The Best Way to Practice Case Interviews By Yourself
The best way to practice case interviews is to practice with a case partner. This is the best way to simulate a real case interview. However, this is not always possible. You may not always be able to find a great partner that you share a compatible schedule with.
In these situations, you have no other choice but to practice without a partner. Practicing case interviews by yourself can still be helpful if you practice the right way.
In this article, we’ll go through the exact steps you should take to maximize your practice and learning when practicing case interviews alone.
The Eight Steps to Practice Case Interviews by Yourself
There are 8 steps to practice case interviews by yourself. The goal of these steps is to simulate a real case interview as closely as you can so that you practice the same skills and techniques that you are going to use in a real case interview.
- Find cases that are suitable for practicing alone
- Synthesize the case background information out loud
- Ask clarifying questions out loud
- Structure a framework and present it out loud
- Propose an area to start the case
- Answer each case question out loud
- Deliver a recommendation out loud
- Review your answers and identify improvement areas
1. Find Cases That Are Suitable for Practicing Alone
Not all cases are suitable for practicing by yourself. Case interviews can be written in a number of different formats, but there are two formats you should use to practice case interviews without a partner.
The first format is the question and answer format. Many cases are written as a series of sequential questions and answers. This format is easy to practice alone because you can read the question, develop an answer, and then compare your answer to the model answer. This case format emulates an interviewer-led case.
The McKinsey case library has four cases written in this format. When you are finished with those, the Hacking the Case Interview course has twenty additional cases in this format. You can try the first three completely free.
The second format is the interactive online case format. In this format, you can submit your answers and the case will give you information based on the answers that you give. This case format emulates a candidate-led case interview.
The BCG Interactive Case Library is a great resource to use to practice case interviews by yourself. Unfortunately, there are only two cases available for practice.
A case format you should not use is one that lays out all of the case information in an unstructured way. This format is more suited for practicing with a case partner. Your case partner reads all of the information so that they can run the mock case interview smoothly.
If you use these types of cases, you’ll likely read the answers to the case questions as you read the case background information. This makes practicing the case on your own ineffective. Therefore, only use the question and answer format and interactive online case format when practicing on your own.
2. Synthesize the Case Background Information
Start the practice case interview by reading the case background information. Then, just as you would do in a live case interview, summarize the case background information out loud.
Even though you will not have a partner to confirm your understanding of the case, it is important to practice synthesizing the case out loud. This will help you improve your communication skills so that you can summarize information clearly and concisely.
3. Ask Clarifying Questions
Next, just as you would do in a live case interview, ask clarifying questions out loud. Although you do not have a case partner that can answer your questions, it is important to practice identifying the critical questions that need to be asked to fully understand the case.
Focus on asking questions that strengthen your understanding of the company, the business problem, or the objective. You’ll have an easier time solving the case if you ask the right clarifying questions.
4. Structure a Framework and Present it Out Loud
Afterwards, take a few minutes to gather your thoughts to structure a framework. Remember that you want to simulate exactly what you would say and do in a real live interview. So, talk to yourself out loud and ask for permission to have a few minutes of silence.
When you are creating a framework, it may be tempting to give yourself unlimited time since you are working through the case alone. Don’t do this.
Instead, pretend that you are in an actual interview in which you’ll only have a few minutes to put together a comprehensive and coherent framework. Replicate the stress that you will feel in an interview when you are practicing case interviews on your own by giving yourself time pressure.
When you have finished creating your framework, turn your paper around to face an imaginary interviewer and walk through the framework out loud. You will need to get good at presenting your framework concisely and in an easy to understand way.
5. Propose an Area to Start the Case
Next, propose an area of your framework to start the case. Make sure to say out loud the reasons why you want to start with that particular area. This is a great way to practice kicking off a case interview in candidate-led cases.
6. Answer Each Case Question Out Loud
Now that the case has started, start by reading the first question. After reading the question, don’t work on answering that question in silence. During a real interview, you’ll never work in silence. Instead, pretend that you are in a live interview and walk the interviewer through your thinking.
If the question is a quantitative problem, create a structure and walk the interviewer through how you would solve the problem. When doing math, do your calculations out loud and explain the steps that you are taking.
If the question is qualitative, structure your thinking and then brainstorm your ideas out loud. Walk the interviewer through your ideas and opinions.
For both quantitative and qualitative questions, try to anticipate objections the interviewer may raise or follow-up questions they may ask. You’ll have to make these questions up yourself since you are not practicing cases with a partner. Address these objections and answer these questions out loud.
Finally, take the time to connect your answer to the overall case objective. Synthesize the implications of your answer and how that shapes your hypothesis or working recommendation. You can also propose the next area of the case that you would like to explore or the next question you would like to answer.
Afterwards, move onto the next question and repeat this same process.
7. Deliver a Recommendation Out Loud
Once you have finished answering all of the case questions, it is time to deliver your recommendation. Just as you would do in a real case interview, ask for a brief moment to collect your thoughts and review your notes.
Once you have decided on a recommendation, present your recommendation to the interviewer. Again, it is important to do this out loud so that you can practice delivering your recommendation clearly and concisely.
8. Review Your Answers and Identify Improvement Areas
When the case is completed, review your framework and answers and compare them to the model answers that the case provides. Reflect on how you could have made your framework or answers stronger.
Also, take the time to reflect on what parts of the case you could have done better. Could your case synthesis be more concise? Was your framework mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive? Could your math calculations be done more smoothly? Was your recommendation structured enough?
This is the most important part of practicing case interviews by yourself. Since you have no partner to provide you feedback, you will need to be introspective and identify your own improvement areas.
At the end of each practice case interview, you should have a list of new things that you have learned and a list of improvement areas to work on in future practice cases. You’ll continue to work on your improvement areas in future practice cases either by yourself or with a partner.
Other Tips For Practicing Case Interviews By Yourself
The most important thing to remember when practicing case interviews by yourself is that you want to emulate a live case interview as closely as possible. Therefore, follow these tips to make the most of your case practice:
- Don’t have notes or a calculator out when you are practicing since you won’t have these in your actual interview
- Don’t take breaks in the middle of a mock case interview
- Don’t read the case answer until you completely finish answering each question
- Talk through everything out loud as if there were an interviewer in the room
- Occasionally record yourself to understand what you look like and sound like when you speak
- Make sure to give yourself enough time to review the model answers and identify areas where you can improve
- Focus on improving one thing at a time in each practice case interview
The Best Ways to Practice Specific Parts of a Case Interview by Yourself
Besides practicing full-length case interviews, you can also practice particular parts of the case interview. In addition to 15 full-length practice cases that you can do by yourself, The Ultimate Case Interview Workbook has over 65 practice problems covering all of the different parts of a case interview:
- Market sizing
- Charts and graphs
- Business judgement
We recommend using this book to get high-quality case interview practice with step-by-step explanations. If you prefer to use other resources, we’ve also listed alternative methods to practice these types of questions below:
Practicing Frameworks by Yourself
- For the practice cases you are using, read only the case background information and create a framework
- Read about business problems that real companies face in the news (e.g., Wall Street Journal, The Economist, New York Times) and create a framework for them
- Read business school case studies and create a framework to solve them
Practicing Market Sizing by Yourself
- Practice with this list of market sizing and estimation questions
- Pick a particular market and estimate the market size
- Pick a particular metric and try to estimate it
Practicing Reading Graphs by Yourself
- For the practice cases you are using, go straight to the exhibits and practice reading and understanding them
- Find graphs and charts in the news to practice reading them and identifying the most important takeaways
- Practice interpreting graphs and charts found in standardized exams such as the SAT, GMAT, or GRE
Practicing Brainstorming by Yourself
- Pick a company and brainstorm ways they could increase revenues
- Pick a company and brainstorm ways they could decrease costs
- Read about business problems that real companies face in the news and brainstorm different ways to solve them
Practicing Business Judgment by Yourself
- Read about strategic decisions real companies have made in the news
- Read business school case studies
- Read through the practice cases in MBA casebooks
- Watch videos of people solving case interviews
All of these activities will help you to improve and refine your case interview skills. The most important thing is that you identify your case interview weaknesses and have consistent practice to meticulously and systematically improve.
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