Avoid These Common Mistakes in the McKinsey Problem-Solving Game (PSG)


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Brief overview of the McKinsey Problem-Solving Game (PSG) and its significance in the recruitment process.

Understanding the McKinsey Problem-Solving Game (PSG)

The McKinsey Problem-Solving Game (PSG), also referred to as McKinsey Imbellus or McKinsey Digital Assessment, is a gamified test that has replaced the previous Problem-Solving Test (PST) in McKinsey’s recruitment process. The PSG consists of two mini-games with a duration of approximately 71 minutes, including reading the instructions. This game not only assesses your problem-solving abilities but also evaluates your time management skills and ability to perform effectively under time constraints.

Placement of the PSG in the Recruitment Process

The McKinsey Problem-Solving Game (PSG) holds a significant position in the McKinsey recruitment process, specifically in step 2. Once you submit your resume, you can anticipate receiving an invitation to take the PSG assessment. It is worth noting that the majority of applicants are invited to take the PSG, underscoring its importance in candidate evaluation.

During the initial application and CV screening process, the primary goal is not to reduce the candidate pool significantly. Instead, this stage serves several purposes. Firstly, it helps identify and weed out fraudulent applications and individuals who do not possess the necessary academic or professional qualifications. Additionally, it aims to eliminate candidates with poorly constructed resumes. Furthermore, this stage is designed to prevent unauthorized access to the PSG for multiple practice attempts, ensuring fairness in the evaluation process.

After an initial screen of resumes is made, you will be invited to take the assessment. It is recommended that you should plan to be ready to sit the assessment within one week of submitting your resume.

Upon completing the PSG assessment, McKinsey will thoroughly review both your test scores and resume. This detailed evaluation is instrumental in determining who will be invited to proceed to step 3, which involves live case interviews. It is crucial to recognize that only around 20-30% of the candidates who applied, and possibly even fewer, will receive an invitation to this stage. Consequently, achieving excellent PSG scores and presenting an impressive resume are vital to advance to the interview phase.

To have a better understanding of Mckinsey scoring system, you can read this article for more information.

The PSG Scoring Breakdown

To evaluate candidates, the PSG employs both product scores, representing the final results achieved, and process scores, which assess the candidate’s approach to obtaining those results.

Product Scores: Measuring Success in Achieving Objectives

The product scores in the McKinsey PSG evaluate your level of success in achieving the objectives of the game scenarios. While there is no single correct answer, certain solutions will yield better results than others. In the first scenario, the product scores are based on the number of species that survive, considering factors such as energy consumption and provision. In the second scenario, the score is determined by the number of turns you survive until the end.

Process Scores: Evaluating Game-Playing Behavior

Process scores are derived from the analysis of your patterns and actions throughout the entire game-playing process, including keystrokes, clicks, and mouse movements. Although McKinsey has not explicitly disclosed the exact measurement method for process scores, it is crucial to assume that every action on the screen reflects your problem-solving approach. To optimize your process scores, it is essential to adopt a well-thought-out strategy from the beginning. Train yourself to approach problems analytically and systematically, allowing your actions to naturally align with desired problem-solving behaviors.

Factors That Can Lead to Failure

The McKinsey Problem-Solving Game (PSG) is a highly competitive assessment that evaluates candidates’ problem-solving abilities, critical thinking skills, and aptitude for handling complex scenarios. While success in the PSG can open doors to the McKinsey recruitment process, it is crucial to be aware of the factors that can potentially lead to failure. Here are some key factors to consider:

Not Meeting the Objective of the Game

Each mini-game in the PSG has specific objectives that candidates must strive to achieve. Failing to understand the core objective of the game and aligning one’s approach with it can result in a lack of focus and direction. Your product score, which represents the end outcome of the game, is a significant factor in determining your performance. It is essential to grasp the main goal of each mini-game and ensure that all decisions and actions contribute towards accomplishing that objective. Understanding the objectives of each mini-game, including ecosystem building, plant defense, redrock study, disaster management, disease management, and migration management, is crucial for success in the PSG.

Here’s the objectives that you need to achieve in each mini-game:

  • Ecosystem Building: Find the ideal terrain, sustain a calorie surplus for all species, and construct a continuous food chain.
  • Plant Defense: Protect an endangered plant from incoming invaders for at least 15 game turns.
  • Redrock Study: Analyze a business problem, address aims and questions through data analysis, and visualize key findings.
  • Disaster Management: Identify a natural disaster and relocate a group of animals to preserve the most animals.
  • Disease Management: Identify patterns and decide which animals on the map will get sick with an unknown illness.
  • Migration Management: Help animals reach the destination with minimal losses and specific resource amounts.

For detailed breakdowns of each mini-game, let’s look at our Complete Guide to McKinsey Problem-Solving Game.

Inadequate Problem-Solving Skills

The McKinsey PSG assesses candidates’ ability to solve complex problems and make sound decisions within a limited time frame. Insufficient problem-solving skills can lead to suboptimal solutions, incomplete analyses, or an inability to think critically under pressure. Even if you manage to complete all the tasks within the given time, your process score, which assesses your problem-solving approach, is also evaluated. Developing strong problem-solving techniques, such as structured frameworks and effective decision-making strategies, is vital for success in the PSG. 

For a more in-depth understanding of the approach to each game, you can refer to this comprehensive prep guide:

Poor Time Management

Time is a critical factor in the McKinsey PSG. Candidates must efficiently allocate their time across different game sections and prioritize tasks accordingly. With approximately 71 minutes to complete two games, candidates must quickly comprehend the game instructions, navigate the interface, and analyze a significant amount of data. Ineffective time management can result in incomplete or rushed solutions, leading to valuable points being left on the table. Practicing time management techniques and honing the ability to work efficiently within strict time constraints is crucial for maximizing 

Lack of Familiarity with the Complex Interface

The PSG utilizes a sophisticated interface that may be unfamiliar to candidates. Navigating through different parts of the game, accessing information, and understanding the interactive elements of the interface require familiarity and proficiency. Candidates who are not comfortable with the complexity of the interface may struggle to efficiently utilize the available tools and resources, which can negatively impact their performance. Becoming familiar with the PSG interface through practice and gaining proficiency in using the tools and resources effectively is essential for success in the assessment.

Strategies to Improve Performance

To enhance your performance in the McKinsey Problem-Solving Game (PSG), you can implement the following strategies:

  • Brush up your mental math skills: Strengthening your mental math abilities can significantly improve your problem-solving speed and accuracy in the PSG. There’re various online resources such as QuickMath to sharpen your mental calculation skills.
  • Increase speed reading: The PSG often involves analyzing large amounts of information within a limited time frame. Improve your reading speed and comprehension by using methods like skimming, scanning, and chunking. Reading online articles, news, or books using speed reading apps like Spreeder or Spritz can help you increase your reading speed.
  • Practice with similar games: Engaging with video games that involve data processing and system administration can help develop the necessary skills for success in the PSG. Explore popular video game genres that closely resemble the logic and playability of the McKinsey PSG. For “Ecosystem Building,” consider playing games like SimCity, Caesar, or Anno series. To practice for the “Plant Defense” challenge, Kingdom Rush and Plants vs. Zombies offer great opportunities to hone your skills. Additionally, for a tool that closely resembles the actual PSG and provides a realistic practice environment, the MConsultingprep Simulation is a highly recommended option.


The McKinsey Problem-Solving Game (PSG) is a highly competitive assessment that requires candidates to demonstrate their problem-solving abilities, critical thinking skills, and aptitude for handling complex scenarios. Aspiring candidates need to be aware of the challenges they may encounter during the PSG and the factors that can lead to failure.

In conclusion, success in the McKinsey PSG requires a combination of problem-solving skills, time management, familiarity with the interface, and strategic preparation. By understanding the challenges, implementing effective strategies, and utilizing appropriate resources, candidates can improve their performance and increase their chances of success in this rigorous assessment.

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