BCG Potential Test: All You Need To Know (2020 update) | MyConsultingCoach
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BCG Potential Test: All You Need To Know (2020 update)

Chances are that if you are reading this, you are getting set to take the BCG Potential test and are looking for ways to prepare. More than likely, you will have been trawling first Google and then Reddit, Quora and all the usual sources - but finding only bits and pieces of fractured contradictory information. All this uncertainty over what you will be facing is a source of stress, before even considering that having a clear idea of what you will be facing is the first step to preparing for any challenge. Here we have collated all the information you need into one complete, free guide to the BCG Potential Test - so that you can get started on preparing with confidence!

We'll start off by covering the basics of the BCG Potential Test's format and the kind of questions asked before moving on to see how you should prep for it effectively, so that you can ultimately make the cut to proceed to case interview.

What is the BCG Potential Test?

The BCG Potential test is a skills test that measures your data assessment, numerical computation, and logical thinking skills. The test is a problem-solving test which uses a combination of math, text comprehension, data interpretation, and logical thinking assessments to allow BCG to compare candidates.

The Purpose of the BCG Potential Test

Much like the older McKinsey PST or new Digital Assessment, or the equivalent Bain Online Test, the BCG Potential Test fundamentally exists as a cost-effective way to cut down a huge pool of applicants to a more manageable number for case interviews. Firms take this so seriously because case interviews are highly expensive and inconvenient for them to administer; requiring them to pull consultants and partners off active projects to act as interviewers.

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In terms of function, the Potential Test is exactly that - it is not intended to measure your current knowledge, but rather the skills which might make you useful to BCG as someone to train for the future. A logic and reasoning test is used as these fundamental abilities are a subset of the skills which would eventually be tested at case interview. High performance in the Potential Test should then correlate with a good showing in subsequent interviews.

Beyond this, the BCG Potential Test is not just a gatekeeper to case interview, but also a way to control for the inherent variability in interview results. A number of variables, such as how hard the specific case was and the subjective judgement of interviewers, make direct comparisons of case interview results difficult. With the BCG test, data collected is directly comparable as the test applicants are all completing the same test. This lets the company to ensure case interviews are somewhat standardised and helps guard against the accidental elimination of good candidates.

The BCG Potential Test Format

There are two formats of the BCG Test. In most countries the test is taken online, there are, however, some reported cases where the candidate was required to complete a paper version of the test at an agreed location.  It is important that you check out and confirm the format of your test prior to preparation and planning. Reach out to your local office and speak to their HR department to confirm your test details.

Online Testing Material and Content Notes

  • The BCG online test uses one case study
  • There are a series of documents that accompany the case study which you will have access to during the course of the test
  • These documents are a mix of tables, text and, graphs and, contain the information on which the test questions will be based
  • Initially, at the start of the test, you will only get access to one or two of these documents, while the rest will only be accessible as the test progresses
  • There are 45 minutes allocated to complete the 23 test questions

Paper Test Material and Content Notes

  • With the paper test, applicants will be provided a question book and an answer sheet
  • The question book remains the property of BCG and applicants cannot make notes or calculations in the books
  • The test is made up of multiple sections and each section will have a summary description of the case details
  • The paper test has more questions than the online test
  • There are between 3-10 questions for each section
  • There are 50 minutes allocated to answer 53 questions

A calculator illustrating the importance of fast computations

Using A Calculator During Testing

In most instances, candidates were not allowed to use a calculator during testing. The BCG case interview samples also specify that the use of a calculator is not allowed. However, there have been a few reported cases where candidates who have taken the test in Israel and Greece have been allowed to use a calculator. It is advisable that you confirm details such as test the format and the use of a calculator prior to starting with preparation and planning. Speak to your HR connection at BCG and verify the details and information for testing before putting a preparation plan into place

Content and Questions

Questions are grouped into three categories and are made up as follows:


Test Maths Word Problems Logic - Data interpretations Logic - Reading comprehension
Online Version 40% of questions 35% of questions 25%  of questions
Paper Version 45% of questions 35% of questions 20% of questions 

The BCG potential test can still be done on pen and paper

Documents

The test will also include a number of documents which refer to multiple sources of information which are all interrelated. Each of the documents will have information, either in word format, graphs, and charts, or a combination of both. A new document is introduced to the test every few questions. To resolve the questions you will be required to review the document to find the answers.

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You could be required to source the information from a particular document or even a combination of documents. Each question will refer you to the range of documents that will contain the information you will need to answer the questions. This will require you to quickly and efficiently scan the document to find the resources needed to respond to questions. 

Question Categories

As mentioned previously, questions are broken down into three categories. These include:

1. Math Word Problems

Math word problems are the most common type of question for both versions of the BCG Potential Test. These types of questions are not very complicated and use the basic actions of fundamental arithmetic to determine if you can solve the problems using different formats of information such as text, graphs, and tables to calculate the correct answers. The challenge is to quickly and accurately solve the math problems. The most common errors applicants make on these questions is misunderstanding the actual question or misinterpreting the data provided.

2. Data interpretation

Logic questions will ask you to assess different statements and to answer by determining whether the statements are true or false. Although the questions do involve some basic math and calculations, they are designed to test your logic and critical reasoning skills. The challenge with this category of questions is to quickly identify the correct statements based on the factual data available.

3. Reading Comprehension

You will be asked to answer a series of questions based on a paragraph of between 400 to 600 words. The questions will be based on the information in the paragraph. The purpose of this category of questions is to test your ability to be able to quickly read and understand the complicated and lengthy document, similar to what you would encounter as a consultant in the field. With this test, the outcome is based on your interpretation of the text provided.

Scoring System

Firstly, it is important to remember that the scoring system varies between sections. In some cases, you get awarded a point for a correct answer. In other instances, you could be awarded up to 3 points. You could also lose points for choosing the incorrect answer.

You score points for the correct answer, no points are allocated for questions not answered and you can lose marks for choosing the incorrect answer. BCG uses this rule is to deter candidates from randomly picking answers when the time is running out

The best advice regarding these scoring variations is to pay attention at the start of each section on how the scoring will work. This information is specified so it is important that you read it and pay attention to it.

The BCG Potential test could leave you like this puzzled person

Planning For the Test

There are few tips that will assist you while planning and preparing to take the test. These tips include:

  1. Ensure you read questions carefully. First, read the question and then look for the information to answer it. If you have read the question first, you will have a clearer indication as to what you are looking for in the data.
  2. During the test, it is important always to consider the time constraints when answering questions. Being able to quickly scan the information for what you need, as opposed to reading the text, means you can quickly and accurately move through the questions
  3. Take the time to polish up your math skills. There is limited time for you to double-check your calculation. Refreshing your skills and preparing for the test will increase speed and accuracy as well as boost your confidence. Our math package is a good start.
  4. Although you must consider all the documents provided, pay especially close attention to graphs and tables. When answering the questions, start with looking at the graphs and tables before moving onto the text. A lot of information can be accessed quickly and easily from these materials without spending a lot of time reading.
  5. It is important to remember that the answer you choose must be supported by the data that is available. Don't rely on first impressions and simply pick an answer that looks like it could be correct - always make sure there is a solid chain of reasoning linking the initial information and your answer.
  6. Plan your answers. Knowing how you will be answering a question right from the start will help you know what to look for in the documents provided. This will mean that you are purposefully scanning the documents. Knowing what to look for will definitely save you time. 
  7. Think before answering and ensure that your answers are clear and organized. One wrong digit can lead to calculation errors. Keep your answers clear and to the point.
  8. Don't waste time. If you cannot answer a question, skip it and move on to the next one. It is better to be able to come back and review the question you skipped than to run out of time and not get to answer the remaining questions. Work out how much time you will need to answer each question and be disciplined in sticking to it. Do not stall - move on! Things will often be clearer when you come back anyway. If you take the paper version of the Potential Test, wear a watch in case you cannot see a clock clearly.
  9. The key to success in any test is to be prepared. Researching, planning out and thoughtfully prepping yourself for the test will give you the confidence you need to give your best;
  10. Practice makes perfect. Take the time to enhance your fundamental skills, then practice. Practising will also help you identify the skills that you need to work on developing prior to taking the test. 

Additional Preparation Material and Support

Specific preparation material for the BCG Potential Test is rather harder to come by than for it's more famous cousin the McKinsey PST. However, the similarity between those two tests means that you can leverage PST prep material effectively as you get ready for your Potential Test.

Since the BCG Potential Test is designed to assess the same reasoning skills as a case interview, many resources aimed at interview prep will be just as relevant in this context. Even running through case studies in our free case library will be helpful practice in terms of working through tough business problems, however, our Case Academy is the ideal skill-builder. Indeed, as we note in our guide to the PST, to make sure you have enough time, you should ideally have started preparing for case interview before you get as far as screening tests like the Potential Test. Really, since you are sharpening the same skills, it is optimal to prep for both tests and case interviews at the same time - the work you do for each will enhance your performance in the other.

Things to Remember
  • Additional Preparation Material and Support is available. Use these resources to polish your skills and prepare yourself mentally for the testing
  • Practice your skills under timed conditions. This will enable you to simulate the testing requirements and prepare you for the stresses of the actual test
  • Constantly use your practice to determine which skills you need to focus on improving next and pay special attention to those
  • Leave nothing to chance, be prepared, know what to expect and, most importantly, be calm and look at each question with a fresh eye
Why Preparation And Planning Is Important

If you need some motivation to really get started, note that you should be aiming not just to pass, but set yourself apart right at the start of selection with the highest score you can. What you score on the BCG Potential Test is not only used to narrow down your position in the recruiting process, but will also play a critical part in the evaluation process from start to finish. It is crucial to remember that the data collected is used to compare applicants. Your test scores will count as much in the final round of interviews as they did in the first.

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Ready for the case interview?

If you follow the advice here and put in the time and effort to prep effectively, you will be in a great position to pass the BCG Potential test and get invited to case interviews - which means you now need to learn to crack case studies!

At this point, many candidates turn to old-fashioned framework-based systems like Case in Point. These resources sell the idea that one of 10 or 12 generic frameworks will be able to solve any business case thrown at you. However, it doesn't quite work that way in practice.

We can explain why this is so in a few simple points:


  1. The problems you will be given are usually based on real projects your interviewer has worked on recently
  2. Clients only pay to bring in consultants when they cannot solve their business problems by standard methods
  3. Therefore, you cannot expect generic methods to reliably solve interview cases

Frameworks are fundamentally unreliable and diligent, hardworking candidates will often put in many hours learning them perfectly only to be stumped by a case that won't fit into one of their generic schemes.

At MyConsultingCoach, we teach you to tackle each new case on its own merits and to develop bespoke, novel solutions - just like a real consultant. To do this, we ditch the frameworks and teach you our four-step Problem Driven Structure method. In effect, this is a slimmed-down version of the seven-step method McKinsey use on real projects. The result is that you can walk into the interview confident you can handle whatever case is thrown at you.

We introduce our approach to case cracking across the dozens of free articles on this site. Start with our introduction to case interviews and go from there. However, the best place to learn everything you need to crack cases like a pro is our MCC Academy course. There, we give you all the background and theory as well as the time-efficiency and top-down communication skills you need to ace your case interviews. Teaching is delivered via high quality, fully animated videos (with several available to preview here) and is supplemented by exercises to make sure you are ready to make use of the skills you learn.


Find out more in our case interview course

Ditch outdated guides and misleading frameworks and join the MCC Academy, the first comprehensive case interview course that teaches you how consultants approach case studies.


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  • Experienced coaches: they all have extensive training experience (at least 100 case interviews)
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Most of our Coaches are currently based in London and New York, but they come from various countries and worked in offices all over the world.

Cultural differences tend to be more firm-based than geography-based. All consulting firms are truly global: on day 2 you may be sent to a project on the other side of the world. This is why they work hard to standardize their recruiting methods on a global scale. Therefore our advice will equally valuable whether you’re in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia or the U.S.

I've always outsmarted everyone: first class degree, outstanding work experiences...why would I need coaching now?

For at least three reasons:

  • A different game: It's true that you've always outsmarted everyone before. But this is true for almost all applicants to top consulting firms you are in competition with. However this time the stakes are much higher and there is no second chance.
  • A tier game: Getting into top consultancies is not only about being case study Ninjas. It is a blend of hard and soft skills that you can master. We help you on both. Usually if you are good enough to get near the top, you have the potential to make it to the top. And where you start your career will also influence what you will do 10, 20 and 30 years from now.
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I have the PST in 5 days. what is the best method to prepare?

When you do not have much time left we suggest you to:

  • Understand how the test is structured: many people fail the PST simply because they don't know it well. You can find all the details about the PST on our PST Guide. You may want to double check the total time, since most offices will give you 60 minutes but some others 70.
  • Develop a solid answering technique: It is essential for you to acquire an answering technique allowing you to make the best use of the very limited time in the test. Our video and the PST Guide will help you a great deal.
  • Practice smart: We advise you to try the official tests on the McKinsey website (Test A, Test B, and Test C). If you want to boost your chances our best pick is the Test Ready Package above. You will have the chance to practice on three 26-questions full-length sample PSTs. Then, our Performance Radar will help you identify your weaknesses by translating results in your performance across the 6 PST question types. The PST Guide will teach you useful methods on how to tackle each question type and the 60 additional questions will help you master a sound technique for each of them. In other words nothing will be left off the checklist!

P.S. Do check whether the first round of interviews is immediately after the PST or on a different day. In the former case, we strongly advice you to prepare for case interviews. The Beyond Test Ready package also includes 1 hour of case interviews with our Mentors.

Why is the passing rate of the PST so low?

Passing the PST is hard mainly because of the time constraint. If you had 2 hours, you could easily score more than 90% - but you only have 1 hour. It is therefore essential for you to be able to manage time. Please use the video that's on the page.