If you’re preparing to interview at a top management consulting firm like McKinsey, BCG or Bain (MBB), you might be wondering what kind of questions you can expect to receive in your case interviews.
In this article we take a look at the most common types of case questions asked by interviewers at the world’s top-3 consulting firms. We also consider how you can develop the skill of structuring answers to case questions.
The 10 most common case interview questions
To identify the most common case interview questions posed by interviewers at McKinsey, BCG and Bain, we surveyed CaseCoach users who interviewed at one of the firms for a generalist role in 2023. We found that 90% of the 260+ case interviews reported by respondents fell into one of 10 question types:
|Rank||Question type||% of case questions|
|Mergers and acquisitions|
|Response to a competitive threat|
The respondents in our study all interviewed for generalist consulting positions at McKinsey, BCG and Bain. It’s no coincidence that the case interview questions that they were asked align to the typical challenges and opportunities faced by CEOs.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. If you’re interviewing for a practice-focused role on the firms’ expert career track you may be given cases that focus on your area of specialization, rather than the topics in our list.
Your target firm and location may also have a bearing on the type of cases you are given. This is because MBB offices tend to use the work they have done for clients to develop their case questions for candidates.
Knowing the frameworks that correspond to these questions is critical
As a management consulting candidate, it’s vital that you have an understanding of the issues behind the most common case questions and know the frameworks for tackling them inside out.
In our Interview Prep Course, we provide detailed examples of how to structure these questions at the beginning of a case interview. We also explain how different circumstances should influence your approach.
You can learn more about structuring frameworks for specific types of cases in our articles on mastering profitability questions, answering revenue growth questions and nailing market sizing questions.
You can also find examples of the following types of cases in our Case Library:
If you’re not a CaseCoach subscriber, you can gain access to these examples by signing up for a free account.
You must be able to create custom approaches to answering case study interview questions
When it comes to answering a case question effectively, applying a framework in a ‘cookie-cutter’ fashion simply won’t allow you to give the best possible answer or impress your interviewer with your structuring skills.
In fact, respondents in our survey reported that many of the cases they received could be assigned to several case types and could not be solved by applying an off-the-shelf framework. A profitability question may have a focus on market growth or launching a product, for example. To structure a response to this kind of question, candidates need to combine several frameworks and use them as building blocks for creating their answer.
Even common questions require a custom approach: a profitability question that relates to a chain of restaurants, for example, will naturally require a different approach to a question on the same topic in the manufacturing industry.
Interviewers want to understand how your mind works and to see you think on your feet. Increasingly, they are using non-traditional cases (such as those set in the public sector) to test this. Ten percent of the respondents in our survey couldn’t assign the questions they had faced to a particular case type, suggesting that they were given an unusual problem to solve.
As a candidate, you’ll need to demonstrate that you are capable of proposing a custom structure to any case question, rather than simply relying on a framework.
What does a good custom structure look like?
An effective structure should focus on the right question and then break it down into an exhaustive set of independent drivers. The structure should also provide an approach to solving the case and supply helpful insights. In other words, it should pass ‘the AIM test’:
- Answer-focused: a strong case structure will be focused on the right question and will provide an approach to solving the case.
- Insightful: the structure should be tailored to the specific situation posed by the case question and should provide helpful insights.
- MECE: this stands for ‘mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive’. A good MECE structure will break the question down into an exhaustive set of independent drivers that neither overlap nor omit anything important.
You should use the AIM test as a guide for structuring your answers to case questions. If your structure meets all the criteria, it should provide a strong foundation upon which to solve the case. You can learn more in our article on case structuring and how to do it effectively.
Structuring skills take time and practice to develop
Building the muscle required to structure answers to a wide range of case questions, combine frameworks and develop your own approach to solving non-traditional cases takes a great deal of preparation.
First, you need to build an inventory of frameworks that you can use as building blocks to develop custom structures. You can do this by watching the structuring lectures in our Interview Prep Course, which covers topics such as the AIM test, business and academic frameworks, and using logical approaches to craft bespoke structures for unusual cases.
You then need to gain exposure to a variety of cases. You can choose from the 100+ questions in our Case Library and then schedule a practice session with a partner from our diverse community of top candidates in our Practice Room.
Structuring is one of the case interview skills you can practice alone in addition to practicing with a partner. Our Interview Prep Course includes 60+ structuring drills – which provide multiple solutions to each problem – to help you do this.