I remember about 8 years ago when the McKinsey PST was just a new concept, candidates around the globe were so emotional about it. There was a big sensation of excitement, mixed with fear and anxiety. So many rumors, myths, and unreliable tips were floating around.

Lately, aspiring consultants are witnessing the same thing as BCG introducing their BCG Potential Test. Various field reports of BCG Potential Test takers reported slightly different details about the test which even create more chaos and worries regarding this topic. But chaotic time is always when heroes emerge. Through hundreds of field reports, we have finally managed to put together a comprehensive of insights about this test. By focusing more on what we are sure of and less on what we don’t, you can spend more time and energy on what really matters.

WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE TEST YET

I am never a big fan of craving the fine details of the test, especially when it’s not too well established. But I bet many of you are still curious. So following is a compilation of all insights we gather from dozens of reliable field reports.

1Format

Most are multiple-choice questions but sometimes you see “check the box” questions, where you have to select more than one choices

The BCG Potential Test is not a test of knowledge, but rather a skill-based test. Most, if not all, necessary information is provided in the test. No prior knowledge is required.

The number of questions and time allowed vary by offices. There are 2 most popular format:

  • 50-53 questions in 50 minutes
  • 20-23 questions in 45 minutes

Questions in the 50-questions format are generally easier and less time-consuming thus the overall difficulty is roughly the same for both

2Scoring System

Scoring system varies a bit across offices, yet you will always see how yours is measured. The most popular system we hear is: +3 for a correct answer, 0 for blank, and -1 for a wrong answer. The deduction is mostly applicable to math questions.

3Testing

Most of the time, no calculator is allowed. Some offices allowing calculators would require you to finish the test in less time. For example, Israel and Russia are reportedly using this calculator-allowed-50-minute version.

The test is on a computer screen with contexts on the right, questions on the left. You can navigate between the two section independently. For example, you can go through various context pages while remaining the question X on the left.

4Test content

The context is divided into about 9 pieces called “docs”. All 9 docs are related and tell one big story. Each doc has about 150 – 300 words, docs with charts usually have fewer words. Generally, a new doc emerges after every 3-4 questions. Some questions require you to pull information from previous docs but never from future docs.

In each question, there will be a note saying which doc you need to look at. Sound nice, right? But the game gradually gets more challenging. At the beginning, questions only refer to doc 1, doc 1-2, doc 1-3, doc 1-4, but towards the end of the case, it almost always says “refer to doc 1-8” or “1-9”. So you need to combine multiple doc in order to solve a question. The questions are also sometimes related to each other, i.e., you cannot independently answer question 5 without answering
question 4.

Question types are roughly similar to that of the McKinsey PST. There are Reading Facts questions. There are also questions that are very similar to Root-cause reasons, Fact-based conclusions, etc. Some are mixed questions. And of course, a few very interesting new types emerge; i.e., solutions questions: “Select 3 actions that effectively do XXX”. About 50% of the questions involve calculations of some sort. This is about the same ratio with the McKinsey PST. Math questions on average require 3 single calculations to derive the answer.

5

Difficulty level

When we put all aspects of the time, length and questions altogether, the BCG Potential test is reportedly more challenging than the McKinsey yet only by a small margin. This probably depends on the candidate’s background and the office they applied to. Specifically, questions on their own are generally easier but the test structure and the requirement to switch through different docs make the whole experience more difficult and disruptive.

THE BCG POTENTIAL TEST STUDY PLAN

With all of that said, the BCG Potential Test is the test made by consultants and is aimed to determine if a candidate has the qualification (a.k.a. potential) to be a consultant. This is a universal fact. So my strategy for this particularly and for all other aspects of consulting prep is to focus on the principles. Once you got that, firms can change formats of the test however they want, you will still always be ready. This is very similar to you being a great basketball player with awesome ball handling, shooting, passing, etc. skills. No matter if you play by the NBA or FIBA rules, play 5 on 5 or 3 on 3, you will always be ready.

Clearly, BCG is still piloting and updating its test. And that makes the “back to principles” mindset even truer.
We recommend 3 Phases to study for the BCG Potential Test.

Know how to do consulting paper-tests

Sharpen supporting skills

Putting all together and practice with the most common BCG Potential Test format

Your overall study plan for the BCG Potential Test should go through these three steps but don’t worry if they are overlapping a bit with reference to timeframe. You may revisit Phase 1 while in Phase 3. And you can spread Phase 2 throughout the whole process.

Now, let’s go into each!

Phase 1 Learn Consulting paper-test question

Over 70% of the questions on the BCG test are very similar to that in the McKinsey PST. The other 30% apply the same principles and can be quite easily done with good logic trained by doing the other 70%.

Based on our statistics, here are how BCG questions stack up

Circle-chart_Learn Consulting-paper-test-question

Over 50% questions are similar to the “Reading Facts” type of the McKinsey PST

15 – 20% questions are similar to the “Root-cause Reasons” type of the McKinsey PST

About 10% questions are similar to the “Fact-based Conclusion” type of the McKinsey PST

10 – 15% questions are mixed type, having the characteristics of some of the above

About 10% questions are about finding the “Solutions” and initiatives

So, use the resource of the McKinsey PST as the guide to train your mind to be comfortable answering questions by your own. In additional to MCP’s materials on the PST, you may use the official McKinsey Practice Tests. Yes, you will encounter a few questions not being used in the BCG Test, but for sure your “consulting paper test” muscle will be trained.

Phase 2 Sharpen Supporting Skills

Skills matter. Fortunately, skills needed for this test is very well defined.

1. Reading Skills

Many reports are pointing to the “reading” as the big factor making the BCG Test so brutal. The reading is generally longer than the PST. So by sharpening your reading, your performance can be improved to a large extent.
Now with reading, there are 2 baby steps you can do:

Improve your overall reading skill speed of all contexts of any kind
For this, we developed a very good initiative based on the famous project of Princeton University. This initiative reportedly doubles your reading speed while keeping the same level of comprehension. You can refer to this McKinsey PST Speed Reading Guide.

Practice reading in test-like environment and context
The best way to do this is to directly go into the BCG Perspectives website, pick any articles and reports and start reading. There are many drills you can challenge yourselves while doing this. Some suggestions are:

  • At the most basic level, just enjoy reading and be genuinely curious about the content
  • Pick an industry or function you know absolutely nothing about and try to make sense of everything while reading
  • Read each paragraph critically and guess what’s next. I call this “mindful reading”
  • Time yourselves to read a paragraph, a chart, or the whole report in just XX amount of time. How much can you comprehend?

2. Calculation/ Math

For this topic, we have developed a designated program just to help you consistently improve your math skills for Consulting Recruitment purpose. You will find there a lot of tips, calculation techniques, and of course a lot of practice drills. Brush up your math skills with our Consulting Math Program.

Phase 3Putting Altogether To Practice The Most Common Format Of The BCG Potential Test

Over the years, I have received tons of requests to provide the BCG Practice Test. To all of them, I replied with the recommendation to use the McKinsey PST as a substitute. This has been bothering me to great extent. Deep down, I know that’s just a “decent” and temporary solution. Using the McKinsey to get the hang of the BCG Potential test is helpful in earlier study phases. But as the real test coming close, we all need practice that closely mirror the BCG test.

All the question principles, math and supporting skills lead to this, the highest stage of your study: putting it all together. Without this final phase, it feels like a football team worked so hard on all the tactics, all the drills, all the skills, all the game plans, etc. but never got a chance to put them all together in a real match. They end up losing by just a close margin in their tournaments.

I know that at some point I have to get this done. But developing this test is really a challenge. Time and effort is never the factor. We are willing to put nights, months, years into it just like we what we did for all other products. But the challenge is to gather enough insights.

For all over the last 3 years, we gather as much data and insights as we can get about the test. We “bother” so many test takers around the globe. We conducted interviews, aggressively looked for insights, having them take many beta versions and see how close they reflect the real test. Literally, hundreds of field reports of test taking in multiple locations were gathered.

The result is a set of “medium” BCG Potential Test that well reflects the characteristics of the majority of tests in various offices. We are confident that this is by far the most realistic practice test for the BCG Potential Test available. If you don’t wanna fall short, this is the best resource available.

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BCG Potential Test Comprehensive

2 practice tests – 23 questions each
Detailed answers thoroughly explained the methodology
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