Case Structuring and How to do it Effectively

Of all the assessment dimensions, structuring is perhaps the most challenging for candidates who are just starting out with case interviews. It’s also a critical skill needed to handle any case successfully and it’s an area worth investing a significant amount of time.

In a case interview, after hearing the case brief and asking any clarifying questions, a candidate takes 30 seconds to write down a structure. Structuring is not only a specific dimension that’s tested for in an interview, but also the structure a candidate lays out often becomes the foundation on which the rest of the case interview is built.

So, it’s critical you get this right!

What is structuring?

Simply put, structuring in a case interview context is about breaking down a complex question into more manageable chunks that can be pursued independently and that, when put together, will solve the problem.

A question is divided into a set of drivers, that can then be further divided into more granular drivers, and so forth.

Structuring reflects a core part of how consulting firms go about projects in real life. If a consulting firm is hired to solve a problem, there’s a fair chance that it’s big, complex, and doesn’t have an easy answer.

To solve a problem like this, you need to break it down. Structuring happens every day on the job, whether you are a Junior Consultant or a Partner, so structuring in case interviews simply mirrors this reality.

What does a good structure look like?

There isn’t just one correct structure for a case question, but there are many wrong ones!

A good structure needs to focus on the right question, break down into an exhaustive set of independent drivers, provide an approach to solving the case, and supply helpful insights.

This sounds like a long list of challenging criteria, but to make it easier to remember, we have summarized this into the AIM test: Answer-focused, Insightful and MECE.

The AIM test acts as a guide as you structure problems yourself, providing you with a simple mental checklist to follow when structuring a case. If your structure meets those three criteria, it’ll act as a strong foundation upon which to solve the case. Plus, you’ll score well on the structuring dimension!

Being Answer-focused means two things in practice: your structure focuses on the right question and it provides an approach to answering that question.

Defining the problem is critical to being Answer-focused. This may sound obvious, but if you have the wrong question in mind you’ll struggle to solve the case. This happens more often than you’d think!

Being Insightful means your structure is tailored to the specifics of the client or problem you’re dealing with and is not generic. If your structure can be applied to another case of a similar type, then you haven’t passed the Insightful test.

Being MECE means that the drivers outlined in your structure are Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive, which essentially provides an approach that will solve the case. ‘MECE’ is a well-known acronym among consultants.

Mutually Exclusive means that the drivers in your structure are independent and don’t overlap; they can be handled separately, or in turn.

Collectively Exhaustive means that when combined, the drivers in your structure are comprehensive enough to answer the case question.

You can test this by going through each driver in your structure, one after the other and assessing whether it will get you to the answer and that there is no, or minimal, overlap in your drivers.

What’s the best way to learn how to structure cases well?

To hone your structuring skills, we recommend starting by practising the skill in live interviews with case partners, learning the theory of how to structure cases well, and then practising structuring on your own.

You can do the third step by completing the 50 Structuring Drills inside the Interview Prep Course, which cover a wide array of industries and provide top mark answers, so you know what a great structure looks like.

To help with learning the theory behind structuring cases well, you can also watch this video below where we walk you through the AIM test:

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