McKinsey PST Overview

The McKinsey Problem Solving Test (McKinsey PST) is a data interpretation and critical number reasoning test used by McKinsey to select candidates to be admitted to the first round of case interviews.

Five facts about the McKinsey Problem Solving Test (PST)

fact #1: 26 questions, paper and pen

The McKinsey PST is a paper test made up of 26 questions distributed over three business cases. The cases test how you would perform in the different phases of a consulting project: client interaction, problem definition, problem solving, analytical work and implementation.

FACT #2: 60 MINUTES

Simply put: if you had 3 hours to complete the test you would easily score over 80%. Time is the real, big constraint of the PST. And since you will not be able to use any other device beside your brain, it is essential for you to develop the best skill set and test the most effective method. 

FACT #3: MAKE IT OR BREAK IT

No matter how outstanding your Resume is, if you fail the McKinsey PST you will not be invited to the first round of interviews If you pass the PST, McKinsey will use your PST score together with feedback from your interviewers to decide if you are given an offer or not. Unofficial data consistently show that you will need to score at least 70% to pass.

FACT #4: 1 out of 3 makes it

Although your performance does not depends on the performance of other candidates, unofficial surveys tell us that about 1 out of 3 candidates passes the test and progresses to the interview round.

FACT #5: NOT THE GMAT

The GMAT and the PST serve a different purpose. While both test your quantitative and logical skills, McKinsey developed the PST to assess your ability to draw logical, fact-based business conclusions from your analyses.

Why so many candidates fail the PST? 

After all, if succeeding in the test does not depend on the performance of your peers, given the amount of books, guides and mock tests available on the internet, almost everyone should pass the test. However, over 2/3 of candidates still fail the test.

The main reason for failing the PST is the inability to manage time. If you had two hours you'd most likely score ninety percent. But unfortunately your only have half of that time. Most people fail the test for two reasons:

  • They get stuck on an insanely difficult question and don’t have any time left for the easier ones
  • They finish the test without having 4-5 minutes to copy their answers onto the answer sheet at the end

More time in the PST translates to a higher score. If you manage to optimize your time by 10-15 minutes you can easily boost your score by fifteen – twenty percent, an increase which is likely to change the outcome from failure to success.

What kind of questions will you get in the PST?

The test is made up of three business cases of 8-10 questions each, ideally replicating a consulting engagement. As in a real project, in every business case case you'll be presented with data in charts or tables as well as descriptive text. Usually every piece of information is followed by 2-3 questions that refer specifically to the information provided.

Questions can be broken down in 6 types in the PST. While all the questions follow a logical order and are related to a business case, the different question types test different consulting skills.

1. READING FACTS (~35% OF THE PST)

  • Which of the following values is the best estimate of ABC revenue in Year 4? 
  • To the nearest tenth percentage point, what is the difference between Italy’s and Spain’s respective average annual agriculture sector growths due to fertilizing over the last 10 years? 

2. ROOT-CAUSE REASON (~18% OF THE PST)

  • Which of the following reasons, if TRUE, is most likely to be the reason for the drop in house prices in year 2?
  • Which of the following, if true, LEAST explains the data for Slovenia and the Czech Republic in Exhibit 2?

3. FACT-BASED CONCLUSION (~17% OF THE PST)

  • Which of the following is TRUE based on the data presented in Exhibit 1?  
  • Which of the following can be concluded based on the information presented in Exhibit 2 about GDP growth?

4. WORD PROBLEMS (~15% OF THE PST)

  • Assuming that a machine costs $2 m, how many years will be necessary for XYZ to break even
    from its investment?
  • If an average employee is paid 12 hours per month, which of the following formulae accurately calculates the average number of items handled per employee, per month?

5. CLIENT INTERPRETATION (~10% OF THE PST)

  • Which of the following most accurately describes the reason for the team's project?
  • Which of the following best summarizes the CEO’s concerns?

6. FORMULAE (~5% OF THE PST)

  • Which of the following formulae calculates the share of non-performing loans out of total loans?

How to crack the different PST questions?

The My Consulting Coach PST Guide will provide you with a simple, proven technique to solve each PST question. each section will include:

  • Description of the question type
  • Examples
  • Detailed method explanation
  • Tips & Tricks

DOWNLOAD A SAMPLE CHAPTER FOR FREE

DOWNLOAD THE CHAPTER OF OUR PST GUIDE ON HOW TO SOLVE READING FACTS QUESTIONS

How can you get ready?

Three highly effective habits of successful candidates:


  1. Allocating time among questions in the smartest possible way
  2. Adopting a proven and effective method to approach the test, understanding in depth each question type
  3. Practising the test, keeping track of your mistakes and progress

Discover our preparation programmes to learn a structured approach for each question type and practice realistic, challenging tests

TAKE OUR TEST FOR FREE

WE DEVELOPED A SAMPLE, 10-QUESTIONS FREE TEST.  WE SUGGEST YOU PRINT OUT THE TEST AND DO IT ON PAPER TO REPLICATE THE REAL TEST ENVIRONMENT. YOU CAN FIND IT HERE