What happens when I fail the McKinsey PST?

Failing the McKinsey PST

When you are preparing for the McKinsey PST you might wonder what might happen if you fail the Problem Solving Test. Even when you prepare well, you might have a bad day or totally black out because of the stress. While you should certainly prepare well (as preparation will significantly lower stress), you cannot prepare for everything.

How many fail the PST?

We estimate that off all candidates invited to take the McKinsey PST, roughly 66% fails to make the cut. That might seem like a huge amount, but remember that only 10% of candidates are selected after every round of case interviews. With more than 200.000 applications a year, you are certainly not alone if you fail to get a job at McKinsey. But how can you make sure you beat the McKinsey PST cutoff score?

Practice the McKinsey PST

Luckily, you can increase your chances of making the cutoff score by practicing the PST. You can find a practice guide on the McKinsey website, but also by taking practice McKinsey PST tests provided by caseinterviewhq.com:

  • The Key to the PST: a fully-fledged practice PST with 26 questions and an extensive answer guide. In addition, it also features tips on how to ace the McKinsey PST both when preparing and during the actual Problem Solving Test.
  • The Second Key to the PST: an additional practice PST with a fresh set of cases and the same extensive answer guide.

What if I do fail the McKinsey PST?

If you fail the PST, even after preparing for it fully, you will have to wait at least year to apply again. Whatever you do during that year, you should exhibit leadership and strive to excel at what you do. You’ll be starting over from the ground up the next time you apply, so they will take into account what you did during this year. Besides waiting for a new opportunity at McKinsey, you could also apply at other strategic consulting firms, such as BCG or Bain. You’ll find similar people and assignments at their offices, though the culture might of course differ.

Other than that, there’s not much you can do: McKinsey has the luxury to be superstrict when it comes to applications and they will no

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

Case Study Interview

Case Study Interview

When you apply at a strategy consultant such as McKinsey, Bain, or BCG you will not only have your resume tested or be asked to participate in written cases: you will also get case interview rounds. Though previous rounds are already pretty selective (for example: some 66% of applicants fail the McKinsey PST), the case interview rounds are even worse. Only one out of 10 candidates is selected in each round (and many firms have two rounds, some include a final round with a partner) and that makes the case study interview one of the most selective types of interviews.

How does the Case Study Interview work?

Once you’ve made it to the case interview rounds, you can already count yourself as one of the happy few. But what’s next? The case study interview will typically feature a “business case” in which you and the interviewer sit down to “crack” a difficult business situation. For example: a firm might want to expand into new territory or launch a new product, or an imaginary CEO asks you to cut costs at his company.

Many of these cases are drawn from the real life experience of the (senior) consultant or partner sitting across the table and they mirror typical questions you might face as a consultant as well. Because you’re suddenly confronted with an unfamiliar question in a line of business you know nothing about, with significant pressure to perform: only when you ask the right questions will you be able to solve the case on time and demonstrate you are a born consultant.

The fact that this situation (unfamiliar business, high pressure to perform) is quite similar to consulting work, makes your performance during a case study interview quite predictive for your day-to-day consulting work. If you perform well during the case interview, then you’ll perform well while working as consultant for the firm. That is the hypothesis at least…

How can I ace the case study interview?

When you want to make it to the next round and make sure you get an offer at the end of the process, you’ll have to make sure you practice the skills relevant for consulting. You’ll have to show that your case interview success is repeatable, and that you did not guess the right answer or worked purely from a gut feeling. It’s these repeatable skills that are both relevant “in the field” as a real consultan, as during the case study interview that the interviewer is looking for and we’ll walk trough these skills below.

Be hypothesis driven

Even though the world of business is a mess and far away from the scientific work being done in labs and on universities, it does help to approach problems with the scientific method. Always start your analysis with an hypothesis, that you set out to prove or disprove by gathering data. For example: you receive a case study during your interview about a company with falling profits and you think the problem of a companies’ profit lies with it’s high costs (opposed to low revenues). You start by asking questions and gathering data that (dis)prove your hypothesis:

“I know that profits are calculated by taking revenue and subtracting costs. This company has falling profits and my hypothesis is that this is caused by rising costs. Do you have any information on how their costs developed over the years?”

There are three things that you should take away from this example.

  • Make the thought process explicit: state the framework or structure that you are using and the approach you take. This helps the interviewer in following your thoughts and shows you are using repeatable skills, not random guessing.
  • State your hypothesis: you can do it as bluntly as in the example above (“my hypothesis is…”) but other ways are fine as well. Just make sure you work hypothesis-driven and make it explicit that you do.
  • Ask for the data: try to gather the data that you need to disprove your hypothesis and ask for the data you need from the interviewer.

Break it down

One of the hardest things to do during a case study interview is to remain calm enough to take a step backwards and look at the problem from a distance. This will allow you to break down these problems in their component parts: what are the drivers for each problem you see? Breaking down (or segmenting) markets/industries/company departments might also reveal information that would otherwise have remained hidden. For example:

  • Company Profits: might look normal (“Company X makes $5 mln profit a year”), but when you segment the profits per business unit, you might see that Business Unit A is making a profit of $ 10 mln and B & C a loss of $ 2.5 mln each.
  • Markets: might seem to be shrinking overall, but maybe one market segment is declining rapidly and others are growing
  • Customers: it might seem that every customer wants the same, but you might want to segment them down to determine individual wishes and find a niche for your company

Ace the math

One of the things you’ll be doing a lot as consultant is analysis and quick judgement calls based on numbers. Not being able to handle big numbers well or not being able to calculate from the top of your head quickly and correctly might disqualify you during the case interview. Why focus on math when calculators and spreadsheets are abundant? First of all: they are slow and now always available. Secondly: being able to calculate quickly will prevent mistakes during board meetings or presentations (when you get a question from the audience) and allow you to spot the mistakes of yourself and others (“is the result I’m seeing the number I expect?”). Read up on our tips and practice material on case interview math in our dedicated article.

Practice the case study interview

One of the best ways to make sure you ace the case study interview is by practicing them, a lot. The best way to do this is by finding a partner and going through cases together: you can find plenty of cases on the internet for free. Another way to practice is to read up on case interview skills and check the book we published:

  • Cracking The Case: the best way to prepare for your case study interview, with sample techniques and frameworks you can use during the case interview itself. Includes 2 fully explained cases made by candidates, annotated with expert tips on what went well and what went wrong.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

McKinsey PST Sample

McKinsey PST Sample

Since roughly 66% of candidates fail to make the McKinsey PST cutoff, it is a good idea to practice with a McKinsey PST sample test. One of the reasons many applicants fail the McKinsey Problem Solving Test is because they underestimate the pressure generated by:

  • the amount of (financial) data they have to parse
  • the difficulty of the PST questions
  • the 60 minute time limit (meaning only 2 minutes per question)
  • the stakes at play (failing the PST means you’re out)

By making sure your skills are up to par and by knowing what you can expect, you can increase your odds of acing the McKinsey PST significantly.

 How can you practice the PST?

If you want to make sure that you make the cut, you have 2 options: train the underlying skills required and practice with a McKinsey PST sample. To be able to train, you need to know the two basic skills involved in doing the McKinssey Problem Solving Test. We’ll cover them below:

  • (Business) reading: during the McKinsey PST you’ll be reading a lot of information on the cases, not all of which is relevant. Knowing what is important and what is not or being able to quickly determine this helps a great deal. Since you only have 2 minutes per question, you’ll also want to make sure that you “know your lingo” and have basic knowledge of all business & finance terms. Especially if you’re not from a Business or Finance background, it helps to do some background reading (start with Business Insider, the Financial Times or The Economist).
  • Math: since calculators are not allowed, you’ll have to do all computations by hand. If you cannot calculate in your head quickly (and correctly), don’t fret: it’s a skill and can be trained easily. Being able to do basic calculations on paper will help, but will cost significantly more time than being able to do these in your head. Read up in this article on case interview math if you want some sources of practice material.

But the best way to train yourself for the McKinsey PST might be to practice with a McKinsey PST sample. Before you take the sample PST on the Mckinsey website however, make sure that you practice your skills first. When you’re confident you can ace the test, set a timer for 60 minutes and take the sample PST. We recommend practicing more however: in our experience it takes 2 to 3 practice PST’s to really get a confident feeling during the real McKinsey Problem Solving Test. If you want to practice with more McKinsey PST sample tests: we’ve got you covered.

McKinsey PST Sample

If you want to make sure you’re well prepared and confident that you can ace the McKinsey PST, these 2 sample tests will help you improve your performance. Nothing beats extra practice!

  • The Key to the PST: a fully-fledged practice PST with 26 questions and an extensive answer guide. In addition, it also features tips on how to ace the McKinsey PST both when preparing and during the actual Problem Solving Test.
  • The Second Key to the PST: an additional practice PST with a fresh set of cases and the same extensive answer guide.

 

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

McKinsey PST Download

McKinsey PST download

Do you want to download the McKinsey PST to practice? You should! Roughly two thirds of candidates who take the PST fail. So if you want to ace the McKinsey Problem Solving Test it makes sense to practice and prepare.

Where can you download the McKinsey PST?

You can download the official practice cases from the McKinsey website. The exact page for downloading all material is right here. You’ll find:

  • Links to practice McKinsey PST cases
  • A link to the coaching guide
  • A link to the App store where you can download the McKinsey PST practice app

Though you might think that practice is unnecessary, a good score on the PST might affect your performance reviews during the later rounds of the interview process as well. A candidate with a great score on the PST is often preferred above a candidate with “a passing grade”. Practice makes sure you make the cutoff score, but also helps in preparing for life case interviews as well: many of the skills necessary for a great score on the PST also play a role during the later interview rounds.

How can I ace the McKinsey PST?

If you want to make sure you get to the first round case interviews, then it makes sense to prepare as well as possible. You can read up on the McKinsey PST or check out our article on McKinsey PST practice. Another way to make sure you get the highest possible score is to practice real McKinsey PST’s:

  • The Key to the PST: a fully-fledged practice PST with 26 questions and an extensive answer guide. In addition, it also features tips on how to ace the McKinsey PST both when preparing and during the actual Problem Solving Test.
  • The Second Key to the PST: an additional practice PST with a fresh set of cases and the same extensive answer guide.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

BCG Potential Test

BCG Potential TestThe BCG Potential test is a written case interview, very similar to the McKinsey Problem Solving Test or PST. They both serve the same purpose and test the same skills:

  • Determine whether you have the analytical skills to become a strategy consultant
  • Screen candidates before conducting ‘real’ case interviews

The similarity of the BCG Potential Test to the McKinsey PST means that the preparation for both can be done at the same time and with the same material.

What is the BCG Potential Test?

It seems that BCG is still running trials with written cases and we’ve had reports of different versions being in tested in the field. What can you expect?

  • 50 or 23 questions spread over multiple cases
  • Limited time to answer all questions (50 minutes)

It differs from the McKinsey PST in how answers are scored: correct answers net you 2 points, unanswered questions 0 and wrong answers will decrease your score by -1. So no last minute guessing, as with the PST.

BCG Potential Test: how to practice?

If you’ve been invited to do the test by BCG, you’d probably want to prepare. Luckily there’s a lot of material available and we’ll zoom in on the specific skills required by the BCG Potential Test as well as sample tests you could take.

Math skills

The BCG Potential Test requires you to do a lot of calculations in a short amount of time. To make sure you calculate quickly and correctly you should practice your quantitative skills. There are plenty of sites and apps to test your mathematical prowess, and we’ve listed some in our article on case interview math. Don’t be put off by your initial performance: your skill will improve rapidly with daily practice.

Reading Skills

You’ll have to parse a lot of text and (financial) data during the test, and it helps when you can quickly decide which piece of information is important and which not. It also helps to know the “business jargon” and read up if your background is not in Business or Finance. Good ways to get up to speed quickly is reading The Economist or Business Insider articles.

Other preparation

Since the BCG Potential test features a lot of reading questions combined with math, it helps to use GMAT/GRE training material as well.

BCG Potential Test: sample

If you want to practice the BCG Potential test, you should take a look at the BCG website: the BCG Netherlands office offers a sample test online. These are only a few questions though. Luckily the BCG Potential Test and the McKinsey PST are much alike and we offer a lot of practice material to start right away:

  • The Key to the PST: a fully-fledged practice PST with 26 questions and an extensive answer guide. In addition, it also features tips on how to ace the McKinsey PST both when preparing and during the actual Problem Solving Test.
  • The Second Key to the PST: an additional practice PST with a fresh set of cases and the same extensive answer guide.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)

McKinsey PST Cutoff Score

McKinsey PST cutoff?

A lot of the McKinsey application process is shrouded in mystery, including most of the information surround the McKinsey Problem Solving Test or PST. Many applicants (both those who succeeded in getting to the first round of case interviews, and those who did not) wonder where the cutoff score for the McKinsey lies. Though there’s no official word from McKinsey on how many correct answers you need to pass the McKinsey PST, we do have information from our own experience and the candidates we’ve helped through the years.

How many pass the McKinsey PST?

It is estimated that roughly 66% of all applicants who take the McKinsey PST fail. With the average level of intelligence and ambition that applicants exhibit, the bar is set pretty high. Many applicants underestimate how difficult it is to ace the PST and do not prepare sufficiently. Don’t forget: with only 60 minutes to answer 26 questions (and read through 4 cases), you have just slightly more than 2 minutes to answer each question.

What is the McKinsey PST cutoff score?

When talking to applicants who both aced the McKinsey PST and those failed, we estimate that the cutoff score is 19 or 20 correct answers. This also matches our own experience with taking the test. There’s no penalty for wrong answers, so of all the answers you give, there need to be 20 correct ones. This also means that you should answer all questions, especially if you run out of time.

There is no difference in cutoff scores in different McKinsey offices: everywhere the cutoff score for the McKinsey PST is the same. The cutoff score is also independent from the position you’re applying to: from summer intern to Business Analyst, you get the same PST and the same cutoff.

Practice the McKinsey PST

Luckily, you can increase your chances of making the cutoff score by practicing the PST. You can do this by brushing up on your math skills, but also by taking practice McKinsey PST tests provided by caseinterviewhq.com:

  • The Key to the PST: a fully-fledged practice PST with 26 questions and an extensive answer guide. In addition, it also features tips on how to ace the McKinsey PST both when preparing and during the actual Problem Solving Test.
  • The Second Key to the PST: an additional practice PST with a fresh set of cases and the same extensive answer guide.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)

McKinsey PST Practice

McKinsey PST practice

Have your been invited to a nearby McKinsey office for your go at the McKinsey Problem Solving Test and are you looking for practice cases to make sure you ace it? Or are you considering a career in (strategy) consulting and want to make sure you know what is coming in advance? In either case: you’ve come to the right place for McKinsey PST practice.

How to practice the McKinsey PST?

The McKinsey PST is basically a written case interview: a series of questions on a company or non-profit firm to test your analytical skills. The questions are multiple choice, so you don’t have to write out your answers and can sometimes get away with educated guesses instead of exact calculations. There are lots of ways to practice the PST: both by brushing up the skills required during the Problem Solving Test itself as well as doing real practice PSTs (including the one you can download from the McKinsey website).

McKinsey PST practice: underlying skills

The McKinsey Problem Solving Test is meant to test your analytical and problem solving skills on paper. Since you cannot bring a calculator, it helps to train your mathematical skills as well. Though some practice is PST-specific, many of the skills necessary to ace the PST are also needed during the case interviews in later rounds.

  • Analytical skills: during the McKinsey PST you will be buried by facts and numbers, some of which are not relevant to answer the questions. You need to determine what is important and what not and analyse the important data. GRE and GMAT questions cover part of the skills required, as does practising real life case interviews with a partner.
  • Business Reading skills: you have to consume a lot of (financial) data on each case and it helps if you have a business “sense” that helps you discard the unimportant pieces of information and focus on what is truly important. Reading Business Insider, The Economist and similar magazines gives you the right mindset and increases your understanding of how business operate.
  • Mathematical skills: since you cannot bring a calculator, all computations have to be done by hand. The fastest is way to do these is by calculating in your head instead of on paper, but this required practice. For some great resources on how to improve your quantitative skills, click here.

McKinsey PST practice: practice PST’s

Another way to practice the McKinsey PST if by doing real practice Problem Solving Tests. Since 66% of candidates fail the McKinsey PST, it makes sense to prepare by doing real practice PSTs:

  • The Key to the PST: a fully-fledged practice PST with 26 questions and an extensive answer guide. In addition, it also features tips on how to ace the McKinsey PST both when preparing and during the actual Problem Solving Test.
  • The Second Key to the PST: an additional practice PST with a fresh set of cases and the same extensive answer guide.

 

 

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)

McKinsey Problem Solving Test (PST)

McKinsey Problem Solving Test PSTThe McKinsey Problem Solving Test or McKinsey PST is the second hurdle applicants to McKinsey have to face when interviewing for this top-tier strategy consulting firm.

Interviewing at McKinsey: consulting resume and cover letter

When you apply at McKinsey, you are asked to send along your resume and cover letter. Both of these documents will “travel with you” during the interview process: every interviewer will have a copy of them at his disposal, and every live interview will have questions based on information you provide in these documents. These questions might be to break the ice (“I’ve also ran the NY marathon, in 2013! What was your most memorable moment?”) or to zoom in on strengths or weaknesses you have in your curriculum (“You have a PhD in Physics, but could you give me an example where you exhibited exceptional leadership?”). Roughly two-thirds of candidates are rejected based on their resume and cover letter, so you want to make sure you have the best consulting resume and that your cover letter stands out. Only one third of all applicants are invited for the McKinsey PST.

The McKinsey PST

The McKinsey Problem Solving Test or PST is a written case interview, where your analytical and business skills are put to the test under a challenging time limit. While not everyone is invited to take the McKinsey PST (proven analytical skills such as a Math or Physics PhD, or prior consulting experience at a top-tier firm might exempt you), most candidates are asked to do the test. It features 4 business cases and 26 multiple choice questions that need to be answered in 60 minutes. Of the 60.000 candidates that take the test worldwide, 66% fail the McKinsey Problem Solving Test. How can you make sure you are invited to the first rounds of case interviews?

McKinsey Problem Solving Test Practice

Many candidates underestimate the difficulty of the PST and focus their preparations purely on the case interviews. Though the skills required to ace the McKinsey PST and subsequent case interviews largely overlap, the setting completely differs. Many candidates are surprised by the how little time they actually have and finish only part of the Test. Others misjudge the amount of calculations you have to make and forget to brush up their math skills.

Time limit

With only 60 minutes to answer 26 questions, you have roughly 2 minutes per question. This seems like plenty of time, but you get a lot of data to parse: both text and financial data. One way to make sure you’re not surprised by the 60 minute time limit is by practicing the McKinsey PST. Either using the practice PST from the www.mckinsey.com or by using one of the practice PST’s we’ve made available.

Math skills

The McKinsey PST requires you to do a lot of calculations in a short amount of time. To make sure you calculate quickly and correctly you should practice your quantitative skills. There are plenty of sites and apps to test your mathematical prowess, and we’ve listed some in our article on case interview math. Don’t be put off by your initial performance: your skill will improve rapidly with daily practice.

McKinsey PST cutoff score

Many applicants wonder what the “passing grade” for the McKinsey PST is and we’ve talked with many candidates who both passed the test and those who did not. Based on our experience with the PST itself and our interviews of candidates, we believe the McKinsey PST cutoff is roughly 20 questions. This means that you need to get roughly 75% of all questions correct. This has implications for how you fill in the McKinsey PST: it’s better to guess answers if you’re running out of time (there’s no penalty for wrong answers) than to leave them open. Even better is to practice with practice PST’s, so you know what to expect.

Practice the McKinsey PST

Luckily, you can increase your chances of making the cutoff score by practicing the PST. You can do this by brushing up on your math skills, but also by taking practice McKinsey PST tests provided by caseinterviewhq.com:

  • The Key to the PST: a fully-fledged practice PST with 26 questions and an extensive answer guide. In addition, it also features tips on how to ace the McKinsey PST both when preparing and during the actual Problem Solving Test.
  • The Second Key to the PST: an additional practice PST with a fresh set of cases and the same extensive answer guide.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)

McKinsey PST: How many pass?

how many pass the McKinsey PST

When you are preparing to take the McKinsey PST you might wonder a lot about what your changes are: do you actually stand a change of gaining access to a case interview? And how can you maximize your chances? Have you already been invited, or do you still need to submit your resume and cover letter? Dominic Barton, the global managing director or head of “The Firm”, has recently said in an interview that McKinsey received 201.000 applications in 2012. Of those, only 2.100 (roughly 1%) received an offer.

The good news

The good news is that whether you pass the McKinsey PST or not is in your own hands: you can prepare for the mathematical and problem-solving aspects of the PST by using the free guides found on this site and the internet or by doing the practice tests from the ‘Key to the PST‘. Since you cannot bring a calculator, it helps to improve your math skills as well: practice makes perfect.

If you’ve already received your invitation to the McKinsey Problem Solving Test, there’s even more good news: it means you already got through the resume & cover letter scan. It’s estimated that only one third of the candidates get through this step and are invited to do the McKinsey PST. If you still have to submit your application, take a look at our articles on crafting the best consulting resume and cover letter to increase your changes of being invited.

The bad news

There is some bad news though: it’s estimated that roughly 66% of all candidates that are invited for the McKinsey PST fail the test. This is not surprising, as it is meant as a screening tool for potential candidates and McKinsey sets the bar in the consulting industry. This means only 1 out of every 10 applicants (21.000 globally in 2012) even gets to the first round case interview. Of these candidates, only 10% get an offer after the first and second rounds of interviews.

Practice the McKinsey PST

Luckily, you can increase your chances of getting to the first round of case interviews by practice. You can do this by brushing up on your math skills, but also by taking practice McKinsey PST tests provided by caseinterviewhq.com:

  • The Key to the PST: a fully-fledged practice PST with 26 questions and an extensive answer guide. In addition, it also features tips on how to ace the McKinsey PST both when preparing and during the actual Problem Solving Test.
  • The Second Key to the PST: an additional practice PST with a fresh set of cases and the same extensive answer guide.

 

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)

PST practice with a new McKinsey PST practice book!

bookannounce3

At CaseinterviewHQ.com we’ve been hard at work to give you the best of the best: an additional McKinsey PST practice book! We are proud to present this handbook, with a fresh practice PST consisting of 26 questions in 4 new cases. And just like before: there’s an extended “answers” section where you are given a full answer to every case question to learn from your mistakes.

 

What is the PST?

If you’re applying to a consulting job at one of the most prestigious strategy consultants of the world, McKinsey, you will face multiple rounds of case interviews. If you do not have a technical background, they might not grant you a “real” case interview directly, but first ask you to complete the McKinsey Problem Solving Test, or PST. It’s a written case interview, with multiple cases and 26 questions that need to be answered within 60 minutes.

If you prove your worth with the PST, you’ll get the interview. Otherwise: you’re out.

 

Where can I buy The Second Key to the PST?

All you have to do to buy our new book (it’s available as a direct download e-book, BTW) is to click this link. If you complete the purchase, we’ll send a download link to you right away. After downloading the book, you can read it on any device you like or print it out and make the test in paper, to make it as life-like as possible. But wait!

 

Special offer: The Prep Pack

With “The Prep Pack” you’ll not only get newly released “The Second Key to the PST”, but also the original “The Key to the PST” and “Cracking the Case“: our book for cracking case interviews. Instead of paying the full price of $ 61, you will only pay $ 37! A 40% discount, only available on www.caseinterviewhq.com.

 

Click here to buy The Prep Pack

 

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)