Written Case Interview Guide: Format, Criteria & Examples

Written case interview, though less popular than regular oral case interview, is a powerful recruitment tool since they simulate the actual consultant's daily work. BCG, Bain, PwC, and Deloitte are some well-known consulting firms using this interview format.

We will go through a complete guide for you to pass the written case interview: the format, how to prepare, and how to deliver your written case presentation.

What is a written case interview?

Written case interview is a type of case interview often used in management consulting. The candidates need to prepare to deliver a full pitch, solving a business case like an actual consultant. 

Although each firm has its own interview formats, a written case interview typically consists of four phases: receiving the case’s document, making slides based on calculation and analysis, delivering a presentation and Q&A with the interviewers. 

The most distinctive feature of a written case interview is that the candidates have time to prepare for their presentation (from 2 days in advance to 1 hours before the interview) since a written case interview involves piles of information that take a vast amount of time to analyze.

Notably, the candidates must prepare slides to present their findings and recommendations for the case. This makes written case interviews closely simulate the real work of a consultant before and during a meeting with a client.

When to take a written case interview?

Written case interviews often take place after the candidates have passed the CV screening and online tests round in management consulting recruitment. 

Written case interviews are less prevalent than the standard case interview, yet many consulting firms, including BCG, PwC, Deloitte, etc., still utilize written case interviews.

What is assessed in a written case interview?

Like all case interviews, the written case interview aims to assess how the candidate demonstrates the traits expected from a successful management consultant, including leadership, achieving mentality, and problem-solving skills.

  • Leadership: the ability to influence other people to work in collaboration. The nature of consultant work is to collaborate in a team and manage a vast network (of industry experts, supporting teams, and clients). Therefore, leadership is one of the essential qualities in management consulting.

  • Achieve mentality: management consultants never have a work-life balance because the challenges are immense and hard with pressing deadlines. You must do your best to show your ability to deliver the best work under pressure.

  • Problem-solving skills: consultants must be the best at breaking down business issues into smaller parts to find the root cause. And everything must be data-driven. The whole consulting profession is built on analytical problem-solving ability.

In addition, two particular skills that written case interviews will assess are

  • In-depth analytic skills: consultants must process an enormous amount of data daily. Therefore, candidates must possess the ability to analyze the information and gain in-depth insights as fast as possible.

  • Consultant-style pitching presentation: one of the crucial parts of a consultant's daily life is presenting their ideas to their clients. This is the whole point of working as a consultant - you must deliver your solutions to your client in a structured, data-driven manner.


Process of a written case interview

In the written case interview, there are generally four stages that a candidate must go through, including:

  • Stage 1: Receive the case

  • Stage 2: Prepare slides: hypothesis, insights, evidence and solutions

  • Stage 3: Deliver the presentation

  • Stage 4: Q&A with the interviewer

Stage 1: Receive the case

In this stage, the candidates will receive the case and related materials containing all the data. The materials could be printed Powerpoint slides or printed A4 pages. The length of the materials often ranges from 20-40 pages.

Note: Depending on the firms, the case and materials would be given to the candidates on the day of the interview (BGC, Bain) or before the interview day (PwC)

Stage 2: Prepare slides( hypothesis, insights, evidence, and solutions)

The candidates will review all the given materials and select, analyze, and interpret data into insights to back up their hypotheses and recommendations. In this stage, we need to craft presentation slides with the summary, findings, charts, and recommendations (it could be handwritten or PowerPoint, depending on the firm) 

Stage 3: Deliver the presentation

After their preparation stage, candidates will present their findings and recommendations before the interviews. Their presentation should include a case summary, hypothesis, backing-up charts/graphs/insights, and recommendations.

Stage 4: Q&A with the interviewer

The session often lasts about 15-30 minutes, depending on the firms and the interviewers. Usually, the interviewer will ask the candidates questions regarding their findings and challenge their analysis to ensure they fully prepare and understand their findings. 

During consulting interviews, interviewers may rigorously question your assumptions or conclusions. This does not necessarily indicate an incorrect answer. 

Rather, it is an evaluation of your ability to defend and substantiate your recommendations under pressure.


Written case interview example

BCG, Bain, and Deloitte provide written case interview examples on their official site so that the candidates can have an overview of the written case interview example.

However, the resources for written case interviews are limited, so there are alternatives. Since the written case interviews shared similar fundamentals with regular case interviews, you can look at the example of a case interview.

Which firms use written case interviews?

Although becoming less prevalent in consultant recruitment, some firms still employ written case interviews as a part of their recruitment process. Typical firms for using this type of interview are BCG, Bain, PwC, Deloitte

Bain's written case interview

Bain is a prominent consulting firm known for its practice of employing written case interviews as part of its candidate evaluation process. These written cases are frequently included in the final rounds of their interviews. 

However, not all candidates applying to Bain undergo written case interviews. This particular interview format is more common in Bain's European and Asian offices, as well as in its Greater China offices, and is less commonly used in North America.

There are some notices about the Bain case interview process you should keep in mind:

  • Question format: candidates will receive 20 - 30 printed slides that provide a business's situation.
  • Response format: Bain will provide 4 - 6 slides that have pre-filled information, some of which may have blank charts or just titles. Candidates need to complete it by doing analysis and calculations.
  • Preparation: candidates have 55 - 60 minutes to review the slides,calculate data and script your recommendations into handwritten slides. Candidates will not be allowed to use the calculator.
  • Presentation: candidates will have 30 - 40 minutes to present their work and answer all of the interviewer's follow-up questions.

Read more: Bain Case Interview

BCG written case interview

BCG is another renowned consulting firm that employs written case interviews in select offices, although it's not a universal practice across all locations. 

This format is used in certain U.S. offices, as well as in countries like Russia, Sweden, the Netherlands, and South Africa. While the prevalence of written case interviews has decreased, it's still a format you might encounter when interviewing with BCG.

The BCG written case interview have some specific differences compare with Bain:

  • Question format: candidates will receive 40 - 50 printed documents that provide a business's situation and 3–4 main questions they want you to address
  • Response format: BCG will provide blank slides. Candidates need to decide how many slides to make and how to design and organize them properly with their answer
  • Preparation: candidates have 120 minutes to review the slides,calculate data and script your recommendations into handwritten slides. Candidates will be allowed to use the calculator.
  • Presentation: candidates will have 40 - 50 minutes to present their work and answer all of the interviewer's follow-up questions.

Read more: BCG Case Interview

PwC written case interview

Among the Big Four consulting firms, PwC stands out for incorporating written case interviews in specific office locations. 

Notably, PwC's Strategy& division employs written case interviews during the final round of their assessment process. It's worth noting that PwC's approach to written case interviews differs from other firms in this regard.

Here are some notes on the format of the PwC written case interview:

  • Question format: candidates will receive a stack of documents 48 hours before the interview/presentation that provide a business's situation.
  • Response format: candidates need to make their own PowerPoint slides with their recommendations and backup evidence
  • Preparation: candidates have 2 days to review, analyze and prepare for the slides at home
  • Presentation: candidates will have 20 - 30 minutes to present their work and 15-30 minutes Q&A conversation with the interviewers.

Deloitte written case interview

Deloitte (or Monitor Deloitte) is reported to have written case interviews. However, whether they still have written case interviews in their recruitment process is inconclusive. The Deloitte written case interview format is quite similar to that of Bain.

  • Question format: candidates will receive 15 - 30 printed printed slides that provide a business's situation.
  • Response format: Deloitte will provide blank slides. Candidates need to decide how many slides to make and how to design and organize them properly with their answer
  • Preparation: candidates have 50 - 60 minutes to review the slides,calculate data and script your recommendations into handwritten slides.
  • Presentation: candidates will have a total 40 minutes to present their work and answer all of the interviewer's follow-up questions.

To ensure your offer for Deloitte, you should prepare for regular and written case interviews. Find out more about the Deloitte case interview here.


How to prepare for a written case interview

You need good preparation strategies to ace your written case interview and land your consultant offer. There are 6 tips for you to better prepare for your written case interview, including:

  • Enhance fast reading skills

  • Practice consulting math

  • Craft your data-analyzing skills

  • Learn the fundamentals of case interview

  • Learn to make consulting-style slides

  • Conduct mock case interview

Enhance fast reading skills

Your reading speed could save a lot of time in the data-analyzing stage. This is extremely necessary in a written case interview since you have too much information but not much time

As an actual consultant, it is important to scan through the materials quickly to locate and filter the most important information to put into use while being loaded with piles to piles of data.

However, it takes practice to read faster and know what information to note down. We recommend two tips for practicing fast reading.

1. Apply two speed reading techniques: Trackers and Pacers (use an object to guide your eyes in a steady pace and straight movement) and Perceptual Expansion (focus on capturing the full line of sentences rather than word-by-word).

2. Practice with a mock case to increase your ability to choose what information in the materials you need to notice to support your hypothesis. This helps you improve reading speed and locate the specifically required data faster

Practice consulting math

Candidates' mental math skills are tested thoroughly and rigorously during interviews because a consultant works with numbers and statistics like an everyday thing. 

Although you are allowed to use a calculator, pulling out a calculator every time you need to perform any math is extremely time-consuming, and it certainly doesn't help your professional image during negotiations.

Some first find consulting math difficult, but you may ease into the process while still getting the most out of your practice by using some approaches, like:

  • Train your brain: Do your daily calculations mentally unless an EXACT response is necessary.

  • Begin with little steps at first: A piece of scratch paper and a 5% margin of calculation error are helpful; once you are confident, throw away the paper and reduce the margin.

  • Create a routine: Set aside time each day for math practice; it can be challenging at first, but once you get beyond the inertia, you'll see the progress.

Read more: Consulting Math Prep Guide 

Craft your data-analyzing skill

Data analyzing skill is the foundation of the hypothesis-driven approach in consulting. You process the data to find the root cause, develop a hypothesis and back up your recommendation. 

To enhance these skills, one needs to master three data-analyzing processes: Analyze, Contextualize and Interpret.

  • Analyze: Quickly read and calculate the data presented in the chart/table/graph. Keep in mind the case question to know which data to locate and do the math. For instance, you have to find the data to answer the question, “What is the overall market size?”

  • Contextualize: Put your understanding into the case's overall context and the current discussion's specific context. A contextualized question could be, “Is the market big enough, given our client’s existing operations?”

  • Interpret: Present your business insights, and continue the case in the right direction by asking relevant questions. An example of an interpretation is, “The new market seems to be twice as large as our existing market, with the fragmented competition. I would like to test the hypothesis that this is a suitable market to penetrate”.

To enhance your data analyzing skills for your written case interview, you should practice data interpretation skills (reading charts, tables, graphs…). You can practice more your data interpretation with our Numerical Reasoning Package.

Learn the fundamentals of case interview

All the fundamental knowledge of regular case interviews is still applied to the written case interview. 

This means you must learn all the basic concepts of the case interview, such as issue tree, MECE, structured communication, and hypothesis-driven top-down analysis.

MConsultingPrep offers the Case Interview End-to-End program - which covers all the fundamental concepts, framework, tips, and techniques for your strong foundation to crack the case interview. Check it out now!

Learn to make the perfect consultant-style slides

As an actual consultant, the final product of your work is the presentation slides with all your root-cause findings and recommendations for the case. 

In some firms such as MBB, you won't be the one who needs to “decorate” the slides - however, your job is to organize the layout of graphs, tables, findings, and recommendations in “consulting style” so that the slide-makers can create the final product for your client pitching.

We have a whole article on how to craft and present MBB-consulting-style slides. Check it out to learn the step-by-step guide.

Conduct mock case interview

After you have understood the fundamentals of a case interview, doing a mock interview is a great approach to get a sense of what to expect in the actual case interview. 

Find a former consultant to assist you with your practice; they've gone through countless case interviews, both actual and simulated, and they understand what's expected of a candidate - therefore, they can give you detailed feedback on what you need to improve.

MConsultingPrep now offers a coaching platform for you to connect and practice mock case interviews with ex-MBB-consultant coaches. You will have the chance to get personalized feedback on your strengths and weaknesses and direct guidance to maximize your performance in the written case interview. Book a coach with us now!


Tips for pitching a perfect written case interview

Under the time pressure, there are a lot of things that can go wrong with your presentation. You need an effective strategy to maximize your performance during the pitch of the written case interview. 

Tip 1: Have a timing plan for the presentation

During the written case interview, you will not have much time but many tasks to do, thus, you should set a specific time limit for each task to guarantee an effective time management.

When that time limit is about to pass, stop what you're doing (for example, skimming data) and move on to the next (structuring the problem).

With such time pressure, errors are inevitable. Therefore, though a real-time box for each activity would add up to the preparation time for the case, you should allow some time for contingency.

Tip 2: Focus on the question you need to answer

During consulting written case interviews, time is limited, making it impossible to present all your analyses and hypotheses. Thus, you should prioritize addressing the most crucial questions, as they significantly influence your recommendation. 

It's crucial to have a clear understanding of the question before delving into the slides since the way you structure your thoughts on each slide affects your final answer.

Ensure that each slide's title should be meaningful and contributes to the logical flow of your entire pitch. 

Summarizing your recommendation at the end is essential, your response should weave a cohesive narrative, presenting a unified story rather than isolated answers.

Tip 3: Take note of key information

When you have so much information but time is limited, filtering out the important information you need is a must. Hence, looking for the highlights in the data, and then dig into the proof. 

Starting with a clear objective can help you filter out extraneous information and zero in on the data that matters, such as that which provides answers to the case or backs up your results.

Tip 4: Present the solution first

Real consultants do it in their job; their presentations and pitches begin with the conclusions and chart titles with the most critical insights. The clients care little about the procedures; what matters is the outcome.

You are a potential consultant; therefore, maintain the same manner throughout case interviews, particularly written case interviews. Here is the 5-step procedure for you to apply in the written case presentation, including:

  • Recap the case question.

  • State your suggestion.

  • Provide justification for your proposal.

  • List any risks associated with your proposal.

  • Retain the customer by recommending the following actions.

Tip 5: Reinforce conclusions with back-up data

When you come to a conclusion during a case interview, it's important to back it up with qualitative and quantitative reasoning. 

One mistake some candidates make is they overlook the potential insights that raw data can provide. It is both possible and crucial to substantiate your conclusions using the given data. 

In consequence, incorporating numerical data whenever feasible strengthens and avoids making statements lacking support from clearly defined facts or assumptions. 

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