The scoring mechanism in the McKinsey Digital Assessment confuses a lot of candidates, with many still in the dark about what constitutes a good PSG round. Unlike the paper-based McKinsey Problem-Solving test (PST) with an explicit scoring system – your result is the number of correct answers you get, the score in the PSG is much more complicated. It entails both the final score and the process score.
An understanding of the scoring mechanism of the PSG will help you improve your game-play strategy, furthering the chance at a case interview.
1. PSG Scores in McKinsey Recruitment Process
The PSG seems to lower the resume threshold
With the PSG in place, the passing chance is spread more equally among candidates.
Being held entirely online, the PSG saves McKinsey from the logistical burden of holding offline assessment sessions. Candidates are also spared all the time and travelling cost. Thanks to this flexibility of PSG, the barriers for passing the resume screening round are significantly lowered. A higher number of candidates can take the PSG than PST.
As a result, those with weaker resumes still stand a chance at case interviews, as their good score in the PSG may compensate for the resume. On the other hand, non-optimal performance in the PSG can be made up for with an excellent consulting resume
Although it’s best to invest time and effort in both rounds, this refined recruiting protocol allows candidates to focus on optimizing one round, either resume or PSG, while keeping the other one at an acceptable level.
PSG scores are only relevant before the interview
Once you are in for the case interviews, the PSG scores will not be relevant anymore. The chance at an offer will be based solely on your case interview performance. Every candidate who makes it to the case interviews will stand an equal chance, and no one has a further advantage for scoring better in the PSG round.
Therefore, to land a McKinsey position, it’s important that you strive for both an excellent PSG round and outstanding case interviews.
McKinsey will only tell you if you pass or fail
The result email you receive from McKinsey, within 2-14 days after the test, will only inform you if you pass or fail. McKinsey will not include the final score, component score or any feedback of your performance afterwards.
The time for receiving results varies, but it should not exceed two weeks. You may get your result as soon as two days after taking the test. But if you don’t get it too soon, don’t be worried as there may be some procedures in the process. But after two weeks and still nothing, try contacting your applying office for more information.
Failing to meet game objectives does not always mean failing the test
Our field report shows that most of those who pass the PSG manage to successfully complete at least one game. However, there is still some chance that you fail in both games but still manage to pass the test. This is not to say that you should ignore the PSG final score, it is still one of the most important aspects in assessing your performance.
McKinsey will not make a decision based solely on the results of the PSG. The results from PSG will be taken into consideration together with the rest of your application. McKinsey recruiters will make a decision based on multiple factors such as your resume or cover letter.
That said, there is a significant correlation between having good product scores and passing the PSG. According to our surveys, at least 80% passing candidates have completed all the game objectives – and usually well within the allocated time limit.
PSG passing rate is 20-30%
The passing rate for the McKinsey Problem Solving Game is estimated at roughly 20-30%. As more candidates are invited to take the test, the proportion of those who pass is lower than the PST.
Also, McKinsey uses the PSG for the recruitment of a wide range of candidates for various positions, not just consulting track. Therefore, the passing chance will depend largely on which position you are applying for in McKinsey.
2. How Is PSG Scored?
Each candidate will be assessed using both product scores (i.e. the final results) and process scores (i.e. how they get those results).
Product Scores measure your success in achieving games’ objectives
Product scores are calculated based onyour level of success in achieving the objectives of the game scenarios. While there is no correct answer, some solutions will be better than others. In the first scenario, product scores are the number of species surviving. For the second scenario, it would come from the number of turns you survived till the end.
- Scenario 1: How many species survive? How much energy do they provide and consume?
- Scenario 2: How many turns do you survive?
Product scores is the easiest aspect to be optimized through intensive practice. We offer a PSG Simulation Package that resembles 95% of the real PSG. It is reported that the product scores of candidates practicing with PSG Simulation increased 2-3 times in the real test, with a total finishing time of under 30 minutes for both games, all the species surviving for Ecosystem Building and a maximum of 50 turns per map for Plant Defense (well over the 12-to-18-turn average observed in non-users who do not practice beforehand).
Process Scores measure your game-playing behavior
Process scores, on the other hand, are calculated using data on your patterns during the whole game-playing process – every keystroke, every click and every mouse movement will be assessed.
ALthough claims that the process is recorded and taken into account, McKinsey has never explicitly stated the measurement method of this process scores. We have several working hypotheses on how the process scores are measured that need to be verified. If you have ever sat the PSG, help us validate our hypotheses by filling out this survey.
In the meantime, test-takers need to operate under the assumption that every action on the screen will reflect their problem-solving approach. Thus, the best way to optimize the process scores is to have a well thought-out strategy from the beginning. My advice is to train for yourself a methodical, analytic approach to every problem, so when you do come in for the test, you will naturally appear as such to the software.
The PSG assesses candidates based on five core dimensions
While there is no official statement from McKinsey about which candidates they select, it is likely that the more you resemble a high-performing consultant at McKinsey, the higher your chances will be. That is to say, it would be beneficial if you can “show off” your consulting traits throughout the game playing process.
The process and product scores shall be combined to form a profile of problem-solving skills and capabilities. According to an Imbellus research, your problem-solving capability is assessed based on the five following dimensions:
- Critical thinking: the ability to form a rational judgment from a set of facts
- Decision-making: the ability to select the best course of action among several options
- Meta-cognition: the ability to use strategies to make learning information and solving problems easier (e.g., testing hypothesis, taking notes)
- Situational awareness: the ability to determine the relationships between different factors and to project the outcomes of a scenario
Systems thinking: the ability to understand cause & effect relationships involving several factors and feedback loops (e.g., anticipating several orders of consequences)
3. Scores in Ecosystem Building
Ecosystem Building Score is calculated using the number of surviving species
According to McKinsey, the main objective of Ecosystem Building is to build a sustainable ecosystem in the given environment. However, the precise scoring mechanism of the game is not clearly stated in the instruction. To our best assumption, the product scores component is calculated using the number of surviving species. Specifically, how many species survive after the eating process.
Scores are not displayed whatsoever
In the real McKinsey digital assessment, the scores of Ecosystem Building will not be shown to candidates in any way. During or after the test, McKinsey will not inform you how many of the species you select survive.
The best you can do is to understand the eating rules and calculate the number for yourself. In this Free Prospective Candidate Starter Pack, we provide a note-take template to facilitate keeping track of your scores.
To help you gain better insight on the scoring mechanism in the Ecosystem Building, in our PSG Simulation, we provide a results display screen at the end of the game, demonstrating indexes such as the number of species fully surviving, unfit with location, starving to extinction, and eaten to extinction.
Ecosystem Building scores display in MConsultingPrep’s PSG Simulation
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4. Scores in Plant Defense
Plant Defense scores are calculated using the number *******************9 of turns surviving
The second scenario of the McKinsey Problem-Solving Game – Plant-Defense – is a turn-based tower-defense game. The candidate is charged with defending a plant at the center of a grid-based map from invading pests, using obstacles and defenders. There are two main objectives for candidates in this game scenario: (1) keep the plan alive after the 15 turn and (2) keep the plan from the invaders for as many turns as possible.
In general, the product scores in Plant Defense is the number of turns you keep your plant away from the invaders. Thus, try to achieve the highest number of turns possible.
The key product scores are displayed throughout the process
Throughout the game playing process, there is a counter displaying the number of turns at the bottom of the screen. As the number of turns is made visible, you can focus on optimizing your strategy without worrying about counting.
There is a counter displaying the number of turns (Image: MConsultingPrep’s PSG Simulation)
Product Score Criteria
Build a Sustainable Ecosystem – keep your species from extinction
Number of surviving species
8 species survive
Defend your plant – keep the plan from the invaders for as many turns as possible
Number of turns
32-38 for round 1 and 2
above 42-48 for round 3
Counter at the bottom during game
5. How to Optimize Your Scores in the PSG?
Practice mental math and fast reading skills
The McKinsey Problem-Solving Game – especially the 3 ecosystem-related mini-games – require good numerical and verbal aptitude to quickly absorb and analyze the huge amounts of data. Additionally, such skills are also vital to case interviews and real consulting work.
That means a crucial part of PSG preparation must include math and reading practice. To master these skills, read the following articles on how to improve your mental calculation and reading speed: Consulting Math, Speed Reading
Practice with similar games
Test-takers with experience playing video games, especially strategy games, hold a significant advantage thanks to their “game sense”. Video games with data-processing and system management improve the necessary skills for the PSG. Also, the McKinsey PSG is in fact similar in logic and gameplay to a few popular video game genres. The more similar a game is to the PSG, the better it is for practice.
In my comprehensive guide on the McKinsey Problem Solving Game, I include a list of games compatible with the Imbellus game suitable for practicing.