McKinsey Problem Solving Test General article

The Problem Solving Test (McKinsey PST) is a very crucial part of the McKinsey recruitment process. It is where most of the applicant pool is eliminated, and yet there are so few resources to help you prepare for it. Fortunately, you’ve found the ultimate place for practice materials with an unbelievable level of detail!

1. What is McKinsey PST?

The McKinsey Problem Solving Test (PST) is a paper-based test before in-person interviews, testing applicants’ math computation, data interpretation and logical thinking capabilities.

2. Why do they need it?

Why did Apple create the iPad when people had already had the iPhone and the Macbook?

It’s very similar to what we have here! McKinsey believes that the gap between CV screening and in-person case interviews is too big. The firm may miss many good candidates with bad resumes, or may interview too many candidates who don’t live up to their resumes.

At the end of the day, in-person interviews are expensive, and the Problem Solving Test provides a cost-effective solution.

3. Future of the McKinsey PST?

McKinsey has invested heavily in developing the test, and they stand behind it. I don’t see McKinsey discontinuing the PST in the near future. There may be changes in some specific questions, cases, or format; but the general skills tested, the logical principles, and the challenging natures will remain the same. If you follow the PST study plan laid out in detailed here, you will have no problem passing whatever test McKinsey may throw. In the end of the day, McKinsey looks for people with certain qualifications and our goal is always help you acquire those.

There is an increasing trend of paper-based tests in the recruitment process by consulting firms. BCG has already been applying a test called “BCG Potential Test” in almost all of their offices since last year. In contrast to the McKinsey PST, which is in paper-based format, the BCG Potential Test will be done on a computer. Bain is developing their own test as well.

4. What is the PST format?

The test has 26 multiple choice questions set within the context of 3 business cases. A candidate has exactly 60 minutes to finish the test. He will be provided with a watch, pencils, scratch paper, and the test in paper-based format. No calculator is allowed. No personal assistant is allowed. Just you and the test!

5. Why is this test so hard?

If you are going to read every single word in the case background and do every calculation “asked”, you will not be able to finish the test. You will need to know how to work through stress and pressure, how to give out “high-probability” answers instead of “exactly-right” ones, and how to painlessly skip questions.

I myself feel much more comfortable in an in-person case interview, where I will be fine as long as I have the right tactics. The interviewers generally allow candidates to make a few mistakes here and there, to slow down the process if needed, and to ask for help when necessary. In the PST, the result is all that matters. There will be no mercy granted. If you don’t get enough correct answers, you are out.

A huge amount of logical and analytical reasoning is required. You will need to really grasp the logical fundamental of how management consultant solve problem, e.g: the different between a conclusion vs a hypothesis; etc.

6. What is the best way to prepare for this test?

We really think people over-estimate the importance of SAT and GMAT math in the PST. It is only because materials on the PST are so rare that people have to spend their time on SAT and GMAT math. Yes it does help but the Problem Solving Test is much more than that. Specifically, half of the test does not involve any number at all.

A good approach to the PST involved two phases: (A) Know how to answer all questions without any time pressure. To do this, you need to take in-depth looks at each question type.

Once you can comfortably answer (almost) all questions, move on the next phase: (B) Increasing Speed!

To find out the in-depth instruction on both of those phases, visit this Master Study Plan.

7. What is the passing score? (Cut-off score)

Many candidates have been wondering the passing score of PST over the years. Similar to all other parts of the recruitment process, there are NO quotas to meet. This means as long as you reach a predetermined bar, you get in! Don’t be intimidated when you walk into a test room with a lot of people. The truth is you are only competing against yourself! There have been many rumors on what the minimum passing score is. No one knows for sure. To the best of my knowledge, I believe that the minimum bar is about 70%.

8. I understand all of those, can I get some practice?

If you stumble upon this topic for the first time, I recommend you to visit the Master Study Plan first. But if you are super hyped on trying the test now. You may go to the McKinsey website and try one practice test (please just try one as there are only a handful practice test out there, you would want to make it count).

We also offer one free PST case in case you want it!

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