A Complete Guide to Last-Minute Case Interview Prep (2020)

It typically takes candidates 60 to 80 hours to prepare for case interviews, which is about 6 to 8 weeks of preparation. However, many candidates find themselves in situations where they only have one month, one week, or even one day to prepare.

 

While last-minute case interview prep is not ideal, sometimes that is the only option that you have. Perhaps you decided to apply to consulting last minute. Or perhaps you simply didn’t have the time to start preparing for case interviews early.

 

What is the best way to prepare for consulting case interviews last minute?

 

In this article, we’ll outline the exact preparation steps you should take to maximize the likelihood of passing your first round interviews in the most efficient way.

 

We’ll look at three different timelines that you may have: one day to prepare, one week to prepare, and one month to prepare.

 

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 will also list other case prep resources that people have found helpful, but know that these might not be as efficient to use given the limited amount of time you have.

 

How to Prepare for Case Interviews in a Day

 

If you have only one day to prepare for case interviews, try to empty your schedule as much as possible because there will be a lot of material to cram.

 

We’ll assume that you have eight hours to dedicate to preparing for case interviews.

 

Hour 0: Try to schedule 1-2 live cases with a case partner for later in the day (optional)

 

The very first thing you should do is try to schedule a mock case with a case partner later that day. If you do not have a case partner to practice with, then you can skip this optional step.

 

It is always best to get at least one or two live practice cases to best simulate a real case interview. However, this is not always possible, especially if you only have one day to prepare.

 

Ideally, your case partner would be a current or former consultant since these people know exactly how to give case interviews. The next best option is practicing with someone who is also interviewing for consulting and has been practicing cases heavily.

 

Spend a few minutes sending a few emails or text messages to friends, classmates, or colleagues. The few minutes of effort is worth the potential upside.

 

Hour 0 – 2: Read Hacking the Case Interview

 

Begin your case interview prep by reading the first eleven chapters of Hacking the Case Interview. You can get the eBook on Amazon for instant access on your computer by using Amazon’s built-in browser eBook reader. There is also a paperback version.

 

This is the most concise and efficient case interview prep book in the market. These chapters will take you about two hours to read.

 

This book breaks the case interview down into its nine different steps or components. It then covers each of the steps in detail to teach you exactly what you need to do and say. The book focuses on teaching intuitive, robust strategies that require minimal memorization.

 

By the end of these two hours, you’ll understand:
 

  • How to kick off a case interview by asking the right clarifying questions, summarizing the case background information, and verifying the objective

 

  • How to create structured and tailored frameworks for any case

 

  • How to answer the three types of quantitative questions

 

  • How to answer the two types of qualitative questions

 

  • How to deliver a strong recommendation

 

Hour 2 – 4: Do 5 practice cases on your own

 

After reading the book, the next two hours will be spent working through the five practice cases included in the book. These cases are written in a way such that you can complete these on your own without a case partner.

 

These practice cases will also cover the most common types of cases you’ll see in consulting first round interviews.

 

Each case should take about 20 – 25 minutes to complete. You’ll also want to spend about 10 minutes after finishing the case to review your answers and compare them to the book’s answers.

 

The most important thing is that you do not complete these practice cases in silence as if you were taking an exam. Pretend that there is an interviewer in the room.

 

When you finish developing your framework, practice presenting it out loud. When doing case math, walk the imaginary interviewer through each step of your calculations. For qualitative questions, answer them out loud and anticipate potential objections or follow-up questions an interviewer may ask.

 

The better you can simulate a live interview, the more high-quality and effective your practice will be.

 

Hour 4 - 6: Identify areas of the case that you struggle with and focus on improving those weak points

 

Now that you have an understanding of what solving a case interview is like, reflect and look back on the 5 practice cases you previously did.

 

What parts of the case interview did you struggle the most with?

  • Creating a framework

 

  • Solving market sizing problems

 

  • Solving profitability or breakeven questions

 

  • Interpreting charts and graphs

 

  • Answering brainstorming questions

 

  • Answering business judgment questions

 

  • Delivering a recommendation

 

You want to focus on practicing the specific components of the case that you struggle with. To do this, we recommend using The Ultimate Case Interview Workbook. It contains over 65+ practice problems for each type of question listed above. It also contains 15 more practice cases that you can do on your own.

 

You can get the eBook on Amazon for instant access on your computer. There is also a paperback version.

 

If you’d rather use free resources, use this list of free practice cases by consulting firm. The ones we recommend are:

  • McKinsey practice cases (4 cases)

 

  • BCG practice cases (2 cases)

 

  • Bain practice cases (2 cases)

 

  • Deloitte practice cases (6 cases)

 

During these two hours, split your time between working on practice problems that focus on a specific type of case interview question and practicing full-length cases. How you use your time will depend on what you feel are your biggest weaknesses.

 

If you are doing practice cases, pick one area of the case interview you want to focus on. When doing the case, focus on nailing that particular part. Work on improving your biggest weaknesses first.

 

Hour 6 – 7: Practice one or two cases with a case partner. If you are not able to find a case partner, continue practicing cases on your own.

 

Remember in Hour 0 when you spent a few minutes emailing or texting people to schedule mock case interviews? Now is the time to do them.

 

Since you’ve done quite a few number of practice cases by now, you should be able to do well enough in live practice cases such that your partner can provide meaningful and actionable feedback.

 

When doing these live practice cases, make sure that your partner is spending at least 10 – 15 minutes after each case giving you feedback.

 

If you were not able to find a case partner to practice with, continue working on practice problems and practice cases from the previous step.

 

Hour 7 – 8: Prepare answers to other consulting interview questions

 

At this point, you will have significantly improved your case interview skills. There is much more that you can practice, but you should spend some time preparing for the other common interview questions you could be asked in your first round consulting interview.

 

These are:
 

  • The “why are you interested in consulting?” question

 

  • The “why are you interested in this firm?” question

 

  • Behavioral or fit interview questions

 

For the first type of question, read this “why consulting? article to learn how to develop a compelling and unique answer.

 

For the second type of question, research the firm that you are applying for and identify three reasons why you are interested in working at the firm. Use the same structure as the structure you used to answer the “why consulting?” interview question.

 

For the last type of question, read this complete consulting behavioral interview questions guide and prepare your 6 – 8 stories to answer these types of questions.

 

How to Prepare for Case Interviews in a Week

 

If you have one week to prepare for case interviews, try to free up as much time as possible on your calendar. We’ll assume that you have about four hours each day to dedicate to preparing for case interviews.

 

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 the week. We will also recommend other resources to use if you choose not to use the course.

 

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 includes 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. You will likely not need any more than these 20 cases given that you have one week to prepare for your interviews.

 

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. Prepare for other consulting interview questions

 

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.

 

Finally, you’ll spend time preparing answers to three other consulting interview questions you are likely to get asked:

 

  • The “why are you interested in consulting?” question

 

  • The “why are you interested in this firm?” question

 

  • Behavioral or fit interview questions

 

How to Prepare for Case Interviews in a Month

 

With one month to prepare, you may be able to achieve the 60 to 80 hours of case interview prep needed to excel in case interviews. We’ll assume that you have about two hours each day to dedicate to preparing for case interviews.

 

Week 1: Learn the right case interview strategies

 

We’ve mentioned this several times in this article already, but we recommend learning your case interview strategies through the Hacking the Case Interview book or course. Since you have an entire month to prepare, it also may be worth reading and learning strategies from a different author.

 

The other book we recommend is Case Interview Secrets. It provides great explanations of essential case interview concepts, such as the hypothesis, issue true or framework, drill-down analysis, and synthesis.

 

Week 2: Begin practicing cases regularly, keeping a comprehensive, detailed list of improvement areas

 

In Week 2, you’ll be doing 2 practice cases a day, for a total of 14 practice cases.

 

You may want to do the first few cases by yourself to get comfortable with solving cases before practicing with a partner. However, it is best to practice cases with a partner to best simulate a real interview.

 

The goal of this week is to get comfortable and familiar with case interviews. In your 14 practice cases, you should be exposed to many different industries. You should also be exposed to many types of cases such as profitability, market entry, mergers and acquisitions, pricing, and operations cases.

 

While doing these cases, keep a comprehensive and detailed list of improvement areas. Your case partner should be providing sufficient feedback to you at the end of every case.

 

Week 3: Continue practicing cases and refining your weaknesses

 

In Week 3, you’ll be increasing your practice by doing 3 cases a day for a total of 21 cases this week.

 

For these 21 cases, you want to focus on improving your weaknesses. Whether that it is on structuring a framework, solving quantitative problems, answering qualitative questions, or delivering a recommendation, pick one area to work on in each case that you do.

 

Working on improving everything at once is difficult and inefficient. It is better to focus on improving one specific thing before moving onto the next improvement area.

 

If you feel that you are very weak in one particular area, it may be worth focusing on doing practice problems specific to that area in addition to doing full cases. Again, we recommend The Ultimate Case Interview Workbook for this.  

 

Week 4: Complete your case interview prep and prepare for the other consulting interview questions you will be asked

 

In Week 4, you’ll be practicing 2 cases a day for a total of 14 cases. By the end of your month of case prep, you will have done a total of 49 cases.

 

For this week, you should continue to focus on solving cases smoothly and efficiently, but you may also want to work on practicing demonstrating fit with the firm you are interviewing for.

 

Although most consulting firms look for a similar set of qualities among candidates, different firms place a heavier emphasis on some qualities than others

 

For example:

  • Bain values collaboration and camaraderie

 

  • BCG values creativity and intellect

 

  • McKinsey values executive presence and leadership

 

During the case interview, there will be opportunities for you to demonstrate these qualities if you prepare yourself for this.

 

In addition, Week 4 should be spent preparing your answers to the other consulting interview questions you could be asked:

  • The “why are you interested in consulting?” question

 

  • The “why are you interested in this firm?” question

 

  • Behavioral or fit interview questions

 

Land your Dream Consulting Job

 

If you found this article helpful, you’ll love our comprehensive 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.

 

Try the course for free today.