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Has anyone tried the new McKinsey Imbellus Problem Solving Game? Any tips / lessons learnt?

digital assessment Imbellus Interview McKinsey McKinsey McKinsey Imbellus McKinsey problem solving game Online Tests PST test
Neue Antwort am 16. Mai 2024
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Lidia fragte am 13. März 2020
Also prepping for McKinsey Problem Solving Game. Any tips are welcomed.

Hello community,

I will be soon taking the new McKinsey Imbellus Problem Solving Game.

Has anyone on this platform gone through this same testing? If so, could you please provide any raccomandations/ tricks to keep in mind during the assesment?

Thank you in advance!


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Content Creator
antwortete am 7. Juni 2020
Ex-McKinsey EM | Experienced interview coach (1,000+ sessions) | Discount on 1st session | LBS MBA

Hi Lidia,

Imbellus’ psychologists designed the game to evaluate candidates across five cognitive abilities:

  • Critical thinking: forming a judgment based on a set of data
  • Decision making: selecting the best course of action under time constraints
  • Meta-cognition: planning and monitoring own learning and performance
  • Situational awareness: forecasting outcomes based on the relationship between multiple variables
  • Systems thinking: understanding cause and effect relationships

McKinsey says that the game tracks every move of the mouse, hesitation, and time spent on every action. It then uses data science to score the candidate across the five abilities.

How does it work?

The assessment consists of two scenarios, each taking approximately 30 minutes, with the second scenario broken into three parts. While the time limits are recommended, it has been reported that candidates who spend more time in the first scenario, have less time for the second one.

1. Ecosystem Management: candidates are expected to create a sustainable ecosystem either on a mountain ridge or a coral reef. The first step is to select the best location based on a range of attributes, such as wind speed, pH of the soil, and temperature; next choose 8 species of animals and plants from a selection of 40 based on a range of characteristics, such as number of calories needed to survive and ideal environment.

The most complex part is matching the animals to each other by calculating the number of calories they need to consume vs the number of calories they offer when consumed. Working down the food chain, starting from the predators can simplify the task.

McKinsey Imbellus Problem Solving Game

2. Protect the Plant: candidates need to protect a plant from invading species through six rounds of play, using the provided tools, such as predators and terrain barriers, to stop or slow them down.

One of the challenges is deploying the majority of tools before knowing where the invasion will start or what the effect of the measures will be on the invaders. The key is to experiment, carefully record the results, and leverage the learnings in subsequent rounds.

How to succeed?

No-one really knows how to “win” in the game just yet, but one thing not to do, is to try and replicate the actions of someone who has taken the assessment before. The game has enough variability to prevent any attempt of cheating. Every user sees a unique version of the scenarios.

It is especially important to read the instructions carefully and take the time in the tutorials. There are a lot of details that can feel overwhelming. Think 80/20 and get comfortable with making decisions in conditions of ambiguity, and partial information, while always rooting the decisions in the facts.

How to prepare?

One of the reasons for switching to Imbellus is that candidates can prepare for the PST. Multiple previous and mock tests available online can get you in order for the old 1 hour, 26 questions test. McKinsey found a strong bias towards applicants with the time and resources to purchase mock tests and practice for the PST.

The Digital Assessment is meant to be a novel scenario for applicants, which is still evolving and changing between recruitment cycles. In theory, the game should prevent candidates with exact sciences background from having an advantage. Instead, it tests logic, decision-making, and clarity of thought.

If you are into video games, you are in luck! If not, it might be a time to start. Candidates report that the Imbellus assessment reminds them of the popular category of “tower defense” games, in particular, Kingdom Rush and Planet Zoo. Worst case, this is another, potentially useful way to spend time during the quarantine.

Please get in touch if you'd like to discuss in more detail.

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Originally answered question:

Imbellus test McKinsey

Content Creator
bearbeitete eine Antwort am 22. Sept. 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ interviewoffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

This is probably too late for you, but hopefully useful for someone else.

I did an in-depth study on the Imbellus. Most of the comments I found online are something like this:

  • You cannot prepare – it tests who you are
  • Play a lot of videogames
  • Don’t waste time
  • Be yourself
  • Be 80-20
  • Take notes well
  • Enjoy yourself

Not sure what you think, but I don’t believe that’s very useful. Nor did the several people I coached who had to do the test.

So I worked hard with the candidates that actually did the test and created a guide with everything you need to know on the Imbellus.

This guide will:

  • Show you the perfect strategy for each of the 4 Game Scenarios
  • Explain every single part of the Game with ad-hoc pictures
  • Detail the exact steps to improve in the 5 Skills tested in the game
  • Provide you insider information from previous applicants who succeeded in the game
  • Reveal the must-know answers to the most common questions on the Imbellus
  • Offer you a ready-to-use Excel template to maximize results in Scenario 1 with a detailed tutorial
  • Give you a proven template to build the food chain in Scenario 1

This guide will cover every single part of the Game, so you can be 100% confident the day of the assessment, without worrying “I should have prepared better for this”. You won’t need any additional material to prepare after it.

You can download the guide instantly here:


McKinsey Imbellus Guide

As an extra bonus, I am offering for a limited time the Consulting Industry Cheat Sheet (worth $29) for free with the guide. You will get access to key insights of the 17 most common industries in case interviews.

If you need additional support or have any questions on the guide please feel free to PM me, I am happy to provide extra tips for free.




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Anonym I am 23. Sept. 2020

Is it possible to convert this bonus for the total guide price? The exchange rate for the BRL currency is high


Francesco am 23. Sept. 2020

Hi there, thanks for your comment, unfortunately that’s not possible. If you need anything else, please feel free to PM me. Best

Originally answered question:

Imbellus test McKinsey

Content Creator
antwortete am 9. Jan. 2020
McKinsey | NASA | top 10 FT MBA professor for consulting interviews | 6+ years of coaching

it's a gamified test for which different environments are been developed. It's pretty easy and no preparation is needed: only pay attention to time and instructions. It's usually divided into 2 games and you have 1h to complete both of them (you can decide when passing to the next game).
- In the first one you are going to create a balanced ecosystem based on the rules of the environment you choose (e.g. in a mountain scenario you fix a point with certain values of elevation, humidity, wind, ... and then you have to choose animals and plants that can survive each other and in the environment).
- In the second game, you have to defend an object (usually a plant) from the enemies (usually rodents) with the help of slowers (barriers) or killers (predators). I developed some good strategies to handle it, feel free to text me.

Hope it helps,

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Anonym H am 12. Mai 2020

Hi Antonello. Super-useful thread, one additional question: Is it a go/no-go step in the application process or does it just give an additional indication for the selection?

Philip am 15. Okt. 2021

Hi, Thanks for the insight, Can you please share your strategies? Regards,

Anonym antwortete am 16. Juni 2020


Whilst you don't have to be a gamer to perform well, the game will certainly test your problem solving ability and your ability to navigate in challenging circumstances.

Which skills are tested?

The game records all of the candidate’s actions (e.g., every movement of the mouse, time spent to choose an action) and uses machine learning to assess candidates’ way of thinking. It’s as much about how close candidates come to the best solution as about how they tackle the problem through. During the game McK assesses 5 cognitive abilities that are critical for a career in consulting:

  • Critical thinking: the ability analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment
  • Decision making: the ability to select the best course of action among several options
  • Self-awareness: the ability to self-assess
  • Situational awareness: the ability to be fully aware of your surroundings at all times, allowing you to react effectively
  • Systematic thinking: the ability to understand different parts of a system and how they work together through cause/ effect relationships

How to cultivate these skills?

Let’s break down each skillset and find ways to improve.

Critical thinking could be broken down into the following subskills:

  • Think about a topic in an objective and critical way
  • Identify the connections between ideas and working out whether the evidence provided supports those ideas or not
  • Evaluate a point of view to determine how strong or valid it is
  • Recognize any weaknesses that there are in the evidence or argument
  • Notice what implications there might be behind a statement
  • Provide structured reasoning and support for an argument that we wish to make

In order to improve your critical thinking I would suggest using mind mapping technique. It exploits the fact that our brains process information visually much more effectively than they do when it’s presented in a written document.

The idea behind mind mapping is that you start with a central theme or idea, typically drawn in a box in the middle of the page, and then from that you create branches, which lead to other ideas, or to supporting evidence or ancillary information.

Decision making could be broken down into the following subskills:

  • Establishing a positive decision-making environment
  • Generating potential solutions
  • Evaluating the solutions
  • Deciding
  • Checking the decision

In order to improve your decision making skills I would suggest that you start applying it to your everyday life situations and start developing small decision making frameworks for each situation (e.g. going to the shop)

Self-awareness could be broken down into the following subskills:

  • Monitor Your Performance
  • Seek Out Feedback and Then Use It

The best way to improve your self-awareness is to reduce your EGO barrier and blind spots. You can read Ray Dalio Principles for more details.

Situational awareness could be broken down into the following subskills:

  • Identifying the baseline for the situation you are in
  • Recognizing any variations to the baseline

In order to improve your situational awareness I suggest that you take typical life situation and:

  • Monitor the Baseline. At first, this will require concentration effort. But after a while, you will find that you can monitor the baseline subconsciously
  • Fight Normalcy Bias. This requires you to be paranoid for a while as you develop your skill. Look at every disturbance to the baseline - this will allow you to stop ignoring or discounting any factors

Systematic thinking could be broken down into the following subskills:

  • Identifying all the elements in the system
  • Understanding the correlations between the elements

This skill could be largely improved by solving business cases.

ALSO I suggest that you should start investing your time into playing different computer/mobile game, where you can practice applying these skills.

Hope it helps!


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Content Creator
antwortete am 11. Apr. 2019
FREE 15min call | #1 Bain Coach |10y+ experience helping candidates securing MBB offers| Tailored prep | 5 stars reviews

It is a time-pressured gamified-environment test. Candidates are allotted 60 minutes, the recommended amount of time excluding cases of learner accommodation, to complete the three scenarios. It is done on laptop in a controlled environment.
Multiple scenarions have been developed by Imbellus, but the one i have been hearing about is a simulated world where there are species of animals and plants are dying to an unknown illness and you need to you to figure out what to do in order to protect them.

Here (just for fun reading) I shared the paper of the pilot test results they have done within McK: https://www.dropbox.com/s/77x9sxi3rye14je/EDM2018_paper_19.pdf?dl=0

Evaluation of your score will be done on these codified criteria:
1) Critical Thinking
2) Decision Making
3) Metacognition
4) Situational Awareness
5)Systems Thinking

No specific preparation needed. As general tips:
- Have a good sleep before the test
- Keep an eye on time


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Andrew am 7. Mai 2019

Thank you Riccardo!

Anonym bearbeitete die Antwort am 5. Mai 2020

Hi Lidia,

You can keep in mind the following tips for the Digital Assessment.

  1. Focus on the process
  2. Follow time tracking. It is easy to get lost in the details and the sheer complexity of information overload the test presents.
  3. Look into the key skills that are being assessed by Imbellus and if you find any weaknesses - then work on them in advance.
  4. Get ready to make 80/20 decisions based on incomplete information. Likely you won’t reach the best answer within 60 minutes, however, you should reach a good answer, demonstrating a clever problem-solving strategy along the way.
  5. Take notes of your observations on the mechanics of each scenario so that you can analyze it.
  6. Get comfortable to calculate with pen and paper math.
  7. Enjoy

Hope it helps,



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Anonym D bearbeitete die Antwort am 15. Aug. 2020


I took the test sometime in February. I'm not sure if I can offer that much of good advice as I didn't prepare beforehand. It is supposed to measure the skills that you should already have. Anyway, my advice for the first part:

I got the coral reef situation, it had lots of data with species and plants. I started by looking at all of them and checked which category was the biggest in terms of temperature. When I selected that I looked between species and plants a lot and note down the calorie intake. The amount of data can be overwhelming and I actually changed the strategy after 5 minutes in the game. You should spend most of the time on this case (I think the game suggests half of the time), read through the data, write down some important information (for example a lot were useless and didn't have an impact on the question).

The second part was the maze game - I think it was similar to traditional chess games as you could select your move after your opponent. I guess even some strategic games on the Internet could be relevant in this case. What was important was to think of every move and that the game continues AFTER you finish your moves (which I didn't know and messed up the first part). So basically it'll count how many moves the opponent needs to destroy whatever your protecting (I think it was some sort of plant), e.g. if you get 6 moves then the game can continue until 6, 8 or even 50 if your strategy was really good. Having said that out of my three round one was really high, one was quite low (as I didn't know the games continue) and one was quite okay.

I found from my local Mck office that you need to be above 75th percentile to pass (at least in Warsaw). I also was told I scored one of the highest score recorded in the game which was really surprising - as I mentioned above I did not prepare and took the game with just some paper notes after reading the instruction provided. Honestly, the best way to prepare (if you want to) is to play those strategic games online as it actually felt a lot like games I played as a kid.

PS: Make sure you have a good computer, my old Macbook Air really heated up after a few minutes.


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Originally answered question:

Imbellus test McKinsey

Content Creator
antwortete am 10. Jan. 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut


It´s much better than the old test used to be.

  • It's a gamified test
  • Divided into 2 games, 1h to complete both of them:
    • 1st one is a game about keeping an ecosystem balanced
    • 2nd one is a defense game

It´s fun and there is not really a "way" to prep for it.

My advise would be to be fresh when you do it and pick a right enviroment -during my BCG test in their office there was construction in the patio and the screen was even shaking-.

Hope it helps!



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Anonym H am 12. Mai 2020

Hi Clara. Thanks for the comment, one additional question: is it a go/no-go step in the application process or does it just give an additional indication for the selection?

Content Creator
antwortete am 16. Mai 2024
#1 MBB Coach(Placed 750+ in MBBs & 1250+ in Tier2)| The Only 360 coach(Ex-McKinsey + Certified Coach + Active recruiter)

The McKinsey Imbellus Problem Solving Game (PSG) is a unique assessment tool designed to evaluate a candidate's problem-solving skills, cognitive abilities, and adaptability in a game-based format. Here are some tips and lessons learned from those who have taken the test:

Understanding the Imbellus Game
The Imbellus game is divided into different scenarios that test various cognitive abilities such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making. Common scenarios include:

Ecosystem Creation: You need to create a balanced ecosystem by placing different species and plants in an environment while considering their interactions.
Disease Outbreak: You need to manage resources to contain a disease outbreak effectively.

General Tips

1.Familiarize Yourself with the Game Format:

Understand the types of scenarios you might encounter. This helps in reducing anxiety and allows you to focus on problem-solving rather than figuring out the rules.
Practice Strategic Thinking:

Play strategy-based games or puzzles to enhance your critical thinking and decision-making skills. Games like Sudoku, chess, and resource management games can be helpful.
Stay Calm and Focused:

The game is designed to test your problem-solving skills under pressure. Stay calm, read the instructions carefully, and think logically about the best course of action.
Manage Your Time Wisely:

While the game is not strictly timed, being efficient with your decisions can help you perform better. Avoid spending too much time on one aspect of the scenario.
Pay Attention to Details:

Details matter in these scenarios. Make sure to consider all the factors and interactions in the ecosystem or any resources and constraints in other scenarios.
Specific Tips for the Ecosystem Scenario
Understand Species Interactions:

Each species and plant has specific needs and interactions. For example, predators need prey, and plants might require certain environmental conditions. Ensure you balance these elements.

2. Maintain Balance:

The goal is to create a sustainable ecosystem. Avoid having too many predators without enough prey or too many plants without enough pollinators.
Think Long-Term:

Consider the long-term sustainability of your ecosystem. Think about how changes over time might affect the balance and make decisions accordingly.
Specific Tips for the Disease Outbreak Scenario
Prioritize Resources:

Resources are usually limited. Prioritize them effectively to contain the outbreak. Focus on areas with the highest need or potential for the greatest impact.
Monitor Spread Patterns:

Pay attention to how the disease spreads and allocate resources to contain it effectively. Use logical patterns and anticipate future outbreaks based on current data.
Adapt Strategies:

Be flexible with your strategies. If something isn't working, be ready to change your approach and try a different method to contain the disease.
Lessons Learned

3. Experience Matters:

Those with experience in strategy games or similar problem-solving tasks often find the Imbellus game less daunting. Practice with relevant games can help improve your performance.

4. Critical Thinking is Key:

The game assesses your ability to think critically and adapt to new information. Focus on honing these skills through various exercises and real-life problem-solving scenarios.

5.Understand the Purpose:

Remember that the game is designed to measure your natural problem-solving abilities rather than your knowledge or memorization skills. Approach it with a problem-solving mindset.

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Content Creator
bearbeitete eine Antwort am 4. Feb. 2021
BCG |NASA | SDA Bocconi & Cattolica partner | GMAT expert 780/800 score | 200+ students coached

Hello Lidia,

I have had the chance to follow several candidates taking this test and I have written (together with them) a detailed guide on how to successfully approach Imbellus test.

The guide includes:

  • Detailed hands-on strategy to ace the Imbellus
  • Excel model with an algorithm to solve the first scenario
  • Hands-on example and practical tips to crack the game

On top of that, you will receive an interesting paper on Imbellus valuation metrics and a coupon code for a session with your purchase!

Feel free to text me if you are interested. You can find a screenshot of the excel model below.



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Reham am 23. März 2020

Hi luca, would you please send me this paper as I have online problem solving game coming up soon ?


Anna am 22. Juni 2020

Hi Luca, could you please send me this paper as my testing is approaching?

raf am 24. Juni 2020

Hi Luca, could you please send me this paper as well Many thanks

Garvit am 6. Juli 2020

Hi Luca, Would it be possible for you to share the paper with me. I would love to know the mechanics behind the test.

Green am 16. Juli 2020

Hi Luca, could you please send me this paper as my testing is approaching?

Originally answered question:

Imbellus test McKinsey

antwortete am 9. Jan. 2020
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


  • There are 2 tasks, 1 hour for each
  • One is based on logic, another one is closer to the online game (Tower defense)
  • Both tasks are super easy and an hour is more than enough
  • The key thing is to read carefully the descriptions

I believe there is no way to prepare, so just relax and have a good rest before that


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Fatih T. am 21. Sept. 2020

1 hour in total, not for each

Anonym F antwortete am 17. Nov. 2020


You probably already took the test, but I thought I'd add to this thread!

I took the assessment two days ago. I just found out that I passed and scored really well. I didn't practice anything at all, I just made sure to read all the articles I could find about the assessment to understand what they're looking for.

The first part I got was the island ecosystem creation game, which took me around 30 mins. I took another 5 mins just to check my answers and make sure the numbers all added up. This is not new information, but I definitely recommend starting from the top with predators and moving down the chain. Make sure you read the instructions clearly and watch out for the consumption rules in the system (it's all outllined in the game). You want the chain to be the most optimal. Don't change your animals around too much. You kind of have to commit, the software records everything.

My second part was defending a plant from invaders. I found this way more challenging, so I would heavily recommend dividing your time 50/50 between the ecosystem creation and this part. I ran out of time in my last round. As others have already said, remember that each round of play is supposed to last beyond what's shown. The game would show 5 or 6 moves, but will extend to 15 and beyond if your strategy is good. It's hard to explain if you haven't seen it, but you'll know once you begin. Don't hectically click around.

My biggest advice would be to really get into the game and forget that it's a test. You could also watch youtube videos of gameplay if you have a lot of time, but I didn't find that extra helpful.

Hope this helps! Good luck to everyone taking it :)

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Anonym N am 29. Jan. 2021

I haven't seen any youtube videos/ gameplay. Anyone find any?

Originally answered question:

Imbellus Mc Kinsey

Content Creator
antwortete am 13. Mai 2020
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

It's in addition to your casing + fit interview

There really isn't any material on it (it's an immersive simulation, so hasn't been replicated). However, there is a good Q&A here on what to keep in mind: https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/imbellus-test-mckinsey-5682

You should prepare to be open-minded, flexible, turn on your problem-solving, and pay careful attention to the time + instructions

Content Creator
antwortete am 28. Apr. 2020
150+ interviews | 6+ years experience | Bain, Kearney & Accenture | Exited startup| London Business School

To add to the other mentions, there is indeed not much to prepare, but you can refresh logic and brainteaser a bit. This is not so much about studying but more having it top of mind.

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Originally answered question:

Imbellus test McKinsey

Anonym antwortete am 9. Jan. 2020


There is no way to prepare, it's just a game-test where you have to do your best to make it work ;p

It's not difficult, though, I'm sure is going to be ok!

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Content Creator
antwortete am 10. Okt. 2023
ex Jr. Partner McKinsey |Senior Interviewer| Real Feedback & Free Homework between sessions|Harvard Coach|10+ Experience

Hi Lidia,

Great to hear that you're preparing for the McKinsey Imbellus Problem Solving Game. I can highly recommend Francesco's PSG Secrets course. Besides that here some tips: 

Practice Cognitive Skills: The Imbellus game assesses cognitive skills, so practice puzzles, brain teasers, and logic games to sharpen your cognitive abilities. Games like Sudoku, crossword puzzles, and even chess can help.

Stay Calm and Focused: The game may present complex 

Rest and Relax: Ensure you're well-rested and relaxed on the day of the assessment. A clear mind can make a significant difference.

Remember that McKinsey is interested in assessing your problem-solving abilities and cognitive skills, so focus on honing these areas during your preparation. Good luck with your assessment, Lidia!

Warm regards, Frederic



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Anonym antwortete am 24. Dez. 2022

In additional to all of this, make sure to not exit out of full screen if you are doing the test on a Mac laptop. I have heard that your laptop could freeze and you won't be able to complete the assessment.

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Anonym C antwortete am 10. Apr. 2019

Not much to study. They will test you in a way which is hard to prepare for. If you have the chops you´ll be fine. If you dont its probably for the best!

Then get to stressed out about it.

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Anonym E antwortete am 27. Juli 2020

Did you end up taking the test ? anyone else ?

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Stephen antwortete am 15. Sept. 2020

Hey Lidia can you recommend to me what you know. I have the test in less than 2 days

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Ritta antwortete am 23. Juli 2020

Hi Lidia,

Can you please share your experience with the Problem Solving Game? is there any guide you recommend to purchase?

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Content Creator
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