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How to Successfully Pass the McKinsey Problem Solving Test?

If you would like to start a career in strategic consultancy, McKinsey & Company is one of the best options. This company has over 14, 000 employees in offices located throughout the world. is one of the top management consulting firms.

So, getting in can be very competitive. More than 80% of applicants are rejected by McKinsey based on their online aptitude tests. That is why it is important that you do your best at every step of the recruitment process.

In this article, we cover how to successfully pass McKinsey’s problem-solving test, online aptitude tests, the selection process, assessment center, and interviews.

About McKinsey PST

The McKinsey Problem Solving Test (McKinsey PST) aims to test your logical thinking and problem-solving skills. It consists of a math computation, data interpretation, and critical reasoning test that are used by McKinsey to select the best candidates. The successful candidates will move onto the first round of case interviews.

The PST test is what differentiates the McKinsey recruiting process from its competitors. Another distinctive element is the Personal Experience Interview, or PEI. The McKinsey PST is one of the most challenging tests that you will come across in your life. It tests a wide range of skills and pushes you to work under tight time constraints.

McKinsey uses a PST because to be successful in consulting, there is a specific set of numerical computation and critical thinking skills that are required. It tests skills that you will be using on a daily basis as a consultant.

McKinsey PST Format

The McKinsey Problem Solving Test consists of 26 multiple-choice questions that need to be answered on paper. You have a 60 minute time limit. That gives you about two minutes per question. Most candidates fail because they run out of time.

The 26 questions are divided between three business cases. Each case study assesses how you would perform in the different stages of a consulting project: client interaction, problem solving, analytical work, problem definition, and implementation.

Every case study is based on real issues that consultants will be faced with in the field. This includes issues like profitability, market entry, or operational development.

In certain offices, non-native English speakers are given an extra 10 to 15 minutes to complete the test. You can find out from your McKinsey HR representative if you are allowed this additional time or not. No business knowledge is necessary to take the test. However, being familiar with common business knowledge terms is helpful.

You can use a pencil, a pen, and paper. You are not allowed to use a calculator or any commuting device during the PST test. You need to ensure that you have developed and practised the necessary skillset, especially time-saving skills.

McKinsey PST Questions

In the McKinsey Problem Solving Test, you will see a graph, chart, or table containing numerical data. This diagram will be followed by descriptive text about a company or industry.

The McKinsey PST test consists of 40% math word problems, 30% data interpretation, and 30% reading comprehension. You will be required to answer four to five questions that refer to the diagram. The two most challenging questions are math word problems and data interpretation.

McKinsey Math Word Problems

In math word problems, you will be given data in table X and required to calculate A, B, or C. These calculations may be profit margins. It may be calculating growth rates or the difference in sales from 2021 to 2019 for three different companies.

The point of these math word problems is to provide you with raw data presented in a text paragraph and assess whether you can figure out the math equation required to solve the problem.

Usually, the actual math word problem isn’t difficult to solve. It’s just addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, or growth rate calculations. The real challenge with the math word problems is time. The most common reason for errors in a math word problem is misunderstanding, misreading, or misinterpreting the data presented or the question being asked.

McKinsey Data Interpretation

The other tough PST test question is data interpretation. You will be presented with a chart or table with data and required to determine which variation of the question is correct. Some variations include: definitively correct, could be correct but you can’t be 100% certain, and definitely wrong.

You will need to use math to answer these questions, but they are not as computation-intensive as math word problems. They focus on assessing your logic and critical reasoning skills. You need to be able to examine the data and differentiate between a factual conclusion and a hypothesis suggested.

One common challenge is to quickly find information about different topics.

McKinsey Reading Comprehension

The last part of the McKinsey PST is a reading comprehension test. This section tests your ability to draw a conclusion based on a paragraph of text. This is similar to data interpretation, but it does not involve math. They test your ability to understand a situation based on the information provided. And then select the statement that is the most relevant.

You will encounter three types of answers: false conclusions, true conclusions, and unproven conclusions. With false conclusions, the answer will either be wrong or false. Even if the conclusion seems rational, the outcome may be incorrect.

True conclusions are statements that are logical and draw the correct conclusion. Unproven conclusions are those where the logic may be correct and the conclusion may seem rational. But they cannot be completely supported by the facts presented in the diagram or text.

McKinsey PST Passing Strategies

  • First skim through the questions to understand what is being asked of you, and then read the table or chart with the data. This allows you to see what you should be paying attention to while you examine the data or read the text.
  • Answer ALL questions on the PST test as there are no penalties for incorrect answers. If you are running out of time, it is better to guess an answer than leave it blank.
  • Fill in the answer sheet as you progress. This may be obvious, but under stress, some candidates forget to note down their answers throughout the test.
  • Carefully read through the questions and text descriptions.
  • Provide what the questions are literally asking.
  • If you need to sharpen your math computation skills, ensure you practise your math accuracy and speed. You won’t have enough time to double check all your computations. The more certain you are about your math skills, the more time you will have to answer all the other questions.
  • For the data interpretation questions, be cautious of the multiple choice questions that seem consistent with the data but are not 100% supported by the data. The best way to tackle these questions is to instantly eliminate options that are obviously wrong. Then carefully examine the other options.
  • In the data interpretation questions, you need to ask yourself whether the conclusion is correct under all scenarios. Although the conclusion may be true under the most common scenario, it doesn’t mean it is true under every scenario.
  • Always remember that the conclusion that is true most of the time is not the same as the conclusion that is true every time.
  • Wear a watch to stay track of time. Don’t assume that every testing room has a clock.

How to Prepare for the McKinsey PST

McKinsey and Company

There are three different ways you can prepare for the McKinsey Problem Solving Test. JobTestPrep is a platform that offers resources, professional guides, and practise tests that can help you successfully pass the McKinsey PST.

The first prep tip for the PST is to practise math computations. You need to practise the accuracy and speed of your math. The test is timed, so you need to be skilled in arithmetic. Remember, the more you practice, the better you perform.

Use the selection technique to help you select calculations beforehand that are important to finding the answer.

The anchoring technique is another great time management method. When you are searching for the highest value among several potential answers, first calculate the first answer and then use that value as a benchmark as you work through others.

The second prep tip is to practise interpreting data. Be prepared to answer multi-paragraph stories with more than one diagram. Every chart is followed by four or five questions. You need to polish your ability to interpret data.

Another pro tip is to master quick percentage calculations. Growth rates and percentages are very common in the McKinsey PST test, but they require a lot of time to calculate.

Here are some useful time management tips. Firstly, with positive growth rates, the compound rate is generally underestimated. For example, we estimate 30%, but the real figure is actually 31%. On the other hand, with negative growth rates, this method will overestimate the compound value.

Another point to note is that the bigger the magnitude of the annual growth rate and the bigger the number of years for which it is applied, the less accurate this method becomes. The final prep tip is to take McKinsey PST practise tests. This will help show you what to expect on the actual test. You will find useful practise tests available on JobTestPrep.

McKinsey PST Score

McKinsey does not have an exact cut-off score for its PST. But according to research, the best estimate is that the PST has a cut-off score of 70%. This means that you need to get at least 19 out of the 26 questions correct.

Your success depends solely on your score. It does not depend on how well others perform on the test. If all the candidates in your PST session score above the cut-off score, then they will all go to the next round of interviews.

Most candidates think that scoring 70% will be sufficient to get them into the first round of interviews. However, scoring even higher can increase your chances of being hired by McKinsey.

In the final round, if you performed just as well as another candidate but only one position is available, McKinsey will choose the person who scored higher on the PST. So aim for 90% to set yourself apart from the other candidates.

McKinsey Aptitude Tests

You will need to pass three other aptitude tests, other than the McKinsey Problem Solving Test, to be a successful candidate. These are the McKinsey numerical reasoning test, verbal reasoning test, and the Excel test.

McKinsey Numerical Reasoning Test

The SHL numerical reasoning test aims to examine your arithmetic skills and ability to interpret data from diagrams. It tests your ability to examine an unfamiliar text passage and its data. You will need to solve basic math problems.

The challenge does not lie in the questions asked, but rather in the stress and time pressure. When taking the numerical reasoning test, you will only have a minute to read the question, analyse the data, and do the necessary calculations.

The most effective way to prepare for this numerical test is to take practise tests. These practise test questions will help show you the types of questions you will encounter on the actual test.

McKinsey Verbal Reasoning Test

McKinsey’s verbal reasoning test aims to assess how well you can extract information from an unfamiliar passage of text. And then use this information to determine whether the statements that follow are true, false, or impossible to say.

The verbal reasoning test evaluates your comprehension level.

The McKinsey verbal reasoning test can be more difficult for non-native English speakers. The most effective preparation tip to pass a verbal reasoning test is to take practise tests. These verbal reasoning practise test questions will help you determine how texts are created and questions are asked.

McKinsey Excel Test

Focused young african american businesswoman or student looking at laptop holding book learning, serious black woman working or studying with computer doing research or preparing for exam online

The McKinsey Excel Test is another important test that you will encounter during the examination stage of your interview process.

Regardless of what position or role you hold, you will most likely be working with Excel. That is why a lot of companies have an exam during the assessment stage. In Excel practise tests, you will find graphs and tables that display data. You will be required to answer the questions in a multiple-choice format.

McKinsey Selection Process

The McKinsey interview process can be nerve-wracking with its intensive application process. However, equipped with the right preparation, you are likely to impress McKinsey’s upper management. We have included a breakdown of what you can expect during your selection process at McKinsey.

McKinsey CV Submission

Most McKinsey applicants apply online for vacant positions directly on the McKinsey website. You will find an online application form that you can fill in and attach your CV to. You will find a list of current available positions and their locations.

McKinsey Online Assessment Tests

After completing and submitting your McKinsey online application form, you will be invited to take some of the McKinsey aptitude tests. These include numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, Excel, and problem-solving tests.

Pre-Employment Telephone Screening

During the telephone conversation, you will be required to answer McKinsey behavioural interview questions. These questions are similar to situational judgement test questions. You will be given a scenario and asked particular questions about what you will do in that situation.

McKinsey Job Interview

The last stage in the McKinsey selection process is the in-person interview. You need to know a little about the company and show interest. The interview questions are best answered using the STAR (situation, task, action, and result) method. This is a concise way of answering and allows you to outshine your competition.

McKinsey Assessment Centre

At the McKinsey Assessment Centre event, you will attend presentations about the company.

You may be asked to participate in presentation exercises that assess your verbal and non-verbal communication skills. You will be assessed on your body language and tone to see how well you can cope with delivering professional presentations. A few tips are to stand straight, make eye contact with the audience, and don’t speak too fast.

At the McKinsey Assessment Centre, you may be invited to join a group exercise. This evaluates your ability to communicate and work together as a team to reach conclusions. You will be assessed in this exercise. So, demonstrate your strengths and share your ideas.

Show that you are open to building on someone else’s input and able to persuade others towards your options. We advise you to remain calm and speak with confidence and clarity.

You will also engage in role-playing games. These are games where you are allocated 20 minutes to work in a pair and analyse information. You and your partner will need to prepare your response.

In the second part, your interviewer will play the role of a client, and you will be the McKinsey representative. You need to demonstrate your teamwork, negotiation skills, and critical thinking.

You may also have to take further assessment tests, participate in group interviews, and have a one-on-one direct interview.

McKinsey Advanced Professional Degree Interviews

Business Lady interviewing a man

The McKinsey Advanced Professional Degree (APD) Interview consists of three interviews. The first two are 45-minute, one-on-one interviews. Both of these interviews will include a personal experience interview (PEI) and a McKinsey case interview to assess your problem-solving skills.

In the personal experience interview, you will be asked questions about the specific role you have experience in and how you contributed to the success of the company. You will also be asked questions that focus on your motivations. These are generally CV-based questions that are competency-based.

In the McKinsey case interview, you will need to answer questions based on a business case study. You need to demonstrate how you interpret the information presented, select key elements, and back your reasoning. In the end, you need to arrive at a conclusion and be able to back your decision.

The final interview will happen in the specific office you have applied to. The format of the interview varies depending on the office, so you will receive detailed information before your assessment day.

During this interview, ask your interviewer about their own experiences within McKinsey and their career path. They want to see how interested you are in McKinsey.

Who Has to Take the McKinsey PST?

Not every candidate is required to take the McKinsey Problem Solving Test. People who have extensive experience and those hired from top-tier business schools generally don’t have to take the test.

However, most people who are applying for an entry-level business analyst role will be required to take and successfully pass the McKinsey PST test to be considered.

If you are uncertain about whether you need to take the PST, you should assume that you will. You can ask the HR team at the office you are applying to for confirmation.

What Is the McKinsey PST Success Rate?

According to surveys, the common PST pass rate is 33%. The majority of candidates fail because they did not work efficiently or effectively manage their time.

One of the main contributors to failure is that candidates run out of time at the end of the test to fill in the PST answer sheet.

The McKinsey PST is a skills test that you should practise for beforehand. It is not an assessment where you can walk in and use your natural intelligence to pass. You need to be aware of the strategies and time-saving techniques before you approach the test.

McKinsey PST vs. GMAT

If you’ve taken a GMAT before, then this point can be helpful. Most candidates who have prepared for and taken the GMAT believe that the PST is the same test with a different name.

They believe the tests are very similar. However, even though the tests share a similar format, they are very different. They both require you to have good math skills. But the PST requires a less academic style of math. In the PST, you need to estimate and prioritise calculations.

You need to treat the PST as an entirely separate test and prepare for it accordingly.

Final Thoughts

If you want to get your dream job at McKinsey, then you need to prepare for the selection process. As we highlighted earlier, there are a few assessment tests and interviews that you will need to pass to be a successful candidate. You can get the practise you need with the resources available on JobTestPrep.