Starting in late 2020-early 2021, reports have flown in from BCG offices around the world about a completely novel pre-interview testing format – a chatbot-based case interview. Officially called the “Online Case Experience”, this new format is part of a trend away from standardized multiple-choice tests seen in all three major consulting firms.
Using reports from both test-takers and insiders, we unlock the first insights on these online cases to help you land an offer at one of the most prestigious consulting firms out there.
1. What is BCG Online Case Experience?
The BCG Online Case Experience, also known as the Casey or Chatbot Interview, is a case interview conducted through a web-based chatbot. It is similar to an interviewer-led case format, with a time limit of 25 minutes, 8-10 questions, and a video pitch. As of 2021, the new format has been implemented in SEA and the European offices of BCG.
The term “BCG Online Case Experience” itself is a confusing one – previously it is used to refer to the BCG Potential Test – a case-based standardized test used in most BCG offices. In some instances, it also refers to a GMAT-based screening test used by BCG.
As such, to reduce confusion, the term “BCG Online Case Experience”, “Casey” and “chatbot interview” refers to the same thing – the chatbot-based case interview. As for the other formats, check out other articles on this website.
BCG Online Case Experience format and questions
The flow of the BCG Online Case Experience is in fact an interviewer-led case, leaning towards the extreme even more than McKinsey case interviews (in McKinsey interviewer-led cases, you can actually win some control over the direction of the case – but that’s impossible if you interview with a pre-programmed chatbot).
BCG Online Case Experience – Screenshot from anonymous test-taker
The chatbot-led case is reportedly conducted through an interface similar to messaging apps (e.g.: Facebook Messenger), where the chatbot delivers 8-10 sets of 1-3 questions each in a 20-30 minute case (in other words, 8 to 24 questions in total). The exact number of questions for each set depends on your performance in each question.
You are not allowed to skip or return to previous questions – everything is answered in a sequential manner in a predetermined flow – if you “stray” out of the intended direction, the chatbot may or may not steer you back using redirection questions (more on this later). Again, this is very similar to a hard-core interviewer-led case.
BCG Online Case Experience questions include the following major categories:
- Case questions
- Explanation questions
- Redirection questions
- Math questions
In the next sections, I’ll dive into the details for each category. Since detailed screenshots of the actual Casey chatbot interview remain unavailable, I’ll be using the questions from the BCG Interactive Case Library – an official resource reported to be fairly similar to the real chatbot interview).
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Category 1: Case questions
At the start of each question set, you will be given a multiple-choice question, which helps you develop the issue tree, and determines where you’ll be heading next within the case. There can be anywhere from 2 to 10 options for these questions, with multiple correct answers, so watch out!
Case questions can follow any of these types:
- Framework/issue tree questions: “What factors would you consider in solving this problem?”
- Solution-finding questions: “Given the root causes, what solutions do you suggest to our client?”
- Value proposition questions: “What should the client offer their customers?”
- Information questions: “What data do you need to make that conclusion?”
For detailed guidelines on how to approach each type, see this article on Case Interview Questions. Below is a screenshot of a case question belonging to the framework/issue tree type:
BCG Interactive Case Library – Case question example
Category 2: Explanation questions
After you’ve finished the multiple-choice question, you will be given these are open-ended questions where you explain your choices using 2-3 sentences. This is where you demonstrate structured thinking and a fact-based mindset.
On a side note, since we cannot be sure about the underlying assessment mechanisms, try to stay contingent by answering as if presenting to a real human interviewer.
Category 3: Redirection questions
If you happen to choose the “wrong” options in the multiple-choice questions or head towards an area where few improvements can be made, the chatbot will try to steer you back to the intended direction of the case, using these follow-up questions.
The quickest way to identify these questions is to see if it’s trying to reject, alter, or place doubt on your case approach (e.g.: “Do you have enough data to make that conclusion?”). In some cases, it might be that you’ve exhausted one branch of the issue tree, finding no root cause or possible improvement. In other cases, however, it signifies that you’ve made a mistake in your approach – so when these questions appear, do take a quick pause to ensure you haven’t cut any corners in your case analysis.
BCG Interactive Case Library – Redirection question example
Category 4: Math questions
These are open-ended questions, asking you to perform simple calculations common in business cases – for example, calculating the break-even points, or drawing data from a chart. They complement the main case questions and help the candidate arrive at the correct conclusions.
These questions can fall into any of these categories:
- Valuation questions
- Chart insights
- Math problems
You can find out more about each of these question types in this article.
BCG Interactive Case Library – Math question example
Final pitch (video answer)
After identifying the root causes of the problem, the candidate is required to perform a “CEO pitch” or “elevator pitch” – that is, presenting the solutions to a hypothetical client CEO in 1 minute. Reports indicate that candidates have 1 minute for preparation (similar to other case interviews) and might be allowed 2 takes at the pitch.
The ideal CEO pitch is quite formulaic and simple, with three parts as follows:
- Root-causes and corresponding solutions
- Next-step proposal
Here’s a quick example:
“Mr. CEO, it’s been a great pleasure to be working with you on your company’s X problem.
We realize the root cause of your company’s problem is: A, B, and C
To solve the aforementioned issues, we propose the 3 following solutions: No.1… No.2… No.3…
We would be more than happy to work with you to implement these solutions in future projects”.
Scoring and criteria for the BCG Online Case Experience
Unlike the standardized Potential Test and GMAT-based test, candidates are not selected based entirely on the correctness of their answers, but also on how they approach and break down the problem. It is also likely that candidates are assessed using curved scores (i.e how well you perform compared to other candidates) instead of linear standardized scores (how many correct answers you have).
As for the criteria, although BCG does not disclose any official information, we can get a glimpse of what BCG evaluates from the Interactive Case Library. Most of the criteria are about the problem-solving side of consulting job:
- Problem-structuring: how you approach and break down the problem in a structured and MECE manner, and gather data to test your hypotheses
- Math and analytical skills: how you analyze and process the information in the case – both qualitative and quantitative – to test the hypotheses
- Business intuition: how you evaluate the possible costs and benefits, delivering decisions and directions based on experience and knowledge in business
- Data synthesis: how you summarize all the information to arrive at the solutions for the client
BCG Interactive Case Library – Four assessment criteria
Taking notes in BCG Online Case Experience
In a BCG Online Case Experience, a major challenge for any candidate is to maintain a big-picture view of the case and keep track of the important details – resulting from the messenger-app interface forcing the candidate to scroll up and down to look for given data. This is fundamentally similar to an in-person case interview, where candidates often forget the previous data given by the interviewer or get lost in the minor details.
The solution in both cases is to take clear, organized notes – I’ve covered this in a separate Youtube video, and in plenty of articles on this website, but I’ll modify it here since the setting is different from the usual case interview.
Before jumping into the case, take out two pieces of paper, and label them as follows:
- Data/analysis sheet: this will be the main note-taking sheet, where you sketch out the issue tree, receive and process the important data from the chatbot.
- Scratch sheet: this is where you jot down the quick ideas you may have during the case
One thing to keep in mind: keep your note short and selective – with only 2-3 minutes for each set of questions, you won’t have nearly as much time as in an in-person interview.
Time limit for the BCG Online Case Experience
The standard time limit for the BCG Online Case Experience is 25 minutes – according to our test-taker interviews. The time limit per question is dynamic, varying anywhere from 60 to 190 seconds per question. The chatbot will also remind the candidate of the remaining time every 5 minutes.
Test-takers have reported the time constraint to be heavy due to the challenging nature of the questions, as well as the every-5-minute reminder.
Math and calculators in the BCG Online Case Experience
As the BCG Online Case Experience or Casey chatbot interview is taken at home, calculators are allowed. This makes most calculations easier than in in-person cases – however, a 100% accuracy is also required as a result.
Mental math, on the other hand, is still useful in the Online Case Experience- some math questions might appear in the multiple-choice format, which you can tackle by estimating and ruling out the wrong answers. After the Online Case Experience, mental math is still an integral part of case interviews, so calculator allowance is not a reason to forgo mental math practice.
You can read more about consulting math and a method to speed up mental calculations by 200-300% in this article right here.
3. Online Case Experience vs Potential Test
Although the Online Case Experience takes the place of the BCG Potential Test, they are fundamentally different – the Online Case Experience, as the name suggests, is a virtual, AI-based interview, while the Potential Test is a standardized test similar to GMAT, GRE or PST.
The biggest implication of this information is that the candidate must prepare for case interviews sooner than before – however, this should be viewed as good news, since instead of having to spread the time and effort between case interview and test practice, the candidate can focus on the case interview side only and still pass through the whole recruitment process.
Additionally, the chatbot interview seems to have a more dynamic time constraint – good judgement and good luck will lead to lower numbers of questions (since there’s no need for “redirection”).
Online Case Experience
Case interview materials
BCG Interactive Case samples
PST, GMAT, GRE
BCG Potential Test samples
4. Online Case Experience vs Interviewer-led Case
The Online Case Experience can be seen as a computer-based, extreme version of the interviewer-led case – with the most notable differences being clarifications and on-site changes in the case contents. In the chatbot interview, the candidate is allowed none of that – the chatbot maintains complete control of the case, it will insist on the programmed questions, and you cannot get any assistance whatsoever.
The implications of this is an even heavier emphasis on “getting it right”. In an in-person interview, you can make up for somewhat lacking case-solving performance with excellent demonstration of structured and tactful communications – in fact, most candidates don’t even finish the case before the decision is made. In a chatbot case, however, it is still highly unlikely, and performance would mostly be dictated by how the candidate moves through the issue tree.
Online Case Experience
Assessment of people skills dubious
Assessment of people skills certain
Case interview materials
BCG Interactive Case samples
Case interview materials
BCG Interactive Case samples
Clarifications / on-site changes impossible
Clarifications / on-site changes possible
Step 1: Familiarize with interviewer-led case examples
I encourage you to go out there and find as many examples of interviewer-led cases as possible, to grasp how such cases “flow”. On the BCG website, there is an Interactive Case Library which provides 2 examples fairly similar to the real Casey chatbot interview.
- Interactive Case Library (BCG)
- Diconsa Case (McKinsey)
- Electro-Light Case (McKinsey)
- GlobaPharm Case (McKinsey)
- National Education Case (McKinsey)
Here at MConsultingPrep, we also have a few interviewer-led case examples in our Case Interview E2E Secret Program, complete with detailed feedback on every aspect from content to presentation, all in video format.
Step 2: Practice consulting math
Like it or not, you must practice math – especially mental math. Case interviews and the consulting world are riddled with calculations. In the BCG chatbot interview, you do have the option to use calculators, however some chart/calculation questions can be answered quicker, by using mental math to rule out wrong answers.
In the beginning, consulting math can be difficult for some; nonetheless, I have a few tips for you to ease the process and still practice effectively:
- Use Your Head: Do all your daily calculations mentally unless an EXACT answer is required.
- Flatten the Learning Curve: At the start, a piece of scratch paper and a 5% margin of error really help; once you are confident, discard the paper and narrow down the margin.
- Establish a Routine: Allocate some time for daily practice this may seem hard at first, but once you’ve overcome the inertia, you can literally feel the improvement.
Step 3: Develop business intuition
Business intuition forms from your knowledge and experience of the field, and they are crucial for case interview success. You can improve your business intuition in two ways:
- Written sources: I suggest reading business papers daily; you can also visit McKinsey, Bain and BCG websites for their excellent articles. Beware though – it’s not the pages you read that count, but the insights you draw from them.
- First-hand experience and observations: Don’t just come to your workplace to work; try to examine what senior managers are doing – what’s the rationale for their decision, and how has it impacted the organization?
Step 4: Learn the case interview question types
The key to conquering interviewer-led cases is in methodically mastering each and every basic question type; then you will be ready to tackle the more complex and less predictable ones.
For each type, there are always tips and techniques to deliver an ideal answer; you can refer to the previous section, or check out an even more comprehensive guide in our Case Interview Questions.
Step 5: Perform mock in-person interviews
In-person interviews cannot train you 100% on chatbot-led interviews, however, it does foster your case experience – which means when you are met with the somewhat-strange format of the Online Case Experience, your performance will not be hindered as much.
The best interviewers for training are usually current or former MBB consultants, preferably those with coaching and interviewing experience.
However you want to conduct mock cases with other candidates, here’s a quick guide.
6. BCG Online Case Experience Example
The closest match to the BCG Online Case Experience available online, as of March 2021, is the official BCG Interactive Case Library. The cases inside the library are recreation of case interviews in the form of multiple-choice and short-answer questions, similar to the Online Case Experience. To complete the case, the user must navigate through roughly 50 questions; there is no time limit, but you should complete it within 30-40 minutes to mimic the Online Case Experience.
The biggest differences between this Interactive Case and the chatbot interview, is the interface (the Interactive Case uses a full-width PC display, showing the questions one-by-one, unlike the messenger-app interface of the chatbot interview), and the lack of short-answer explanation questions.
The Interactive Case Library can be found here: Interactive Case Library (BCG)
7. Confirmed Locations with Online Case Experience
The BCG Online Case Experience/ Chatbot Interview is reportedly implemented in several South-East Asian offices, including Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. By March 2021, the new format had also spread to European offices, with the first report on PrepLounge coming from Germany.
As this is a novel format, likely implemented both to cope with the new circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as part of the general move away from standardized tests in consulting recruitment, the format is likely here to stay. As such, we advise contacting the HR of your target BCG office before applying to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
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