The McKinsey Problem Solving Test

The Problem Solving Test is a very crucial part of the McKinsey recruiting process. It is where most of the applicant pool is eliminated. Yet there are so few resources to help you prepare for it. This is the ultimate place that gives you free materials at an unbelievable level of detail!

1. What is it?

The Problem Solving Test is a paper-based test required for all McKinsey applicants before in-person interviews.

2. Why they need it?

Why did Apple create the iPad when people had already had the iPhone and Macbook?

Very similar here! McKinsey believes the gap between CV screening and in-person interviews is too big. The firm may miss many good candidates with bad resumes or may interview too many bad candidates who lie on their resume.
At the end of the day, in-person interviews are expensive; the Problem Solving Test is much cheaper to conduct.

3. Future of the McKinsey PST?

McKinsey has invested heavily in developing the test and they stand behind it. I don’t see McKinsey discontinuing the PST in the near future. There may be changes in some specific questions, cases; but the general skills tested, format and question types, will stay.

Also, there is a trend of increasing the usage of paper-based tests by consulting firms. BCG has already been piloting a test called “Potential Test” in one office.

4. What is the PST format?

The test has 26 multiple choice questions, based on three business cases. Each question has 4 choices. You have exactly 60 minutes to finish the test. No calculator is allowed. You will be provided a watch, pencils, scratch paper, and the test. You will be taking the test either in a big group or alone.

5. What is so hard about this test?

  • You will not have enough time to properly think through each question. If you are going to reach every single word in the case background, do every calculation “asked”, there is simply not enough time. You will need to know how to work through stress and pressure, how to give out “high-probability” answers instead of “exactly-right” answers, and how to painlessly skip questions…
  • You will be judged by a machine (or if by a person, that person will try to be like a machine). I myself feel much more comfortable in an in-person case interview, where as long as I have the right tactics, I am fine. It’s ok to make a few mistakes here and there, to slow down the process if needed, and to ask for help when necessary. In the Problem Solving Test, the result is what matters. There will be no mercy granted. If you don’t get enough correct answers, you are out.

6. What is the passing score? (Cutoff score)

As with all other parts of the recruiting process, there are no quotas used. As long as you reach a pre-determined bar, you get in. Don’t be intimidated when you walk into a test room with a lot of people. You are only competing against yourself. There have been many rumors on what the minimum passing score is. No one knows for sure. I personally think that the bar is somewhere between 60 – 70%.

So if your practice test shows a result of 12 or 14 / 26, you need to buckle up and do a heck of a lot more preparation.

Case Interview is a special type of interview extensively used for management consulting recruiting. To know what’s in the Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program – MConsultingPrep exclusive training package – for Case Interview candidates, click here


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