McKinsey Problem Solving Test – PST

The Definitive Guide to the
McKinsey Problem Solving Test (PST)
(Part 1 of 2)

(Hint: Bookmark This Page – It’s Long)

The McKinsey Problem Solving Test (also known as the McKinsey PST) is a math computation, data interpretation and logical thinking test used by McKinsey to determine which candidates are granted a first round case interview. In general, candidates whose resumes McKinsey deems acceptable are invited to take the test. Based on feedback from hundreds of test takers, you must pass the test in order to get the interview. There are few to no exceptions to this rule.

Why the McKinsey PST Exists

The reason McKinsey uses the test is because there are a certain set of numerical computation and logical thinking skills required to be successful in consulting. While standardized math tests like the quantitative sections of the SAT, GRE, or GMAT do test math computational skills, it is possible to get perfect scores on these math tests but fail on the job in consulting.

It’s my interpretation that McKinsey developed the McKinsey Test in order to test those skills that regular math tests do not adequately evaluate. In particular, these skills involve data interpretation and critical numerical reasoning.

Now when I hear the words “data interpretation” and “critical numerical reasoning”, it always reminds me of those college entrance exam tests that were challenging, seemingly arbitrary and pretty much not useful in the real world. But, it turns out these skills actually have a very practical purpose while working as a consultant.

These skills allow you to:

1) Read a graphical chart (or the data spreadsheet that was used to create the chart)

2) Grasp what the “data is conclusively telling you” and separate from what the “data is suggesting (but not definitively so)”

3) Write a 1 – 2 sentence “headline” at the top of a Powerpoint slide state a logically correct conclusion

In other words, you end up using these skills every single day as a consultant. And if you use these skills incorrectly, then either your manager or partner has to redo your work for you (which means at some point you will get fired) or the client notices the logical flaws in your work and it makes your firm, your partner and your manager look bad (and of course means that at some point you’re going to get fired).

Now you would think looking at a chart and writing a powerpoint headline is not a very difficult skill. I mean anyone can look at a chart and write a headline, but you would be surprised by how many people actually get the headline wrong. In other words, a LOT of aspiring consultants and even some first year consultants see that data and come to the WRONG conclusion.

From a McKinsey partner’s point of view, it’s a complete disaster if someone on your team lacks this skill… or even worse THINKS he has the skill, but actually doesn’t.

It is such a big deal that McKinsey has gone to extensive effort to create this test and have thousands of candidates around the world take this problem solving test. All of this effort is taken for the sole goal of hiring new consultants who can do 1) do math accurately, 2) do it quickly, and (most importantly) interpret data CORRECTLY.

In short, being able to solve problems logically is a BIG DEAL.

McKinsey PST Format

The computer-based test consists of approximately  26 questions and lasts 60 minutes. No business background is needed to take the test, but being familiar with a few commonly used business terms is useful (see the McKinsey PST Frequently Used Terms section of Part II of this Guide Below). You are permitted to use pen, pencil or paper. No calculators or computing devices are permitted.

Typically a graphical chart or table of numerical data is presented along with some descriptive text about a company or industry. 4 – 5 questions follow that refer to the chart. The two most problem question types are:

1) Math Word Problem – Given the data in Table X, calculate A, B or C.

A, B or C might be profit margins. It might be figuring out which company’s profits were larger two years ago. It might be calculating the difference in sales from today vs 2 years ago for two different companies – and figuring out which company had the bigger change.

In the US, we call these “word problems”. The purpose of these problems is to give you raw data and information conveyed in a text paragraph, and see if you can figure out the math equation needed to solve the problem. Often the actual math computation isn’t difficult (its just addition, subtraction, multiplication or division; often math problems are based on percentages – growth rate, cost expressed as a percentage of sales, or profits as a percentage of sales, sales of this year vs 3 years ago expressed as a percentage).

What makes the word problem difficult is a) Time, b) Time, c) Time.

Amongst those who pass the McKinsey Problem Solving Test, the consistent feedback was they finished with barely enough time. The most common reasons for making a mistake for a math word problem is misreading, misunderstanding, or misinterpreting the data presented or what the question was asking. The other big reason is computational error.

When I took my first McKinsey PST practice test, I actually missed several problems. To be fair, I had a newborn baby in the house and was sleeping 3 hours a night at the time, and I made a LOT of careless errors. My mistakes: I thought they were asking one thing, when they were really asking another. I rushed the computation, and made mistakes.

2) Data Interpretation – “Given X chart, which of the following conclusions are accurate:”

The other type of question isn’t computationally intensive, but rather tests your logic and critical reasoning skills. You will be asked to refer to a chart or data table (mini spreadsheet with numbers) and asked some variation of the question: Which conclusion is correct?

Variations of this question including presenting you with potential answers that are a) definitively correct, b) could be correct but you can’t be 100% sure, c) definitely wrong. The answers that are trickiest are ones that seem consistent with the data, but is NOT completely conclusive. In other words, you need to be able to look at the data and tell the difference between a factual conclusion vs. a hypothesis suggested (but NOT 100% proven) by the data.

 

Tips for Passing the McKinsey PST

  • Skim the questions FIRST to get a feel for what you will be asked, THEN read the data table or chart. This allows you to get some idea of what you should be paying attention to while you look at the data or read the text.
  • Read the text descriptions and the questions VERY CAREFULLY.
  • Take the questions literally. (I made the mistake of assuming some of the questions were commonly used business analysis and jumped ahead to calculate what I assumed they were asking. What I should have done was look at what they were LITERALLY asking and just answer what they asked.)
  • If your math computation skills are rusty, practice your math accuracy and speed. You do not have a lot of time to double check your computations on every problem. Some people don’t have time to double check their computations at all. The more you’re absolutely certain your math skills are accurate and quick, the more time you’ll have to actually answer all the questions. (Once again, the main enemy of the test is time)
  • For data interpretation / drawing a conclusion type questions, be careful of the multiple choice answer options that seems consistent with the data, but are not 100% conclusively supported by the data. The easiest way to do this is to immediately eliminate the answer options that are clearly wrong. Then BE CAREFUL in looking at the remaining options.
  • For data interpretation question, one thing to ask yourself is “Is this conclusion correct under ALL scenarios?” – Just because the conclusion is true under the most common scenario doesn’t mean it is true under all scenarios. For example, if you think B is the right answer because it is the conclusion you think is supported by the data, you should ask yourself “Are there any scenarios I can think of where conclusion B is not correct?”
  • Remember a conclusion that is true MOST of the time is NOT the same as a conclusion that is true ALL of the time.
  • Bring a watch to time yourself – do not assume every testing room has a clock.

McKinsey Problem Solving Test – 3 Ways to Prepare

The biggest challenge for developing your problem solving skills is there aren’t many McKinsey PST practice test that are at a difficult level equal to that of the actual McKinsey Problem Solving Test. For a full list of practice tests available online, fill out the McKinsey Practice Test List – Request Form below.

There are three approaches you can take to prepare for PST:

1) Practice Computations

2) Practice Data Interpretation

3) Take McKinsey PST Practice Tests

Below are tips and resources for each of the practice methods.

 

Practice Method #1: Practice Computations

The first method is to practice the speed and accuracy of your arithmetic. The McK PST is a TIMED test. This is not the kind of math test designed to test the entire population of people with a wide range of math skills. It is intended to identify only those who are very good at math, logical thinking, etc… If you are really good at math, you will finish the test BARELY.

So even if you have a PhD in Physics or Math (I’m being serious on this), it is VERY IMPORTANT you practice your math computations. I get many, many emails from engineers who had 4.0 GPAs in school who did not pass the PST. Your math computation skills are a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Keep in mind even if you calculate an integral effortlessly, it doesn’t mean you can’t make an error doing basic computations.

One resource I’d recommend to develop your computation accuracy and speed is www.CaseInterviewMath.com. This is a math practice tool that I developed for practicing: 1) arithmetic for speed and accuracy (both VERY important on the McKinsey PST) and 2) estimation math with large numbers (useful for solving some of the McKinsey PST word problems faster where precise math isn’t necessary to answer the question, just an estimate will suffice.)

This tool compares your math accuracy and speed to other CaseInterview.com members and to my own test results as benchmark. This will help give you an idea of how your math skills compare with others; and whether or not you need to improve your math speed and accuracy to be competitive, or if you current skills are sufficient.

In addition to practicing math computations, you want to practice and develop your data interpretation skills.

 

Practice Method #2:  Practice Data Interpretation

For data interpretation, the practice questions that most closely resemble PST questions are practice test questions from certain sections of the GRE. In particular, I would recommend practice “word problems” and “data interpretation” type GRE questions.

Keep in mind the actual McKinsey Problem Solving Test questions are harder and more sophisticated than the word problems and data interpretation questions in GRE. Sometimes the questions are combined — word problem + data interpretation. Other times instead of presenting a straight forward problem, as you would see on the GRE, you’ll see a more elaborate scenario (or multi paragraph story with one or more charts) where you have to figure out what information is irrelevant to the specific question at hand.

Remember, each chart is referenced by 4 – 5 questions. So for any ONE question, most of the information presented is NOT relevant to THAT particular question.

But before you work your way up the elaborate questions, polishing your foundational skills in word problems and data interpretation is a good idea.

Data Interpretation & Word Problem Practice Resources:

  • Kaplan GRE Exam Math Workbook (Copyright 2008)- Chapter 2 Arithmetic Review (if you’re really rusty on math), Chapter 6 – Word Problem Practice, Chapter 7 – Data Interpretation Practice
  • Nova’s GRE Math Prep Course (Copyright 2010) – Percents (page 330-346), Graphs (pages 347 – 375), Word Problems (pages 376 – 396) [If you're really rusty on math: Averages (pages 274 - 284), Ratio & Proportions (pages 285 - 303)
  • Cliff Notes Math Review for Standardized Tests (2nd Edition, Copyright 2010) - Word Problems Review (pages 318 - 362, but excluding the section on Geometry pages 347 - 350)

(Disclosure: The links above are affiliate links that help subsidize the cost of running this website)

Because GRE problems are much easier than the PST problems, you need to balance the nearly unlimited practice questions (that are too easy) available for the GRE vs. the much smaller pool of practice problems for the PST. In addition, there are only a few PST practice tests available online for free. The other practice tests available (including the ones I offer) do have a fee.

Additional Note: As of June 5, 2012, the GMAT is being revised to include a section on "Integrated Reasoning". From my assessment, this section of the GMAT has many similarities to the McK PST. If anyone has any experience with this version of the GMAT or as the test prep guides are updated to reflect this new section of the GMAT, please post your experiences below and I will incorporate the feedback into a revision of this guide.

Practice Method #3:  Take McKinsey PST Practice Tests

The following are links to a few McKinsey PST Practice Tests.

Links to Free Problem Solving Test Samples:

Note: The consensus feedback from reader Field Reports is the actual McKinsey Test has a lot more reading than the samples posted above.  My takeaway from this is that its important to read the questions FIRST, then read the text and charts. Keep in mind you are not reading a magazine article or a business school case. Your only mission is to answer the questions asked and to move on... QUICKLY.

With that in mind, I recommend reading with a PURPOSE in mind, as opposed to just for general knowledge.  In other words, KNOW what you're looking for BEFORE you read. Then read carefully while hunting for the data you KNOW you will need to answer the questions.

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Definitive Guide to the
McKinsey Problem Solving Test

In Part II of the Definitive Guide to the McKinsey Problem Solving Test, you'll receive via email:

  1. A glossary of commonly used business terms and their mathematical definitions
  2. An expanded list of high quality, practice tests for the McKinsey PST
  3. Tips on the McKinsey PST and Case Interviews

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The Definitive Guide Part I – Continued

Field Reports from Previous Test Takers

The following comments are from one of my newsletter readers who took and passed the actual McKinsey Problem Solving Test.  (By the way, just click the following link to receive my case interview preparation tips newsletter)

Field Report #1 

The actual test does not match the practice test in terms of level of difficulty, but it cannot be said that it is harder.

Some questions are harder, some are easier than those given in the practice test. But the practice test gives you a feel of the type of questions and timing.

I did a few things in particular to prepare that I thought would be useful, however they were more about the attitude than actual preparations for the test:

In terms of preparations, I only solved the practice test and then compared my answers to the correct ones. Then I worked out the wrong answers slowly to realize where did I go wrong.

When it comes to the attitude, it is important to go to the test with a positive attitude but with the expectation that very few are those who actually make it.

Going with a “Why-not; let’s take a shot” attitude will alleviate a good portion of the stress associated with the tight timing and will allow the candidate to think clearly.

Now here are some additional insights about the PST:

For business or economics students, just practice the sample and mind the time, you know the rest. (This is my own experience as a business graduate)

For non-business students, brush up on few quantitative business concepts before going to the test, it is said that it does not require a business knowledge, but definitely some business sense and acumen.

Stress will definitely play against you, RELAX the test can be completed in the allotted time, don’t worry about it.You will be marking the 26th answer by the end of the last minute though.

Make sure you complete all questions, there are no penalties; but this we know. What we don’t know is, even when you are taking a question as a guess, the test is tailored such as it will allow you to take an informed guess which is correct; so use elimination and educated guesses to your advantage.

When it comes to the attitude:

Very few people get into McKinsey, put this information into perspective and go to the test in a ‘Game’ frame of mind, enjoy it; it is nice and stimulating.

Relax, breathe before starting the test and remember if you made it so far and your consulting resume caught McKinsey’s accurate eye, it means you mostly have what it takes to pass.

Do not stress about the outcome of the test once you leave the room. Mckinsey will get back to you shortly; they have the best recruitment system in the world and they do not make people wait, I know people who knew the outcome as early as 24 hours after the test.

A great thing that is a MUST-KNOW about McKinsey, they do not select the top x% performers. They have a cut-off score, if you pass it, you’re in for the interview process; you’re not competing against anyone, you’re only invited to stretch your own potential.

One last note I would like to add, you will get out of the McKinsey process feeling great, whatever the outcome is. These people are amazing, this company is extremely professional; and they make you feel appreciated and respected at every stage of the recruitment process, whether you make it or not. So my point: get the best out of it for yourself.

Field Report #2: (From a Reader)

Note: Concerning the PST test, I found that the best way to get the answer for a question is by applying a similar analysis to a case interview. That is, when asked about something, the best way is to actually think of a hypothesis and what kind of data is needed to give the answer. And then look for the data in the text. I found that pretty useful. I felt like sharing this as a tip.

 

****

Finally, if you haven’t already requested part II of this guide to the McK PST, you can do so by filling out the form below.

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Definitive Guide to the
McKinsey Problem Solving Test

In Part II of the Definitive Guide to the McKinsey Problem Solving Test, you’ll receive via email:

  1. A glossary of commonly used business terms and their mathematical definitions
  2. An expanded list of high quality, practice tests for the McKinsey PST
  3. Tips on the McKinsey PST and Case Interviews

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{ 227 comments… read them below or add one }

Francisco March 25, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Victor,

I have a question:

I have done and passed the McK’s PST and then failed on the interviews but got a “see you later” feedback. If I apply again after 18-24 months do you know if I have to do the PST again?

Reply

Victor Cheng March 26, 2013 at 9:05 am

Francisco,

That’s a good question. Unfortunately I don’t know the answer (at least not well enough to say it with 100% certainty). Perhaps others can comment.

Victor

Reply

Camilo September 23, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Francisco

In Colombia if you passed the PST and failed in the interview, you don’t have to do the PST in the next chance.

Good luck next time.

Reply

Ivan July 16, 2013 at 10:18 am

Francisco,
In Russia they didnt ask for PST the second time ( but it was 8 years ago ))).
And PST is the easiest part of the process.

Ivan

Reply

Per April 11, 2013 at 4:51 pm

I would love if you could send me a few as well!

Thank you so much!

Reply

Per April 11, 2013 at 4:52 pm
Mohamed Safwat May 8, 2013 at 9:40 am

Hello All,
I’m currently preparing as well for my Mckinsey PST and would be very glad if you can provide me with any practice material you have for that purpose.

Many thanks in advance!
Mohamed Safwat

Reply

Boris May 17, 2013 at 11:25 am

Here is my take on the McKinsey PST I took yesterday (May 2013), some people might find it helpful:

The test consists of three cases (luxury women apparel manufacturer, boat manufacturer and a charity focused on placement of graduates-teachers from poor backgrounds into secondary schools). I have read on some thread that these cases have been seen already in January 2013 so I guess the test does not change too often (although there might be several variations of it). Volume of questions is evenly spread across the three cases.

Reading-wise I think the test is as heavy as the practice PSTs from MCK website, there are parts where there is new text/graph for every question, then there is a part where 5 questions relate to the same source. One thing I did notice was that there was substantial amount of the questions that sounded hard, but the answer was actually given in the text (e.g.: You got two pie charts breaking down sales of the market, a chart with financials of different companies and additional text with numbers of customers of the different firms, and the question was: “How many new customers would the client acquire IMMEDIATELY after acquiring company B?” This number was actually given in the text with the # of customers of firm B – no computation needed).

Also, the amount of info that is actually useless for answering any question was bigger than in the practice PSTs, i.e. the questions were easier to answer; after reading them you just had to skim through the text and grasp its overall content, decide what is useless and use the (very small) part for answering the question.

Personally, I found the first case the hardest, especially because there was a table with info that I never really encountered before (results from a questionnaire given to customers of different firms, whose answers were broken down according where else these customers shop – I cant really describe this any better (shows how much I actually understood the problem haha)), so if I took the test again, I would do the first case last. All the other problems were presented in pie charts, bar charts, flowcharts and line charts, nothing too hard.

Math-wise I believe the test was easier than an average caseinterview-reader would expect. Only one question involved substantial calculations (I skipped it for timing reasons), other questions were somewhat easy to estimate.

Prep-wise I would advise the following: Do the practice PSTs first (no timing needed) to grasp the nature of the problems and structure of the answers, then do a bit of GMAT to practise maths, then buy consulting guru tests from Victor’s web (they are actually much harder that the actual PST, but, once you go through them and understand them, you can be sure that you won’t open the PST and get dizzy over the amount of text to get through), and finally do the practice PSTs again. They will now feel much easier, you will gain the necessary confidence for the D-day and you will also fix the answering structure into your head.

If you have some time to prepare and have issues with reading all the text in the tests in the given time, it might be a good idea to buy LOMS before you take the actual PST (i.e. before you are invited for interviews). You will see that the PST is structured in an exactly same way as the LOMS interviews’ discussions so, after hearing some of the LOMS interviews, you will see that most of the text is actually just linking different parts for the PST case, which should ease up your thinking about the case/test, i.e. shorten your reading time.

Personally, I skipped 4 questions, finished the test after 55mins, then went back to the unanswered ones. Bear in mind that, unless you are a prodigy, you will feel like there is no way on the planet that you can pass the test once you are like 25mins in the test. This is normal feeling, the test is structured that way. If you think about it, (unless you are the aforementioned prodigy) the best feeling you can have immediately post the test is that you have no idea how you did, simply because most of the questions are not straightforward (although the logic in answering them usually is). Therefore, try your best to keep it together during the test. I passed btw.

On this note, Victor, thank you for all the helpful resources on this website, I find them much more comprehensive and useful than on other websites. I have final round in 3 weeks.

Reply

Victor Cheng May 17, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Boris,

Thanks for sharing such detailed feedback for everyone else to benefit from. Good luck on final round!

Victor

Reply

Hamza July 1, 2013 at 7:14 am

Hey Boris,

I actually took this test today, and interestingly I too have a similar feedback as yours.

[Victor Note: I redacted this section of the comments because it gave actual answers to the real PST (which I'm not comfortable having shared on my website). I've left the general suggestion about questions being phrased very specifically which I very much agree with.]

This is something that I’d like to highlight because Mckinsey test are very carefully worded and usually the first answer that pops up isn’t the right answer. I am not sure if I will get an interview call or how I did on the test but this is an advice for people who will be taking the test in the future.

Reply

Waheed Mahomed September 28, 2013 at 6:36 am

Hi Boris & other readers

I wrote the PST in South Africa a few weeks back and got the same set of questions that Boris refers to. I cannot however explain them any better then he did and from his analysis I’m sure he fared better than I did. I just went to have fun and test my mettle. Anyhow all I wanted to add was that the practice tests do help and see if you can get hold of recent ones because they may repeat things

Ciao

Reply

Ariel May 25, 2013 at 3:38 pm

The link to the 20/20 sample test above is incorrect.
This is the correct link

http://www.2020delivery.com/sites/default/files/2020Delivery-Sample-problem-solving-questions.pdf

Reply

Detti May 26, 2013 at 6:12 am

Dear Victor,

your site is great! Thank you for th great content!

I have recently applied for a Junior Research Analyst position with McKinsey, a part time student job, that I would like to pursue together with my PhD studies and have been invited for numerical test writing.

I assume that this type of test is not the PST. Is my assumption correct? If so, what type of questions do you think I will be exposed to?

Your feedback would be extremely helpful in my preparation.

Thank you very much in advance!

Reply

Victor Cheng May 29, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Detti,

Unfortunately I don’t know what the test will consist of. At one end of the possibile formats would be the PST, at the other end it would be more like a simplified version of the GRE math test. The former tests data analysis and drawing logical conclusions, what mainline consultants need to do. The latter test numerical proficiency and accuracy which is useful in pure research or analysis that doesn’t necessarily involve presenting to clients.

Victor

Reply

Ger June 11, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Dear all,

I know a couple of people that sat the PST recently and were given 75 mins (15 extra) because they are not native English speakers. However, I’ve met some other non-native speakers that were NOT allowed the extra time.

Does anyone have additional info on this?
As a non-native speaker, should I demand the extra time when I take the test?

Thanks

Reply

alex July 25, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Hey, I’ve got letter from mck where they ask me to come and take the test for 75 min! I’m not native speaker.

Reply

Reonna April 29, 2014 at 5:55 am

Maybe if you’re in a non-english speaking country, the extra 15 min would not be given as all the other candidates are also non-native speakers. I’m non-native, but applying in a non-english speaking country, no extra mins.

Reply

Evgenia June 28, 2013 at 5:20 am

Dear Victor,
how can I buy so called “consulting guru tests” from your web-site?
I’d like to prepair for PST next week.
Thank you!

Reply

Victor Cheng June 28, 2013 at 10:51 am

Hi Evgenia,

The McKinsey PST practice tests I offer are available here:
http://www.caseinterview.com/mckinsey-pst

Good luck on your preparation!
Victor

Reply

Ger June 30, 2013 at 8:31 am

Dear Victor,

How are you doing?
I posted the question below almost 3 weeks ago. Since nobody has replied I am trying again in the hope that it will go better this time.
Many thanks!

I know a couple of people that sat the PST recently and were given 75 mins (15 extra) because they are not native English speakers. However, I’ve met some other non-native speakers that were NOT allowed the extra time.

Does anyone have additional info on this?
As a non-native speaker, should I demand the extra time when I take the test?

Thanks a lot,

Ger

Reply

Victor Cheng July 2, 2013 at 11:36 am

Ger,

1) I don’t have enough info on this to make a firm recommendation.

2) I would never “demand” anything of McK. It doesn’t hurt to ask or inquire, but if you demand that would be interpreted by them as you having an entitlement attitude. They would be concerned you would use the same attitude with clients, and it would cause them to reconsider whether to interview you at all.

-Victor

Reply

Sam July 2, 2013 at 8:59 am

Dear Victor,

Concur with someone’s opionion, your site is truly great! Many thanks for your efforts to create such a helpful web-recourse!

My question is: is PST compulsory for experienced professionals applying for Business Associate positions in Asian ofiice? In brief, I’m industry specialist with 12 years of executive experience in Finance/banking. Or I will be going through case studies interviews directly?

Many thanks in advance for your prompt answer.

Reply

Victor Cheng July 2, 2013 at 11:30 am

Sam,

I don’t know if McK has a consistent policy on this globally. Historically, it was for all applicants. More recently, I am hearing rumors that with the new GMAT including questions that overlap with the PST, that some MBA applicants who report the new GMAT score have been exempt. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough data points on experienced hires to draw a reliable conclusion if the PST will likely be required for you or not.

-Victor

Reply

Mark July 17, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Hi Victor,

I was just wondering whether the so called “consulting guru tests” on your website are the same as those displayed at http://consultingguru.com/our-services/problem-solving-tests/?

Thank you for the clarification.

Reply

Victor Cheng July 18, 2013 at 11:05 am

Mark,

The tests themselves are the same. In the bundle I offer at http://www.caseinterview.com/mckinsey-pst I include a lengthy and detailed video of how to optimize your test taking abilities for speed. This video is only available in the bundle available on this website.

Most people can pass the test given enough time. The hard part is passing the test under the time constraint. Very few people who do pass thought they passed. All felt like they barely had enough time. There’s a long way to answer each question, and a short way. The videos show the short way. It’s a little counter-intuitive in some cases and differs from how one would normally take tests in an academic environment.

-Victor

Reply

Chen July 22, 2013 at 7:33 am

Hi Victor,

how many of the 26 questions should be answered correctly, in order to be invited for interview?

Thanks.

Reply

Victor Cheng July 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Chen,

Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to your question — though you are certainly not the first person to ask. As far as I can tell, that exact cut off is not disclosed publicly.

I will say that 50% of the people who ended up passing did not think they had passed when they finished the test. So if you feel extremely pressed for time during the actual PST, don’t panic. It’s normal. It’s supposed to be a very tight finish. Nobody I know finished more than 1 -2 minutes early.

Reply

Sara August 7, 2013 at 12:18 am

Dear Victor,

I have a question. How would I go about getting a summer internship at a top consulting company? Is the interview process the same as the process for a job application?

Thank you so much for your help! It is much appreciated! I bought your book and it was amazing!

Reply

Mike August 7, 2013 at 4:13 pm

I filled out the application on the website two days ago and got an invitation to interview this morning. They want me to do the PST test in like 2 weeks. I’m a corporate lawyer so have been out of practice with quant heavy questions and I also work a lot…is it frowned upon to ask to schedule the PST test at a later date? I’m assuming having more than 2 weeks to prepare would be wise considering my rust.

Thanks,

Mike

Reply

Chloe September 25, 2013 at 5:47 am

I took the PST successfully back in July. It was the same as previous commentators said – one case each on luxury retail, a boat manufacturer and a charity.

A few takeaways on Prep:
1. The tests on the McKinsey website are very reflective of the actual test. It is worth taking the time to understand why each answer on these is the correct one.
2. I thought chart literacy and critical reasoning were key; to this end, the Integrated Reasoning and Critical Reasoning sections on the GMAT are useful prep tools
3. As Victor mentioned in one of his videos, most people could pass this test if they had sufficient prep and unlimited time. Unfortunately, there are limited resources available in prepping for the PST. I found Victor’s practice tests to be very useful (I purchased the full package) in terms of getting my head around the time constraint and general test-taking abilities. I do think his tests were a bit harder and more data-intensive than the real exam, so worth bearing that in mind as well.

As for the test, I found the key skill to passing was the ability to eliminate answers. The amount of math I did was much less than I had done in my prep because I was able to eliminate answers. This was in part helped by identifying the incorrect assumptions associated with the wrong answers. I did find Victor’s video walk through of the PST to be very useful.

I think there were very few answers that I was 100% certain with; I just had to make the most reasonable decision and move on. Time-wise, I was able to finish the exam.

Overall, I would say that there is a particular method and logical approach to taking the test successfully. Prep for the exam should ideally focus on understanding this approach (through McKinsey’s practice tests available online) and then working to finish under the time constraint (for which Victor’s tests were very helpful).

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Sisi October 5, 2013 at 7:21 am

Hi guys, I have been to a PST test this year already. Not any more women luxury, boat leasing and Teaching. I can just tell you what I still remember until this day.
First case was Pharmaceutical company want to sell diabetic preventing medicine (oral or insulin) in China. They interviewed some doctors in different cities for setting proper price.
The second case was, a country in Asia who wants to transportation system role model. There were different types of vehicles described. Questions were focused on these vehicles, what shall the country do, etc.
The third case was instruction bundles (textbooks plus other things) for schools. Different states have different budgets. Also schools would like to buy only textbooks next year, then how many more textbook does the company need to sell in order to have the same revenue.
Less calculation this year, but more interpretation.
I hope this can give you guys some general feeling about what the cases are this year.

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mohammad K November 13, 2013 at 11:53 am

Hello Sisi,
I had the same test, the same cases. Whats up with you, did u pass ?

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BT November 30, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Hi Sisi,
thank you for sharing the info about the PST cases.
which one you found the most difficult?

regards,
BT

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John October 5, 2013 at 3:23 pm

I just sat the PST (Oct 2013) and passed. Just wanted to share my experiences. Victor’s videos about taking the PST is what, in my opinion, will get you to pass the test.

THE ACTUAL PST

The actual PST was easier than the websites, not by much though. Time was still the biggest issue and there was huge pressure. The actual cases do not matter so hence I have not elaborated.

EXTRA PSTs WHICH ARE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE

I bought the one PST from Victor’s website. He uses the http://www.consultingguru.com tests.

I found the actual PST absolutely useless, here is why:
-I have no business background at all. Theses PSTs were heavy in technical knowledge (for a novice). And really put me off.
-This “paid for” PSTs was very heavy in math. Very heavy. Unable to finish in 60mins
-I scored about 30% in this PST and it really dented my confidence.

However, buying from Victor is absolutely gold as you get 3 videos on a strategy to take the test. This is what got me over. Getting to each question with a structure and smashing it :-). I cannot stress how important his videos are!

MY PREP

As I said, I have no business background. I applied to McK at the last minute and had not prepared very much. McK is indeed very efficient at recruiting so you will get a response within a week. Once I was told I got past the CV screen I started preparing. This was 6 days before the test.

I did:
1) The official PSTs- The three on the McK website and the other two floating around on the interweb. As linked in this article.
2) CaseInterviewMath.com
3) Integrated reasoning GMAT questions (was hard to find many as this is quite new)
4) Chart and data interpreting GRE questions. Tons available.
5)Cliff Notes Math Review for Standardized Tests- As linked above. I did the word problems and quickly reviewed my math skills esp. long division
6) I had read, a few months ago, Secrets of Mental Math by Michael Shermer. The skills came in handy but had to be refreshed.
7) CRITICALLY, I resat the practice PSTs 1 day and the day of the exam. Whenever I did the PSTs, either fresh or a resit, it was always timed. Always time yourself. And never use a calculator. Simulate actual conditions.

Hope this helps.

P.S If you buy the $55 PST and videos from Victor and like the structure of the test you should be able to buy it significantly cheaper using a discount code and some efficient googling.

P.P.S Apologies for grammer and spelling.

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BT November 30, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Hi John,

did you have the same set of cases as Sisi?
1) Pharmaceutical company that wants to sell diabetic preventing medicine in China.
2) A country in Asia that wants to transportation system role model.
3) Instruction bundles (textbooks plus other things) for schools.

Best,
BT

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Ann November 22, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Just wanted to say that I took the PST this morning (Nov 2013) and I passed. I was absolutely petrified because I took some practice tests that I scored poorly on at first. Here is some advice I can offer to those who are taking it.

1. It’s not harder than the practice test provided by the McKinsey website. I would say the difficulty level is exactly the same. Use these and the resources listed above by Victor as your primary resource to prepare and you should be fine on the big day.

2. Skip/guess any questions that are obviously too detailed to calculate and you are unsure of and come back to them later in the test, especially if your math is not that fast. The reason is because there are some easier questions that you should prioritize getting correct instead. If you run out of time and have to fill in (A) for the last 5 or 6 questions, you will kick yourself if you see that actually they were questions you could have answered if you had more time.

3. Try not to panic. The nice thing about the cut off score is that you are simply stretching your own potential. You can do it!

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BT November 30, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Hi Ann,

thank you for your feedback.
did you have the same set of cases as Sisi?

1) Pharmaceutical company that wants to sell diabetic preventing medicine in China.

2) A country in Asia that wants to transportation system role model.

3) Instruction bundles (textbooks plus other things) for schools.

Best,
BT

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sumit December 14, 2013 at 4:51 am

I think mcKinsey PST test is much easier than indian national level aptitude tests like CAT,XAT(I myself have scored 99th percentile,questions are extremely tough and over 2 lakh people vouch for few seats).Only thing that is tough for people is to get through interviews reason being communication skills.

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Tom December 20, 2013 at 3:48 am

Hi Victor,

I applied at McK and they invited ne to take a test via phone. They told me that I will have to take just one problem solving Case and that the Interview will last approximately 45 min. Do you have any idea what kind of test that might be? Any experience on cases via phone?

Thanks

Tom

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KA February 7, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Anyone taken the PST recently? Can you please share your experience? Am taking the PST in a few weeks and having taken the practice tests am only averaging around 14-15 questions out of 26.

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KA February 7, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Any tips on how to improve performance?

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Laura February 26, 2014 at 8:31 pm

You recommend using Kaplan’s 2008 GRE Math Workbook to prepare for the McKinsey PST. I was only able to find the 2014 edition, which does not have the same chapter titles. Which of the following chapters from the 2014 edition would you recommend reviewing to prepare?

The chapters are: Part 1 (Quantitative Reasoning): (i) quantitative comparison, (ii) problem solving, (iii) data interpretation, and (iv) quantitative reasoning practice; and Part 2 (Math Content Review): (i) arithmetic, (ii) algebra, (iii) geometry, (iv) data interpretation.

Thanks in advance!

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Victor Cheng February 27, 2014 at 10:49 am

Laura,

I would suggest focusing on Part 1, Sections iii and IV. – data interpretation (reading charts and data tables) and quantitative reasoning (thinking logically with numbers)

Victor

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Victor Cheng February 27, 2014 at 10:51 am

Both skills are used quite frequently in consulting. If you need practice for basic arithmetic, I would recommend using my case interview math practice tool at http://www.caseinterview.com/math

It provides timed arithmetic practice and will compare your speed an accuracy to all other users by percentile rank and versus my own speed and accuracy.

Victor

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Clara March 8, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Hi,
I’ve been studying for the PST for the last 2 weeks, I took it last week (March 2014).
The questions were around the same 3 cases somebody else in May 2013 mentioned above (luxury women apparel manufacturer, boat manufacturer and a charity focused on placement of graduates-teachers from poor backgrounds into secondary schools). I guess it is clear they don’t change them too often, which is good!
I believe they have about 6 different forms going on though, watch out.
Anyways, I don’t know how it went, I was confident when practicing but as the person above mentioned there were a couple of quite complex problems so I didn’t accomplish to finish it, but I went through 95% of it.
Advice: PRACTICE, PRACTICE and PRACTICE. The McKinsey online samples offered in their website don’t look to different, so it is all about mastering time (as Victor says, start by mastering accuracy though).
I haven’t heard about results yet, wish me luck! And…Good luck for you all !

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KA March 10, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Good Luck, thanks for sharing your experience.

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jk March 12, 2014 at 2:09 am

Clara, Best of luck! Have your heard about the result?

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Tong March 26, 2014 at 5:25 am

PST today, the same case as someone shared before. I didnot pass it. Just 3 days for preparation. May need more practice.
There are not a lot of calculation. A lot of logic questions. Hope u guys good luck.
1) Pharmaceutical company that wants to sell diabetic preventing medicine in China.

2) A country in Asia that wants to transportation system role model.

3) Instruction bundles (textbooks plus other things) for schools.

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@sh April 20, 2014 at 2:12 am

Hi Victor/all,

Planning to apply to McK India office. Have over 6 years of consulting experience in a Big 4 Consulting Firm

1) Any idea, if the recruitment process involves writing a PST?
2) (How much) Would the experience at the Big4 count?
3) Needed help with the cover letter/Resumes. any inputs??

Short timelines & turnaround time. Appreciate a quick response.
Thanks a ton.

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damilola April 27, 2014 at 2:02 pm

it is very interesting and helpful

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Alexis May 13, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Hi everyone!

I am an experienced professional with 14 years on different sectors. I will take the PST in some days here in Brazil. Does anyone know if the PST in Brazil is also in the English language?

Thanks!

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Svetlana May 23, 2014 at 9:29 am

Is there anyway to buy PST tests for Mac? I don’t have or even know anyone who has a PC (

Many thanks!

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Maxim June 29, 2014 at 4:17 am

Svetlana, you can launch Windows applications on Mac. Use standard application, called BootCamp. It’s already installed on your Mac.
Or you can buy Parallels, I heard it’s better (but not free).
Good luck!

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Dang Tuan July 3, 2014 at 5:47 am

Hi Victor,
I search around but i didn’t see anywhere indicates the cut-off point for PST. For 26 questions, what is cut-off % we need to make?
Thanks

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Victor Cheng July 3, 2014 at 10:54 pm

Dang,

I haven’t seen a cut off score from a reliable source thus far. I’ve seen much speculation. More important and or more actionable than the cut off score is actually being able to finish the test.

Nearly everyone who has taken it – both those how passed and those who did not – all comment on how they finished with barely enough time.

Many if not most people who passed did not feel they did well. So during the test, do not let yourself get worried if your “feeling” isn’t totally positive. Most people who take he test are capable of a high score, but not within the time alotted. So the main issue isn’t can you answer the question, it’s can you do so extremely efficiently – mainly be not calculating anything even when presented with many numbers when a calculation is not logically needed to answer the question as it was phrased.

A related issue is using estimated computations when an estimate is sufficient to answer the question, rather than using time consuming precise computations when such precision isn’t technically required given how the question was asked.

By the way, did I mention READ THE QUESTION… CAREFULLY?

Many people answer the question they thought they read, but not the actual question that was asked. Again, do not be more precise than is needed.

Good luck,
Victor

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