Your Guide to The Fastest Way to Learn Case Interviews
When it comes to preparing for case interviews, most successful candidates will spend up to 60-80 hours of preparation across 6-8 weeks. However, not everyone has that much time to prepare, especially students and full-time working professionals.
Is there a way to speed up the case interview learning process? Are there ways to save time when it comes to case interview prep? What is the fastest way to prepare for a consulting case interview?
If you’re worried about an upcoming consulting case interview and don’t want to invest hundreds of hours, we have you covered. In this article, we’ll cover:
- How to save hours of case interview preparation time
- The fastest way to learn case interviews
- Recommended resources to prepare for your case interview
How to Save Hours of Case Interview Preparation Time
Many case interview beginners make serious mistakes when they start their case interview preparation. These mistakes can end up wasting many hours of preparation time that could have been used much more effectively.
If you’re looking to learn case interviews quickly and efficiently, without wasting any time, follow these eight tips.
1. Learn case interview strategies before doing any practice cases
You should not even attempt to practice case interviews without learning the fundamental case interview strategies and techniques. Although doing practice cases is essential to improving your case interview skills, you’ll have a difficult time getting better at solving cases if you don’t know the right strategies and techniques to practice.
Practicing without learning these strategies is not an effective use of time because you are not building up enough consistent repetition. Doing completely different things every time you practice a case is a waste of time because you are not honing in on any particular skill.
2. Learn the right strategies the first time
There is a plethora of resources in the market that cover a wide range of case interview strategies and techniques. As a beginner, it is important to learn the most robust and effective strategies the first time around.
The sooner you learn the best strategies and techniques, the sooner you can begin practicing and mastering them.
If you end up learning mediocre strategies and then begin practicing using them, you’ll build up bad case interview habits that will be difficult to correct later on. So, save yourself time by ensuring that you’re learning the best possible strategies and techniques the first time around.
3. Use high-quality practice cases
There are hundreds, if not thousands of practice cases that you can find online. However, not all practice cases are made equal.
You should only be practicing with cases that are similar to actual cases you would get in your interviews. These practice cases should replicate the case interview experience as closely as possible.
Many practice cases online are not representative of an actual consulting case interview. They are either too short and simplistic or too long and intricate.
Therefore, the higher quality practice cases you use, the higher quality results and improvements you’ll see.
4. Practice your first few cases by yourself
When you’re completely new to case interviews, it is not the most effective use of your time to practice your first few cases with a partner. Chances are, you won’t really know what you’re doing and you’ll end up wasting your partner’s time.
It’s best to do the first few cases by yourself. You’ll not only learn a lot, but also save yourself time from having to find a case partner and find a time that works for the both of you.
Practicing your first few practice cases by yourself will let you understand the basic flow and structure of a case interview at your own pace. You can quickly get in some repetitions on creating frameworks, solving quantitative problems, and answering qualitative questions.
Once you have a better understanding of what a case interview is like, you should move onto practicing case interviews live with a case partner. It is always best to practice cases with a live partner because it simulates the case interview experience much more closely than practicing cases on your own.
By practicing with a partner, you get to practice driving the direction of the case, asking appropriate questions to the interviewer, and learning how to collaborate with the interviewer to reach a final recommendation or answer.
5. Practice case interviews with experienced case partners
Remember that high-quality practice leads to the most improvement and results. Therefore, it is important that you are not practicing case interviews with just any partner. Ideally, you want to practice case interviews with a partner that is experienced with cases and knows what they are doing.
If your case interview partner is a beginner, chances are they won’t really know how to deliver a case interview to you to give you the most realistic consulting interview experience. Additionally, they likely won’t be able to provide high-quality feedback on what you can be doing better because they don’t know what a great case interview performance looks like.
Compare this to practicing a case interview with a partner that has gone through the consulting interview process. They know exactly what case interviews are supposed to look like and have a much better sense of what interviewers look for and what constitutes a great case interview performance.
You’ll likely learn and improve more by doing one practice case interview with an experienced partner than three practice cases with a beginner.
6. Keep a long list of improvement opportunities
To make the most of your case interview practice, you should ask for as much feedback as possible from your case interview partner. You should also do as much internal reflection as you can on what you could have done better.
You should meticulously keep a long list of improvement areas after each practice case. The more specific you can be, the better. This list will ensure that you are focused on improving something each time you do a practice case.
If you’re doing practice cases without taking the time to understand what you can do better, you’re leaving a lot on the table for self-improvement.
7. Focus on improving one thing at a time
Although you may have a long list of improvement areas, don’t try to work on every single thing in each practice case interview. You may end up not improving at all if your attention and focus is spread out so thin across so many improvement areas.
Instead, for each practice case, pick one or two areas you’d like to focus on improving. For example, you could focus on improving the way you structure your answers. You could focus on being more concise in your communication. You could also focus on doing a better job of proactively driving the direction of the case.
By picking one or two specific areas to focus on for each practice case, you significantly increase the chances that you’ll actually get better at those one or two things.
8. Hone in on your weaknesses
With enough practice, you should have a good idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are in case interviews.
Once you’ve identified your major weaknesses, focus on getting better on your weaknesses. For example, if you’re struggling with math, pick practice cases that have very difficult quantitative questions. If you’re struggling with structuring, pick practice cases that have complex topics that require you to develop a simplified structure or approach.
Don’t waste your time doing practice cases that aren’t difficult for you. That is not the best use of your time.
The Fastest Way to Learn Case Interviews
Now that you know what you can do to save yourself significant case interview prep time, we’ll go through what we believe is the fastest way to learn case interviews.
As a caveat, we will be recommending a lot of our own resources for you to use because they are specifically written to teach you case interviews as quickly and efficiently as possible.
We recommend using the Hacking the Case Interview Course to expedite your learning process. It has 15 – 25 hours of content that you can complete over the course of a week. We will also recommend other resources to use if you choose not to use the course.
Below, we’ve put together an intensive one week plan for you to follow. At the end of the week, you’ll have a solid and fundamental understanding of case interviews and will have practiced and improved significantly on all of the major case interview skills.
You’ll learn a ton about case interviews in this one week, but you’ll likely want to do additional practice afterwards to further fine tune your skills.
Day 1: Learn case interview strategies and schedule practice cases
Go through Module 1 – 3 in the Hacking the Case Interview Course, which covers an introduction to case interviews, understanding the case background and objective, and structuring a framework. These modules include practice problems which you should complete as well.
If you are not using the Hacking the Case Interview Course, read the first seven chapters of the Hacking the Case Interview book.
Once you finish, you should know exactly how to:
- Synthesize case background information clearly and concisely
- Ask appropriate clarifying questions
- Create structured frameworks
- Kick off the case
On Day 1, you should also spend time scheduling practice cases with a case partner for Days 3 – 7. You should try to schedule 1 – 2 cases on each of these five days.
Day 2: Finish learning case interview strategies
Go through Module 4 – 6 in the Hacking the Case Interview Course, which covers solving quantitative problems, answering qualitative questions, and delivering a recommendation. These modules include practice problems which you should complete as well.
If you are not using the Hacking the Case Interview Course, read chapters eight through eleven of the Hacking the Case Interview book.
Once you finish, you should know exactly how to:
- Solve market sizing questions
- Solve profitability or breakeven questions
- Interpret charts and graphs
- Answer brainstorming questions
- Answer business judgment questions
- Deliver a clear, concise recommendation
If you haven’t successfully scheduled practice cases with a case partner for Days 3 – 7, try to finalize the scheduling today.
Day 3: Begin practicing cases and identify your weaknesses
From Days 3 – 7, you will do a total of 4 practice cases each day, which include cases that you do by yourself and cases that you do with a partner.
So, if you have one case scheduled with a partner, do another 3 practice cases by yourself that day. If you have two cases scheduled with a partner, do another two. If you have no cases scheduled with a partner, you will need to do all 4 cases by yourself.
By the end of the week, you will have done 20 practice cases. The Hacking the Case Interview Course has 20 full-length practice cases that you can use.
If you have not enrolled in the course, you can use this list of practice cases provided by consulting firms. However, know that not all of these practice cases will be high-quality. We recommend doing the practice cases from McKinsey, BCG, Bain, and Deloitte.
After completing your four practice cases for the day, reflect and look back on these cases. You need to pull together a comprehensive, detailed list of all of your improvement opportunities.
If you did practice cases with a partner, they should be able to provide you with feedback that helps you identify your improvement areas. Else, you will need to be introspective on your case interview performance.
Day 4: Continue practicing cases, focusing on improving your frameworks
On Day 4, you’ll do another 4 practice cases. For these cases, focus on improving your frameworks. Use the following rubric to assess your frameworks:
- Does your framework have at least 3 – 4 major elements?
- Are all of the elements of your framework relevant to the case?
- Does your framework cover all of the important areas needed to solve the case?
- Are your framework elements mutually exclusive from each other?
The goal for the day is to finish developing and refining your framework structuring skills.
Day 5: Continue practicing cases, focusing on improving your case math
On Day 5, you’ll do another 4 practice cases. For these cases, focus on improving your case math. Use the following rubric to assess your case math:
- Are you structuring your approach before doing math calculations?
- Is your approach clear and efficient?
- Are you performing math calculations smoothly and efficiently?
- Are you correctly interpreting graphs, charts, and tables?
- Are you tying your answers to quantitative questions back to the case objective?
The goal for the day is to finish developing and refining your case math skills.
Day 6: Continue practicing cases, focusing on improving your answers to qualitative questions
On Day 6, you’ll do another 4 practice cases. For these cases, focus on improving your answers to qualitative questions. Use the following rubric to assess your qualitative skills:
- Are you structuring your answers to qualitative questions?
- Is your structure mutually exclusive and completely exhaustive?
- Are you brainstorming a sufficient number of ideas?
- Are you brainstorming ideas that are high-quality or creative?
- Are your answers reasonable from a business perspective?
- Are you tying your answers to qualitative questions back to the case objective?
The goal for the day is to finish developing and refining your qualitative case skills.
Day 7: Continue practicing cases, focusing on improving your case conclusion
On Day 7, you’ll do another 4 practice cases. For these cases, focus on improving your final case conclusion. Use the following rubric to assess your case conclusion:
- Does your conclusion start with a firm recommendation?
- Is your conclusion structured and clear?
- Do you provide sufficient support for your recommendation?
- Do you include potential next steps?
The goal for the day is to finish developing and refining your case synthesis and recommendation skills.
Day 8+: Continue practicing cases and improving on your weaknesses
After this intense week of preparation, you will no longer be a case interview beginner. You will have learned all of the essential strategies and techniques needed to solve any case interview. You will also have completed 20 practice cases, which will give you a great idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are.
The next steps for you are to continue practicing case interviews using high-quality cases. Focus on refining your case interview skills in areas that you are weak in or areas that you are uncomfortable with.
The amount of additional time you’ll need to spend preparing for case interviews depends on how quickly you learn. As long as you follow the preparation strategies outlined in this article, you’ll be ensuring that you are learning case interviews in the fastest, most efficient way possible.
Recommended Resources to Prepare for Your Case Interview
To summarize, here are the resources we recommend you to use in order to learn case interviews as quickly and efficiently as possible:
- One Week Case Interview Course: A comprehensive case interview course that condenses all of the case interview strategies, techniques, and practice you need into a 15 – 25 hour course. Learn through 50+ concise video lessons and 20 full-length practice cases with detailed solutions.
- Hacking the Case Interview: In this book, learn exactly what to do and what to say in every step of the case interview. This is the perfect book for beginners that are looking to learn the basics of case interviews quickly.