McKinsey Digital Assessment: Review and Prep Materials

Welcome to Fless guys. I’m Victor Rogulenko and today I will tell you about McKinsey Digital Assessment. If you like the post, please consider sharing with your friends who are interested in management consulting.

Part 0 – The Plan of This Post

McKinsey Digital Assessment Overview

We will start with field reports – what candidates tell us about their experiences with Digital Assessment. Our students have been taking Digital Assessment at McKinsey since June 2018, when it was administered together with the notorious Problem-Solving Test, so we have collected a lot of impressions and insights.

Then I will explain what skills Digital Assessment aims to test. We will discuss the differences between Digital Assessment and other tests, why this type of assessment was developed in the first place, and what background helps in acing the assessment.

The next step is preparation advice. McKinsey claims that you cannot prepare for Digital Assessment. I will explain to what extent this is true and what you still can do about your chances to succeed in the assessment.

Finally, I will share with you certain tools and routines which will help you get in shape for Digital Assessment.

A Few Words about Me

Victor Rogulenko, founder at Fless

Before we jump right into the subject, a few words about me. I’m the founder of the consulting bootcamp Fless. I spent 3 years at McKinsey primarily in the European Private Equity Practice doing strategies and due diligences for clients from all over Europe and Asia, from Japan to UK to Norway. 4 years ago I got into Stanford Graduate School of Business, then dropped out of it and created my first course – McKinsey PST, which has survived 42 batches and has over 500 alumni with 70% success rate. Then I moved on to produce other courses in product management and data science, but that’s a different story now.

And now – off to the races!

McKinsey Digital Assessment Candidate Reports

Part 1 – Field Reports about Digital Assessment

McKinsey Digital Assessment Sample

Digital Assessment consists of 2 parts, 60 minutes in total. According to our alumni and McKinsey descriptions of the assessment, there are 3 options for the assignment: Survival, Ecosystem management, and Plant defense.

Survival plan – you’re asked to identify the disaster (volcanic eruption, tsunami) or the disease affecting an ecosystem based on a number of symptoms. Then you have to come up with and implement a plan to maximize the rate of survival of the species. The plan includes relocation of the animals or choosing a treatment for them. You base your decision-making on a number of characteristics of the species, the locations, and the treatments available.

Ecosystem management – you’re asked to create a sustainable ecosystem either on a mountain ridge or a coral reef. You have to (1) find an ideal location for the ecosystem based on a set of variables and (2) choose 8 species out of ~40 to populate it. Species coexist in a food chain and possess several characteristics, some of which are irrelevant.  

Plant defense – in a turn-based strategy game you have to defend a plant against invaders on a square grid. You choose a number of animals and barriers to protect the plant and move them based on locations and trajectories of the invaders before each turn.  Needless to say, the barriers, animals, and different types of invaders have their own characteristics that you need to consider. 

Digital Assessment Screen Examples

McKinsey Digital Assessment Screen Example

This is what your screen will look like in the ecosystem management challenge. This picture is taken from the official McKinsey video (naturally, we never asked our alumni to take screenshots during assessment), so you cannot see the details. What you do notice though is that easy species has a set of quantitative characteristics which might or might not matter for your solution. 

McKinsey Digital Assessment Screen Example 2

That’s another official screenshot. Again, several characteristics for each species. This might look a bit intimidating, given all the details and stuff, but candidates report a completely different general impression.

Digital Assessment Candidates: It Was Fun!

McKinsey Digital Assessment Candidate Reports

They find the Assessment quite fun and easy. Have a look at their typical quotes:

  • Digital Assessment seemed pretty easy – way simpler than the McKinsey Problem Solving Test
  • The assessment was quite relaxing. I even found the game amusing, definitely not stressful

And this one is the most interesting –

  • McKinsey Digital Assessment was closer to a psychometric test than to a problem-solving assessment. I don’t know how anyone could fail it.

Why is it interesting? Because still quite a few people fail the assessment. After all, the assessment is meant to weed out the less competent and to promote the more suitable for consulting. Moreover, some of the candidates who complete all the assignments still fail in the overall assessment. Why? Because what matters is HOW you solve the assignments, not only your end result. Let me explain.

Part 2 – What Skills Does McKinsey Digital Assessment Test?

McKinsey Digital Assessment Skills Tested

How does the assessment work? What skills does it test?

McKinsey Digital Assessment Skills

This is not a secret actually. You can read the joint paper by McKinsey and Imbellus, the software developer, where they explain the 5 skills tested in Digital Assessment. These skills are critical thinking, decision-making, metacognition, situational awareness, and systems thinking. 

  • Critical thinking is about collecting and processing information. Analysis, synthesis, and evaluation are all part of it.
  • Decision-making is about taking action based on this information, identifying alternatives with their pros and cons and committing to the most suitable ones.
  • Metacognition is thinking about how you think. Planning your analysis, monitoring time and progress, self-correction and so on.
  • Situational awareness is perceiving information about objects and predicting their future status.
  • Systems thinking is finding connections among objects and points of information.

Digital Assessment vs PST

The skills look similar to what the McKinsey Problem Solving Test aimed to measure. In the test, you also had to collect and process information, make decisions, plan for efficiency, make conclusions about future and discover connections among objects. So how is Digital Assessment different? And what’s the use of it?

To answer these questions, let’s zoom out a bit and consider the types of candidates applying now to McKinsey.

In the past 15 years, big data and digitization have revolutionized most industries out there. In order to stay relevant and rein in the change, consultancies had to change as well. And they did.

Talking about how consultancies have changed is beyond the scope of this video. I suggest you read this post about the future of management consulting.

McKinsey Is not Only about Consultants Anymore

The major takeaway is – McKinsey is not only about consultants anymore. Major consultancies now look for and employ hundreds of ux designers, back- and frontend developers, data scientists and engineers, agile coaches, product and project managers, and so on. All these people are not as crazy about consulting as MBA grads and they hated the need to prepare for weeks for the Problem-Solving Test.

And here comes Digital Assessment.

Why Digital Assessment?

Digital Assessment is more fun and more obscure. You don’t have to spend time preparing for it – moreover, McKinsey claims there’s no point in preparing. The assessment not only checks your answers but tracks all your interactions with the system interface. Then its smart machine learning algorithm in a black box compares your clicks and mouse movements with those of previous successful candidates and consultants. 

If the algorithm likes HOW you did your assignments, you pass. If it does not, you fail. So in order to succeed, you need to act like a consultant throughout the whole assessment. You need to think and make decisions like one.

Can you learn to think like a consultant? The answer is yes.

Part 3 – How to Succeed in McKinsey Digital Assessment

Let’s see how you can do it.

While the exterior changes, the core remains the same. Just go to McKinsey recruiting website. The Firm has been looking for people with the same qualities for decades. The qualities are – personal impact, entrepreneurial drive, problem-solving skills, and leadership abilities. 

If you could get a job offer 5 or 10 years ago with PST and interviews, you will be able to get one now. Candidates similar to those who got rejected in the past get rejected now. To succeed in the job application process as a consultant, you need to develop the same skillset as before. 

True, you cannot prepare for Digital Assessment by playing its games as you could prepare for PST by solving similar tests. The games are not available. But there are proven substitutes. 

Digital Assessment Prep Guide

Let’s look back at the skills tested by Digital Assessment and find ways to develop each of them.

  • Critical thinking is the domain of math and reading comprehension. GMAT, GRE and brainteasers will help you here.
  • Decision-making is practiced a lot in cases through synthesis and recommendations. If you are a strong caser, your decision-making ability is fine for the assessment.
  • Metacognition is, again, a big deal in standardized tests like GMAT, GRE and especially PST and other consulting tests. You cannot pass them if you cannot plan and optimize your thinking.
  • Situational awareness and systems thinking is present in PST and cases, but to a smaller extent. What will help you here is playing strategy games. If you are a big fan of board games and computer strategy games, good for you! If not, time to get to know them a bit.

Part 4 – McKinsey Digital Assessment Prep Materials

All right, time for prep materials.

I’ve mentioned GMAT and GRE already. They are fine ways to prepare except for one thing: you do not learn to think like a consultant! You just learn to solve tests, and most of them are simpler than Digital Assessment.

Consulting Tests Sequence

That’s why I created the Consulting Tests Sequence. I’ve assembled all my custom-made McKinsey problem solving tests, BCG, Bain GMAT-like tests, Oliver Wyman numerical reasoning tests and so on and created detailed step-by-step video and text explanations of how a consultant deals with them. 

The bad news – my assignments are pretty hardcore and require keeping track of lots of details and data points. So you will have to spend some time doing them and then mastering the consultant’s approach to problem solving. The good news – over 90% of candidates who took my Consulting Tests Sequence successfully passed Digital Assessment. That’s more than twice as many as an aggregated self-reported 40% success rate among candidates in general. 

If you feel like starting your prep right away, here’s a 15% discount code for you. Use it at the check out or say it to our sales manager.

And remember, developing the necessary skills, though absolutely possible, takes time. The earlier you start, the better. You’ll get some benefit from preparation even for a week before Digital Assessment, but a couple of months will make a big difference.

Strategy Games for Digital Assessment

Strategy Games for McKinsey Digital Assessment

And here’s a small bonus – a few strategy games resembling Digital Assessment. Preparation does not have to be boring, right? By the way, I didn’t include the Plants vs Zombies mobile game despite its objective of plant defense because the gameplay seems quite different from Digital Assessment. Still if you want to try, you’ll find a link in the description of the video.

Further Reading on Digital Assessment

And if you want to learn more about Digital Assessment from different sources, I invite you to browse these links. Naturally I repeat them below.

Suggested strategy games:

McKinsey about Digital Assessment:

Creator of Digital Assessment
McKinsey and Imbellus on Testing


Hope you found this post useful. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments. Until next time.

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