We take an in-depth look at the McKinsey PST, an assessment tool that has become popular at the leading consulting firm McKinsey. Nevin Kamath, former McKinsey & Company consultant and founder of www.thecasecoach.com shares his perspective:
One of the most common questions I hear from clients who are applying to McKinsey is some version of the following:
“What the heck is the McKinsey PST?” then, “Where can I find practice tests?!”
The McK PST is a numerical and business reasoning test. 60 minutes with 26 questions in total. It’s a tool that several offices of McKinsey have used in recent recruiting rounds. On campus, it’s quickly becoming the first McKinsey experience for several candidates, and the same with many experienced hire candidates.
So far, no other major consulting firms are using a test like this one, save a few smaller strategy shops like Monitor and 20/20.
Still curious? Here are a few suggestions to help you on test day.
A. Take a practice test cold.
There’s a practice test on the McKinsey website called Kosher Franks. Take it. Use a timer. Don’t worry if you can’t answer everything, just get through it.
B. Acquaint yourself with some quick wins.
“Quick wins” is consultant-speak for the “low hanging fruit.” In an engagement involving a distressed organization, a quick win might be boosting salaries of the highest performing managers.
McKinsey offers 10 quick wins for the PST-takers in a coaching guide on their website. Read it. I’ve reorganized their advice and given my take on it below:
Extra-helpful advice about the PST
1. Read the test questions *before* reading the text/graph/tables. This is an easy trick to sharpen your mind to hunt for the right information. Those tables can be chock-full of irrelevant stuff, and you don’t want to find yourself daydreaming about the client’s problem while the rest of the room is humming along. It can happen.
2. Pay extra attention to the data/graphs/tables. There are often 2-3 things going on in the exhibits. You should do your best to ask yourself what they are, and whether there are relationships between the information.
3. Structure your approach. If A = B + C, and you need to find out A, then you should determine B and C first.
4. Complete the test! No penalty for wrong answers.
Basic advice about the PST
5. Speed read text. Okay.
6. Approximate numbers. Don’t get bogged down on the math problems. Round up, where you can.
7. Eliminate wrong answers. Rule out your options quickly. That seems logical, doesn’t it?
8. Keep your work organized. Yep.
9. Transfer answers to your worksheet in groups. This means, do a bunch of problems, and then shade in a bunch of bubbles. Repeat.
10. Don’t be obsessed with one problem. McKinsey does not share information about question weighting, but this suggestion may indicate that all questions are weighted equally.
C. Take another practice test or two.
Ok, so let’s apply some of these quick wins! Remember, you’re not striving for perfection. You just need to be as well prepared as you can be on the McKinsey PST test day. Many candidates are overwhelmed by the newness and difficulty of it. Don’t be.
Good practice tests
Fiji Cola: A 2001 practice test by McKinsey.
Footloose: A 2004 test adminstered by The Monitor Group (started by Michael Porter).
University of Oldtown: A 2009 test administered by 20/20 (started by McK alumni).
Best of luck with your preparation.
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