What You Need to Know About the New McKinsey Digital Assessment

  • Last Updated August, 2020
McKinsey video game assessment tool developed with Imbellus
Photo credit: McKinsey & Company

If you’re planning to interview with McKinsey, you just might find yourself playing a video game as part of your recruiting process. McKinsey has created a new recruiting tool—a “digital gamified assessment.”

What is a digital gamified assessment and how should you prepare for it? If you want to know, read on!

In this article, we’ll give you an overview of the new McKinsey digital assessment tool, look at what skills and capabilities it’s measuring, provide tips on taking the digital assessment, and tell you what we know about the roll-out plans.

If this is your first visit to MCO – head to Case Interview Preparation for an intro to the management consulting interview process.

Let’s get started!

Why Did McKinsey Create the New Digital Assessment Tool?

The purpose of the new McKinsey digital assessment, like a case study, is to assess how a candidate approaches problems. Consulting firms are all about finding and hiring the best talent to help solve their clients’ business problems. 

McKinsey developed the new tool in conjunction with leading psychologists and game-design experts at Imbellus to take its assessment of candidates’ problem-solving to the next level. The first benefit of the new tool is that the game design “lets you demonstrate how you think and approach problems regardless of your background” according to this McKinsey video.

It reduces bias in the recruiting process, identifying candidates who can best solve the problems presented in the test regardless of their background.

Advantages of the McKinsey Problem Solving Game for Assessing Candidates

The McKinsey problem solving game doesn’t just look at the answers a candidate provides, but also the process by which they chose that answer. It can see the path the candidate took through the game and the information he or she accessed in order to make their decision.

In this way, the video game assessment goes beyond the capabilities of the problem solving test (PST) which is currently used as part of the screening process. The McKinsey PST lets recruiters only see answers, not how they were arrived at. Because the PST is a multiple-choice test, results also have some measure of luck.

The insight to the candidates’ thinking process make some people wonder whether the Imbellus McKinsey digital assessment tool might, in fact, become a replacement for the PST at some point in the future.

The new digital assessment will also make it easier for McKinsey to reach more candidates. It can be used to screen applicants who don’t attend the schools where McKinsey consultants conduct on-campus interviews. It will eventually be used to recruit people from parts of the world where McKinsey can’t currently recruit in person.

Beyond this, McKinsey wants to make the recruiting process more engaging and less stressful. McKinsey says, “The recruiting process should [be] an approachable, interactive, and engaging process where both candidates and McKinsey can demonstrate what makes us unique.”

How Is the Digital Assessment Different from McKinsey Case Interviews or PEIs?

The video game assessment begins with the following prompt:

“Imagine yourself in a beautiful, serene forest populated by many kinds of wildlife. As you take in the flora and fauna, you learn about an urgent matter demanding your attention: the animals are quickly succumbing to an unknown illness. It’s up to you to figure out what to do—and then act quickly to protect what you can.”

The McKinsey problem solving game leads candidates through four distinct tasks, each of which presents different challenges. These  include:

  • Understanding the nature of a disease affecting an environment’s wildlife and create an action plan for limiting its impact,
  • Selecting a new ecosystem for the wildlife,
  • Populating the new ecosystem with flora and fauna, and
  • Determining how to make the new ecosystem sustainable.

Working through each of these tasks takes the candidate through the life-cycle of a case, from understanding the problem to be solved, to collecting then analyzing data, to making a decision with limited time and imperfect information, and then recommending a solution.

Instructions are provided in advance of starting the game. They are long and include a lot of statistics.  But the time you spend on the instructions are not timed, so spend as long as you need to ensure you understand your task.

Once you begin the game, you have 60 minutes to complete it. 

No advanced preparation for the test is required. Neither business knowledge nor gaming experience is required. The game provides all the information candidates need.

“The choices you make and the path you take to reach your answer inform McKinsey about how you think,” according to the firm.

Of course, this does not mean that you should give up on your case study interview preparation. If you’re invited to take the digital assessment and pass it you’ll be moving on to traditional case study and personal experience interviews.

What Does the New McKinsey Digital Assessment Measure?

The video game assessment tool tests 5 cognitive skills:

  1. Critical thinking: the ability to make thoughtful decisions based on data.
  2. Decision making: the ability to make the best possible decision with limited time and imperfect information.
  3. Metacognition: The ability to use strategies such as hypothesis-testing to problem solve effectively.
  4. Situational awareness: the ability to perceive what’s going on in a complex environment, what it means, and to make projections.
  5. Systems thinking: the ability to understand multi-factor cause-and-effect relationships.
McKinsey Digital Assessment
Photo credit: McKinsey & Company

What Will You Be Asked to Do When You Take the McKinsey Digital Assessment?

The assessment generates new, unique scenarios for each candidate, but 4 types of problems are consistent across different test scenarios.

Respond to a Natural Disaster

Use data provided to determine what the nature of the disaster is and how to respond.

Create a New Ecosystem

Choose the optimal placement for a new ecosystem based on the requirements of the wildlife that will live in it. Select the combination of plants and animals to place in the environment.

Respond to a Disease Affecting the Wildlife

Assess what disease is affecting wildlife by evaluating data provided. Determine the best response to the disease and implement your remediation plan.

Respond to an Invasive Species Which Threatens Native Wildlife

Identify a threat from an invasive species and determine the best terraforming operations to slow or stop the invasive species and preserve native wildlife.

When Will the McKinsey Video Game Assessment Tool Be Rolled Out?

The McKinsey digital assessment tool has already been tested by both recruiting candidates and by McKinsey’s 2019 summer interns. It was used in multiple regions in the U.S. during last year’s recruiting season. 

Initially, test results were used to determine whether the problem solving game accurately predicted whether a candidate should advance in the recruiting process or not. It was not used to assess candidates. 

But that’s changing.

As of winter 2019, the Imbellus McKinsey digital assessment was used to make decisions about who would move on in the recruiting process in some regions. The firm rolled it out to additional regions during the fall 2019  recruiting season.

Now, MBA and Ph.D. candidates applying for summer internships are being asked to take the assessment; this includes current MBA Emerging scholars who were previously awarded the honor and a screening pass straight to offer round interviews.

Originally, the digital assessment was only able to be used on McKinsey computers for security and anti-cheating reasons. The company has been working to make it more broadly accessible. A limited portion of the test can be taken remotely as of this Summer. A broader version of the digital assessment will be available for the 2020-2021 recruiting season.

Since one of the main benefits of the digital assessment is its ability to screen applicants in places were McKinsey doesn’t currently conduct interviews, applicants from non-core schools are almost certain to see it. It will likely be rolled out to core schools as well.

Tips on Excelling at the McKinsey Digital Assessment

  1. Understand the 5 cognitive skills being tested (listed above). They will help you focus on the right things during the assessment.
  2. Read the instructions carefully. This is no simple game. The amount of data you’ll be given may feel overwhelming. But the 60 minutes time limit for the game doesn’t start until after you finish reading the instructions, so make sure you understand the data before you begin the game.
  3. Make sure you understand the objectives of each task. You need to have a plan for how to “win” at each task before you start it in order to make effective choices.
  4. Don’t get lost in the details. There is a lot of data provided in the assessment. Keep your focus on the big picture to ensure you don’t get lost in the details.
  5. Keep track of your time. You have 4 tasks to complete in 60 minutes. The first task is meant to take longer than the others, but make sure you are aware of how much time you have remaining so you don’t run out.

How Should Candidates Prepare for the New Digital Assessment Tool?

McKinsey says that no additional preparation is required to take the new assessment. There’s a tutorial at the beginning of each of the prompts that will tell you what you need to know.

With that said, having a general sense of what to expect will help candidates perform their best. Take a look at the resources provided below.

When you take the digital assessment, relax and let yourself absorb the game world, the information you’re provided and the problem that you’re asked to solve. You are allowed to take notes during the assessment and the notes will not be used for evaluation purposes, so bring a pen and paper.

Links to Additional Resources on the New McKinsey Digital Assessment

For a video introduction to the digital assessment tool, you can watch this video.

For more information about the new tool, read this article.

And if you really want to geek out, there’s this abstract.

On this page, we’ve covered what the new McKinsey Digital Assessment is, what it measures and what we know about its rollout for this recruiting season. We’ve also provided links to more resources to help you prepare.

Still have questions about the McKinsey Digital Assessment?

If you have further questions on the new McKinsey Digital Assessment, leave them in the comments below. We’ll have one of MyConsultingOffer.org’s  coaches provide more information.

Also, let us know if you’re asked to take the digital assessment. We’d love to know what you think of it! 

People who are interested in the McKinsey digital assessment typically find the following other My Consulting Offer pages helpful:

Help with the McKinsey Digital Assessment

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