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 rumours, 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.
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.
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.
1.2 Scoring 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.
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.
1.4 Test 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.
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.
1.5 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.
Passing the consulting screening tests such as BCG Potential Test is only possible if you are highly-proficient at consulting math!
See this article below for a tried-and-tested method to increase your consulting math speed by at least 3 times!
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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.
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.
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