Student Advice: Case Competitions

Case competitions are a staple of the business school experience for both undergraduate and graduate students but can also be somewhat confusing and intimidating for newcomers. On this page I provide some advice and links regarding case competitions. Last Updated: February 11, 2020.

Why Participate in Case Competitions?

  • Develop your problem-solving, analysis, teamwork and presentation skills
  • Get to know other students on your team and on the teams you compete against
  • Exposure to potential employers and additional experience that you can leverage in an interview or on your resume
  • Have fun!

UVA Case Competition Organizations

  • Virginia Case Club – Student group solely focused on case competitions. Open to all UVA undergraduates from 1st-4th year but acceptance into the club requires an application and completing at least one external case competition as well as VCC’s own internal case competition.
  • Consulting Group at McIntire – A student organization open to all who have some interest in the consulting industry and the process of consulting. CGM also helps organize the annual Ankura-McIntire case competition.
  • UVA Graduate Consulting Club – Student organization for UVA Masters and PhD students that provides a wide range of events and services related to career opportunities in consulting but also opportunities to participate in case competition events

Prof. Seaborn’s Case Competition Advice

  • Case competitions share many similarities to case interviews and in-class case discussions. However key differences are in the time frame for completion, the fact that case competitions are typically completed in teams, that the rules may or may not allow and encourage outside research, that performance is typically evaluated by a panel of judges and that prize money, rather than future employment or a class grade, are at stake.
  • Content Success Factors
    • Closely following the instructions of the competition to ensure your analysis and recommendations are on point
    • Balancing both qualitative and quantitative analysis and looking for opportunities to bring in personal knowledge and outside information (as permitted)
    • Providing persuasive evidence of your chosen solution but also arguments for why your solution is superior to alternatives (that may be recommended by other teams)
  • Content Suggestions
    • All of the recommended approaches for case interviews and actual consulting projects can be applied to case competition cases with an adjustment for the differences in format
    • Rather than reading the provided case/materials from start-to-finish first and then starting your analysis, even the first read-through can be used to extract key facts and information and start developing hypotheses
    • Look beyond any alternatives that are provided in the case to consider other options or combinations of alternatives that may be even more promising
  • Presentation Factors
    • Attractive and effective presentation slides with no typos or inconsistencies that distract from message
    • Use of “Pyramid Principle” to provide an executive summary and “Bottom Line Up Front”
    • Effective time management, balanced contributions from all team members and smooth hand-offs between them
    • Deep set of backup/appendix slides that are ready to be accessed quickly during Q&A
    • Any use of handouts for the judges is done in a way that supports the team’s live presentation rather than distracts from it
  • Presentation Suggestions
    • Spend a disproportionate amount of time planning the opening of your presentation to ensure that is is both informative and memorable. While the ending of the presentation is not quite as critical, it is still important to end on a strong note regardless of your time constraints
    • Rehearse your presentation with timing for each section and have a plan for what to do if one or more team members deviates significantly from their allocated time
    • Set aside time to brainstorm potential questions from the judges. The most likely questions should preempted with a full or partial explanation during your presentation. Less likely questions can be prepared for by creating backup slides and rehearsing potential answers.
    • Determine each team member’s content area responsibility for Q&A session and how you will handle questions where no members or multiple members have answers to provide
    • Designate one team member to manage the presentation “clicker” and to be ready to navigate to a relevant presentation slide or appendix/backup slide during the Q&A session (using an index slide or knowing how to jump to a specific page number)

Case Competition Preparation Resources

Notable Case Competitions

Additional Links

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