Extracting information from and charts and elaborating it is an essential skill for consultants. Even though it can be challenging, there are only a few concepts to revise and most of it comes with practice, which you can get from our package. Chart questions test a few skills, from calculations to solving problems, which makes them an all time favourite when it comes to interviews.
The type of charts you will have to deal with can all be found on Excel.
The basic charts are:
You should be familiar with all of these.
However, things usually get more complicated than this as charts are used to show more insightful data. It is then useful to group charts cased on their purpose rather than on their type.
Comparison/Relationship Charts – Usually show data on two or more variables to determine correlation or a pattern of some type. Bar charts and line charts are very commonly used for the purpose of comparison.
Venn diagrams are often used to show qualitative relationships.
Distribution Charts – These types of charts aim to convey how data is distributed, and to give an idea of mean and standard deviation. Examples include the weight of a group of people or the test results of a class. Column and Line Histogram charts are frequently used as distribution charts.
Charts showing Trends – Quite self-explanatory, these charts are usually line charts and they show how a quantity changes with respect to another.
Composition Charts – A fancy name for a pie chart that shows how data is composed. It can also be a doughnut.
Flow/Process Charts – Again, quite self explanatory, these charts show you how a process is carried out. They are very useful in making decisions, in fact they are often referred to as decision trees.
Advanced data visualisation- These days data visualisation is becoming more and more popular; charts are becoming more and more information dense while focussing on visual appeal as well. When the chart is very long then you have an infographic.
From figure to actionable advice
Charts questions usually require extracting information from a chart, elaborating on it and getting useful insights from it, which is what consultants usually do. Our approach to solving these questions involves the following steps:
- Understanding the chart - The previous paragraph explains in details what types of charts you may find and how to understand them.
- Extracting the relevant information from the chart - One of the main hurdles one faces when dealing with charts is extracting the relevant data to answer a question, which is typically 5% of what the chart actually shows as most questions deliberately overload you with information.
- Elaborating the information - This usually involves identifying a trend or finding the probability of an event happening.
- Drawing conclusions - The final So What, relating the numerical answer to the bigger picture.
The proposed steps are obviously just guidelines and they should be adapted to every problem one has to solve.
Let us look at all the steps in more details.
Figure from our free PST practice test showing the productivity and the number of claims in an insurance company
What is the average dropout rate?
How many claim handlers handling low complication claims should be let off at the current productivity?
If the dropout rate for medium drops to 15%, is the drop proportional to the increase in claim handlers productivity?
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