System requirements for the McKinsey PSG
This may sound strange, but you do need decent hardware and Internet when taking the McKinsey Problem-Solving Game or Digital Assessment (McKinsey “PSG” for short). Unlike most gamified recruitment tests, the PSG uses 3D models and animations, putting a heavy strain on old computers with slow connections; consequently, McKinsey themselves even state that the test requires a system check before running. However most candidates seem to overlook this fact – sadly, some of them failed the test as a result.
What you need to know about the McKinsey PSG
It is a browser-based test
McKinsey doesn’t require you to download anything to take the test. All you need is a trusty browser and an Internet connection. The tricky part is how reliable your computer and Internet connection is.
As long as you don’t use Internet Explorer, the notoriously slow browser, you will be just fine. If you are on a Mac, I recommend using Safari as it is the native browser and therefore, the most optimized. If you are on Windows or Linux, go for Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or Mozilla Firefox.
It contains heavy 3D renders
Being a prestigious consulting firm, McKinsey puts a lot of effort into polishing its image. Naturally, the recruitment test has to be appealing as well. And what they chose to do is imbue it with 3D animation. Normally, 3D games will be particularly heavy on the GPU, but since the PSG is web-based, it tackles the CPU instead.
What you need for the McKinsey PSG/Digital Assessment
The McKinsey Problem Solving Game (PSG) or Digital Assessment is one of the most hardware-intensive recruitment tests. To have the most reliable experience, you need a mid-range computer ($700-$800), a stable internet connection (>30 Mbps), and a Full-HD screen (1920×1080). While the test can be run in older, slower systems, candidates run risks of technical problems in such circumstances.
How risky is that, you might ask? The answer is roughly 30% of candidates using “old and slow” systems (entry-level computers 3-4 years old) encounter at least one kind of technical problem, with the most common being lag and performance drops. And just one month before this article, one of my corresponding test-takers actually failed the test because of lag.
Pay attention to your hardware when taking the PSG. That is the message I am trying to get across here.
In the following sections, I will walk you through the details of the system you need to take the PSG smoothly, and in case you do not possess such a system, how to walk around this problem.
You need a decent CPU
Brace yourself because we are getting nerdy. For starters, you must have heard of the name Intel or Ryzen – they are the biggest CPU manufacturers on the market. Basically, every laptop has a CPU; without a CPU, no computer can boot up and run.
Because browsers are single-core tasks, the McKinsey PSG does not need multiple CPU cores, so what you need is a CPU with good single-core processing. Multiple cores can help boot up the browser faster, but any chip manufactured after 2017 should be enough to take on the task
All CPUs have at least 2 cores (unless you are using a laptop from the 2000s), but you don’t need to know what cores are and how many cores you have for now, because browsers do not need multiple cores. That is why you will need a CPU with good single-core processing. Any chip manufactured after 2016 is fine.
Checking what CPU your computer has is extremely easy. If you are using a laptop, there will be a sticker on the palm rest. Most likely, it will look like this.
Source: Wallpaper Flare
If you are on a Mac, make sure it was made after 2016. And if you are on a PC and there is no sticker outside, don’t worry because you can also check for it very easily. Just go to Settings > System > About and you will see all the information you need.
A high-resolution, low-scale screen for the best experience
A good resolution for a computer screen is 1080p, which is the standard for most modern computers now, so you won’t need to worry too much about this. It will help you see everything clearly and won’t miss any information on the test. In case you are using a big screen (bigger than 15 inches), it should have an ideal 4K resolution or at least 2K.
In addition, a low-scale screen means that elements on the screen will be better in conjunction with the pixel density, meaning sharper images. Windows laptops are typically scaled to 125%, so if it allows you to lower the percentage to 100%, try doing so to ensure that no elements are left out of the screen and you do not miss anything.
To adjust the display scale on Windows, go to Settings > System > Display > Scale and layout and change the scale from the drop menu. On a Mac, go to System preferences > Display > Scaled option.
Another thing to note is different screens have different color accuracy. Any screen with more than 90% sRGB coverage is more than enough, but you can settle for something as low as 70%. Of course, the closer to 100%, the better. To check this parameter, you will need to consult your vendor or Google.
A fast and stable Internet connection (30 Mbps or higher)
This is the most crucial part when it comes to doing the PSG. As I said, many candidates have unfortunately failed because of a lag. You don’t want to lose a job opportunity just because your connection is unstable, do you?
So before taking the test, you need to make sure your Internet connection is at least 30 Mbps (megabit per second). One quick way to check your Internet speed is using the Speedtest by Ookla. It will show you your download and upload speed. If the Internet speed does not meet the requirements, you might want to consider either upgrading your service or finding somewhere else to take the test.
Use a mouse instead of a touchpad (highly recommended)
A mouse will be generally more accurate than a touchpad. A decent mouse significantly increases navigation speed and tracking accuracy and limits accidental clicking. If you are using a wireless mouse, remember to charge it fully before the test or have some extra AA batteries.
Even if you are using a Macbook, whose touchpad is the gold standard of all touchpads, you should use a mouse. This will lower your reaction time and increase your accuracy. Every half-second counts in this high-pressure test, and you certainly do not want to misclick anything.
That system is too expensive for me – What can I do?
In case your system falls short of my recommendation, and you don’t want to spend $700 just to buy a new laptop for a test, you will need to resort to alternative methods – borrowing and optimizing.
Borrow someone else’s computer, or go to an Internet cafe/hub
Most of us have that friend who is a tech enthusiast, and they will surely have an overqualified computer system in case their friends need to take a PSG test. If you see any acquaintance with a laptop or a PC that costs more than $700, you should borrow immediately.
In case you cannot borrow a computer from anyone, there are always Internet cafes and Internet hubs to go to. Since it is their business, you can rest assured that their computers are top-notch and they have a fast Internet connection. This is the safest choice.
And if you cannot access any of those places, go to your local library as a last resort.
Take the test anyway, but be careful
This is essentially gambling, but it is the last resort when everything else is inaccessible. When your system isn’t reliable, you need to juice everything out of it. Double-check everything, including your Internet connection. Slow Wifi can even disable a $3000 computer, so a subpar one will not stand a chance. I will get to the bit where we deal with slow Internet later.
But for the next part, you will be optimizing your computer to its full potential.
Optimize your computer for a higher performance
It goes without saying that to be careful, you will want to close every other program that you don’t need when you are taking the test. If possible, open only your browser, and open only one tab for the PSG. You should also check for any background apps still running and shut them down for the time being. This will limit CPU usage and save any bit of power that you need.
Delete all malware and unnecessary software on your computer. Most modern computers are good enough at blocking malware already, but double-checking can never go wrong. The reason for this is to limit any background activity and optimize your CPU and RAM usage.
Bonus tip: Plug your Windows laptop in while taking the test. Not only does this act as a safety measure, preventing your laptop from running out of battery and shutting down mid-test, but it also gives the laptop extra power to run its CPU at its best.
Taking the PSG with slow internet
No matter how powerful your computer is, you cannot take the web-based McKinsey PSG with slow Internet. The game is full of 3D elements that need a fast download speed to render, so crashing is very likely with an unstable connection. You might as well start finding a new company to send your resume to if you do not deal with this problem effectively.
Halt the test immediately if something abnormal occurs
McKinsey allows changing time slots in a day should anything bad happen to your computer or Internet. However, you can only appeal for a change before you do the test, and you cannot reschedule for another day. That is why you need to be ready at least half an hour before the test to see if there is any technical problem and react in time.
If your Internet connection gives up on you, and this applies to your computer, too, stop the test and change the schedule immediately. Go somewhere else where the Wifi is stable, and do it quickly before your new deadline.
Report to McKinsey with screenshots or videos
If your Internet malfunctions midtest, take a screenshot right away or film it with your phone. If you are lucky, you can retake the test; if you are not, my condolences because you will not get to be in the case interview.
Sidenotes: Spreadsheets, calculators, and scratch papers
When you take such a high-stake test, you will need to make notes, and as good as you are at mental math, you should be careful because the PSG will require a lot of calculations. If you are on a reliable, fast computer that can handle the PSG with ease, feel free to open side tabs and apps for taking notes and calculations.
On the other hand, if your computer is unreliable and old, do not attempt to run parallel programs. Stick to the traditional scratch paper and a pen; and a hand-held calculator. It might take a bit more time but when compared to overloading your computer, this significantly raises your chance of completing the test.