Case Interview Secrets: A Comprehensive Book Review (2020)

Case Interview Secrets Book Cover


If you are preparing for consulting case interviews, you’ve likely heard of the book Case Interview Secrets by Victor Cheng. This book was published in 2012 and is one of the most popular case interview prep books on the market.

 

Victor Cheng, a former McKinsey consultant and interviewer, walks readers through how to get multiple job offers in consulting by acing their case interviews.

 

So, is this book the best case interview prep book on the market? How useful and relevant is the book today? Is this the only case interview prep book you need to read?

 

In this comprehensive review of Case Interview Secrets, we’ll answer all of these questions. We’ll also provide our recommendations for the best case interview prep books to read.

 

Case Interview Secrets: Overall Rating 4/5

 

Overall, the book is worth a read. It provides great explanations of essential case interview concepts. The stories and anecdotes that the author provides are entertaining and help paint a clear picture of what to expect in a case interview, what interviewers are looking for, and how to solve a case interview.

 

There are a few major areas of improvement for the book. One, it does not have any practice cases for candidates to read and work through. Two, while the framework strategy that the book provides is somewhat robust, it is too basic and simple for some parts of case situations. Three, the book can be quite long and wordy in explaining some concepts.

 

Therefore, while the book is an excellent resource, we recommend that you supplement this book with other case interview prep books, such as Hacking The Case Interview.

 

Case Interview Secrets is organized into three major sections:
 

  • Case Interview Fundamentals

 

  • Case Interview Frameworks

 

  • Different Formats of the Case Interview

 

We will review each of these sections in greater detail so that you know exactly what you should expect.

 

1. Case Interview Fundamentals: Section Rating 5/5

 

This is by far the best section of the book. Victor Cheng covers fundamental case interview concepts you should know such as the hypothesis, issue tree or framework, drill-down analysis, and synthesis.

 

The book does an excellent job explaining issue trees and covering the differences between outstanding issue trees and poor issue trees. There is a heavy emphasis on the principle of MECE, which stands for mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive.

 

In addition, the book provides intuitive explanations of drill-down analysis and how to develop and use a hypothesis-driven approach. These are all essential skills and strategies that consultants use every day.

 

Overall, the fundamentals of case interviews are covered in a clear and easy to follow way, making it suitable for complete case interview beginners.

 

The only downside to this section is that the reading is long and there is quite a bit of redundancy. While the book may not be the most efficient way to learn, you’ll still get meaningful value from reading it.

 

What readers have to say about Case Interview Secrets:

 

“[Case Interview Secrets] has valuable ideas, could be much more concise. The case solving approach can be summarized like this: 

1. The Hypothesis: State early, update continuously

2. The Tree: be original, It only exists to verify the hypothesis

3. Drill Down Analysis” Stop at minimal information necessary, think thoroughly

4. Synthesis: The result, reasons, the result again” (Selim, Goodreads)

 

“Book could have been condensed to 1/4 of the size. Wasted quite some time.” (Rose, Amazon)

 

2. Case Interview Frameworks: Section Rating 4/5

 

The framework section of the book dives deeper into three different types of frameworks: profitability, business situation, and mergers and acquisitions.

 

While the framework strategy the book teaches is way more robust and intuitive than Case in Point, it is too basic and simplistic to be effective in all types of case interviews. 


(You can read our comprehensive review of Case in Point here)

 

The book teaches two frameworks. The first is the formula for profit, which breaks profit down into revenue and costs. Revenue is broken down into quantity of units sold and price per unit. Costs are broken down into variable costs and fixed costs.

 

The second framework is the business situation framework. This framework has just four elements: customer, competition, product, and company. Victor Cheng suggests using this framework for nearly every single type of case due to the flexibility of these broad elements. In reality, many elements of this framework will not be relevant for the majority of cases.

 

The merger and acquisition framework is simply the business situation framework applied to the two different companies. While this type of framework is simple and easy to remember, it is not the best framework to use for the majority of merger and acquisition cases.

 

The major issue with Victor Cheng’s framework strategy is that forcing this framework to every business situation usually results in a weak framework. Interviewers know when you are regurgitating memorized information by using existing frameworks. To the interviewer, this shows a lack of critical thinking skills and business judgment.

 

The framework strategy in Hacking the Case Interview, is a much more robust, effective, and intuitive way to create unique and tailored frameworks for every business situation.

 

What readers have to say about Case Interview Secrets:

 

“Unlike Cosentino's "Case in Point," there are only a few frameworks to remember [in Case Interview Secrets]. These frameworks are more flexible than Cosentino's and rely more on the candidate's ability to think and analyze rather than the candidate's ability to memorize a large number of more rigid frameworks.” (Mike, Amazon)

 

“Victor uses only two frameworks instead of dozens, and by fleshing out the concepts behind each framework in the book you get an understanding of how to use them and how to create your OWN frameworks.” (Matthew, Amazon)

 

3. Different Formats of the Case Interview: Section Rating 3/5

 

In this section of the book, you’ll learn the differences between several formats of case interviews. These include:

  • Candidate-led cases

 

  • Interviewer-led cases

 

  • Written case interviews

 

  • Group case interviews

 

  • Presentation-only interviews

 

Victor Cheng does not go into great detail in explaining step-by-step how to tackle each of these formats of case interviews. However, the explanations and tips the book provides are sufficient to get readers familiar with what to expect in each of these formats.

 

What readers have to say about Case Interview Secrets:

 

“The book doesn't go into any more detail than Victor's online material.” (Brian, Amazon)

 

“If you're studying for case interviews, read this before you read Case in Point. This book helps you understand the thought process behind the interviews, and Case in Point fills in the details.” (Kate, Goodreads)

 

4. Case Interview Secrets Has No Practice Cases

 

There are no practice cases in this book. Simply knowing the structure of a case interview and a few strategies and techniques to tackle cases is not sufficient.

 

The best way to get better at case interviews is to practice, either by working through cases by yourself or replicating a case interview by having a partner give you a live case.

 

Unfortunately, after reading this book, you’ll be on your own to find practice cases. There is a lot of marketing material in the book that advertises the author’s website and more expensive courses and case materials.

 

What readers have to say about Case Interview Secrets:

 

“I probably had bigger expectations of this book. It is a good product, but it was a great disappointment that the rest of the content (cases, for instance) are located in the author's blog as a paid service. The main claim of this book is practice at least 100 hours, but it does not provide cases to practice in the first place.” (Ginger, Amazon)

 

“My biggest complaint and the reason for the rating are the constant reminders to check the author's website and his several hundred dollar courses. Look, people who read this kind of book are reasonably smart, they do not need a reminder that you have a website.” (Florian, Goodreads)

 

Final Thoughts on Case Interview Secrets

 

Since Case Interview Secrets is the second best-selling case interview book on Amazon, second only to Case in Point, know that most of your competition will also be reading and using this book. Now a days, solely relying on the strategies and techniques in this book is not enough to help you stand out from the crowd.

 

In summary, Case Interview Secrets is best for beginners for are looking to understand what a case interview is, what it tests for, and how to think about solving cases. The strategies and techniques in the book are a great starting point, but there are better framework and structuring strategies that you can use.

 

You can purchase Case Interview Secrets on Amazon here.

 

More from readers on what they have to say about Case Interview Secrets:

 

“A very well written book about case interview techniques for management consultants. I really enjoy the language of Cheng, so logical, convincing and goes straight to the heart. He outlined the types of case interviews and the essential techniques.” (Jing, Goodreads)

 

“Who should read this book? Group 1: Anyone who is contemplating a career in consulting but isn't fully aware of what the job entails or is simply curious what consulting is all about. Group 2: A consultant who's just begun his or her career and needs some additional tips or is simply preparing for job interviews.” (Anusha, Goodreads)

 

“[Case Interview Secrets] was okay as an intro to the field but honestly not terribly helpful. It has a few practical tips, but you’ll need a second book to really get a feel for case interviews. Would recommend just skimming if you get it.” (Melissa, Amazon)

 

Our Recommendations on the Best Case Interview Books

 

Read our comprehensive review of the top 12 case interview books to learn which books we recommend and why. In short, the three books we recommend are:

 

 

 

If you are looking to learn case interviews as quickly and efficiently as possible, check out our one week case interview course. The material in the course has helped 6,000+ students across 13+ countries land offers at top-tier consulting firms such as McKinsey, BCG, and Bain.

 

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