The 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.
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.
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.