Which companies are currently using written tests such as the Problem Solving Test (PST)?

McKinsey uses the PST that is probably the most famous written test. But, there are a variety of other companies that also use these tests

A large number of consulting firms are currently using some form of written test. Below, we will summarize the key information you need to know regarding specific written tests at various consulting firms. We have also included links of freely available online practice tests. Keep in mind that even though the format/style is different from each other in most tests, the content can be cross leveraged. Make sure to practice as many tests as possible and notice that there are several practice exams available online.

As mentioned earlier, even though the tests formats are different, we highly recommend that you use all of the available practice tests for your preparation. Also, try to save the tests of most important consulting firm in your list for the last

The McKinsey Problem Solving Test (PST)

The McKinsey PST as mentioned earlier is probably the most known among the major consulting firms. The test typically consists of 26 questions designed around 3 case studies that are to be answered within 1 hour. The following technical skills are typically tested:

  • Chart reading
  • Mathematical proficiency
  • Verbal and numerical reasoning

Feedback from test takers suggests that time is one of the most critical issues in this test. Neither the calculations nor the logical questions are too difficult and it is the time constraint that makes the test extremely challenging (see our general written test tips and tricks section, which also includes information on how to accurately answer questions faster). PST is a multiple choice exam, which is pen and paper based with no penalties for wrong answers.

Following are the links to McKinsey practice tests and a "how to" coaching guide from their website:

The Bain & Company Math test

The Bain Math test is used less consistently than McKinsey’s PST. While some US offices utilize it, European offices are less likely to do so. Compared to McKinsey, Bain is rather secretive about the contents of the test, the offices that use tests, and whether it is given to all applicants. We have heard of the test being used as both a preliminary screening test as well as part of the first round interviews at several (North) American offices.

The test usually takes the slot of one full interview and consists of about 20 questions. The questions are designed as general math questions as well as GMAT-style numerical reasoning questions.

  • Here is a link to some sample questions and general interview tips from the Bain office in Mexico City

The BCG Potential Test

Like Bain, BCG is also secretive about their written test, a.k.a the BCG Potential test. So far, BCG has provided only 4 sample questions from the Amsterdam office (link later below)

A general feedback from test takers is that the BCG potential test is comparable to McKinsey’s PST. This is especially true for the type of the skills that are being tested and also that the time is the biggest constraint to pass the test. However, there are some differences:

  • The test is taken on a computer instead of pen and paper
  • The test has penalties for wrong answers
  • The data to answer questions is displayed on several pages (thus not all information is visible at once)

As mentioned earlier, the BCG Netherlands office offers 4 sample questions for the test:

Oliver Wyman numerical reasoning test

Oliver Wyman is another consulting firm that utilizes a written online test. Like with BCG’s test, information about its exact content is scarce. Some candidates report taking two tests (numerical and verbal reasoning) and the test is usually taken prior to an invitation for an interview.

The test's length seems to differ from office to office usually ranging from 20 to 40 questions that need to be answered within 20 minutes with penalties for wrong answers. Allegedly, and unlike the BCG test, penalties are symmetrical (i.e. 1 point for a correct answer; -1 point for an incorrect one). While there is no known cut-off score, we hear anything between 12 and 15 points (out of the 40 question variant) could be a passing score.

External sources and feedback from PrepLounge users who have taken the test suggest that the questions are not clustered around a case study and are more of a GMAT type. Here too, time is a critical factor to succeed. While you will be able to use a calculator in most instances, this test seems is still extremely challenging.

Unlike other consulting firms, Oliver Wyman has not provided sample questions for its math test online to our knowledge. Following is an external source that lists some questions that may have been a part of the test but because it is not an official source, we are unable to verify its validity.

  • Sample questions from Oliver Wyman numerical reasoning test
  • Some feedback from our users indicate that the questions can look like the following:
    • Comparison of two Websites (A&B)
      January: A: 30k hits; B: 20k hits
      February: A:31k hits; B: 24k hits
      If A grows by 1k hits per month and B exhibits a steady growth, when is B>A?
    • One pen costs $0.6; you get a deal of 12 pens for the price of 10: what is the new cost per pen?
    • A company’s sales just finished 8 years of consecutive growth, they are now 2x the amount 8 years ago. What is the CAGR?
    • What is the least common multiple of 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 24?
    • You have 10 apples, 2 of which are bad. If you select 4 apples what are the odds of picking at least 1 bad apple?
    • If the chance of rain vs. sun is 50:50 what is the chance of having 2 consecutive rainy days in a 5-day period?

OC&C math test

OC&C usually asks its applicants to finish a math test covering mostly GMAT style math questions before inviting them to the interviews. The test usually lasts 30 minutes. The following skills are tested:

  • Data sufficiency
  • Problem solving
  • Critical reasoning

Like BCG and Oliver Wyman, OC&C does not provide full practice tests to applicants but recommends preparing using GMAT preparation material.

The Roland Berger preliminary test

The Roland Berger preliminary test is a screening tool that the German consultancy Roland Berger requests some candidates to complete prior to the first round of interviews. It is typically not designed around a case study but has some elements of consulting specific questions together with IQ-test style questions. Here, the following skills are tested:

  • Synthesizing a business article
  • Writing about a personal question
  • Mathematical questions with the areas
    • Chart reading
    • Mathematical proficiency
    • IQ-test/ Brainteaser style questions

Information about the number of questions and penalties for wrong answers is currently unknown.

Regardless, Roland Berger’s Romania office offers a short description and some practice questions:

We have provided an overview of the written tests used at consulting firms to the best of our knowledge. If you have additional information regarding written tests, feel free to share it with us in the comments section below.

5 Comment(s)
November 30, 2015 02:38 -
Falco

In addition to the comment listed below, there's one more thing you can update/add about the BCG Potential Test, with regards to the Amsterdam office:

A calculator is supplied by BCG when taking the test at their office. Hence, it is less about one's mental arithmetic.

May 13, 2015 15:56 -
Ali

What about Roland Berger?

May 09, 2015 13:05 -
Stephanie

How about Accenture? Do they use these kinds of tests?

March 08, 2015 20:13 -
ritika

Thanks, Nedzad. We are glad you find the information useful.

March 04, 2015 11:12 -
Nedzad

Really useful information, and specially links to materials :)

Related consulting question(s)
Best answer so far out of 2 answers:
Ignacio
Expert
Incoming Associate Consultant @ Bain & Co. - advanced casing techniques that will make you stand-out

The PST is a battle against time but the favourable aspect of the test is that it is not negatively marked so it's a no-brainer to attempt every single question. Bear in mind that it's very easy to... (more)

Best answer so far:
Ex-MBB, BCG/Bain/Experienced Hire specialist

This is a great question! Using data well can be the difference between a 2nd round or going home. How do I know? My very first case at BCG was so-so and the consultant had recommended I not move on;... (more)

Well - that was generally the case and still often is, but also things have changed a bit. McKinsey, BCG and Bain have grown so large that they basically offer "everything" now, not just the strate... (more)

Best answer so far:
Ex BCG | MBB Specialist | #1 Expert for meetings done (700+) and recommendation rate (100%)

Hi Goat, I do not have direct experience with OC&C, however from what I have heard the standard process involves at least two rounds, with two cases in each of them and fit questions at the beg... (more)

Eugene, some really good questions in here!Let me try to address them. First, can you 'overthink'? Yes ofcourse! I am not sure this was really the issue in your particular case though: sometimes, i... (more)

Related case(s)

Oliver Wyman case: Full Electrons Ahead

Solved 5.0k times | Rating: (5.0 / 5.0)
Difficulty: Intermediate | Style: Real Case | Topics: Market analysis, Market sizing

Your client, large automotive OEM WyCar, has developed its first fully electric vehicle (EV) and introduced it as a pilot on the Austrian market last year. However, sales have been far below the expected numbers. The management has engaged you to support them in understanding the reasons and advise ... Open whole case

Oliver Wyman case: On the Right Track

Solved 3.8k times | Rating: (5.0 / 5.0)
Difficulty: Beginner | Style: Real Case | Topics: Operations strategy

TrainCo is a manufacturer of rolling stock, or trains, with production sites in three European countries. The company has seen declining profitability over the past years; however, they are currently in a very good position to bid for and win a big contract for regional trains for a Swiss national r ... Open whole case

Oliver Wyman case: Setting up a Wine Cellar

Solved 3.7k times | Rating: (5.0 / 5.0)
Difficulty: Beginner | Style: Real Case | Topics: Profitability analysis

I’m thinking about setting up a wine cellar in my basement. The way I see it, shelf space would be divided into two sections: (1) a “drinking” section where I store bottles for my own consumption and (2) an “investment” section where I store bottles that I intend to sell at a profit after they appre ... Open whole case

REA Reinsurance

Solved 600+ times | Rating: (5.0 / 5.0)

Your client, REA, is a reinsurance company. REA recently acquired another reinsurance company (approximatively same size): the choice of this company was notably based on its product portfolio as well as its market presence which appeared complement with REA. However, the acquisition is not we ... Open whole case

AirService

Solved 500+ times | Rating: (5.0 / 5.0)

Your client AirService is the service provider for a number of airports. The management realized a decrease in profits that is linked to increasing costs. How would you help them? Open whole case