How to Prepare - McKinsey PST


For more updated resources, feel free to visit our new version of the McKinsey PST Prep material!

The perfect plan to study for the challenging McKinsey PST (and other paper-based analytical exams) is a 3-steps approach!

Step 1: Understand the test
We have been talking nothing but high-level content. But without intensively breaking the test down to each unique question type and learning specific technique at the granular level, it's really hard to best prepare you for the challenging test.

Step 2: Practice the test. 
Once you can comfortably solve those McKinsey PST questions with time, let's push you with time and real-life testing environment.

Step 3: Tighten the skills. 
Sealing the deal with the total revamp of skills needed for the test. 


Understand the test

We have spent months going over and over the McKinsey official practice exams and got the understanding level no where else could have. A good news is that 26 questions look like a lot but all of them can be perfectly classified into just several types of question. Moreover, all questions in each type almost follow the same structure and require the same technique. WeI will show you those specific technique needed for each type of question one-by-one. 

The goal is that at the end of this, you will feel perfectly comfortable solving any McKinsey PST question.

Now let me show you the ultimate McKinsey PST questions classification along with their appearance frequency. Click on each question type for description, example, technique, and practice questions!

NOTICE: Many free PST questions and in-depth materials enclosed!

  • Client Interpretation -         8%
    Which of the following best summarizes the CEO's concerns? ...

  • Reading Facts -                 38%
    Which of the following values is the best estimate of ABC revenue in Year 4?

  • Root-cause Reason -         13%
    Which of the following reasons, if TRUE, would best explain the increasing trend in X, Y, Z?

  • Fact-based Conclusion -    14%
    Which of the following is TRUE based on the data presented in Exhibit 2?

  • Information required -        5%
    Which of the following would be MOST helpful for the McKinsey team to ...?

  • Solution -                            5%
    Which of the following courses of action would you recommend to the marketing and promotions department head of ABC?

  • Formulae -                          5%
    Which of the following formulae calculates the dollar value of good produced by ABC?

  • Word Problems -               12%
    Assuming a machine lasts for five years, the center open 5 days per week all year, what minimum volume of maintenance supply ... ?

How about the BCG Potential Test?

Unlike McKinsey, BCG only offers 4 questions in its public example case. 4 questions is a too small sample size to conclude anything on its question distribution. However, it worth noticing that all 4 of those questions are in the Reading Facts category! So do expect to see that type of questions a lot in your real BCG Potential Test.

In term of difficulty, my take based on that 4 practice questions is: same with its brother, the McKinsey PST.


Practice the test
PST is Coming?
Get Practice McKinsey PST that nowhere else has!


Now that you can comfortably answering and understanding all McKinsey PST questions. It's time to bring the time factor in. 9 out of 10 candidates took the test said that the actual PST is much harder because it is timed. Now let's bring your preparation to the next level: doing PST in the real testing environment.

So how do you create the real testing environment?
  1. Time yourselves! It is tempting to go over the allowed time when you practice at home. Push yourselves! 
  2. Use no calculator! Time to work out your calculation muscle!
  3. Print the practice test out and pencil it! It is very much different doing the test on the screen vs. pencilling it on paper. You don't wanna do the non-real way.
  4. Mentally take it seriously! I have candidates told me that they still found the real McKinsey PST much more stressful despite applying all of the three above. To best prepare for that, you have to mentally take the practice as if it is real. Pressure yourselves, take pride in it. Have the mindset that if you don't get 70 - 75% on this practice, you are out! While this is not true (since you are only practicing), it helps you get mentally ready when the real one comes.

Here are all free practice tests available to you online, ranked by level of McKinsey-PST like.
  1. McKinsey Official Practice PST (from McKinsey Website)

  2. TOYO Practice case (from MConsultingPrep)

  3. McKinsey Practice PST – 2001 Version 

  4. BCG Potential Test (similar to McKinsey PST)

  5. Sample PST Test from 20/20 (Consulting Firm Started by Ex-McKinsey Consultants)

  6. Practice case from Consulting Guru

  7. Monitor Group's PST-like case


Tighten the skills

Unlike GMAT or GRE where the supply of practice materials is always there, those of McKinsey PST is much more limited. You will go through all of those practice test above very quickly. 

What left are the skills to perform on McKinsey PST! Three most important skills are: (1) Quantitative proficiency, (2) Reading, and (3) Reasoning.

Quantitative Proficiency

If you notice on the question classification above, almost 40% of questions on the McKinsey PST require you nothing but plain calculations on data/ chart presented. No logic, no reasoning, no synthesizing ... needed. It will be a huge plus for you being able to burst through these question fast, leaving the valuable time to think through those harder ones.

We a full detailed article on Consulting Math with many valuable practice resources. Make sure you spend a significant time going through them.


Reading

In additional to the heavy load of calculations, you will also deal with the big chuck of reading in your McKinsey PST. The ability to read fast while still catching important messages will save you valuable time to spend on questions.

Coming soon: How do I read my McKinsey PST? 
This tool will show you how I prioritize and sequence my reading of texts in an official McKinsey Practice PST. What to notice and circle. What to skip. What to set aside and refer back later...

Practice reading

1.       Get annual reports of companies of a wide variety of industries, including those you are not familiar with. Try to read through the materials as fast as possible while catching important messages.

2.       Refer to case studies you have from school and practice reading them. Most case studies will do. Those generally have the similar type of reading with the McKinsey PST (i.e: case introduction, company facts, data, etc.)


Reasoning

Lastly, consulting is the exercise of logic and reasoning. The PST does its job: test your sense of logic and reasoning. 

If you have not carefully gone through my materials above (i.e: "Understand the Test"), I urge you to do so. There is a lot of in-depth content and practice on logic and reasoning.

Further Practice:

Question on Data Sufficiency - (from CaseInterview.com)
Question on Data Sufficiency – Answer Guide (from CaseInterview.com)