McKinsey Digital Assessment

We have to give credit where credit is due – McKinsey is trying to make recruiting (somewhat) fun. One of the more recent additions to McKinsey’s recruiting process is the McKinsey Digital Assessment, a video game that is used to assess a candidate’s cognitive abilities.

This digital test is a way for McKinsey to screen candidates in a way that removes cognitive bias and identify top candidates before any further time is invested in phone and in-person interviews. McKinsey consultants have busy schedules, so it’s only expected that they create ways to save themselves time, right?

Of course, it’s not all just fun and games. The McKinsey Digital Assessment was thoughtfully and carefully put together by the world’s top consulting firm to filter out candidates. Like most parts of the recruiting process, preparation is crucial.

To that end, here’s an overview of the McKinsey Digital Assessment and what you can expect when taking the exam.


The Why Behind the McKinsey Digital Assessment

Most candidates know that McKinsey’s recruiting process typically includes a resume screen, a problem solving test, PEI, and case interviews.

McKinsey’s viewpoint is that although academic and professional backgrounds are helpful, they can be the result of great memorization skills or privileged backgrounds. These advantages can lead to outstanding resumes which don’t always translate to great problem solving skills. As a result, McKinsey believes that the resume screen leaves out candidates with great cognitive abilities who had less socioeconomic advantages and thus less impressive resumes.

The McKinsey Problem Solving Test (PST) tries to limit those advantages; however, even the PST favors candidates with high processing speeds and familiarity with the problems being tested. With so many preparation tools available, it’s also become far easier to pass the exam by simply practicing.

So, say hello to the McKinsey Digital Assessment. This tool helps even the playing field amongst candidates. The digital test is built to test pure raw cognitive talent since it can’t be prepared for and is free from bias.

What is the McKinsey Digital Assessment?

The McKinsey Digital Assessment is a video game in which candidates are immersed in a simulation and need to make quick decisions with imperfect information to achieve a desired outcome. McKinsey states that the focus is not on selecting the candidates who get to the right answers but evaluating how candidates get to their solutions – similar to case interviews.

The McKinsey Digital Assessment was developed with leading psychologists and game design experts at IMBELLUS. The game captures all of the candidate’s actions, including mouse movements and the time when certain actions are taken. The overall score is determined by methodologies from data science across five key categories (detailed below).

Candidates have 60 minutes to overcome three distinct challenges and demonstrate their problem solving skills. No prior business knowledge is needed.

The Five Key Cognitive Abilities Tested

The McKinsey Digital Assessment tests for five key cognitive abilities:

  1. Critical Thinking

    • The ability to form a rational decision from a set of facts
  2. Decision Making

    • The ability to select the best course of action among several options with limited time and information
  3. Meta-Cognition

    • The ability to use strategies to make learning information and solving problems easier (i.e. testing hypothesis, taking notes)
  4. Situational Awareness

    • The ability to determine the relationships between different factors and to project the outcome of a scenario
  5. Systems Thinking

    • The ability to understand cause & effect relationships involving several factors and feedback loops (i.e. anticipating several orders of consequence)

McKinsey Digital Assessment Prompt

The McKinsey Digital Assessment starts 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.”

You are then given three different problems. Of course, you choose how much time you would like to put into each section.

The Three Digital Assessment Prompts:

  1. Disaster Management:
    • At this stage, candidates are asked to identify the disaster that is happening based on a set of symptoms. They are then asked to move animals to locations they are most likely to survive based on information provided about the animals and the locations.
  2. Disease Management:
    • At this stage, candidates are asked to discover which diseases are affecting each animal population and the best way to treat them. The main goal is to optimize the rate of survival.
  3. Ecosystem Creation:
    • At this stage, candidates are asked to create a stable coral ecosystem by choosing the location of the reef based on its characteristics. Another task is to choose the species that will inhabit the reef while maintaining a significant number of species to choose from. Candidates must also manage how to best use information about the required environment for the animals, places in the food chain, and the number of calories needed to survive. The main goal is to make sure the food chain does not collapse and that the species survive.

Concluding Thoughts

The McKinsey Digital Assessment is a fascinating new way to measure a candidate’s raw cognitive ability. The tool is still being proven out, but candidates should expect to face some form of the digital exam as soon as this recruiting cycle. We also wouldn’t be surprised if other competitors – here’s looking at you Bain and BCG – follow suit and start offering digital assessments of their own.

If you are asked to take the McKinsey Digital Assessment, we suggest managing your time carefully and being comfortable with making imperfect decisions based upon incomplete information. Since there’s no relevant practice test, take a deep breath and do your best! If you are a good fit for McKinsey, you will likely do well. And if you’re not, better to find out now.

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