Having helped thousands of candidates break into top-tier consulting firms, we know exactly what it takes to prepare for consulting case interviews. So, how much time should be spent preparing for case interviews?
It typically takes candidates 60 - 80 hours to prepare for case interviews, which is about 6 - 8 weeks of preparation. However, this time varies significantly. It may take as little as 4 weeks for candidates with strong business intuition and communication skills or up to 12 weeks for candidates with no business background.
We have seen exceptional candidates pass their consulting interviews and receive offers from McKinsey, BCG, or Bain in just one or two weeks. Sadly, we have also heard of candidates spending more than 100 hours preparing for case interviews, but receiving no consulting offers.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- The 4 factors that will help you estimate the number of hours and weeks you should spend preparing for case interviews
- 7 actionable tips to drastically decrease the amount of time needed to prepare for case interviews
Factors Impacting the Time Required to Prepare for Case Interviews
There are four factors that impact how much time you’ll need to dedicate to preparing for case interviews. Assessing these factors will help you set expectations for the amount of time you should expect to spend.
Natural intuition and ability
Case interviews require a strong business intuition and excellent communication skills. Some people will have a higher baseline on these skills than others.
If you have studied business in school or have worked a job that does similar work to consulting, you’ll likely already have a good business intuition. If you give speeches, presentations, or participate in debates frequently, you’ll likely already have good communication skills.
Although these abilities can be learned by anyone, some people will naturally have strong abilities to start with. For these people, they will likely need to spend less time preparing for case interviews than the average person.
Some people are faster learners than others. There are many skills you’ll need to learn and develop to be proficient in case interviews, such as structuring a framework, developing a hypothesis, solving math problems, and delivering a recommendation.
These skills require no specialized knowledge or expertise. Anyone can learn and master these skills with enough practice. However, some people will pick up these skills faster than others.
Quality of practice
The quality of your practice determines how quickly you can learn and master case interviews.
If you practice with case interview partners that don’t know how to properly deliver a case interview and provide feedback, you’ll learn much more slowly than someone practicing with a consultant who has given interviews before.
Similarly, if the practice cases you use are not representative of an actual case interview or don’t have outstanding model answers, you’ll learn much more slowly than someone using high-quality practice cases.
Consulting firm requirements
The amount of time needed to prepare for case interviews also depends on the consulting firms that you are applying for.
The top three consulting firms, McKinsey, BCG, and Bain, have the highest standards and requirements when assessing a candidate’s case interview capabilities. Less prestigious consulting firms may have a lower bar that you need to pass.
If you are recruiting for McKinsey, BCG, and Bain, you’ll likely need to spend more time preparing for case interviews than someone recruiting for Deloitte or Accenture.
Tips to Decrease the Time Needed to Prepare for Case Interviews
Follow these seven tips to speed up your case interview preparation and ensure that it is as efficient as possible.
Tip #1: Before you practice, learn the right strategies
Many candidates make the mistake of rushing into their case interview practice by immediately doing mock case interviews. While you’ll be spending most of your time doing practice case interviews, it is important that you learn the right case interview strategies first.
Practicing case interviews using the wrong strategies, or even worse, having no strategies at all, is a complete waste of time. You’ll build bad case interview habits that will be difficult to correct later.
If you learn how to solve case interviews the right way from the beginning, you’ll save yourself many hours of inefficient practice.
Tip #2: Do the first few practice case interviews on your own
After learning the right case interview strategies, it is actually more efficient to do the first few practice cases on your own. Case interviews have a very steep learning curve and you’ll likely be overwhelmed in the beginning.
The fastest way to get over the initial learning curve is to understand the structure and format of a case interview by working through a few practice cases on your own.
Additionally, There are many aspects of case interviews that you can practice without a partner, such as structuring a framework and solving quantitative problems. You can get much more practice working through these parts by yourself.
Tip #3: Practice the rest of your case interviews with a partner
After doing the first few practice cases on your own, you should practice case interviews with a partner. Doing case interviews with a partner is the best way to simulate a real case interview. There are many aspects of case interviews that you won’t be able to improve unless you practice live.
You should carefully select who your case partner will be. The quality of your case partner will determine the quality of practice that you get. The higher quality practice, the faster you will master case interviews.
Ideally, your case partner should know how to deliver a case interview and know how to give helpful feedback. If possible, try to pick case partners that are more experienced or better at case interviews than you. You’ll learn much more quickly this way.
Tip #4: Ask for mock cases from former and current consultants
At some point, you should ask former or current consultants to give you a mock case interview. This is the highest quality practice that you can get. Ask friends, classmates, colleagues, or use your LinkedIn network to find consultants that are willing to help you practice.
Consultants not only know exactly how to run cases, but they also give incredibly valuable feedback that your typical case partner will likely miss.
Tip #5: Make sure you are getting feedback after each case interview and keeping a thorough list of improvement areas
You can do many practice cases, but if you don’t spend enough time collecting feedback on what you can be doing better, you are not getting the maximum benefit from practice.
Make sure you are dedicating enough time during your practice cases to receive feedback from your case interview partner. For a 30- to 40-minute mock case, you should spend at least 15 to 20 minutes for feedback.
Keep a comprehensive list of every piece of feedback you receive. Identify what your major weaknesses are and prioritize improving those first.
Tip #6: Work on improving one thing at a time
Another mistake that candidates make is trying to focus on improving too many different things at once. Often, this results in the candidate not improving significantly on anything. It is much more efficient to focus on improving one thing at a time.
Before each practice case, decide on the one thing you really want to improve and focus on that one thing during the entire case interview.
Tip #7: Don’t burn yourself out
Some candidates do too many practice cases in a short period of time and burn themselves out. This creates case fatigue, which negatively impacts motivation and case interview performance.
Make sure to pace yourself during your case interview preparation. Remember that it is not a sprint, but a marathon.
Final Thoughts on the Time Needed to Prepare for Case Interviews
Ultimately, you shouldn’t focus too much on counting the number of hours or practice cases that you have done. Each candidate is different and you’ll have your own unique timeline for preparing for case interviews.
You’ll likely know when you have prepared enough for case interviews when you can create structured frameworks with ease, solve any math problem, and have a strong business instinct to solve case interviews quickly.
Remember that practice is your competitive advantage.
Imagine a candidate walking into their consulting case interview. This will be their third case interview that they’ve ever done in their life. Now imagine yourself walking into your consulting case interview. This will be the 53rd case interview that you’ve done. Who do you think has the advantage?
Each practice case that you do teaches you something new and helps you get slightly better at a particular component of the case interview. Each case gives you a slight edge over candidates that did not do that practice case. Make the most of the competitive advantage that you have through practice.
Finally, don’t forget about preparing for behavioral and fit interview questions. These questions are just as important as case interviews, but are often neglected by candidates.
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