurf ’s case study starts with a bang. 

The headline instantly speaks to the lead’s desire (i.e., grow subscribers every month). 

It then lists common problems that leads relate to (using referral software to build a custom referral program without coding skills).

Next, we see GrowSurf diving into its specific features and how it effortlessly solved the client’s problem.

Alt=&Quot;How-To-Write-A-Case-Study-Growsurf-Example-Problem&Quot;

Note how GrowSurf showcases its automagic form detection tool and embedded elements while tying back to the client’s main problem (coding).

Alt=&Quot;How-To-Write-A-Case-Study-Growsurf-Example-Solution&Quot;

Notice how GrowSurf strategically places the screenshots ? 

These pictures in action show how the referral software works. They fill in the lead’s curiosity gap . 

The case study ends with the results GrowSurf delivered, along with a great quote from its client. 

See how the testimonial highlights the ease of use (no coding required) and the biggest benefit (lowering business costs and saving money).

Alt=&Quot;How-To-Write-A-Case-Study-Growsurf-Example-Results&Quot;

A client’s quote that shows your value proposition is way more irresistible than you making a statement.

GrowSurf finishes off its case study with a great call to action (CTA).

Alt=&Quot;How-To-Write-A-Case-Study-Growsurf-Example-Cta&Quot;

Headline : Zendesk for Playvox Testimonial

On-location video case studies pack a persuasive punch.

Playvox ’s video testimonial highlights its unique selling proposition (USP ), completely grabbing the prospect’s attention hook, line, and sinker (“…ability to be dynamic and adaptable.”). 

It then segues to a screenshot of the product, showing it in action. This is crucial as it helps prospects envision what it’s like to use Playvox in their work.

Alt=&Quot;How-To-Write-A-Case-Study-Playvox-Example&Quot;

The video then shows a series of video cuts, including the client’s headquarters and team members. It paints a professional impression, engaging prospective customers to continue watching the video.  

Towards the end, the client shares the potential opportunity loss had they not discovered a solution like Playvox.

3. Voices.com

Alt=&Quot;How-To-Write-A-Case-Study-Voices.com-Example&Quot;

Headline : Coca Cola Case Study

Results : 25% increase of year-over-year revenue. This case study is read more than 2500 times every year. It also attracted new businesses and expanded Voice.com’s relationship with the client.

Why it works : 

Did Voices.com just prove simple headlines can work?

In this case, it did. 

And that’s because Coca-Cola’s a famous international brand that enjoys global appeal (note: Playvox also uses a similar strategy). 

It’s clear Voices.com knows its angle in this case study: Saving time and money.

As we scroll down, we see three key figures, which piques interest.

Alt=&Quot;How-To-Write-A-Case-Study-Voices.com-Example-Numbers&Quot;

Right after giving us an overview of its client, Voices.com digs deep into the problem. 

Note how these three paragraphs spotlight the wasted hours on locating and preparing the talent, frustrating delays, and disrupted operations. 

Leads will nod their head in agreement as they read this section. This is a brilliant way to agitate major pain points .

Alt=&Quot;How-To-Write-A-Case-Study-Voices.com-Example-Problem&Quot;

Next up, the ‘meat’ of the case study.

Voices.com calls attention to its solution (e.g., pre-selecting and verifying the talent), along with the benefits and outcomes it delivered (i.e., work up to five projects a day, delegate 80% of administrative work).

Alt=&Quot;How-To-Write-A-Case-Study-Voices.com-Example-Solution&Quot;

There’s more. 

Scroll down the case study, and we see video clips scattered within the post. 

For leads that are still on the fence, these are visual proofs to address their objections to the quality of work .

Alt=&Quot;How-To-Write-A-Case-Study-Voices.com-Example-Videos&Quot;

Voices.com ends off on an impressive note. Towards the end, we see it reinforcing the results it delivered.

Alt=&Quot;How-To-Write-A-Case-Study-Voices.com-Example-Results&Quot;

Now That You’ve Learned How To Write A Case Study, What’s Next?

Case studies highlight your unique expertise and convince a skeptical lead. If you haven’t been dedicating time and resources to create them, you’re missing out on many revenue opportunities .

Generally, leads who read case studies sit further down the funnel and are ready for sales . If you want to pitch these leads (what salesperson doesn’t?), use a contact scoring tool like Breadcrumbs .

Here’s how it works:

  • Connect your CRM with Breadcrumbs
  • Determine your ideal customer’s attributes in the Fit model (e.g., CMO from a $10ARR company with 50 employees) 
  • Determine the actions that show a buying intent in the Activity model 

For example, if you want to target prospects who read case studies on your site, select Page Visits under Matching Event and include the URL accordingly. 

How To Write A Case Study: Breadcrumbs

Each action and attribute is assigned a score. The more actions a lead completes and the more attributes they “fit,” the higher their score will be.

Once they hit a threshold—a score predefined by you—Breadcrumbs will send all scoring information back to the CRM of your choice and alert you of the sales opportunity.

This helps you focus on sales-ready leads, gaining back hours of your time, closing more profitable deals, and crushing your quota. 

Pro tip : Connect your product analytics and email marketing platforms with Breadcrumbs to gain a holistic view of the customer’s journey .

Breadcrumbs’ contact scoring tool also identifies at-risk customers, product-qualified leads , and cross- and upselling customers with sales potential. Book a 30-minute demo with us to improve your sales funnel today.

FAQs on How to Write a Case Study

1. what is a case study .

A case study is a written document or visual presentation that convinces and converts tough leads to customers by addressing their objections in a compelling way.

2. Why write a business case study? 

A business case study is a powerful marketing and sales asset. 

It fuels your content marketing efforts , promotes your business at events, and even wins investors’ votes (pro tip: include a snippet of your case study in your pitch deck presentation to prove your track record).  

3. What should a case study look like? 

That depends! 

For instance, if it’s a video case study, it should feature the hero customer front and center and snippets of them at work. If it’s data-driven content, opt for an infographic case study that showcases eye-catching graphics.

4. How long should a case study be? 

As long as it needs to convince a prospective client on the fence. A quick search shows it hovering around 500-1500 words.

5. What are the five essential elements of a great case study?

Introduction, problem, solution, results, and the hero of the case study—your customer.

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Hacking The Case Interview

Hacking the Case Interview

Case interview formulas

Although case interviews do not require any technical math or finance knowledge, there are basic formulas that you should know in order to do well in order to master case interview math .

This article will cover the 26 formulas you should know for case interviews. These formulas are organized into the following categories:

  • Profit Formulas
  • Investment Formulas
  • Operations Formulas
  • Market Share Formulas
  • Accounting, Finance, and Economics Formulas

If you’re looking for a step-by-step shortcut to learn case interviews quickly, enroll in our case interview course . These insider strategies from a former Bain interviewer helped 30,000+ land consulting offers while saving hundreds of hours of prep time.

Profit Formulas for Case Interviews

1. Revenue = Quantity * Price

Revenue is the amount of money a company brings in from selling its products. This can be calculated by taking the number of units sold and multiplying it by the price per unit.

Example: Your company sells shirts for $20 each. Last year, your company sold 1,000 shirts. So, your total revenue last year was 1,000 * $20 = $20,000.

2. Total Variable Costs = Quantity * Variable Costs

Costs are payments that a company needs to make in order to run and operate its business. There are two different types of costs, variable costs and fixed costs.

Variable costs are costs that directly increase for each additional unit of product made. It represents the cost of raw materials needed to make the product.

Total variable costs are calculated by taking the number of units produced or sold and multiplying it by the raw material cost per product.

Example: It costs your company $5 to purchase the raw materials needed to make a shirt. If your company sold 1,000 shirts last year, the total variable costs are 1,000 * $5 = $5,000.

3. Costs = Total Variable Costs + Fixed Costs

Total costs for the company can be calculated by adding total variable costs and fixed costs.

Fixed costs are costs that do not directly increase for each additional unit of product made. They may include costs such as rent for the building or equipment needed to make the product.

Example: Your company pays annual rent of $10,000. It also leases the equipment it needs to make its shirts for $2,000 a year. Therefore, fixed costs are $10,000 + $2,000 = $12,000. Total variable costs were calculated to be $5,000 from the previous example. So, total costs are $12,000 + $5,000 = $17,000.

4. Profit = Revenue – Costs

Profit is the amount of money the company keeps after paying for all of its costs. Profit is calculated by subtracting total costs from total revenue.

Example: Last year, your shirt company generated revenues of $20,000 and had costs of $17,000. The profit last year was $20,000 - $17,000 = $3,000.

5. Profit = (Price – Variable Costs) * Quantity – Fixed Costs

This formula summarizes the previous four formulas into one concise and simplified equation.

6. Contribution Margin = Price – Variable Cost

Contribution margin represents how much money each product sold brings into the company after accounting for the cost of raw materials needed to make the product.

Example: If your company’s shirts sell for $20 and raw materials cost $5, then the contribution margin is $20 - $5 = $15 per shirt.

7. Profit Margin = Profit / Revenue

Profit margin represents the percentage of revenue that a company keeps as profit after taking into account all of its costs.

Example: Last year, your company generated $20,000 in revenue and had $17,000 in costs. Its profit was $3,000. Therefore, your company’s profit margin is $3,000 / $20,000 = 15%.

Investment Formulas for Case Interviews

8. Return on Investment = Profit / Investment Cost

Companies make investments by spending money in the hopes of earning even more money in the future as a result of the investment. Return on investment, or ROI or short, represents how much additional money a company generates relative to the size of its initial investment.

ROI is calculated by taking the profit that the company generated from the investment and dividing it by the investment cost.

Example: Your company spent $5,000 on marketing to advertise its shirts. As a result, the company generated an additional $6,000 in profits from selling shirts. This profit does not yet take into account the costs of the marketing campaign.  Therefore, the company has a net increase in profits of $1,000 from its original $5,000 investment. The ROI is $1,000 / $5,000 = 20%.

9. Payback Period = Investment Cost / Profit per Year

Payback period represents how long it would take a company to recoup the money it spent on an investment. It is usually specified in years.

Example: Your company invested in redesigning its shirts for $5,000. As a result, the company expects annual profits to increase by $1,000 for every year going forward. Therefore, the payback period for this investment is $5,000 / $1,000 = 5 years.

Operations Formulas for Case Interviews

10. Output = Rate * Time

The output of production can be calculated by taking the rate of production and multiplying it by time.

Example: The machine that your company uses to produce shirts can produce 5 shirts per hour. If the machine runs for 12 hours, then it will produce 60 shirts.

11. Utilization = Output / Maximum Output

Utilization represents how much a factory or machine is being used relative to its maximum possible output.

Example: The machine that your company uses to produce shirts can produce 5 shirts per hour. Therefore, its maximum capacity in a day is 5 shirts per hour * 24 hours = 120 shirts. If your machine is being used to only produce 60 shirts per day, then it is at 60 / 120 = 50% utilization.

Market Share Formulas for Case Interviews

12. Market Share = Company Revenue in the Market / Total Market Revenue

Market share measures the percentage of total market sales a particular company has. Market shares can range from 0%, no presence in the market, to 100%, complete dominance in the market.

Example: Your company sells shirts and generates $100M in annual revenues. The market size of shirts is $500M. Therefore, your company has a market share of $100M / $500M = 20%. 

13. Relative Market Share = Company Market Share / Largest Competitor’s Market Share

Relative market share compares a company’s market share to the largest competitor’s market share. It measures how strong of a presence a company has relative to the market leader. If the company is the market leader, relative market share measures how much of a lead they have over the next largest player.

Instead of using company market share and the largest competitor’s market share, you can use company revenue and the largest competitor’s revenue. This will give you the same answer.

Example: Your company has a 20% market share in the shirts market. Your largest competitor has a 50% market share. Therefore, your relative market share is 20% / 50% = 0.4.

Example 2: Your company is the market leader and has a 50% market share in the shirts market. Your largest competitor has a 25% market share. Therefore, your relative market share is 50% / 25% = 2.

Accounting, Finance, and Economics Formulas for Case Interviews

These formulas are much less commonly seen in case interviews than the previous formulas. You likely won’t need to use these formulas since they require more technical knowledge of accounting, finance, and economics.

However, you should still be familiar with these formulas in the small chance that one of these concepts shows up in your case interview.

14. Gross Profit = Sales – Cost of Goods Sold

Gross profit is a measure of how much money a company makes from selling its product after taking into account the costs associated with making and sellings its product. These costs are often called the cost of goods sold.

Compared to the previous profit formula, which was simply revenue minus costs, gross profit is always higher since it does not take into account all of the costs of the business.

Example: Your company sold $20,000 of shirts last year. The cost to produce these shirts was $5,000. Therefore, your gross profit is $20,000 - $5,000 = $15,000.

15. Operating Profit = Gross Profit – Operating Expenses – Depreciation – Amortization

Operating profit is calculated by taking gross profit and subtracting all operating expenses and depreciation and amortization.

Operating expenses may include rent, utilities, maintenance and repairs, advertising and marketing, insurance, and salaries and wages. So, operating profit is always less than gross profit.

Depreciation is the spreading of a fixed asset’s cost over its useful lifetime.

For example, let’s say that a company purchases a new machine for $10,000 that it expects to last for 5 years. Instead of stating that it incurred $10,000 in costs in its first year, the company may choose to state that the new machine costs $2,000 per year for the next five years.

Amortization is the spreading of an intangible asset’s cost over its useful lifetime. It is the exact same principle as depreciation except that it deals with intangible assets, or assets that aren’t physical.

For example, let’s say that a company purchases a patent for $10,000 and expects the benefits of the patent to last for 20 years. Instead of stating that it incurred $10,000 in costs in its first year, the company may choose to state that the patent costs $500 per year for the next twenty years.

Example: You sold $20,000 of shirts last year. Cost of goods is $5,000, operating expenses are $10,000, depreciation of a machine is $2,000, and amortization of a patent is $500. Therefore, your operating profit is $20,000 - $5,000 - $10,000 - $2,000 - $500 = $2,500.

16. Gross Profit Margin = Gross Profit / Revenue

This is the exact same formula as the profit margin formula except that gross profit is used. Gross profit margin measures how much money a company keeps from selling its products after taking into account cost of goods sold.

Example: Your company has a gross profit of $15,000 from $20,000 of revenue. Therefore, your gross profit margin is $15,000 / $20,000 = 75%.

17. Operating Profit Margin = Operating Profit / Revenue

This is the exact same formula as the profit margin formula except that operating profit is used. Operating profit margin measures how much money a company keeps from sellings its products after cost of goods sold, operating expenses, depreciation, and amortization is taken into account.

Example: Your company has an operating profit of $2,500 from $20,000 of revenue. Therefore, your operating profit margin is $2,500 / $20,000 = 12.5%.

18. EBITDA = Operating Profit + Depreciation + Amortization

EBITDA stands for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. It is a financial metric used to measure a company’s cash flow or the amount of cash that a company has generated in a period of time.

To calculate EBITDA, start with operating profit and add back depreciation and amortization expenses.

Example: Your company has an annual operating profit of $2,500. Depreciation expenses are $2,000 and amortization expenses are $500. Therefore, your EBITDA is $2,500 + $2,000 + $500 = $5,000.

19. CAGR = (Ending Value / Beginning Value)^(1/Time Period) – 1

CAGR stands for compounded annual growth rate. It measures how quickly something is growing year after year.

Example: Your company generates $144M in annual revenue. Two years ago, your company only generated $100M. Over this time period, your CAGR was ($144M / $100M)^(1/2) - 1= 20%. In other words, your company grew by 20% each year for two years.

20. Rule of 72

The Rule of 72 is a shortcut used to estimate how long a market, company, or investment would take to double in size. To use it, simply divide 72 by the annual growth rate to get an estimate for the number of years needed to double in size.

Example: Your company is growing steadily at 9% per year. Using the Rule of 72, we’d expect it to take 72 / 9 = 8 years for your company to double in size if it maintains its current growth rate.

21. NPV = Cash Flow / [(1 + Discount Rate)^(Time Period)]

NPV stands for net present value. It measures how much future cash flow is worth today.

Receiving $1,000 right now is not the same as receiving $1,000 five years from now. If you received $1,000 right now, you could invest it and grow your money. Therefore, it is better to receive $1,000 right now than to receive the same amount in the future.

Net present value takes this into account.

Cash flow is the amount of money you expect to receive in the future. Time period is how many years in the future you will receive that amount of money. The discount rate is the return you expect to get from investing your money.

Example: You expect to receive $1,000 five years from now. You expect that you will be able to get 8% annual returns by investing in the stock market. Therefore, the net present value of your future cash flow is $1,000 / [(1 + 0.08)^5] = $680.58.  In other words, receiving $680.58 today would give you the same value as receiving $1,000 five years from now.

22. Perpetuity Formula: Present Value = Cash Flow / Discount Rate

An annuity is a fixed sum of money paid at regular intervals such as every year. Perpetuity is an annuity that lasts forever.

The present value of a perpetuity is calculated by taking the cash flow of each payment and dividing it by the discount rate.

Example: You are expecting to receive $1,000 per year for the rest of your life. You expect that you will be able to get 8% annual returns by investing in the stock market. Therefore, the present value of this perpetuity is $1,000 / 0.08 = $12,500.  In other words, receiving $12,500 today would give you the same value as receiving $1,000 each year for the rest of your life.

23. Return on Equity = Profit / Shareholder Equity

Return on equity , or ROE for shirt, measures how effectively a company is using its assets to create profits. It is calculated by taking profit and dividing by shareholder equity, which represents the net worth of a company.

In other words, shareholder equity is the value of a company’s total assets minus its total liabilities.

Example: Your company’s profit this year is $100M. Shareholder equity, or the net worth of the company is $1B. Your company has a ROE of $100M / $1B = 10%.

24. Return on Assets = Profit / Total Assets

Return on assets , or ROA for short, measures how profitable a company is relative to its total assets. In other words, it shows how efficiently a company is using its assets to generate income.

Assets can be anything that has value that can be converted into cash. This includes cash, property, equipment, inventory, and investments.

Example: Your company’s profit this year is $100M. Your company as $400M worth of assets. Your company has a ROA of $100M / $400M = 25%.

25. Price Elasticity of Demand = (% Change in Quantity) / (% Change in Price)

Elasticity is a measure of how much customer demand changes for a product given a change in the product’s price. In almost all cases, an increase in a product’s price results in a decrease in customer demand. Therefore, price elasticity of demand is usually negative.

Example: Your company has decreased its product’s price by 10%. As a result, the number of units sold has increased by 20%. Therefore, the price elasticity of demand is 20% / -10% = -2.

26. Cross Elasticity of Demand = (% Change in Quantity for Good #1) / (% Change in Price for Good #2)

Cross elasticity of demand measures how much customer demand changes for a product given a change in price of a different product.

If two products are complements, an increase in price of one product will result in a decrease in demand of the other product. Complementary products have a negative cross elasticity of demand.

If two products are substitutes, an increase in price of one product will result in an increase in demand of the other product. Substitute products have a positive cross elasticity of demand.

Example: A competitor has decreased the price of a competing product by 20%. As a result, the demand for your product has dropped by 10%. The cross elasticity of demand is -10% / -20% = 0.5.

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What's the best way to structure a revenue growth case?

I'm tempted to start with p * q, but it sometimes feels unnatural to shoehorn the necessary questions (distribution channels, marketing, customer, market characteristics, competition, product, company,etc. depending on the case) under either "price" or "quantity". At the same time, it feels odd to ignore the p * q structure altogether. How should I approach this?

Overview of answers

  • Date ascending
  • Date descending

It depends very much on the industry. In some cases (Growth strategy) I will use a broad structure, in others (e.g. “how to increase the excessive luggage revenues for an Airline”) I will use P, Q and the Process. Here is the broad structure that you can adapt to your industry:

Analyze the market:

  • Size and growth rates
  • Segments (geographical, customer, product)
  • Distributors / Suppliers
  • Key market trends

Analyze the competitors:

  • Market shares, growth rates, profits
  • Product / customer / geographical mix
  • Products (Value proposition)
  • Unit economics (Value proposition vs. price vs. costs)
  • Key capabilities (Distribution, supply, assets, knowledge, etc)

Analyze our company:

  • Market share, growth rates, profit

How to increase revenues:

  • How to increase the scope: Product / customer scope, geographical scope
  • How to improve value proposition (How to fix your weaknesses and improve your strengths; Potential increase in price and volumes)
  • How to answer the competitors (Unique or hard to build property and contracts; Customers / suppliers / complements with lock-in; Reputation and relationships; Organizational capabilities; Product features and know-how)
  • Other benefits of scale (Spreading Fixed costs, Change in technology, Bragaining power)

Structure revenue growth case with multiple products

First of all, In the clarifying questions, I ask proactively how many products / revenue streams we have

  • If I have just two products or two revenue streams I would split the products on the revenue level (e.g. revenue from product 1, revenue from product 2)
  • If I have 2+ products I usually go with revenues, split them into price and quantity. Under price, I use a vertical numbered list of products . e.g. 1) x 2) y 3) z. Same with the quantity
  • In the last case, I will end up with a table under my structure since both price and qty (and maybe variable costs per unit as well) will have a numbered vertical list

Thanks a lot, this was really helpful

This is the structure I would suggest for a growth strategy case:

  • Clarify goal. How much do we want to grow, in which period of time and constraints (eg specific budget). If needed, clarify business model.
  • Analyse growth and size for segment covered by client and competitors. Compare the client to competitors performance to spot potential areas where to grow further
  • For segments that could potentially allow to meet the goal, analyse further competitors, customer segments and barriers to entry
  • Ways to increase price
  • Ways to increase volume
  • Product variety
  • Diversification
  • Select grow strategy providing the maximum result with the minimum amount of resources required, and meeting constraints identified at step 1
  • Consider risks/next steps following grow strategy. Eg increasing the price may lead to higher decrease in volume than expected – could be better then to test on specific areas.

Hope this helps,

Hi Anonymous,

I would suggest to use the first method, but with a switch; you won’t need indeed to know price and volume for all the segments . More specifically:

  • I would start dividing in revenue streams (not necessarily by product – it could also be by customer or distribution channel)
  • I would then ask how revenues changed for each stream
  • I would start from the one that had the biggest decline in revenues. For that only, I would then move to divide in price and volume to identify the issue. In case we are not able to fix the issue, I would then move to the second-worst stream

The reason I believe this method is superior to an initial division of revenues in price * volume is that will allow to understand immediately the real reason for the problem, and for which segment . With an initial division in price*volume, that may not always be the case.

Assuming for example that the problem of the company is a decline in volume of the more expensive product A by 10 units and at the same time the cheaper product B increased by 20 units, dividing in price*volume will show an increase of volume and a decrease of the average price – thus apparently a price issue. Although you may eventually identify the issue is volume for product A, and thus not price related, this would take longer than following the previous steps.

There's several different ways of approaching the same case (and they can all be right!), that said, below you can find the one I often prefer :

1. Analyze the external factors/market (I do like to know what's going on in the market before even understanding what's going on with the company; as you can imagine it's different if a company wants to grow revenues by 10% in a market growing 20% vs. a market that is even declining!)

- Evolution of market (previous and future)

- Competitive landscape

- Consumer tastes and trends

- Regulation

2. Analyze the internal factors

- revenue tree (try to avoid simply stating Price * Quantity, try to give some tailoring to the industry you're talking about; e.g., for gyms you can say the number of clients who have a monthly pass * the monthly fee.. it will positively impress your interviewer!); if company is multi-product you should take that into consideration here and open multiple revenue streams in the branches!

- sometimes I also include company capabilities as a separe point , depending on the specifics of the case and goal

Hope this can be helpful, any query on it just let me know :)

You've already received excellent responses. What I will build on is the higher level structure when approaching problem solving (i.e. after asking clarification questions and understanding the objectives).

You should start with thinking about how revenue growth is achieved: organically or inorganically (or both). Under organic growth, you can achieve that through

1. Increasing the price, as you've mentioned

2. Increasing the quantity - either by increasing your market share with existing customers or by targeting new customers

3. Launching new products/services - could be complementary produts, or entirely new ones

4. Entering new markets

Out of the box answers:

5. Increase the utilization of your existing products - the toothpaste example is great. DM me for more details.

6. Target non-customers and make them customers - increase the entire market size

You can achieve inorganic growth through:

1. An Acquisitions - of companies or products

2. A Merger

Now that you've defined the high level structure, you cover all grounds to grow revenue and will not make the mistake of forgetting any points as you go along with the case, especially when the interviewer asks you how else could you grow revenue (under each category you could expand. Ex: licensing deals, contract manufacturing, commercial agreements etc...).

After defining the high level structure, you could then figure out where to start based on the case and your clarification questions to the interviewer and begin with the points mentioned by the other experts that have responded to you (analyze market, competitors etc...).

Hope this helps.

Agreed with above. As stated by Bruno, the correct way to think about market expansion is to think about:

-demand evolution (external)

-supply evolution (external AND internal)

-effect on price (it's a market after all)

Now, two things that should never be forgotten, even if it's a revenue growth case

-how much does it cost and does it increase profits?

-what is impact to profit margins (a lot of times you don't go for market expansions that are margin dilutive, due to impact on stock price)

ask to your interviewer if there are any objectives for the two points above or any thresholds or you can ignore for the case.

hope it helps,

So my approach is as follows:

1) New business areas

1a: New Products

1b: New Customer Segments

1c: New Geographical markets

2) Existing business areas

2a: Increase price

2b: Increase volume from existing customers

2bi) Selling more frequently of the same products

2bii) Cross sell different products to existing customers

All the best!

No please do not structure it like that in MBB, 95% chance you will fail. Rather group it in buckets relevant to the case. Warm regards, Frederic 

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Case interview maths (formulas, practice problems, and tips)

Case interview maths

Today we’re going to give you everything you need in order to breeze through maths calculations during your case interviews. 

Becoming confident with maths skills is THE first step that we recommend to candidates like Karthik , who got an offer from McKinsey. 

And one of the first things you’ll need to know are the 6 core maths formulas that are used extensively in case interviews. 

Let’s dive in!

  • Case interview maths formulas
  • Must-know formulas
  • Optional formulas
  • Cheat sheet
  • Practice questions
  • Case maths apps and tools
  • Tips and tricks
  • Practice with experts

Click here to practise 1-on-1 with MBB ex-interviewers

1. case interview maths formulas, 1.1. must-know maths formulas.

Here’s a summarised list of the most important maths formulas that you should really master for your case interviews:

Case interview maths formulas

If you want to take a moment to learn more about these topics, you can read our in-depth article about  finance concepts for case interviews .

1.2. Optional maths formulas

In addition to the above, you may also want to learn the formulas below. 

Having an in-depth understanding of the business terms below and their corresponding formulas is NOT required to get offers at McKinsey, BCG, Bain and other firms. But having a rough idea of what they are can be handy.

EBITDA = Earnings Before Interest Tax Depreciation and Amortisation

EBIDTA is essentially profits with interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation added back to it.

It's useful for comparing companies across industries as it takes out the accounting effects of debt and taxes which vary widely between, say, Meta (little to no debt) and ExxonMobil (tons of debt to finance infrastructure projects). More  here .

NPV = Net Present Value

NPV tells you the current value of one or more future cashflows. 

For example, if you have the option to receive one of the two following options, then you could use NPV to choose the more profitable option:

  • Option 1 : receive $100 in 1 year and $100 in 2 years
  • Option 2 : receive $175 in 1 year

If we assume that the interest rate is 5% then option 1 turns out to be slightly better. You can learn more about the formula and how it works  here .

Return on equity = Profits / Shareholder equity

Return on equity (ROE) is a measure of financial performance similar to ROI. ROI is usually used for standalone projects while ROE is used for companies. More  here .

Return on assets = Profits / Total assets

Return on assets (ROA) is an alternative measure to ROE and a good indicator of how profitable a company is compared to its total assets. More  here .

1.3 Case interview maths cheat sheet

If you’d like to get a free PDF cheat sheet that summarises the most important formulas and tips from this case interview maths guide, just click on the link below.

Download free pdf case interview maths cheat sheet

2. Case interview maths practice questions

If you’d like some examples of case interview maths questions, then this is the section for you!

Doing maths calculations is typically just one step in a broader case, and so the most realistic practice is to solve problems within the context of a full case.

So, below we’ve compiled a set of maths questions that come directly from  case interview examples  published by McKinsey and Bain. 

We recommend that you try solving each problem yourself before looking at the solution. 

Now here’s the first question!

2.1 Payback period - McKinsey case example

This is a paraphrased version of question 3 on  McKinsey’s Beautify practice case :

How long will it take for your client to make back its original investment, given the following data?

  • After the investment, you’ll get 10% incremental revenue
  • You’ll have to invest €50m in IT, €25m in training, €50m in remodeling, and €25m in inventory
  • Annual costs after the initial investment will be €10m 
  • The client’s annual revenues are €1.3b

Note: take a moment to try solving this problem yourself, then you can get the answer under  question 3 on McKinsey’s website . 

2.2 Cost reduction - McKinsey case example

This is a paraphrased version of question 2 on  McKinsey’s Diconsa practice case :

How much money in total would families in rural Mexico save per year if they could pick up benefits payments from Diconsa stores?

  • Pick up currently costs 50 pesos per month for each family
  • If pick up were available at Diconsa stores, the cost would be reduced by 30%
  • Assume that the population of Mexico is 100m 
  • 20% of Mexico’s population is in rural areas, and half of these people receive benefits
  • Assume that all families in Mexico have 4 members

Note: take a moment to try solving this problem yourself, then you can get the answer under  question 2 on McKinsey’s website . 

2.3 Product launch - McKinsey case maths example

This is a paraphrased version of question 2 on  McKinsey’s Electro-Light practice case :

What share of the total electrolyte drink market would the client need in order to break even on their new Electro-Light drink product?

  • The target price for Electro-Light is $2 for each 16 oz (1/8th gallon) bottle
  • Electro-Light would require $40m in fixed costs
  • Each bottle of Electro-Light costs $1.90 to produce and deliver
  • The electrolyte drink market makes up 5% of the US sports-drink market
  • The US sports-drink market sells 8b gallons of beverages per year

2.4 Pricing strategy - McKinsey case maths example

This is a paraphrased version of question 3 on  McKinsey’s Talbot Trucks practice case :

What is the highest price Talbot Trucks can charge for their new electric truck, such that the total cost of ownership is equal to diesel trucks? 

  • Assume the total cost of ownership for all trucks consists of these 5 components: driver, depreciation, fuel, maintenance, other. 
  • A driver costs €3k/month for diesel and electric trucks
  • Diesel trucks and electric trucks have a lifetime of 4 years, and a €0 residual value
  • Diesel trucks use 30 liters of diesel per 100km, and diesel fuel costs €1/liter
  • Electric trucks use 100kWh of energy per 100km, and energy costs €0.15/kWh
  • Annual maintenance is €5k for diesel trucks and €3k for electric trucks
  • Other costs (e.g. insurance, taxes, and tolls) is €10k for diesel trucks and €5k for electric trucks
  • Diesel trucks cost €100k

2.5 Inclusive hiring - McKinsey case maths example

This is a paraphrased version of question 3 on  McKinsey’s  Shops Corporation practice case :

How many female managers should be hired next year to reach the goal of 40% women executives in 10 years? 

  • There are 300 executives now, and that number will be the same in 10 years
  • 25% of the executives are currently women
  • The career levels at the company (from junior to senior) are as follows: professional, manager, director, executive
  • In the next 5 years, ⅔ of the managers that are hired will become directors. And in years 6-10, ⅓ of those directors will become executives. 
  • Assume 50% of the hired managers will leave the company
  • Assume that everything else in the company’s pipeline stays the same after hiring the new managers

2.6 Breakeven point - Bain case maths example

This is a paraphrased version of the calculation portion of  Bain’s Coffee Shop Co. practice case : 

How many cups of coffee does a newly opened coffee shop need to sell in the first year in order to break even?

  • The price of coffee will be £3/cup
  • Each cup of coffee costs £1/cup to produce 
  • It will cost £245,610 to open the coffee shop
  • It will cost £163,740/year to run the coffee shop

Note: take a moment to try solving this problem yourself, then you can get the answer  on Bain’s website .

2.7 Driving revenue - Bain case maths example

This is a paraphrased version of the calculation part of  Bain’s FashionCo practice case : 

Which option (A or B) will drive the most revenue this year?

Option A: Rewards program

  • There are 10m total customers
  • The avg. annual spend per person is $100 before any sale (assume sales are evenly distributed throughout the year)
  • Customers will pay a $50 one-time activation fee to join the program
  • 25% of customers will join the rewards program this year
  • Customers who join the rewards program always get 20% off

Option B: Intermittent sales

  • For 3 months of the year, all products are discounted by 20%
  • During the 3 months of discounts, purchases will increase by 100%

3. Case maths apps and tools

In the case maths problems in the previous section, there were essentially 2 broad steps: 

  • Set up the equation
  • Perform the calculations

After learning the formulas earlier in this guide, you should be able to manage the first step. But performing the mental maths calculations will probably take some more practice. 

Mental maths is a muscle. But for most of us, it’s a muscle you haven’t exercised since high school. As a result, your  case interview preparation  should include some maths training.

If you don't remember how to calculate basic additions, substractions, divisions and multiplications without a calculator, that's what you should focus on first.

In addition, Khan Academy has also put together some helpful resources. Here are the ones we recommend if you need an in-depth arithmetic refresher:

  • Additions and subtractions
  • Multiplications and divisions
  • Percentages

Scientific notation

Once you're feeling comfortable with the basics you'll need to regularly exercise your mental maths muscle in order to become as fast and accurate as possible.

  • Preplounge's maths tool . This web tool is very helpful to practice additions, subtractions, multiplications, divisions and percentages. You can both sharpen your precise and estimation maths with it.
  • Victor Cheng's maths tool . This tool is similar to the Preplounge one, but the user experience is less smooth in our opinion.
  • Mental math cards challenge app  (iOS). This mobile app lets you work on your mental maths easily on your phone. Don't let the old school graphics deter you from using it. The app itself is actually very good.
  • Mental math games  (Android). If you're an Android user this one is a good substitute to the mental math cards challenge one on iOS.

4. Case interview maths tips and tricks

4.1. calculators are not allowed in case interviews.

If you weren’t aware of this rule already, then you’ll need to know this: 

Calculators are not allowed in case interviews. This applies to both in-person and virtual case interviews. And that’s why it’s crucial for candidates to practice doing mental maths quickly and accurately before attending a case interview. 

And unfortunately, doing calculations without a calculator can be really slow if you use standard long divisions and multiplications. 

But there are some tricks and techniques that you can use to simplify calculations and make them easier and faster to solve in your head. That’s what we’re going to cover in the rest of this section. 

Let’s begin with rounding numbers.

4.2. Round numbers for speed and accuracy

The next 5 subsections all cover tips that will help you do mental calculations faster. Here’s an overview of each of these tips: 

Case maths tips

And the first one that we’ll cover here is rounding numbers. 

The tricky thing about rounding numbers is that if you round them too much you risk:

  • Distorting the final result
  • Or your interviewer telling you to round the numbers less

Rounding numbers is more of an art than a science, but in our experience, the following two tips tend to work well:

  • We usually recommend that you avoid rounding numbers by more than +/- 10%. This is a rough rule of thumb but gives good results based on conversations with past candidates.
  • You also need to alternate between rounding up and rounding down so the effects cancel out. For instance, if you're calculating A x B, we would recommend rounding A UP, and rounding B DOWN so the rounding balances out.

Note that you won't always be able to round numbers. In addition, even after you round numbers the calculations could still be difficult. So let's go through a few other tips that can help in these situations.

4.3. Abbreviate large numbers

Large numbers are difficult to deal with because of all the 0s. To be faster you need to use notations that enable you to get rid of these annoying 0s. We recommend you use labels and the scientific notation if you aren't already doing so.

Labels (k, m, b)

Use labels for thousand (k), million (m), and billion (b). You'll write numbers faster and it will force you to simplify calculations. Let's use 20,000 x 6,000,000 as an example.

  • No labels: 20,000 x 6,000,000 = ... ???
  • Labels: 20k x 6m = 120k x m = 120b

This approach also works for divisions. Let's try 480,000,000,000 divided by 240,000,000.

  • No labels: 480,000,000,000 / 240,000,000 = ... ???
  • Labels: 480b / 240m = 480k / 240 = 2k

When you can't use labels, the scientific notation is a good alternative. If you're not sure what this is, you're really missing out. But fortunately, Khan Academy has put together a good primer on that topic  here .

  • Multiplication example: 600 x 500 = 6 x 5 x 102 X 102 = 30 x 104 = 300,000 = 300k
  • Division example: (720,000 / 1,200) / 30 = (72 / (12 x 3)) x (104 / (102 x 10)) = (72 / 36) x (10) = 20

When you're comfortable with labels and the scientific notation you can even start mixing them:

  • Mixed notation example: 200k x 600k = 2 x 6 x 104 x m = 2 x 6 x 10 x b = 120b

4.4. Use factoring to make calculations simpler

To be fast at maths, you need to avoid writing down long divisions and multiplications because they take a LOT of time. In our experience, doing multiple easy calculations is faster and leads to less errors than doing one big long calculation.

A great way to achieve this is to factor and expand expressions to create simpler calculations. If you're not sure what the basics of factoring and expanding are, you can use Khan Academy again  here  and  here . Let's start with factoring.

Simple numbers: 5, 15, 25, 50, 75, etc.

In case interviews some numbers come up very frequently, and it's useful to know shortcuts to handle them. Here are some of these numbers: 5, 15, 25, 50, 75, etc. 

These numbers are common, but not particularly easy to handle.

For instance, consider 36 x 25. It's not obvious what the result is. And a lot of people would need to write down the multiplication on paper to find the answer. However there's a MUCH faster way based on the fact that 25 = 100 / 4. Here's the fast way to get to the answer:

  • 36 x 25 = (36 / 4) x 100 = 9 x 100 = 900

Here's another example: 68 x 25. Again, the answer is not immediately obvious. Unless you use the shortcut we just talked about; divide by 4 first and then multiply by 100:

  • 68 x 25 = (68 / 4) x 100 = 17 x 100 = 1,700

Factoring works both for multiplications and divisions. When dividing by 25, you just need to divide by 100 first, and then multiply by 4. In many situations this will save you wasting time on a long division. Here are a couple of examples:

  • 2,600 / 25 = (2,600 / 100) x 4 = 26 x 4 = 104
  • 1,625 / 25 = (1,625 / 100) x 4 = 16.25 x 4 = 65

The great thing about this factoring approach is that you can actually use it for other numbers than 25. Here is a list to get you started:

  • 2.5 = 10 / 4
  • 7.5 = 10 x 3 / 4
  • 15 = 10 x 3 / 2
  • 25 = 100 / 4
  • 50 = 100 / 2
  • 75 = 100 x 3 / 4

Once you're comfortable using this approach you can also mix it with the scientific notation on numbers such as 0.75, 0.5, 0.25, etc.

Factoring the numerator / denominator

For divisions, if there are no simple numbers (e.g. 5, 25, 50, etc.), the next best thing you can do is to try to factor the numerator and / or denominator to simplify the calculations. Here are a few examples:

  • Factoring the numerator: 300 / 4 = 3 x 100 / 4 = 3 x 25 = 75
  • Factoring the denominator: 432 / 12 = (432 / 4) / 3 = 108 / 3 = 36
  • Looking for common factors: 90 / 42 = 6 x 15 / 6 x 7 = 15 / 7

4.5. Expand numbers to make calculations easier

Another easy way to avoid writing down long divisions and multiplications is to expand calculations into simple expressions.

Expanding with additions

Expanding with additions is intuitive to most people. The idea is to break down one of the terms into two simpler numbers (e.g. 5; 10; 25; etc.) so the calculations become easier. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Multiplication: 68 x 35 = 68 x (10 + 25) = 680 + 68 x 100 / 4 = 680 + 1,700 = 2,380
  • Division: 705 / 15 = (600 + 105) / 15 = (15 x 40) / 15 + 105 / 15 = 40 + 7 = 47

Notice that when expanding 35 we've carefully chosen to expand to 25 so that we could use the helpful tip we learned in the factoring section. You should keep that in mind when expanding expressions.

Expanding with subtractions

Expanding with subtractions is less intuitive to most people. But it's actually extremely effective, especially if one of the terms you are dealing with ends with a high digit like 7, 8 or 9. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Multiplication: 68 x 35 = (70 - 2) x 35 = 70 x 35 - 70 = 70 x 100 / 4 + 700 - 70 = 1,750 + 630 = 2,380
  • Division: 570 / 30 = (600 - 30) / 30 = 20 - 1= 19

4.6. Simplify growth rate calculations

You will also often have to deal with growth rates in case interviews. These can lead to extremely time-consuming calculations, so it's important that you learn how to deal with them efficiently.

Multiply growth rates together

Let's imagine your client's revenue is $100m. You estimate it will grow by 20% next year and 10% the year after that. In that situation, the revenues in two years will be equal to:

  • Revenue in two years = $100m x (1 + 20%) x (1 + 10%) = $100m x 1.2 x 1.1 = $100m x (1.2 + 0.12) = $100m x 1.32 = $132m

Growing at 20% for one year followed by 10% for another year therefore corresponds to growing by 32% overall.

To find the compound growth you simply need to multiply them together and subtract one: (1.1 x 1.2) - 1= 1.32 - 1 = 0.32 = 32%. This is the quickest way to calculate compound growth rates precisely.

Note that this approach also works perfectly with negative growth rates. Let's imagine for instance that sales grow by 20% next year, and then decrease by 20% the following year. Here's the corresponding compound growth rate:

  • Compound growth rate = (1.2 x 0.8) - 1 = 0.96 - 1 = -0.04 = -4%

See how growing by 20% and then shrinking by 20% is not equal to flat growth (0%). This is an important result to keep in mind.

Estimate compound growth rates

Multiplying growth rates is a really efficient approach when calculating compound growth over a short period of time (e.g. 2 or 3 years).

But let's imagine you want to calculate the effect of 7% growth over five years. The precise calculation you would need to do is:

  • Precise growth rate: 1.07 x 1.07 x 1.07 x 1.07 x 1.07 - 1 = ... ???

Doing this calculation would take a lot of time. Fortunately, there's a useful estimation method you can use. You can approximate the compound growth using the following formula:

  • Estimate growth rate = Growth rate x Number of years

In our example:

  • Estimate growth rate: 7% x 5 years = 35%

In reality if you do the precise calculation (1.075 - 1) you will find that the actual growth rate is 40%. The estimation method therefore gives a result that's actually quite close. In case interviews your interviewer will always be happy with you taking that shortcut as doing the precise calculation takes too much time.

4.7. Memorise key statistics

In addition to the tricks and shortcuts we’ve just covered, it can also help to memorise some common statistics. 

For example, it would be good to know the population of the city and country where your target office is located. 

In general, this type of data is useful to know, but it's particularly important when you face  market sizing questions . 

So, to help you learn (or refresh on) some important numbers, here is a short summary:

Statistics for market sizing questions

Of course this is not a comprehensive set of numbers, so you may need to tailor it to your own location or situation.   

5. Practice with experts

Sitting down and working through the maths formulas we've gone through in this article is a key part of your case interview preparation. But it isn’t enough.

At some point you’ll want to practise making calculations under interview conditions.

You can try to do this with friends or family. However, if you really want the best possible preparation for your case interview, you'll also want to work with ex-consultants who have experience running interviews at McKinsey, Bain, BCG, etc.

If you know anyone who fits that description, fantastic! But for most of us, it's tough to find the right connections to make this happen. And it might also be difficult to practice multiple hours with that person unless you know them really well.

Here's the good news. We've already made the connections for you. We’ve created a coaching service where you can do mock interviews 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from MBB firms. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today.

Interview coach and candidate conduct a video call

Mastering the Pricing Case Study: A Comprehensive Guide

  • Last Updated November, 2022

Setting the optimal pricing for products or services is important for a company as it directly impacts profitability. So every management consulting firm helps its clients with pricing strategies. The primary goal of a pricing case is to recommend a price that maximizes profit, taking costs for product/service and market considerations into account.

A typical pricing case interview would start something like this –

A manufacturer of kitchen knives sells a range of products, from low-end to professional, to customers at different price points. They’ve developed a new line of knives in collaboration with a celebrity chef and would like help setting the prices for these products.

Pricing cases might not seem straightforward initially, but with the right frameworks and practice cases, we will help you prepare for it.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Examples of pricing cases.
  • The alternative pricing methods.
  • How to approach a pricing case interview.
  • An end-to-end pricing case example.

Let’s get started!

Pricing Case Examples

How to approach a pricing case interview, what are the most common pricing strategies, an end-to-end pricing case example, the relevant pricing strategy for our pricing case examples, 6 tips for solving a pricing case interview.

As companies mature, pricing becomes more complex because:

  • Companies develop multiple products with different cost structures.
  • Clients have different product/service needs and price sensitivities.

Pricing can also be a source for driving revenue growth if you can identify opportunities to price based on value to the customer or in a way that optimizes the tradeoff between revenue and costs. Let’s explore a few situations where consultants can help with pricing:

New Art Museum

A new modern art museum is scheduled to open next year in a major European city. The project lead has requested your help with the pricing of the admission tickets. He has two questions: How would you approach selecting a pricing method for the museum? What price would you recommend and why?

Nail the case & fit interview with strategies from former MBB Interviewers that have helped 89.6% of our clients pass the case interview.

Animal Healthcare

Our client provides healthcare services for animals and develops veterinary drugs. The client has recently developed a product that enables cows to increase milk production by 20%. They have turned to you to figure out how to price this new product in order to maximize profits.

California Municipality

Your client is a local municipality in California. The town recently built a complex of six parking lots, encircling a nearby community center and outdoor mall, which features shopping, restaurants, and some light attractions. In total there are 20,000 parking spots in these lots. Our client wants to maximize the profit it generates from the parking lots with a focus on revenue generation. How would you think about different types of pricing structures and revenue models for the parking lots?

In most pricing case questions, you’ll have to work through one or a combination of the following pricing strategies:

Most companies use a combination of these alternative pricing strategies to maximize profitability. For example, a manufacturer of diet pills that costs $10 to produce may be able to charge $100 per bottle if the target customers have low-price sensitivity and high perceived value (a savings of many hours working out in the gym and/or eliminating the negative health effects of being overweight).

Note that for these examples, multiple correct solutions are possible. The important thing in pricing case interviews is to back up your answer well with analysis and logic.

Relevant pricing strategies + sample approach:

  • Since the costs of running the museum are mostly fixed (e.g., staff, maintenance, and utilities), a cost-based pricing strategy will not provide much insight. 
  • The new museum should therefore use a combination of demand-pull and market-based pricing.
  • Since the museum is new, they should set their pricing below the average market price in order to draw in early customers to check out the museum and spread awareness to their friends.
  • Do a check that the proposed price point will cover a good portion of the museum’s costs with expected attendance numbers.
  • Note that for a museum, ticket sales are probably not expected to fully cover costs. Exhibit sponsors, grants, and donations will be additional sources of funding.

Our client provides healthcare services for animals and develops veterinary drugs . The client has recently developed a product that enables cows to increase milk production by 20%. They have turned to you to figure out how to price this new product in order to maximize profits.

  • The cost of making a dose is $30.
  • The competition charges $300 per dose.
  • Clients are willing to pay $300 per dose because the 20% increase in their revenues will more than offset the product’s price.
  • Therefore, the client should set its price based on a combination of market-based pricing and demand-pull.
  • The recommendation of whether to price above or below the competitor’s $300 price depends upon how our product compares to theirs. If the client’s product is superior in any way, we may be able to command a higher price. If we are entering the market late and with a comparable product, we’ll need to set our price lower in order to provide an incentive for customers to try our product.
  • At $300, this will provide a very attractive gross margin of close to 90%.

Your client is a local municipality in California. The town recently built a complex of six parking lots, encircling a nearby community center and outdoor mall, which features shopping, restaurants, and some light attractions. In total there are 20,000 parking spots in these lots. Our client wants to maximize the profit it generates from the parking lots with a focus on generating additional revenue. How would you think about different types of pricing structures and revenue models for the parking lots?

  • Costs are mostly fixed (staff salaries and bond payments for garage construction), so a cost-based strategy doesn’t provide much insight. 
  • Competitive garages are priced similarly, but less convenient for shoppers.
  • Excess capacity provides the opportunity to identify additional revenue sources by driving higher utilization of the parking spaces and offering customers additional services while parked in the garage. 
  • Brainstorming options to increase revenue identifies a variety of options (offer monthly passes, charge stores monthly fees to validate customer parking, provide valet parking and car washing, use excess capacity for concerts, fairs, or other large events that require parking spaces.)
  • Do a check that the proposed price point, including value-added services, will cover salary and bond payments.

Like any other case interview, you want to spend the first few moments thinking through all the elements of the problem. Also, there is no one right way to approach a pricing case study but it should include the following:

  • Cost-based: What is the cost of making the product or delivering the service?
  • Market-based: What is the pricing of a comparable product or service? Can we price above what the competition is charging?
  • Value-based: What is the customer’s willingness to pay? Will we lose customers if we charge higher prices? Are there incremental services we could provide that customers would value?  
  • What is the volume impact of the alternative pricing model? What is the incremental revenue expected?
  • What significant costs will be incurred if the pricing model changes?
  • What revenues and costs will be realized if value-added services are launched?
  • It can be hard to raise prices once customers are used to a low price. Price anchoring (establishing a higher price but discounting it) may be needed for some time to transition customer expectations.
  • What is the expected response from the competition?
  • What is the impact on the brand if we reduce prices?
  • What is the impact on volume if we increase prices?

Let’s go through the pricing case for the California municipality with 6 parking lots. Remember that the instructions said to focus on incremental revenue. As you develop your structure for the case, remember the key components of our pricing issue tree approach:

  • Pricing strategies including offering value-added services
  • Financial Impact

Tailor Your Pricing Case Approach for this Client

The first thing you will need to do in a pricing case study, as well as any other consulting case, is to ensure you understand the problem you need to solve by repeating it back to your interviewer. If you need a refresher on the 4 Steps to Solving a Consulting Case Interview , check out our guide.

Second, you’ll structure your approach to the case. Stop reading for a moment and consider how you’d structure your analysis of this case. We gave you some hints in our sample cases section. After you’ve outlined your approach, read on and see what issues you addressed, and which you missed. Remember that you want your structure to be MECE and to have a couple of levels in your Issue Tree . 

  • What is the municipality’s cost structure? 
  • How much revenue is required to cover costs?
  • How much of a profit expectation does the municipality have? Do they want to generate as much revenue as possible or cover their costs and provide a service to their community at an attractive price?
  • What are the municipality’s current pricing structure and prices?
  • How do the municipality’s current prices compare to alternative parking options?
  • What alternative pricing structures could the municipality use (hourly rates, daily rates, monthly rates, store validation, etc.)
  • What non-price considerations are there? (Proximity to popular destinations, roof vs. no roof, lighting/safety, cleanliness)
  • What services could the parking lots provide in addition to the parking spot?
  • How much space would providing additional services require?
  • How much revenue would they generate?
  • What are the expected revenues of alternative pricing models?
  • What are the expected revenues of value-based services?
  • Would additional costs be incurred?
  • How might customers react to alternative pricing models?
  • To value-based services?
  • How might competitors react?

Pricing Case Brainstorming Exercise

After you structure your approach, the interviewer asks you to brainstorm some revenue growth opportunities for the California municipality. Again, stop reading for a moment to do this exercise yourself because you’ll learn more if you do. When you’re done, note the ideas you didn’t consider. Few candidates hit every possibility, but to move on to the next round of interviews, you’ll definitely want to go beyond the straightforward responses. 

  • Charge store owners for parking spots to offer free parking for visitors.
  • Charge higher pricing for spots closest to the stores.
  • Offer annual/monthly parking passes.
  • Valet parking
  • Car washing
  • Quick car servicing (e.g., oil change)
  • Locate public transportation/bus stops adjacent to the lots and provide parking to commuters at a monthly rate.
  • Rent space to event attendees (e.g., sporting events, concerts, fairs).

When you ask about the municipality’s current pricing and parking space utilization rates, your interviewer provides you with the following exhibit and asks you to calculate the daily revenue. Note that the parking lot has two sources of revenue:

  • Tourists/shoppers buying parking tickets for an hourly rate.
  • Store owners buying monthly parking permits for their staff.

Calculation of current daily revenue:

  • 3 hour parking: Revenue = (20,000 parking spots) * (30% of total lot occupancy for tourists/shoppers) * (75% of tourists/shoppers occupancy for 3hr parking) * ($2/hr) * (*3hrs) = $27,000
  • 5 hour parking: Revenue = (20,000 parking spots) * (30% of total lot occupancy for tourists/shoppers) * (25% of tourists/shoppers occupancy for 5hr parking) * ($10 flat fee) * = $15,000
  • Total tourist/shopper revenue – $42,000
  • Store owners: Revenue = (20,000 parking spots) (5% lot occupancy for owners) *($240/month) (1/30 to convert to daily revenue) = $8,000
  • Total tourist/shopper + store owner daily revenues= $50,000

Alternative Pricing Model: Store Validation

If we move to a store validation model, in which a store validates the ticket of any customer who buys something, the spots taken would increase to 10,000, or 50% of available capacity. This is because the cost of parking is currently a deterrent to customers shopping at this mall. More shoppers at the mall would be a significant benefit to store owners.

The cost per validation would be $5 to the store. Assume every person parking a car purchases something. The number of store owner permits would drop to 750 since store owners will likely decide to save money on permits to pay for visitor parking spots.

What would be the impact on daily revenue?

  • Increase in the tourist/shopper revenues = $8,000 = (10,000 spots) * ($5 per spot) – $42,000
  • Store owner revenues would decrease by $2,000= (750 permits) * ($240 per permit/30 days per month) – $8,000 
  • Change in total daily revenue = + $6,000
  • A good candidate will recognize that the increase of 12% in daily revenues is a positive move forward.

Risks to the Change to a Validation Pricing Model

Do you see any risks to a validation pricing model? Do you think you’re likely to run into any resistance? From which types of stores and why?

  • Stores with low price per transaction (such as ice cream shops) will likely lose money if they pay for the $5 validation fee, therefore 100% of stores will not be willing to participate.
  • An alternative validation model would be to charge stores based on a percentage of transactions or profits. This would get less pushback.
  • Under the percentage model, there would need to be a cap on the price charged to stores. A 5% charge on an ice cream may be reasonable but a 5% charge on a $1000 handbag would not be.
  • You could note that while the focus of this case is on revenue generation, the costs to run a validation model might be slightly higher because the municipality will need to process the validation numbers and bill the stores.

Recommendation

Lastly, provide your recommendation for the client. Try coming up with your own before reading our sample.

The California Municipality should proceed with the transition to the validation pricing model because it provides an incremental $6000 per day or an increase in revenue of 12%. While doing this, it should study the risk of pushback from store owners with low transaction value and the possibility of charging based on a percentage of the transaction. Additionally, the municipality should roll out revenue growth opportunities such as renting out excess capacity and offering value-added services (e.g., valet parking) over time.

Determine the relevant pricing strategy to apply (e.g., cost-based vs. market-based or demand pull).

Brainstorm all possible changes in pricing methodologies that might bring in additional revenue (e.g., hourly, daily, or monthly pricing, a store-validation model for our parking lot case), don’t forget that charging for value-added services could be part of a broader pricing & revenue generation strategy (e.g., oil changes, car wash for our parking lot case)., calculate the incremental revenues from suggested changes in pricing., always have an answer to whether to proceed or not., detail the risks associated with the pricing changes..

– – – – –

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • Examples of pricing cases
  • Approaches for solving a pricing case
  • Different pricing strategies 
  • Tips for solving a pricing case

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about pricing case study interviews, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s case coaches will answer them.

Other people prepping for pricing case studies found the following pages helpful:

  • Our Ultimate Guide to Case Interview Prep .
  • Types of Case Interviews .
  • Consulting Case Interview Examples .
  • M&A Case Study Interview.
  • Market Sizing Case Questions .

Help with Case Study Interview Prep

Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on pricing case study interviews. My Consulting Offer has helped almost 85% of the people we’ve worked with to get a job in management consulting. We want you to be successful in your consulting interviews too. For example, here is how David  was able to get his offer from  Deloitte.

2 thoughts on “Mastering the Pricing Case Interview: A Comprehensive Guide”

In the Alternative Pricing Model: Store Validation

The original tourist/shopper revenue is $42,000 Under the alternative pricing model, (10,000 spots) * ($5 per spot) = $50,000, an $8,000 increase

The original store owner revenue is $8,000 Under the alternative pricing model, (750 permits) * ($240 per permit/30 days per month) = $6,000, a $2000 decrease.

The new total daily revenue = $56,000 Original daily revenue = $50,000

Shouldn’t the change in total daily revenue be = $56,000 – $50,000 = $6,000, a 12% increase?

I’m confused about the change in total daily revenue $2,000 and 4% numbers.

Yes, good catch! We’ll make the change. Sorry for the confusion.

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  23. Mastering the Pricing Case Study: A Comprehensive Guide

    The primary goal of a pricing case is to recommend a price that maximizes profit, taking costs for product/service and market considerations into account. A typical pricing case interview would start something like this -. A manufacturer of kitchen knives sells a range of products, from low-end to professional, to customers at different price ...