McKinsey PST Cut-Off Score

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Question:

Thank you for your emails and all the wonderful tips you have archived on your website. It has been a tremendous help. I recently was invited to interview at McKinsey and [sub-company of Bain] in the [Mediterranean city] offices. Unfortunately, I did not make it past either PST. The recruiter at McKinsey said I was close/borderline, but not close enough to meet their bar. I do feel comfortable that once I get past the PSTs, I will perform better in case situations and a personal interview, but unfortunately that is not the reality of the situation. I did see on your archives various tips concerning the PSTs, I practiced multiple tests and GRE-type questions, but when it came to the actual test, my performance was not as good.

Do you know why they place such an importance on the PSTs and not give a candidate the chance to prove himself in actual interviews ? Also, I do have another interview in a boutique management consulting firm, do you know how the interview process may differ from the bigger companies? How else can I improve my chance in future PSTs? Since I have another interview lined up, I want to be the best prepared.

Thank you again for all your guidance.

My Reply:

The Top 3 firms are pickier around PST scores. If you are borderline, if you end up recruiting at the Top 4 - 10 firms, it probably will not be an issue.

In terms of PST scores, the scores (or standardized math scores in general) are highly correlated to how first year consultants are perceived internally analytically.

Stated differently, my guess is at some point they looked at the annual review of all first year consultants, found all the ones they rated "exceptional" in terms of analytical skills, and discovered they all had very high PST-type scores.

Keep in mind, all the people who were not rated exceptional in on-the-job problem-solving skills had all passed all of the cases.

In terms of improving your PST score, it depends on why the score was low / lower than you were expecting. In general, there are only two ways to improve one's PST score -- work faster, work more accurately.

In terms of preparing, you have to do a self assessment regarding why you think your score was low. Do you think you got any wrong answers? Did you not finish the test?

One of the skills implicitly tested in the PST is "processing speed" -- how fast you can do the math and solve the problems. For the computation-oriented problems, you can use my www.caseinterviewmath.com practice tool to work on computational speed and accuracy.

For data interpretation, get a lot more practice tests for the GRE, and focus specifically on the subset of GRE math problems that are similar to the PST -- generally the problems involving "word problems" and "data interpretation" and "reading graphs/charts."

Good luck with the rest of your recruiting.

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