Can you fail the McKinsey game? (A Detailed Explanation)

McKinsey Problem-Solving Game (or McKinsey Digital Assessment) is a gamified test provided by Imbellus, replacing the traditional McKinsey Problem-Solving Test (PST) in almost all McKinsey offices. Being an indispensable round in McKinsey’s hiring process, it makes every candidate wonder whether it is a pass-fail challenge.

Ever since introduced, the McKinsey game has been a tough ask for anyone vying for a career at McKinsey. Let’s find out how demanding the McKinsey PSG is and helpful guidelines to avoid failure in the test.

Can you fail the McKinsey game?

Yes, it is possible to fail the McKinsey game. In fact, McKinsey Problem-Solving Game (PSG) is designed to pick out the top talent from a large candidate pool, with a cut-off rate of roughly 70-80%. After around 2 weeks of completing the tasks, you will be informed whether you have passed or failed via an email. No further feedback or component scores are presented, just 2 simple words: PASS or FAIL!


Why is the McKinsey game so difficult?

So, what is so challenging about this gamified assessment? McKinsey game makes it hard for a lot of candidates due to these 2 main factors: Unfamiliar test format and Strict time limit.

Unfamiliar test format

In the McKinsey game, candidates are asked to complete 2 to 6 strategy mini-games. Among those, the 2 most encountered are: Ecosystem Building and Plant Defense, and the less common ones are Disease Management, Disaster Management, and Migration Management. Below are sample interfaces of the 2 popular games from MConsultingPrep’s McKinsey PSG Simulation:

Ecosystem Building game - MConsultingPrep’s McKinsey PSG Simulation

Plant Defense game - MConsultingPrep’s McKinsey PSG Simulation

Unlike other aptitude tests, getting the correct answer doesn’t always prove a candidate’s competencies since there can be guessing or a stroke of luck. Meanwhile, McKinsey games aim to look into your approach to problem-solving by tracking every keystroke and mouse movement. Thus, as McKinsey states, previous business knowledge or gaming experience is not always a need!

Strict time limit

The total time limit is 71 minutes for the 2 most popular tasks, with 35 minutes recommended for the first game and 36 minutes for the remaining one. Though there can be variations in the time limit depending on which mini-games are assigned to you and the length of each, these tend to range between 60-80 minutes. 

With this tight time limit, candidates need to come up with a proper strategy and complete all of the McKinsey game’s objectives. Therefore, it is crucial to allocate the total duration effectively while taking notes and pinpointing relevant data out of the given sets. Luckily, the tutorial is untimed, so make the most of it to generate an overall approach or keep yourself calm and energized.


What makes you fail the McKinsey game? 

There are 3 main contributors to a failure in the McKinsey game. Let’s examine each one and see how to avoid these mistakes: Failing to meet objectives, Ineffective strategy, and Lower performance than peers.

You failed to meet all the objectives of the game

Your performance in the McKinsey game is determined greatly by your product score (a.k.a the final result), which is measured by completing the following objectives:

  • Ecosystem Building: in this game, you need to create a continuous food chain, maintain a calorie surplus for all species and find the fit terrain for each species.
  • Plant Defense: you are asked to keep your native plant surviving for at least 15 turns of the game.

Note: Besides the product score, McKinsey will also take into account your process score, which includes your movement and strategy during the game. For detailed breakdowns of each mini-game, let’s look at our Complete Guide to McKinsey Problem-Solving Game.

So, you may wonder how to overcome each challenge. One proven way is to read the rules very carefully. One client of us, in the first attempt at the simulation, had successfully maintained a surplus calorie state of all species but failed to match the terrain specifications due to his unacknowledged of how to select locations. Therefore, make sure you fully understand how the game works.

The instructions are presented before the game begins and untimed. Here is what the tutorial of McKinsey PSG can look like:

Ecosystem Building game - MConsultingPrep’s McKinsey PSG Simulation

Another helpful tip is to take note of the game’s data using a spreadsheet or scratch paper, especially in the Ecosystem Building game, where you encounter hundreds of data points. Missing out or mistaking one spec can make you fail to meet the objectives. You can find out more about the note-taking method and practice!

Your strategy was not effective enough

If you finished all the tasks in the McKinsey game and still failed, maybe your strategy was improper. Besides the product score, candidates are also assessed based on their process score. Technically, the system will record your patterns during the whole problem-solving process - every keystroke, every click, and every mouse movement - to see if your approach resembles that of a high-performing consultant at McKinsey.

The question is, how to build an effective strategy for each mini-game? Here is a summary of recommended approaches you can take into account:

  • Ecosystem Building: it is suggested to use a structured process rather than randomly choosing species. A top-down approach from the apex predator or a bottom-up strategy from producers is fine; just remember to have a structure in your mind.
  • Plant Defense: one practical tip is to see the big picture; in other words, try to plan for the long-term and future invaders rather than only looking at the immediate ones. What’s more, this game is one of few cases when MECE is effective; overlapping the defenses can increase their damage to invaders.

If you want to dive deeply into the approach of each game, watch our comprehensive prep guide below:

You underperformed compared to other test takers

If you are confident enough with your playing plan and overall performance, then your peers’ performance may just be slightly better! In fact, the pass rate is merely 20-30%, which is lower than 30-35% of PST since candidates from various positions take the test with you. Therefore, the proportion of those who pass the McKinsey game in a specific department shrinks significantly.

Knowing how hard to succeed in the McKinsey Problem-Solving Game, prior practice to optimize your performance is of utmost importance. The next part of this article will show you tried-and-true prep materials for the McKinsey game, so keep moving!


Increase your passing chance with MConsultingPrep PSG Simulation 

McKinsey Problem-Solving Game is a big challenge for any candidate as they measure problem-solving skills and capabilities beyond any accumulated industry knowledge. Moreover, it is known to be a sharp screening tool with an average cut-off rate of 70-80%. However, beforehand preparation can improve the required skills and familiarize yourself with the actual test.

To help you survive McKinsey PSG, especially the most-used mini-games Ecosystem Building and Plant Defense, MConsultingPrep provides a highly-interactive platform resembling McKinsey PSG, comprehensive guidelines, and real-time animated results. With our accurate, in-depth mock tests, we are confident to guarantee your 80% PASS RATE!

Let’s ace the McKinsey game with MConsultingPrep’s most updated McKinsey PSG Simulation!

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