The BCG Pymetrics Test is a new neuroscience-based pre-interview made by Pymetrics for the Boston Consulting Group. Most people say there is no way to prepare for this kind of test – after all, they are designed to expose your “true self” – or are they?
The best way to prepare for this reputedly “unpreparable” test is to break it down into bite-size pieces in the true consulting spirit, figure out their logic, and act accordingly to train yourself on desirable traits and embrace corresponding test-taking tips. So continue reading, because this is the most detailed guide out here on the BCG Pymetrics Test.
What is the BCG Pymetrics Test?
The BCG Pymetrics Test is a pre-interview screening test used by Boston Consulting Group, using 12 mini-games played in 30 minutes to assess candidates on social, emotional, and cognitive traits such as attention, emotion, decision-making, risk tolerance, and others. Candidates with similar answers and behavior to high-performing BCG consultants are preferred.
How does BCG use the Pymetrics Test?
The BCG Pymetrics Test appears in the second recruitment stage, in conjunction with the BCG Potential Test or Online Case. While the Potential Test/Online Case is result-based and testing the candidate on problem-solving and reasoning skills, the Pymetrics Test acts as a personality test.
The BCG Pymetrics Test follows a mini-game format – in 20-30 minutes, the candidate has to play through 12 mini-games, each lasting 1-3 minutes with different objectives and underlying assessment. The candidate is allowed to pause freely between games but not during each game. The test can be taken using a computer or smartphone.
The results of this test are kept by Pymetrics for 330 days, during which the candidate cannot retake the test, and results will be used for any application to Pymetrics partners (such as PwC, JPMorgan, etc.)
How precisely the results affect an interviewing offer remains speculative. Some reports claim candidates have been rejected based on Pymetrics test results, while BCG officially states that the test is an “inclusion tool” to complement other elements of the recruitment process – meaning you will not be rejected based on its result. Given the somewhat questionable validity of the test, however, it is highly unlikely that Pymetrics test results will be of much importance to the interviewing decision – with insiders claiming that these results are only taken into account in special cases with strong spikes in desirable/undesirable traits – and only in conjunction with the resume and standardized test results.
Whatever the case, understanding the test and making basic preparations means you can increase your chance of receiving an interview.
What does BCG look for in the Pymetrics Test?
The Pymetrics Test assesses the candidate across 70+ social, emotional and cognitive traits, which can be categorized into 9 groups. According to BCG, the results will be used to build a behavioral-cognitive profile to compare with successful BCG consultants – the more you resemble a high-performing consultant, the more likely you will be offered an interview.
The trait groups in the Pymetrics test are, as described by Pymetrics in their post-test analysis:
- Attention: approach to managing incoming information and distractions
- Effort: approach toward investing effort based on size of reward and probability of success
- Fairness: perception of fairness in social situations
- Decision-Making: approach towards making decisions
- Emotion: strategy towards interpreting the emotions of others
- Focus: concentration style for one or more tasks
- Generosity: tendency to prioritize the needs of others above one’s own
- Learning: approach to changing behavior based on new information
- Risk Tolerance: level of comfort with risk-taking
Screenshot of post-test report from Pymetrics – 2021
While the BCG version of the test is reportedly customized to the needs of the firm, our test-taker inquiries and official statements all indicate that it’s very similar to the standard version, both in terms of format and underlying assessment mechanics – meaning the main “customization” lie in the end profile that BCG look for in candidates.
2. Breaking Down the BCG Pymetrics Test
While the BCG Pymetrics Test is claimed to be “non-directional” – in simpler words, there is no right or wrong answer – this contradicts the statement about comparing candidates with high-performing consultants. In fact, there are “right” answers – those painting a personal profile in line with consulting culture and mindset.
For this section, I’ll break down each known mini-game in the BCG Pymetrics Test, and using my experience as a former consultant, suggest what kind of profile might be preferred.
Screenshot from Pymetrics – 2021
Mini-game 1: Money-Exchange 1
The game gives you $10, then asks you to give some/all/none to another person, who will receive triple the amount you’ve set aside for them (say, you agree to give them $2, they’ll receive $6). In return, the partner may give back some/all/none of that money. After the transaction, you will be asked to judge how fair it was on a scale of 1 to 10.
Trait tested: Risk Tolerance & Fairness
Recommended approach: Try to display low risk tolerance by giving out a conservative amount of your money (say, $2-3 only) – consultants are conservative people, and we are trained to not take risks, or suggest risky solutions to our clients. However, being too risk-averse is generally frowned upon even in this conservative industry. As for fairness, you might want to rate it high as long as the amount of money returned closely matches/surpasses the amount given.
Mini-game 2: Keypresses
The game asks you to repeatedly tap the spacebar as fast as possible until told to stop.
Trait tested: Attention
Recommended approach: The faster you tap, and the smaller the gap between the order and your actual stop, the better – displaying high attention. Supposedly the overly impulsive candidates will shoot over the mark (i.e. continue tapping after the stop order), while the overly deliberate candidates will tap slowly to avoid overshooting.
Mini-game 3: Balloons
The game gives you a balloon, which you either sell for a meager profit or pump it up to sell later for increasing profits. However, as the balloon swells it, it risks popping, causing you to lose all the money for that balloon. The cycle of pumping/selling repeats until you’ve gone through 39 balloons, with the objective to accumulate as much money as possible.
Trait tested: Risk Tolerance
Recommended approach: Try to display low risk tolerance, similar to the first Money Exchange game. Consultants do take risks – only systematically and cautiously – so you can be strategic in this game. Take risks with the first 4-5 balloons to figure out the “danger zone” with high chances of popping, then spend the rest of the game under that limit, only venture above it every 6-7 balloons.
Mini-game 4: Money-Exchange 2
The game gives you and a partner $5 each, then randomly gives either you or the partner another $5. You are then given the option to give or take any amount of money to/from the partner and asked to judge if the transaction is fair or not.
Trait tested: Generosity & Fairness
Recommended approach: try to display a moderate-high generosity as low generosity may be regarded as a potential conflict source.
Mini-game 5: Digits
The game gives you increasingly long sequences of digits, in which one digit will flash on the screen at a time. You will have to memorize these digits to write them out later. With every correct sequence, the next sequence will lengthen by one digit, and the game lasts until you hit 3 incorrect sequences.
Trait tested: Attention
Recommended approach: The point here is to prove that you can take in as much information as possible. You may want to use a note to write the numbers down – however, be careful since you may miss the next digit during a few seconds of note-taking.
Mini-game 6: Easy or Hard
The game gives you the choice to perform an easy task and a hard task. The easy task requires you to tap the spacebar 5 times in 3 seconds for $1.00, while the hard task requires tapping 50 times in 12 seconds for $1.24-$4.30. The task is completed once the number of taps required is reached. The chance of you actually receiving the rewards varies from 10% to 90%. The task is performed repeatedly for 2 minutes, and the objective is to accumulate as much as you can.
Trait tested: Effort & Risk Tolerance
Recommended approach: In this game, you should display the 80-20 rule of thumb, along with low risk tolerance. Balance the effort spent and rewards received. Choose the hard option only when the rewards and chances are high (say, $3.00 and 70%), otherwise, choose the easy one and wait for the next big chance.
Mini-game 7: Stop 1
The game flashes a circle of either green or red, while requiring you to press the spacebar to respond to one color, and stay still to respond to the other (e.g.: spacebar when green appears, do nothing when red appears). The task is repeated 15-20 times.
Trait tested: Focus
Recommended approach: This game is about multi-tasking – your brain must handle two tasks during this game: (1) timing your taps to match the flashes of the circles, and (2) deliver correct responses to the flashing colors.
Mini-game 8: Cards
The game asks you to draw cards from four different decks. With each card drawn, you can either lose or gain a random amount of money. You can draw from any deck and can switch decks at any given time. You will draw about 30-40 cards – until the game tells you to stop.
Trait tested: Decision-Making & Risk Tolerance
Recommended approach: A suitable strategy here is to take a structured approach with low risk tolerance. Test each deck with 4-5 cards and see if there’s any pattern regarding the gains and losses. Then focus about 50% of the remaining cards on that deck, the other 40% on the “middling” decks, and 10% on the least profitable deck.
Mini-game 9: Arrows
The game flashes a line of arrows pointing left or right and colored red, blue, or black. If the color is blue or black, tap the arrow button displayed by the arrow line (e.g.: if blue/black arrows go right, tap right). If the color is red, tap the arrow button reverse of the arrow line (e.g: if red arrows go right, tap left). The task is repeated 15-20 times.
Trait tested: Focus
Recommended approach: This game is about multi-tasking, the logic is the same as the Stop 1 mini-game (matching your taps to the color AND direction of the arrows)
Mini-game 10: Lengths
The game flashes a face with a big mouth and a small mouth. The big mouth is only slightly bigger than the small mouth. You have to tap the right arrow or left arrow button, depending on the size of the mouth appearing. If the tap is correct, you have a chance to receive a small amount of money. The task is repeated 15-20 times.
Trait tested: Learning
Recommended approach: This game is to check whether you’re internally motivated by the desire to “get it right”, or externally motivated by the rewards. The ideal consultant has strong motivations from both sides, so try to deliver correct key taps, but don’t waste too much time examining the faces.
Mini-game 11: Towers
The game gives you three towers of stacked colored discs. Your objective is to rearrange these discs between the tower, moving one disc at a time, until your towers look like the target tower appearing on the top of the screen. The fewer moves you use, the better. You have 2 minutes to complete the task.
Trait tested: Decision-Making
Recommended approach: This game is to see whether you approach a problem/decision with structure and strategy. Avoid moving the discs randomly – instead, take time to map out the necessary moves in advance – preferably with a note.
Mini-game 12: Faces
The game gives you the portrait image of a person, which may be accompanied by a paragraph providing the context for that image. You need to choose between 10 choices about the emotion the person is currently expressing.
Trait tested: Emotion
Recommended approach: This game tests whether you rely on gut feeling and facial expressions to figure out a person’s emotions, or on contextual information. Ideally, when context information is present, use it as the basis to narrow down the possible options – consulting are fact-based people, and in reality, people from high-context cultures (such as East Asians) do a great job not showing their emotions on their face.
3. Is the Test Accurate? Should You Game the System?
This is a controversial topic about psychometric tests (or any part of the recruitment process for that matter) – can the test stand up to their claims of accurately portraying the candidate’s traits, and should he/she “lie” about who they are?
As for the first question, for now, most of these test relies on the end results of mini-games (there is some process monitoring, but according to test-takers, it’s not a significant factor). As a consequence, candidates can subconsciously or even consciously “game” the test for the sake of personal-selling, as long as they know which traits their target firm looks for.
Going to the second question, from my experience, it’s acceptable for the candidate to “game the system” somewhat. Approaching problems with strategy, breaking it down into bite-size pieces to tackle one-at-a-time, if that doesn’t scream “consulting”, I don’t even know what else. Many assessed traits do require practice to become proficient (such as learning, attention, emotion, etc.) – so you can’t say “I’ll be true to myself when entering these tests, there’s no need to try” – that’s the mindset no consulting firm ever wants to hire.
Tip 1: Reinforce desirable traits in daily activities
“Fake it until you make it” – While fooling the game might be an option, it is best to immerse yourself in a consulting mindset and train the necessary skills – after all, you’ll need it for the case interviews and the job. Approach everyday problems with a bit of consulting methodology, and slowly you’ll think and act much more similar to a consultant.
Tip 2: Practice with brain training apps with similar exercises
Most of the mini-games used in the BCG Pymetrics Test are popular brain-training games, which you can access freely online. While these games certainly won’t share the underlying assessment mechanics with the Pymetrics test, at least they help you familiarize with the format and reduce confusion once you got into the real thing.
Tip 3: Take a good rest before the test and make appropriate reservations
Ensure that you perform the test in a fully awake and energetic mood, undisturbed by any thoughts or distractions. Keep your phone or laptop fully operational, get a good Internet connection that won’t fail mid-test. BCG gives you a few days to do the test, so choose the most convenient time for you – preferably with a few hours of spare time.
Tip 4: Prepare some snacks and take short breaks between mini-games
Running straight through 12 mini-games in one go may not be the best option – I know some people have the necessary attention span and endurance, but the test does allow breaks between its games, so why not take those breaks and refresh yourself with some healthy snacks?
Tip 5: Don’t pay too much attention to the assessment criteria
Thinking about how to look best in the test takes away the brainpower that would otherwise be used to solve the exercises. By this time, you should know the drill already, the only thing left is to run it, as naturally as possible. Focus on the task at hand and deliver the best results.