How to Win a Financial Modeling Competition

This guide will help you prepare and get the best shot at winning a financial modeling competition. By following the tips below you’ll have an edge over competitors and increase your odds of winning cash prizes.


Guide to Win a Financial Modeling Competition


Here are the top 10 tips for competing.

#1 Study the Scoring Rubric

It important to know exactly what judges are looking for if you want to increase your odds of success. Every competition should publish some guidelines on how the winners will be determined and how scores are assigned. For example, if you look at the Scoring Rubric for this financial modeling competition, you’ll see that critical thinking, methodology, presentation, and insights/recommendations are where points are assigned. Focus on these areas when building your financial model.

#2 Read the Case Package Carefully

Before you start building your model, make sure you have a solid understanding of what the case is about, what you’re specifically required to do, and how you need to deliver it. Some cases may be intentionally misleading or vague, so you’ll have to read carefully to make sure you understand exactly what you need to create.

#3 Create a Game Plan

Having a structured approach is critical and in order to do that the best thing you can do is draft a game plan. This could involve brainstorming and sketching out different ideas, then creating an action plan on how to build the model. You should carefully budget your time too since you’ll only have 1 week to complete the competition.

#4 Stay Focused

A financial modeling competition may intentionally give contestants too much information, which may cause them to get distracted and lose focus. Since you’re under time pressure, it’s important to ignore all distracting information and focus on what really matters.

#5 Manage Your Time

In the CFI Financial Modeling Competition, you have 1 week to complete your submission, so you have to manage your time carefully. Don’t get stuck on a small detail in the model. It’s better to push through to develop a basic structure first, then go back and troubleshoot if you have more time.  If you don’t get to a basic valuation, you won’t be able to make a recommendation.

#6 Use Financial Modeling Templates

Most competitions are “open book”, so you can use existing templates you already have to get ideas from or to use a section of. You can always check out CFI’s financial modeling template library for lots of ideas.

#7 Create a Model Other People Can Easily Understand

Remember, your financial model is going to be evaluated by a panel of judges who won’t be able to ask you any questions about how your Excel model works. Be sure that anyone who jumps in it can understand the logic and the flow of it.

#8 Error Check Your Model

Be sure to use a wide range of error checking methods such as tracing precedents and dependants, using go-to-special, and redundancy calculations. To learn more, check out CFI’s advanced financial modeling courses.

#9 Generate Data-Based Recommendations

At the end of the day, your recommendations have to be supported by your model. The winner of the financial modeling competition will use the Excel model as a tool for analyzing the data provided in the case and use it to generate sound recommendations to the principles of the private equity firm.

#10 Have Fun

The financial modeling competition is about having fun! And if you really want to win, the more fun you’re having the more relaxed and creative you will be, which will increase your chances of winning.  Good luck!

If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out this video of a full Excel modeling being built in under 2 minutes!


Additional Resources

Thank you for reading this article to learn more about the Corporate Finance Institute accreditation program known as the Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst.  Below are more relevant resources related to the annual CFI Financial Modeling Competition: