What is the McKinsey Problem Solving Game?
The McKinsey Problem Solving Game (PSG) is a psychometric tool used by recruiters to identify which candidates in their applicant pool demonstrate the aptitudes and skills needed for success in a role at McKinsey.
The test created by the organization Imbellius is also known as the McKinsey Digital Assessment or Solve and is a gamified assessment evaluating candidates in five areas:
Situational awareness: an appreciation of what is happening around you and the multiple tasks you need to complete.
Meta Cognition: an awareness of your mental capabilities and thought process.
Critical Thinking: analyzing and evaluating a problem to reach a logical and reasoned conclusion.
Systems Thinking: being able to determine the cause of an issue and provide a relevant solution.
Decision-making: having the aptitude to come to a conclusion based only on the information given.
The McKinsey PSG differs from other tests in that it is a gamified assessment comprising mini-games. The mini-game format provides a more engaging experience for the test taker as they are guided through a series of two to three scenarios as part of the game.
There are five mini-games within the McKinsey PSG. Candidates generally have to complete only two of the mini-games; the most common games given to candidates last around 70 minutes. The other three mini-games last between 60 - 80 minutes.
Each test starts with a short tutorial followed by game scenarios for the candidate to complete. The results of the test are given as two scores.
Process score: calculated by tracking mouse clicks and movement to determine an individual's thought process when completing a task.
Product score: number of correct answers.
Types of McKinsey Problem Solving Games
The most commonly used problem solving game is Ecosystem Building, followed by Plant Defense. Each game comprises a series of scenarios that candidates work through.
While the test has an overall time allocation, candidates must manage their time in each section, ensuring they provide structured and reasoned responses. The exact details and criteria of each game are randomized for every candidate to protect the integrity of the game.
The Ecosystem Building is an assessment of an individual's decision-making ability.
Candidates are given several pieces of information to consider, some of which will be irrelevant to the criteria asked. So, they must carefully review the details and then analyze, calculate, evaluate and synthesize the information to achieve the game’s objective - building an ecosystem where species can survive.
The game sets candidates in either a coral reef or a mountain ridge. They need to select a suitable site to build an ecosystem that will support eight species.
From a list of 39 species, candidates need to select the eight that their ecosystem will support according to the following criteria:
Calories: the species selected must be able to feed and gain adequate nutrition to live
Food chain: consideration must be given when selecting species to ensure that the food chain is preserved and no species becomes extinct
Terrain: All species selected must be able to live comfortably on the selected site.
The challenge with the Ecosystem Building game is the vast amount of information and the ability to make quick calculations when analyzing the data.
The Plant Defense game evaluates individuals’ on their ability to make logical and reasoned decisions. Candidates are given limited information and deal with unexpected occurrences as they progress through the game, ensuring they meet two clear objectives.
Their objective is to protect a plant species, ensuring that it survives when under attack from various invaders, and to keep the plant alive for as long as possible.
Individuals must consider the types of invaders (fox and groundhog) and the defenders (falcon, wolf, python, coyote, and bobcat). They also need to take into account the different types of terrain on each map (rocky, cliff, and forest), considering how this impacts each invader's speed and ensuring the guidelines are met for different types of terrain.
There are three map scenarios within the mini-game, with each map being split into two phases: planning and fast forward.
Each mini-map game takes around 12 minutes, resulting in an approximate time duration of 36 minutes for the Plant Defense game. The time available depends on the time taken to complete the Eco Building game, meaning that time management is a key factor.
The Disease Diagnosis mini-game requires individuals to determine the similarities and links between diseases in an ecosystem to determine who or what is likely to be infected.
Information is given on the different species in the ecosystem. Using only the information provided, candidates can then solve the problem and reach the correct conclusion.
In the Disaster Management mini-game, candidates are placed in an ecosystem that has been subject to a natural disaster.
The task is to determine what kind of natural disaster has occurred in the ecosystem, then find a suitable site to relocate the species to ensure their survival.
Candidates evaluate and analyze the information provided using appropriate calculations to make their decision.
The Migration Management is a puzzle-type game that requires candidates to migrate 50 animals, ensuring they reach their destination. Guidelines are given, such as minimizing the number of animals injured and making the best use of the resources provided.
Tips to prepare for the McKinsey Problem Solving Game
While the McKinsey Problem Solving Game evaluates individuals on their inherent aptitudes, there are many things you can do to help your natural abilities shine through.
Here are five tips to help you perform to the best of your abilities if you are invited to sit the McKinsey PSG.
1. Focus on the information provided
The McKinsey PSG mini-games are designed to evaluate your decision-making skills. In the games, you are presented with several pieces of information, some of which may not be relevant to the situation.
When making your decisions ensure you base your decisions only on the information given rather than making assumptions.
2. Hone your abilities
The Ecosystem Building game requires candidates to perform quick calculations to analyze various pieces of information.
Before taking the test, hone your numerical reasoning abilities. Make sure to refresh your memory on basic maths concepts and principles such as ratios or percentages.
3. Consider the role of a Consultant
Be aware of the role of a consultant and what consultants do when solving business cases. Thinking like a consultant when it comes to analyzing, evaluating and synthesizing solutions will help your decision-making and problem-solving abilities shine through.
The McKinsey PSG game assesses these skills as relevant to a McKinsey consultant. Approaching the mini-games with this in mind shows your suitability for the role based on your skills.
4. Recognize irrelevant information
Recognizing which information is relevant to the problem will aid your decision-making. Eliminate irrelevant information and focus only on the pieces of data that you need.
This approach can make things less overwhelming and ensures you don’t become distracted by the volume of information provided.
5. Keep calm
The McKinsey PSG is a gamified assessment designed to be engaging and assess candidates on their thought processes in reaching logical and reasonable decisions.
Even if you are nervous before taking the assessment, stay calm, focus on each element of the mini-game and ensure you manage your time efficiently.
Practice strategies, such as deep breathing so you have a clear head, and can rationally think through your decisions.