Ivy Sep 13, 2018 No Comments

Solving guesstimates can be tricky. Not only do you have to rely on unknown data and assumptions, but you also have to come up with an answer in a pressurizing situation such as an interview.

Guesstimate questions are common in interviews, especially if you are appearing for data analytics, consulting, or management roles. And you need a good command of analytical skills and creativity to solve these problems.

In this post, we have explained **how to solve guesstimate questions** with an example. We have also shared some expert tips and suggested books so that you thrive in the interview.

But first, let’s understand…

A guesstimate is basically a calculated guess. When solving a guesstimate, you make an estimation based on your own logical reasoning.

GUESSTIMATE= GUESSWORK + ESTIMATION

So, it’s not about throwing a random number. Successful guesstimates involve breaking down a big question into smaller, solvable chunks.

For example, an interviewer might ask, “How many deliveries does Zomato make in a day in Delhi?”

You won’t find the exact answer in a textbook. Instead, you will need to estimate the population of Delhi, what percentage of them order from Zomato in a day, and how many times they order. You will also need to do some quick mental math to arrive at a reasonable figure.

The key here lies in demonstrating structured thinking. Even if your final answer isn’t 100% accurate, interviewers want to see how you approach the problem and justify your assumptions.

Here are some of the things the interviewer checks when you solve a guesstimate question:

- How structured is your approach?
- How comfortable are you with numbers?
- Can you make logical assumptions under pressure?
- Can you do mental calculations and validate the magnitude of numbers?
- Can you explain your process clearly, even if the path is a bit messy?

That said, now let’s see a good approach to crack guesstimates and thrive in your interviews.

Whenever you are asked a guesstimate, the first thing you have to do is calm yourself and ensure you completely understand the question.

You can ask clarifying questions to the interviewer. For example, if asked, “How many phones are used in India?” you should know:

- Are we talking about active phones in use or every phone ever sold?
- Are we talking about simple feature phones or just smartphones?
- Are we interested in a specific region or the whole country?

A guesstimate can be scary if you see the problem as a whole. But when you break it down, it gets a lot easier. So, divide the problem into 2-3 parts based on the different factors that influence the answer. To continue our smartphone example, you could break it down into:

- Population of India
- Percentage of people who likely own a smartphone (age groups, rural/urban divide)

Now, you can estimate each piece of your puzzle. Make reasonable assumptions based on your general knowledge. You might not know the exact population of India, but you likely know it’s over a billion. You can round the numbers to make better estimates.

Finally, put your pieces together. You will have to do some mental math to arrive at your final estimate. Remember, the goal isn’t necessarily a perfect number – it’s about showing your thought process and how you arrive at a reasonable conclusion.

Let’s take an example guesstimate question for data analyst roles: **How many cups of tea are consumed in Delhi in a day?**

Here’s how you can solve it using the above 4 steps:

1. Clarify the question if you don’t understand it. Since this one is simple and self-explanatory, you can proceed with the second step.

2. Break down the problem into manageable parts- what’s the population of Delhi, how many of them drink tea, and how many cups of tea do they drink in a day.

3. Now, you solve each piece of the puzzle.

**Population of Delhi (x):** Delhi has a big population, let’s say around 3 crores.

**People who drink tea (y):** Tea is one of the most popular beverages in north India. So, we can expect at least 70% of people would drink it.

**Number of cups a person drinks in a day (z): **Indians generally consume tea twice a day- one in the morning and one in the evening. Some may drink more than 2 cups, some may drink only one. So let’s say it’s, on average, 2 cups.

4. Now, in the final step, you combine all the pieces of the puzzle:

Total number of cups of tea consumed in Delhi in a day:

= x.(y/100).z = (30,000,000).(0.7).(2) = 42,000,000

So our guesstimate is that Delhiwalas consume around 4.2 crore cups of tea in a day!

The above **guesstimate interview question** was an easy one. You need a lot of practice to get better at it. The good thing is you don’t have to be naturally talented to do it, you can learn. So, here are some tips that will help you solve guesstimate questions:

You don’t need a rigid formula but a mental checklist to guide you. A simple framework could be: clarify the question, break down the problem, estimate components, and calculate. This step-by-step approach makes sure you address all aspects of the question and prevents you from getting overwhelmed or jumping to conclusions too quickly.

Knowing some basic demographics and statistics will speed up your calculations. For example, if you roughly know the population of major Indian cities, you can start estimating things like market size or potential customer base in certain regions. It’s okay to round and use general figures, but having a few key numbers gives your estimations a solid starting point.

**Guesstimate interview questions** are all about creativity and problem-solving. Instead of focusing on getting to “the right answer,” impress your interviewer with unique angles and approaches.

Can you tie the question to recent market trends or news? Can you think of an unconventional way to estimate a certain factor? Creative problem-solving would surely impress the interviewer.

If you want to deep dive into solving guesstimates, you can study these books:

- Cracking the PM interview — Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Jackie Bavaro
- Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction — Philip E. Tetlock

If you want to crack interviews and land high-paying jobs, you can attend Ivy Pro School’s certification courses in Data Analytics, Data Science, or Gen AI.

These online courses are taught by industry-experienced mentors from IIT, IIM, and companies like Google and Microsoft, so you can already guess the value of these online courses.

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