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March 19, 2023

Bain Sova Assessment – Your 2023 Guide with Practice Tests

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The Bain Sova Test is a relatively recent addition to that firm’s selection process, supplied by the UK-based Sova psychometric test provider - and represents a new hurdle for you to clear if you want to make it as a Bain and Company consultant.

At time of writing, the Bain Sova Test has been replacing the older Bain Online Test at a number of locations and seems to be becoming Bain’s go-to screening test.

In this article, we’ll cover the rationale behind Bain using screening tests at all. We’ll then discuss how screening tests have been rapidly changing in recent years and specifically how the Bain Sova Test differs from its predecessor.

Armed with this information, we’ll then look in detail at how you can best prepare for the Bain Sova test, as well as how you can fit that work into your wider case interview prep. Along the way, we will introduce the specific Bain Sova Test practice material which we have partnered with an expert psychometric test provider to bring to MyConsultingCoach users.

Important – Be Careful!

Before we dive into the detail, we have to convey one crucial point of caution.

As we’ll explain later, screening test practices have been changing rapidly across Bain and other major management consulting firms in recent years - with this then accelerating hugely in the wake of the Covid pandemic. At any one time, individual offices within a firm also typically have a good deal of latitude to conduct their own selection process as they see fit. The upshot for you is that this can mean differences in screening tests between different locations for the same firm and between years and different grades of hire at the same location. As such, the exact process you go through for Bain New York might be different to a buddy applying to Bain London. And both offices might change things up next year.

Note in particular that, besides Sova, Bain has also been using the Pymetrics assessment - the same Pymetrics test sometimes employed at BCG and other consultancies, as well as other corporate firms more broadly. So if you are prepping for an upcoming online assessment, be sure you get ready for the right one!

If in doubt you should always confirm with the HR team at your own target office. Don’t simply assume or take the word of others or Reddit or other fora – always ask!

Luckily, whether you get asked to sit Sova, Pymentrics or both,  MCC has you covered.

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What is the Bain Sova assessment like?

Let’s start from the basics and cover the most important questions you might have:

Where does the Sova test fit in the selection process?

The Bain Sova Test generally filters candidates between resume screening and invitation to case interview. Thus, if you are asked to complete the test, you will have to score well and pass if you want to make the in-person rounds. In some cases, you might also have a brief telephone fit-style interview from HR before you are invited to sit the Sova test. Precise details here are likely to vary by specific office, but in all cases you will need to perform if you want your application to proceed.

What is the format?

    • There is no set time for the test but bear in mind that Sova will assess both the accuracy and the speed of your answers. As a loose guideline, you should aim to answer numerical and logical questions in under 45 seconds per question and verbal reasoning questions in under 30 seconds per question
    • The test is generally conducted online from your own home.
    • Calculator and notepaper are allowed (realistically, there is no practical way of preventing this in the at-home setting anyway)
    • The standard test is divided into five sections covering different areas of your abilities and profile.

    What is tested?

    Offices might opt to give only a subset of the full test but, generally, the test given will have sections assessing the following areas. Note that the ordering of these sections might vary.

    • Mathematical: Here, you have to conduct calculations, analyse data and interpret various charts and tables.
    • Verbal: You are presented with a block of text and must draw conclusions based on it.
    • Abstract Reasoning: Questions here are similar to those you might have seen in some IQ tests, with your being asked to complete chose the correct option to complete a sequence of geometric patterns (much as with Raven’s matrices)
    • Situational Judgement: The Situational Judgement Test, or SJT, assesses your reactions in workplace situations. You are presented with a written question or even a video and must rank possible responses from Best to Worst.
    • Personality: This assesses your personality as manifested in the workplace. Again, you must rank order answers, this time from Very True to False or similar.

    How is it scored?

    A point worth noting is that scoring is not simply a matter of getting the correct answer to the questions you are given. The Sova test will also take into account how quickly you answered questions, so that correct answers supplied more rapidly will be scored more highly.

    This is important to bear in mind on test day, as you should be seeking to strike an optimal balance between accuracy and speed in your work. In reality, this is much like actual consulting work, where getting to the correct solutions efficiently in the face of time pressure is a part of the everyday demands of the job. The old adage, “less haste more speed” is particularly useful to remember here, as considering time does not mean that you should rush and end up with incorrect answers!

    Why does Bain use these aptitude tests?

    So, we know the fundamentals of what to expect from the Bain Sova test on the day. However, understanding how to prepare for Bain’s or any other screening tests also means understanding why these tests are used at all and what they are designed to assess.

    Screening tests for top consulting firms like Bain have one clear goal – they reduce the number of applicants requiring expensive, time-consuming case interviews (remember consultants have to be pulled off projects to act as interviewers). Tests do this by identifying and removing applicants who would not have performed well in those case interviews.

    To do this job correctly, then, the tests must assess at least a subset of the same key consulting skills which are examined in the case interview itself. For example, mental math is an important part of case interviews, so a simple mental math test could be used to weed out at least some candidates without the numeracy to make it through a tough case study.

    However, since the real point of a case interview is to test a full ensemble of abilities, screening tests which more completely capture the full consulting skillset will be able to reliably eliminate a greater number of applicants who would not have made it through the case interview – ultimately saving the firm more time and money! This impetus towards a more efficient recruitment pipeline is one of the main drivers for screening tests to be changed up over time.

    Changing Times

    As mentioned, screening tests across the management consulting world have been in flux in recent years. This has been both in terms of the format of tests and the basic skillset that they assess.

    The highest-profile example of such a changing test is McKinsey largely ditching their notorious PST and moving to the new Solve assessment. This replacement of a pen-and-paper test of business-specific skills, tested in-person at the office, with a more holistic assessment of the applicant, generally taken online, at home is representative of the general direction of travel.

    General skills rather than business knowledge

    The drive to move screening tests away from heavily business-focused assessments to tests examining more fundamental skills has been necessitated by the changing nature of the consulting business. As we discuss in more detail our article on whether one needs an MBA to enter consulting, firms now need to recruit specialist technical talent to deal with the more in-depth projects they are brought by clients. Since such talent might not come with an MBA or business background, screening tests need to change to accommodate this fact.

    At-home testing

    The transition from in-person, pen-and-paper tests to online, at-home tests was very much accelerated by the necessities of recruiting during the coronavirus pandemic. More broadly, though, this helps firms cut costs on running physical test locations, increases access to consulting for candidates outside major cities and/or top universities and helps cut the travel, and thus carbon footprint, associated with recruitment. In future, then, you can likely expect more and more of the recruitment process to be conducted remotely.

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    How to prepare for the Bain Sova assessment

    For most readers, this will likely be the really salient part of this article.

    In practice, your optimal route to prep for Sova is going to depend upon how much time you have until test day.

    A sizeable fraction of candidates will have only heard of Sova for the first time when they receive their email invitation to take the test from Bain. Especially if you are simultaneously holding down a busy job or demanding study schedule (or even exams for the really unlucky), this isn’t going to leave you with much time at all.

    Others might be reading this article before they have even written their resume and still have weeks or even months to prep.

    Here, we’ll accommodate both those in a hurry and those with a little more time to breathe. First, we’ll cover the absolutely core basics that should be part of your prep even if you only have a few days to get up to speed. We’ll then take a look at what you can add if you have longer before test day. In particular, we’ll discuss how Sova prep can blend into your wider preparation for the interviews themselves - which really should start well in advance.


    The first thing to say to those who are reading this with minimal waking hours before they need to complete their test is not to worry. Sure, as with everything, it might have been better if you’d started prepping in advance, but there is still a great deal you can do to boost your scores and you absolutely still have a great chance of passing.

    Let’s take a look at what you should get done, most impactful first:


    The single most useful thing you can do is to practice with a decent simulation of the Sova test.

    This will help build familiarity to let you feel comfortable and ready to perform on test day. Even a relatively small amount of practice can also boost your skill level on test day just by blowing the metaphorical cobwebs off abilities you might not have used in a long while. For example, if you haven’t needed mathematics in a long while, working through the numeracy questions can help remind you of how you used to tackle calculations and generally get you firing on all cylinders again.

    Just as Bain have brought in the professionals to provide Sova in the first place, so we at MCC have secured an excellent Sova simulation package from a specialist psychometric test provider. You can find this material here:

    Bain Sova Simulation Prep Pack

    Arguably the best part about this material is that there is so much of it. For each section of Sova, there will be multiple full sets of practice questions, scaling by difficulty.

    As such, this isn’t just a one-shot practice (which would already be useful), but really lends itself to a more involved prep, where you are able to iterate and progressively improve your skills over time. In particular, it’s tremendously useful to have the easier sets of questions there to let you get the hang of things before scaling up to master the more difficult sets. This is vastly better than simply being confronted with really tough questions right out of the gate - and potentially floundering without any route to progress.

    Mathematics Practice

    Especially if you don’t use much maths in your day-to-day work, you might well be pretty rusty.

    A great place to start getting up to speed is our article on consulting maths . To step things up a notch, our consulting math package is a great option. Of course, if you are prepping with our Case Academy ,

    You will find that same maths material as a subset of that broader case-cracking course.

    Familiarisation with Bain

    A good way to help get ready for the situational judgement tests is to read around Bain’s website etc, to get a feel for the kind of personality and values they are seeking out in new hires.

    Of course, this will be necessary for your general prep for interviews and indeed any HR phone screens you might be subject to around the same time as sitting Sova - so it’s a decent return on investment for not a great deal of your time.

    It’s worth remembering here that, as mentioned before, the Sova assessment is able to be used to select candidates by multiple different client firms by building a psychological profile of the test taker and then comparing this to the idealised profile each specific company is looking for.

    That means that there is some real utility in understanding the particular traits Bain might be particularly focussed on that other firms might not be, as this is how you will be assessed.


    Obviously, the more time you have to get ready for any test, the better.

    The ideas from the short-term section above remain the most impactful and should always be at the foundation of your preparation. What more time gives you is the opportunity to significantly improve your performance by iteratively cycling between simulation and deeper active skill building.

    In particular, the volume of material included in the Sova simulation pack linked above means that you can run through a set of practice questions, see how you do and then spend some time working on your problem areas before you try again with the next question set.

    Thus, if you go through some numeracy questions and absolutely flunk the set, then you can spend a bit of time working on your raw maths ability (perhaps reading our article or spending time with our specific maths material) before trying again with the next set.

    Synergy with wider prep

    If you’re prepping for Sova over the longer term, it should really be part of your wider prep for Bain’s full selection process – especially their interviews.

    Here, it is always worth bearing in mind that all the different, disparate steps in Bain’s selection process are all ultimately there to do the same job, and are aimed at zeroing in on the same ideal candidate with the same fundamental consulting skillset.

    At the bottom line, new aptitude tests and any other addition to the selection process are evaluated and calibrated over time to be predictive of case interview performance. McKinsey and contractor Imbellus have gone so far as to publish in-depth research on this process and the extent to which their own Solve assessment reliably identifies candidates who go on to do well in case interview.

    All this means that your preparations for the different steps of the selection processes for Bain and similar firms will be a great deal more complimentary than they might appear at first glance.

    For candidates, the takeaway for here is that, if the Sova test is selecting for the same skillset that determines interview success, then it stands to reason that building up your interview skills should transfer across to helping you do better on the Sova test as well.

    Case cracking will clearly help build many of the hard skills Sova tests for in terms of numeracy, verbal and reasoning. By the same token, your prep work for fit interviews, where you have to think hard about how you can demonstrate the character traits that Bain is looking for is pretty much exactly the kind of thinking you need to be doing to prep for Sova’s situational judgement and personality component

    An optimal long-term prep for Bain’s selection process as a whole will always have working on interview readiness, and particularly case cracking, as the core. Interviews at Bain will be by far the most challenging part of their selection process and a hefty amount of prep that is explicitly expected of you.

    Throughout this interview prep, you would then periodically use simulation material like our Sova package to check that your wider work this is feeding through into Sova performance. Whichever weak points are revealed can then be emphasised in your general prep work to bring them up before you return to simulation.

    Nearer your actual Sova test date, you can then focus more intently on that specific challenging, reverting to the short-term tasks noted above here for your final push.

    Resources for a full prep

    In terms of how to prep optimally, you can read a lot more in our main introduction to the case interview . You can also read about how to solve cases like an MBB consultant here and how to approach fit questions here .

    Of course, our course will teach you all this in depth and coaching from a real Bain consultant will let you push your skills forward like nothing else.

    For those who want the best possible prep, with everything planned and integrated by a highly experienced consultant looking after them through the whole process, our mentoring programmes are the top end of what we do at MCC and the most effective way to maximise your chances of success.

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