What You Need to Know About the New McKinsey Digital Assessment

McKinsey video game assessment tool developed with Imbellus

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?

In this article, we’ll:

      • Provide an overview of the new McKinsey digital assessment,
      • Look at what skills and capabilities it measures,
      • Provide tips on taking the digital assessment, and
      • Tell you what we know about the roll-out plans.

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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 problem solving game in conjunction with leading psychologists and game-design experts at Imbellus with the goal of taking its assessment of candidates’ problem-solving to the next level.

Its benefits include:

  1. Reduced bias in the recruiting process. The test identifies candidates who can best solve the problems regardless of their background. It also eliminates the advantage some candidates had on the McKinsey PST by having more resources to prepare.
  2. Identification of candidates who perform well in interviews. High scores on the McKinsey digital assessment correlate with an increased likelihood of passing in-person consulting case interviews.
  3. Efficient pre-screening of candidates. McKinsey wants to expand its consultant hiring pool beyond the core schools it has traditionally recruited at. This online game gives McKinsey the geographic reach to consider candidates just about anywhere in the world.
  4. A more interesting and less stressful recruiting process. The game is fun and engaging and no advanced preparation is necessary.

Advantages of the McKinsey Problem Solving Game Over the McKinsey PST

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

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

What Does the McKinsey Digital Assessment Look Like?

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 has 4 possible scenarios. Candidates will have 60 minutes to solve tasks in 2 of the scenarios. The scenarios are:

  • Scenario 1: Ecosystem Creation. Create a stable ecosystem and populate it with plants and animals.
  • Scenario 2: Organism Protection. Protect a native plant from an invasive species.
  • Scenario 3: Disaster Management. Identify a natural disaster based on environmental symptoms and protect the animal population.
  • Scenario 4: Disease Management. Identify a disease affecting an ecosystem based on symptoms affecting the animals and recommend a treatment plan.

Working through each of these scenarios 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.

 

Scenario 1: Ecosystem Creation

Task: Create a stable ecosystem. It could be marine-based or terrestrial.

    • Choose a location on the map based on its conditions (temperature, depth, currents, salinity, etc.)
    • Select 8 species to place in the ecosystem based on their requirements (the species’ diets, how many calories they require, how many calories they provide when eaten, etc.)
    • Optimize the chance of the ecosystem’s survival.

Scenario 2: Organism Protection

Task: Protect a native plant against an invader species for a specified number of turns by using either predators or barriers. 

    • Choose predators to attack the invader species based on the amount of damage they do and their range of attack or
    • Erect geographic barriers based on their ability to slow or divert the invader species.
    • The invader species will disappear then its health reaches zero.
    • Ensure the native species survives the specified number of turns.

 Scenario 3: Disaster Management

Task: Identify the natural disaster such as a tsunami or volcanic eruption which has hit the ecosystem and help the animals survive the disaster.

    • Use environmental data (temperature, atmospheric pressure, rain, etc.) to identify the type of disaster that has occurred.
    • Find an alternative location for the animals where they are most likely to survive and move them.

Scenario 4: Disease Management

Task: Identify a disease affecting the animals and recommend a course of treatment.

    • Identify the disease based on symptoms affecting the animals.
    • Select a treatment based on the characteristics of the disease, the animal population, and treatment options.
    • Optimize for the animals’ survival.

Instructions, Timing, & Preparation for the McKinsey Digital Assessment

 

A tutorial is provided before each scenario. The time you spend on the tutorials is not timed, so spend as long as you need to ensure you understand your task and the data provided.

The tutorial provides suggestions for how long to spend on each task, but you have the flexibility to manage your own time. Tasks in the 1st scenario typically take longer than tasks in the 2nd scenario, so take that into account as you plan your time.

Imbellus has stated that they did not design the test to create a time constraint. Some people report having time left over at the end of the 60 minutes. Others feel pressed for time at the end.

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

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

Do All Candidates Take the McKinsey Digital Assessment?

The McKinsey digital assessment tool was used in multiple regions in the U.S. during the last 2 recruiting seasons. Candidates from both undergraduate and graduate-level programs are being asked to take it, as are experienced-hire candidates.

Since one of the main benefits of the digital assessment is its ability to screen applicants in places where 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, and to other regions globally.

8 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. Take time to understand the instructions. 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 the tutorial 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. Prioritize and 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. Test your ideas and take notes on outcomes. Some questions ask you to assess different strategies. Testing ideas and adapting will help you answer these questions and develop a fact base for making good decisions.
  6. Make decisions with limited information. You will not have every piece of information you’d like or the time to make perfect decisions. Make the best decisions with the time and information you have. This reflects trade-offs consultants need to make on the job.
  7. Don’t replicate the solutions of other test-takers. The McKinsey problem solving game creates unique scenarios for each test taker so that no one can cheat the test.
  8. Keep track of your time. It is more important to complete all the tasks in the allotted 60 minutes than to do marginally better on the first tasks but not complete the last ones. 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. 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

Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on case study interview prep. My Consulting Offer has helped almost 85% of the people we’ve worked with get a job in management consulting.  For example, here is how Tanya passed all her McKinsey assessments on the way to an offer..