The Agony & The Ecstasy Of Case Competitions

Winning is sweet: University of Florida celebrates a case competition win in 2015


The National University of Singapore (NUS) is one of the schools that typically walk away from the leading international competitions with the most prizes, and the NUS teams are highly regarded by other students who compete at the competitions. Rachael Sun, a student at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business who competed internationally this year for her school at a case competition in Hong Kong, said she admires the National University of Singapore’s impressive track record at the competitions. “Being part of the case team at NUS is like being the quarterback of the football team,” she said. “The team is well-recognized and prestigious.”

For example, in 2016, the NUS school managed to nab four first-place, two second- place and two third-place wins, according to Lau Geok Theng, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore who coaches the teams. In 2014, teams from the school walked away with six first-place and three second-place wins, he said.

Students on the NUS teams enjoy participating in case competitions because they like the intellectual challenge posed by solving the case problems, and get a chance to hone their communications and presentation skills, Theng said. A major win in a competition can also serve as a boon for their careers, he said.


“Many of these students are also very motivated to help the school to win in case competitions and enhance the school’s reputation,” Theng said. “The students’ participation and performance in case competitions have definitely helped them to clinch good jobs in good companies, particularly jobs in consulting, management associates, strategic management and business analytics.”

The University of Florida’s Heavener School of Business also is another strong contender in the case competition world, having won several first-place prizes in leading competitions so far in 2017. In the 2014-15 school year, another banner year, the Florida school snapped up three first-place wins and several other second-place and third-place wins as well, said Limon, who coached Fanto’s team and other case teams at the school this year. The teams typically prepare for the competitions by doing anywhere from 2 to 7 practice cases ranging anywhere from three to seven hours in length. The more students practice, the more solving the cases becomes like second nature to them, Limon said.

“Our whole perception is we go there to win our division every time,” Limon said. “It can become incredibly addictive for the students and the coaches. We are talking about the top five to ten percent of students in the business school. They are incredibly driven and motivated.”


Other teams that have consistently won top prizes in case competitions in the last three years include Queensland University of Technology in Canada, Thamassat University in Thailand, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, according to an analysis of competition wins conducted by Poets&Quants.

Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business recently started participating in a larger number of international and domestic case competitions, and snagged first place this year in the Citi-HKUST International Case Competition, as well as four other domestic case competitions. Rachael Sun was one of the four Kelley students who won first prize at the Citi-HKUST competition, and said the format of that competition — a 22-hour case — was challenging and exhilarating at the same time. Sleep was an afterthought for her and her teammates, who were laser focused on coming up with the best solution for a problem about how a health care provider in Hong Kong should enter a new market.

“It’s a real mental challenge. You get a new problem you’ve never seen before. It’s stressful, yes, but it’s really cool to have that “aha” moment at hour 8, 10 or 22,” Sun said. “It’s fun to experience a new country, meet new people and just test your skills. Regardless of how the competition turns out, it’s really cool to see that your preparation paid off.”

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