1.What is it?

Reading facts are the most common question type in the McKinsey PST (38%) and also the BCG Potential Test (up to 100%). These questions test your ability to understand the facts/ data itself. There will be no inferring, logic, hypothesizing, or creativity needed. See the illustrative picture below.

management consulting prep pst reading facts 2
Instead, proficiency in chart reading and calculations will be handy here.

Question formats

The following are a few examples of typical question formats:
  • Which of the following values is the best estimate of…?
  • Which of the following statements is valid based on the data …?
  • Which of the following can be concluded from Exhibit …?
Sometimes even though the word “conclude” is used, questions don’t require any logical reasoning, just your ability to read facts and perform basic calculations. In these cases, I still classify these questions into the “Fact reading” category.

2.Example of a reading facts question

This question is written based on an official McKinsey practice PST question.
* * *
Table 1
management consulting prep pst reading facts
Which of the following statements is valid based on the data in Table 1?
A) Soccer revenue was more than $325 thousand five years ago
B) Tennis revenue grew by no less than 1.2% in each of the last five years
C) Total revenue for Saigon League did not grow at all in the last five years
D) If growth in the last 5 years is maintained, Soccer revenue will be more than $420 k 5 years from now.
* * *
You will see that no tricky logical reasoning is needed here. All you need in order to answer these questions is the ability to read the table and perform calculations correctly.

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3. Common mistakes

A good way to pick the correct choice is to investigate how the other three are wrong. Now there are two ways you can be wrong in this type of PST question.
  1. Wrong calculation
  2. Mis-read the facts/ data
Type #2 is harder to understand, so I will dive deeper into that here. Let’s look at the above example question. Hope you got D, the correct choice.

Example 1 of how you can miss-read the data - Why A is wrong

If you overlook the phrase “Average annual” on column 3′s title, then Soccer revenue 5 years ago would be: $342.8 k / (100% + 4.5%) = $328 k, which is more than #325 thousand. Revenue grew at the average of 4.5% in EACH the last 5 years. It is NOT 4.5% over the whole period of 5 years.

Example 2 of how you can miss-read the data - Why B is wrong

If you overlook the phrase “Average” on column 3′s title, then it seems like the growth rate for each of the last 5 years is exactly 1.2%, no more no less. B therefore seems correct. However, as indicated in the table, the 1.2% is just an average figure, which means there are years higher and years lower.

Example 3 of how you can miss-read the data - Why C is wrong

If you overlook the second column of the table (Revenue this year column), then it seems like the average growth rate for Saigon League overall is 0% (4.5% + 3.3% + 1.2% – 9% = 0%), which makes C correct. However, different lines have different sizes. Even though Golf had negative growth of 9%, it is a relatively small line so its impact on the overall rate is small as well.
* * *
Again, PST is a simple test … when you have enough time!

4. Guide on Preparation

I am always amazed that up to 38% of your destiny depends on questions that require very basic and learn-able skills. Your overall PST result can be greatly improved simply by learning and strengthening those basic skills.

Skill #1: Calculation

We have a full detailed section on Consulting Math, how to strengthen your quantitative proficiency!

Skill #2: Chart / exhibit / table reading

Every chart, every exhibit you see in life, whether it is from your textbook, a workshop you attend, an article you read…, always take a moment to read and understand the data and message conveyed. Doing this will help you with more than just this question type.

Skill #3: Attention to detail

Everybody enters consulting at a junior level. Attention to detail is compulsory. No surprise that this is tested on the PST. My tips to excel in this:
  • Develop the habit in daily life. Have the mindset that I am not going to miss any stupid details.
  • For every practice question you get in this type, make sure you understand not only why the correct answer is right, but also how the incorrect answers are incorrect. Exactly like what I did above.

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