Consulting Math 101

1. Why is math important in the consulting recruitment process?

Because math is an integral part of consulting! Management Consulting is a critically fact-based industry. All diagnoses and recommendations must be based on facts, and most facts are presented in numbers.

As a result, consultants spend a lot of their time working with numbers. This is showcased in many aspects of a consultant’s day-to-day work: the data analyses they run, the charts they make, the back-of-the-envelope calculations (or estimations) during team meetings, and the mental calculations during client interviews, etc.

2. How different is “consulting math” from high school math?

a. Level of Difficulty

“Consulting math” is mostly similar to… elementary math. Most of the time, you will only need to perform additions, subtractions, multiplications, and divisions. In some occasions, there are percentages or fractions. But that’s all there is to it. No need to worry about all the complicated compound interest, logarithms, derivatives, etc. that once haunted you in high school and college.

b. Topics

The ultimate aim of most consulting projects is to improve business. Therefore, math in consulting and in the consulting recruitment process will mostly be in business contexts.

c. Format

With high school and college-level math, you are allowed to utilize your best friend: the calculator. However, in consulting Case Interviews and entrance exams (i.e. McKinsey PST, BCG Potential Test), no calculator is allowed. Your pencil, scratch paper, and your brain are all you have to rely on.

d. Level of Precision

Unlike scientific math, consulting math often requires only close-to-correct answers. This comes from the real life differences between the two fields. In science or technology, a tiny error can lead to disasters. But in business, decisions can be effectively and efficiently made based on only near-perfect data/calculations.

There are five major levels of resources with increasing difficulty to simulate real life problems in consulting case interviews and entrance tests for your Case Interview Practice.

(1) Pure numerical calculations

The core of every math question is numbers – there are no contexts or word problems to complicate or distract from the math. There are certain resources online to help you with pure number equations.

(2) Simple word problems with irrelevant contexts

The next level involves a certain amount of contexts. You are asked to perform not only pure calculations but also some reading and calculation set-up. The contexts provided might not be similar to those commonly seen in case interview or recruitment entrance exams. These types of questions can typically be found in various quantitative-type tests, e.g. GMAT, Aptitude Test, etc.

(3) Simple word problems with business context

The data provided for questions of this type are similar to Group 2 above, but the contexts are more complicated and closer to those in real case interviews. Try out some of our examples.

(4) Full-context case questions

Full-case math is very similar to the kind of math applied in Case Interview. In these questions, you will be given full contexts and data and asked to perform multiple calculations and answer multiple quantitative questions.

(5) Chart-based math questions

This is the highest level of Case Interview Math practice. For these questions, you will be given an exhibit with different data represented from different perspectives. You will be asked to perform calculations and answer quantitative questions based on these data. These questions are the most realistic examples of Case Interview and entrance exam math.

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