McKinsey & Company now requires that non-MBA graduate candidates take a written test called the McKPST – McKinsey Problem Solving Test. “The test is testing problem solving in a written format; folks will be surprised that the straight “quant” questions are the minority. It’s not like a GRE quant test,” explains a senior McKinsey recruiter.
“The bulk of it involves making judgment calls/recommendations based on information available to you at that point,” the recruiter explains. “The exercise is supposed to feel like a case interview, but with multiple choice responses.”
The McKPST contains 26 questions and you get an hour to complete it. Candidates receive a bit more information about the business, the environment and the problem with each question.
Students can’t bring in calculators or scratch paper. The test was developed internally by McKinsey and validated by Applied Psychological Techniques Inc. (APT). “It was fun, now that it’s over,” recants a non-MBA Harvard graduate student. “There are some ratios and percentages, a couple formulas, but nothing too overwhelming. Also a few charts are used to present some of the information, but again fairly basic, in my opinion.”
A McKinsey recruiter states “You need to be comfortable with calculating some percentages, basic equations, understanding relationships among data, but nothing terribly advanced.”
Some international offices have a math section that one student says is more like the GMAT than the GRE. You have 18 questions and get 30 minutes to complete it. “You start with probability and it gets harder from there,” recounts a Harvard graduate student.
The McKinsey recruiter explains, “The resulting score is used as one more ‘data point’ on problem solving for the interviewers to refer to if they have concerns or opposing reads. There is no magic or required score, and performance in the face-to-face interviews is of greater importance to us.”
You will see a number of graphs, charts and tables that you must analyze in order to answer the questions. There have been many reports that the 2006 test is tougher than last year’s test.
Written Cases – Monitor and Parthenon
Over the last couple of years we have seen more and more firms turn to written cases, particularly in the second and third rounds. Monitor Group was the first to pioneer the written case. Since then they have added a few twists.
You arrive for the interview and are handed a written case (usually about 5 pages; three pages of text and two pages of charts).You are given twenty to thirty minutes to read and take notes. When the time is up, a consultant comes in and you are expected to “present” the case, much like in a Harvard Business School class. More often then not it turns into a discussion. Chances are you will be touching on all the same points as you would if given a verbal case.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. Sometimes when you have finished reading the case you are taken into a room where you’ll meet two to three other candidates (you all have read the same case and are applying for the same position). Again, you are expected to “present” the case.
The consultants watch closely to see how you interact with the other candidates. Are you dominating the discussion? Are you sitting back and being dominated by others? Or are you building on what the other candidates say in a positive and civil manner. The Monitor consultants look to see how you interact with your peers. Are you a team player? Do you play well with others? Can you hold your own?
This is taking the brilliance of case questions as an interviewing tool one step further.
There could be one last twist. Sometimes when you arrive you are joined by two or three other candidates in a small conference room. You are all given the same case and asked to present it in twenty minutes. A Monitor consultant stays in the conference room with you to monitor the group’s interaction and dynamics while accessing the leadership skills of all the candidates.
When your team is ready to present, two other consultants join in and your “team” presents the case. Now one, two or all three of the candidates might be called back for the next round. While you act as part of a team during presentation of the case, you are all judged individually.