How you can prepare for MBA case studies

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Getting accustomed to case studies now will help you learn the art of vetting through them for critical points during your MBA.

By Shekinah Kannan 

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Business case studies are part and parcel of MBA life. 

MBA programmes are all about real-world experience, and case studies can help aspiring business leaders learn from real-life business scenarios.

Case studies analyse the details of a specific subject – such as a person, group, place, event, organisation or phenomenon. 


Business schools often rely on case studies to provide concrete, contextual, in-depth knowledge about a specific, real-world subject. This sparks productive conversations and help students hone their problem-solving skills and learn from their classmates’ diverse ideas and perspectives.

Professors will guide these discussions, probing questions to direct students’ thinking. By elaborating on underlying business concepts featured in case studies, MBA students internalise the critical principles of doing good business. 

In fact, Harvard Business School coined the “Case Study Method”, ensuring 500 case studies are introduced and explored during its two-year MBA programme. Of the 500, 33% are international. Leading by example, today, the method is a widely accepted pedagogy for MBA teaching and training. 

That said, if you’re prepping for your MBA journey, you’ll want to familiarise yourself with some common business case studies.

This will help you learn the art of vetting through them for critical points when you begin your studies, in addition to helping you identify the signature approach needed to solve business-related issues of your own – as a student, and eventually, a professional. 

Case studies every business student can learn from

Apple’s name change, for example, is often discussed in b-school. In 2007, three decades after its inception, Apple Computers became Apple Inc.

Its CEO at the time, Steve Jobs, announced the rebranding at the Macworld Expo, introducing the company’s shift from computers to consumer electronics. Jobs also announced the introduction of the iPhone and Apple TV — demonstrating that they have become much more than personal computers. By early 2008, Apple Inc.’s revenues and stock price reached record levels. 

This case study examines the company’s ability to reinvent the digital devices market instead of beating out the competition, primarily in computers.

A fair amount of the study dives deeper into the creation and marketing of the iPhone and the iPod. It also explores the strategic decisions made under the guidance of Apple’s various CEOs.

Another common business case study includes the Johnson & Johnson Tylenol scandal in 1982.

On an early morning, 12-year-old Mary Kellerman developed a sore throat and runny nose that urged her parents to give her an extra-strength Tylenol capsule.

Shortly after, she was found unconscious. Slightly before 10 a.m., she was pronounced dead at a medical centre in Elk Grove Village.

That same day, 27-year-old Adam Janus lost his life. In that same week, three more strange deaths occurred. Unfortunately, each of them swallowed a Tylenol capsule laced with a lethal dose of cyanide.


Tylenol went from controlling over 37% of the over-the-counter pain reliever market to just seven percent. The brand was pulled from shelves, and Johnson & Johnson suffered a massive loss.

Johnson & Johnson, however, took ownership of their mistake and reintroduced tamper-resistant packaging, discounts, and more. Today, Tylenol continues to thrive thanks to Johnson & Johnson’s effective crisis management strategy. 

As these examples show, there is plenty to learn from the success and failures of established businesses.

Ultimately, reading up on case studies can take up much of your time, but it’s important to get acquainted with them before embarking on your MBA as they can help students develop essential skills, including critical thinking and problem solving skills, and serve as enriching learning opportunities that MBAs can use as part of their toolkit for success.