McKinsey Problem Solving Test

The McKinsey Problem Solving Test, commonly known as the “PST,” has been an intimidating component of the case interview for decades. Even the best test takers don’t overlook the McKinsey problem solving test, as it has foiled its fair share of candidates. Yet, you can conquer the PST with the right information and preparation, positioning yourself as a top candidate. Jenny Rae, case interview expert and coach, explains what you need to know about the McKinsey problem solving test. What to expect, how to approach it, and how to best prepare.

McKinsey Problem Solving Test

McKinsey Problem Solving Test Overview (click to jump to section):

McKinsey PST YouTube Video:

McKinsey PST- YouTube Transcription:

The McKinsey problem solving test. It’s enough to strike terror in the heart of even great test takers. And the McKinsey problem solving test is really the ultimate test of whether you’re ready for the case interview process.

I’m Jenny Rae La Roux, the Managing Director of Management Consulted. And I’m here today to talk about the all-important McKinsey PST. First of all, I’m going to talk about what it is, second I’m gonna talk about who it’s used for, and finally I’m gonna talk about how you can prepare.

What is the McKinsey Problem Solving Test?

So first of all, what is the McKinsey problem solving test? The McKinsey PST is a problem-solving and reasoning test that is 26 questions and it’s timed over one hour. It is meant to test a number of different things. It’s both your ability to do math and come up with insights, as well as your ability to pull nuance out of what may seem like some vague explanations. It’s meant to test the range of things that you will need to do to become an effective consultant at McKinsey.

So it starts with stakeholder management how to understand what somebody is asking for. It moves on to data analysis and interpretation. And it comes up with finally some conclusions and insights that you’ll need to drive to. Ultimately, this test is a really big challenge for a few key reasons.

Why The McKinsey PST Is So Challenging

First of all, it’s timed and limited. You have a very small amount of time for each question. Second, there’s an abundance of information that you can easily get lost in. And these are the exact things that McKinsey is testing for. They’re testing for your speed, and they’re testing for your proficiency in gathering the most important information really quickly, and making sure that you focus on it in your answers.

Who Uses The PST?

Now who uses the McKinsey problem solving test? In the US it was used for many years, but in many offices they’re actually phasing out the PST in the US. Internationally however, it’s still a very popular filter as a first round or maybe more importantly, as a round zero part of your interview process. One of the reasons that it’s used internationally as well, is because it’s also testing for your mastery of the English language.

How To Prepare For The McKinsey Problem Solving Test

Finally, it’s really critical that you understand how to prepare for the McKinsey problem solving test. There are many ways that you could go through the process and you ultimately don’t have to invest thousands of hours in it. But, here’s our number one recommendation.

1. Start With Case Interview Practice

First, start with case interview practice. If you have begun the case interview process, you’ll understand structuring, and data analysis inside the case interview. This is a filter not for who would be great in the job, but ultimately who would be great in the case interview process. Because that’s gonna be a further test that you’ll go through. So, they’re meant to eliminate people that they think won’t even be good there. So if you start with a case interview prep, you’re actually jumping ahead to building some of the skills that they’re going to look for inside the PST.

2. Practice Sample PSTs

You need to practice PSTs, and you need to practice them timed. It’s important that they’re timed, because with only one hour to answer 26 questions, the biggest feedback that we get is that people are not able to complete the test.

3. Eliminate Answers First

In addition, you need to make sure that you eliminate answers before you get started with the problem, by reading all of the answers first. So you get down to a limited subset of answers, maybe one to three of them out of the four or five. So that you can then look for the information that will confirm those as you go through. In addition you need to make sure that you look for answers that not only are true, or possible, but are true in every situation. McKinsey is looking for the best out of maybe a subset of potentially good answers.

4. Go Back Through And Learn From Every Question

Finally, once you’re done with working through a practice PST, it’s really helpful for you to understand that you need to go back through each and every one of the questions. The ones that you got right and the ones that you got wrong. To understand why they were right or why they were wrong, and why the right answer was what they were looking for. You’re trying to get into the mind of the test.

Final Thoughts

If you follow these examples, you’re gonna do great in the McKinsey problem solving test. If you need help preparing for the McKinsey PST, we have ex-MBB consultants that will coach you through your PST prep!

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Filed Under: Case Interview