When taking the McKinsey Problem-Solving Game or Digital Assessment (McKinsey PSG for short), you need decent hardware and Internet. Unlike most gamified recruitment tests, the PSG uses 3D models and animations, putting a heavy strain on old computers with slow connections.
McKinsey themselves even states that the test requires a system check before running. However, most candidates seem to overlook this fact, and some of them fail the test as a result.
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It is a browser-based test
McKinsey does not require you to download anything to take the test. All you need is a reliable browser and an Internet connection. The tricky part is determining how good your computer and Internet connection are.
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, whichever suits you best.
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 was imbue it with 3D animation. Usually, 3D games will be particularly heavy on the GPU, but since the PSG is web-based, it tackles the CPU instead.
The McKinsey Problem Solving Game (PSG) 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 on older, slower systems, candidates run the risk 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 (3–4-year-old entry-level computers) encounter at least one kind of technical problem, with the most common being lag and performance drops. And just a month ago, 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 names Intel or AMD. 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 2016 should be enough to take on the task
All CPUs have at least two cores (unless you are using a laptop from the 2000s), but you do not need to know what cores are or 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.
Any Intel core of the 7th generation and onwards
Any AMD Ryzen CPU
Checking what CPU your computer has is extremely easy. If you use 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 not miss any test information. If you use a big screen (bigger than 15 inches), it should have an ideal 4K resolution or at least 2K.
In addition, a low-scale, high-resolution 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 you can 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-down 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 ensure your Internet connection is at least 30 Mbps (megabit per second). One quick way to check your Internet speed is by using Speedtest by Ookla. It will show you your download and upload speeds. 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 use a wireless mouse, remember to charge it fully before the test or have 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.
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 such as 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 PC that costs more than $700, you should borrow it 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 internet connection 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 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 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 lower CPU usage and save any bit of power that you need.
Delete all malware and unnecessary software from your computer. Most modern computers are good enough at blocking malware, but double-checking can never go wrong. This limits any background activity and optimizes 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.
No matter how powerful your computer is, you cannot take the web-based McKinsey PSG test with slow Internet. The game is full of 3D elements that need a fast download speed to render, so crashing is 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.
Allow yourself some wiggle room before the test
McKinsey allows changing time slots in a day should anything terrible happen to your computer or Internet. However, you can only appeal for a change before taking the test and 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 or computer gives up on you, 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 test malfunctions in the middle of the test and you have unsuccessfully applied the “turn it off and on again” (which will be further explained below), take a screenshot or film it with your phone, then contact the technical support team through the chat bubble inside the test window.
If you are lucky, you can retake the test.
Otherwise, McKinsey will omit the results of the affected mini-game (e.g., if you complete the Ecosystem Building game and run into a critical bug in Redrock Study Task, they will take only the Ecosystem Building results into consideration).
This does come with the caveat that the result of any mini-game that you have completed may carry much more weight (e.g., in the previous example, if you perform badly in the Ecosystem Building game, you will run a higher risk of getting rejected).
Spreadsheets, calculators, and scratch papers
When you take such a high-stakes 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 easily handle the PSG, 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, pen, and hand-held calculator. It may take a bit more time, but compared to overloading your computer, this significantly raises your chance of completing the test.
How to deal with bugs
In this case, a bug is an unexpected software issue caused by the PSG test itself. Taking immediate action might save your test and your chance of getting into the case interview round.
For example, one recent bug you might encounter is the inability to calculate the result using the PSG’s on-screen calculator. To deal with this, you can try to delete the calculation you just put in and then type it again. If you are still unable to proceed, immediately contact McKinsey’s support team with screenshots or video to demonstrate the bug.
Remember, bugs can still occur even if you have a stable Internet connection and a powerful computer, so this is more a matter of luck. However, having a good computer and a fast and stable internet connection might reduce the chance of encountering bugs, so make sure you are able to prepare well with what you have.
Did you try turning it off and on again?
According to candidates we have interviewed across three years, one of the best ways to fix things in the Solve test, especially when the interface is unresponsive, is to perform “the necessary action” - turn it off and on again.
For example, if the “add species” button in the Ecosystem Building game is unresponsive, you can turn off the species list, turn it back on, and try to add the species again.
Or, if the calculator in the Redrock test is unresponsive, you can click outside the calculator, click on it again, then perform the action you want and see if it works.
Please keep in mind, however, this kind of “fix” only applies to minor errors. For other, serious errors that majorly obstruct your test-taking process, please contact McKinsey personnel for further support.