Preparing for McKinsey’s Problem Solving Test

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The hiring process at McKinsey is different from other top-tier consulting firms and there is no way to get around their infamous case study interview. This quantitative test is designed to gauge your ability to analyze and solve problems under pressure. Candidates who pass the initial resume screening are required to complete the McKinsey Problem Solving Test (PST), so if you want to land a job with this prestigious firm, diligent preparation is your key to passing this challenge.

So, what should you expect from the PST? It typically consists of 25 questions spread among five or six cases. Every case includes a short description of the company, data on revenue or employees, and other information. There may be charts on how profit has progressed through the years, etc. You need to solve the problem based on the data presented in each case.

In order to ace the McKinsey Problem Solving Test, you need to do the following:

Hone Your Comprehension Skills

You need to master the art of identifying the data that is relevant to solving the case. Read the questions carefully. To guide you in determining what is important, you can read the questions first. As you won’t have the luxury of time during the exam, you cannot spend time attempting to figure out every detail, graph, or table. If your comprehension skills are poor, you will have a hard time distinguishing the data requisite to solving the problem.

Practice Timed Numerical Computations

You are not allowed to use a calculator during the PST, so you will need to practice timed numerical computations as case studies often include quantitative questions. Calculations can be time-consuming and you only have 60 to 70 minutes to finish the exam; therefore, improving your mental math will increase your speed. Daily practice and patience will help you develop this ability.

Learn How to Interpret Data

If you are serious about pursuing a career in consulting then you should know by now that the ability to read and understand charts and tables is an indispensable skill. Again, you will need to devote sufficient time reviewing this type of data so you will not be overwhelmed during the test. Reading graphical charts or data spreadsheets will help you learn how to interpret information presented in this manner.

Learning to decipher what charts and tables are conclusively telling you is a critical skill that every successful management consultant must possess. However, many aspiring and even new consultants have problems honing this skill. Misinterpreting the data will lead to the wrong conclusion, which can be quite costly. In fact, committing errors on big projects can cost you your job.

Practice, Practice, Practice

As they say, practice makes perfect. The best way to prepare for a McKinsey PST is to take advantage of the review materials available online. Of course, not all practice tests are created equal. Some do not accurately reflect the difficulty of the actual test. Do some research and find out which ones were designed by professionals who are knowledgeable about the methodology adopted by top-tier firms and renowned business schools. Invest ample time answering these training materials—the more you practice, the more effective you will be in handling the stress and pressure of the test.

In order to land a job at McKinsey, you will need more than just your knowledge of the company; you must possess the right skill set to do the job required. McKinsey associates are proficient at case studies, and by all means, you have to be as capable as they are. If you are patient and diligent with your preparation, you will surely prove your expertise.

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