What is the McKinsey Game and How to Solve It (2023)

In this in-depth article, we delve into the intricacies of the McKinsey Game, shedding light on what it is and providing valuable insights on how to nail this step in the consulting recruitment process.

Posted January 10, 2024

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The McKinsey Game, or Solve as it is commonly referred to in 2023, is a problem solving approach employed by the consulting firm, McKinsey & Company. In this article, we unravel the details of the McKinsey Game, delving into its core principles and uncovering the strategies that can lead aspiring consultants to nail this step in the recruiting process. Whether you aspire to join the ranks of McKinsey or simply seek to sharpen your problem-solving acumen, understanding the intricacies of the McKinsey Game will prove invaluable in your quest for success in the world of consulting.

What Exactly is the McKinsey Game/Solve and Why Does McKinsey Use It?

Originally founded by Imbellus in 2017 and then reinvigorated in Spring 2023 to include the Redrock Case Study, the McKinsey Game aims to depart from traditional candidate screening assessments. Specifically, the platform uses ecology-themed video games that involve tasks such as constructing food chains, safeguarding endangered species, managing predator and prey populations, and diagnosing animal diseases or identifying natural disasters. Typically, you will have approximately 60-70 minutes to complete two separate games; but, it is up to you to manage your time well enough to be able to complete all games within the allotted period.

Now, you are likely wondering why a prestigious consulting firm would use an ecology-based video game as part of its recruiting process. The firm uses the McKinsey Game with the goal of removing inherent advantages, leveling the playing field, and learning how you think (McKinsey). The McKinsey Game’s scientific foundation and game-based assessments provide McKinsey with objective data about a candidate’s cognitive and emotional traits, helping them identify individuals who align with their specific job requirements and company culture. Ultimately, this allows McKinsey to make more informed and fair hiring decisions, leading to a more diverse and talented workforce.

What Does the McKinsey Game/Solve Look Like and What Are Good Results?

Achieving strong results in the McKinsey Game goes beyond simply excelling at the exercises themselves. In other words, it’s not about getting to the solution, but about how you reach the solution. McKinsey uses both a product and process score to assess a candidate’s performance. Specifically, the product score is an evaluation of your success in each of the tasks, whereas the process score is an evaluation of the quality of process you enacted. For the process score, McKinsey is looking for your ability to demonstrate these 5 core skills:

  1. Critical thinking
  2. Systems thinking
  3. Decision making
  4. Metacognition
  5. Situational awareness

Take a look at the complete list of exercises below, paying particular attention to the key skills being tested in each task; being able to effectively showcase these skills along with the 5 core key skills discussed above is what will get you a good result.

**IMPORTANT NOTE: You will not see all of these activities on Game Day; you are only guaranteed to see Ecosystem Building and Redrock Case Study. However, it is important to be prepared to see any of the above pop up on your screen. Typically, candidates are only required to play 2-3 of these games (Ecosystem Building, Redrock Case Study, and occasionally EITHER Disaster Management, Disease Management, or Migration Management). Currently, the latter three are serving as Beta tests of sorts for McKinsey, so candidates may see a variation of game combinations.

Ecosystem Building

  • Description: Here, you are tasked with building a stable ecosystem in aquatic, alpine, or jungle environments. After choosing a setting, you need to carefully pick various plant and animal species to create a functional food chain within that setting. Importantly, recent iterations now require selecting a fixed number of eight species. Compatibility is crucial as the chosen species must be able to coexist with predators being able to consume their chosen prey, and all species must be capable of surviving the prevailing conditions of the selected location.
  • Strategy: Establish a structured process (i.e., build your food chain either from the top down or the bottom up). Then, opt for producers (plants/fungi/coral) that offer high caloric value and are consumed by multiple animal species; when feasible, select small animals/herbivores with low caloric needs but high caloric value provided. Be sure to come prepared with a piece of scratch paper nearby or a separate device to perform basic calculations on.
  • Key Skills Being Tested
    • Data analysis
    • Basic calculations

Redrock Case Study

  • Description: The Redrock Case Study is the McKinsey Game’s newest feature that has replaced the “Plant Defense Game” in 2023. Here, you are tasked with creating an ecological field study focused on wolf packs residing on an island. The primary objective is to devise a relocation plan for the pack(s) that ensures a harmonious balance with the surrounding species and enhances their chances of survival. There are four sections to the exercise:
    • Investigation: Your goal is to efficiently extract the most significant data points from the full case description on various animal populations and drag-and-drop them into your “Research Journal” workspace since any information not saved at this stage will no longer be accessible in later sections.
    • Analysis: You must answer three numerical questions using information you saved in the Investigation section.
    • Report: Conduct a pre-written report on the wolf populations, including quantitative data
    • Case Questions: Answer 10 questions regarding how you arrived at your solution
  • Strategy: Due to the diverse variants and constant evolution of the McKinsey Solve Game, the specific challenges you encounter can vary significantly. Be attentive to the instructions provided and carefully monitor your time based on them. Following the game, you will encounter a set of 10 multiple-choice questions that draw from the data you received during gameplay and your calculations. These questions may cover topics such as selecting appropriate graphic formats for specific information visualization or determining the percentage change in the wolf population under hypothetical scenarios. It is essential to manage your time wisely to allocate sufficient attention to answering the questions effectively (this is arguably the most important section of the task as it demonstrates your thought process and reasoning skills).
  • Key Skills Being Tested:
    • Data analysis
    • Basic calculations
    • Reasoning

Disaster Management

  • Description: Your task is to identify the natural disaster that has struck the ecosystem, such as a tsunami or volcanic eruption, and provide assistance to the animals in surviving the catastrophe.
  • Strategy: Pay attention to the environmental data, react quickly, and thoroughly understand the characteristics of each animal and which site would be the best fit for them.
  • Key Skills Being Tested:
    • Adaptability
    • Reaction time
    • Data analysis
    • Management

Disease Management

  • Description: Your task is to identify the disease affecting the animals, and propose an appropriate course of treatment.
  • Strategy: Similar to the Disaster Management game, the key strategies are to pay close attention to data, react quickly, and thoroughly understand the diseases that are impacting each animal.
  • Key Skills Being Tested
    • Data analysis
    • Management
    • Pattern identification

Migration Management

  • Description: Efficiently migrate a group of animals from one location to another, utilizing minimal resources while ensuring the maximum number of animals survive the journey.
  • Strategy: As you explore different routes, make sure to monitor your resources and the number of surviving animals. Employ quick mathematical calculations to assist you in making informed decisions along the way.
  • Key Skills Being Tested:
    • Data analysis
    • Management

Strategies to Prepare for the McKinsey Game/Solve

  • Sharpen Analytical Skills: Work on enhancing your data analysis and quantitative reasoning abilities. The McKinsey Game often requires candidates to interpret data and make data-driven decisions.
  • Practice Regularly: Consistent practice is key to mastering the McKinsey Game. Utilize sample games or mock assessments to familiarize yourself with the types of tasks and challenges you might encounter. Regular practice will enhance your performance and boost your confidence.
  • Analyze Your Performance: After completing practice assessments, review your results and identify areas of improvement. Focus on understanding patterns and tendencies in your responses to align with your authentic traits.
  • Time Management: The McKinsey Game assessment is timed. Practice working under time constraints to develop efficiency and accuracy in your responses.
  • Embrace a Growth Mindset: Approach the assessments with a growth-oriented mindset. View challenges as opportunities for learning and improvement, rather than fearing failures
  • Understand Ecological Concepts: This step is optional; however, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with ecological concepts, food chains, predator-prey relationships, and environmental factors before the day of your assessment.
  • Get a coach: Leland has countless coaches who have gone through the McKinsey recruiting process themselves and understand the pymetrics test like the back of their hand. Check out some of our top coaches below, and sign up today to receive personalized strategies, practice tests, industry insights, and so much more!

FAQ: Common Questions and Answers

  • Q: Will you make a decision just on the results from the McKinsey Problem Solving Game?
    • A: No. The results from the McKinsey Problem Solving Game will be taken into consideration with the rest of your application and any other assessment results.
  • Q: Do you offer accommodations for disabilities?
    • A: Yes, if you have a disability, health condition or specific learning difficulty, please speak to your recruiter and we can accommodate you accordingly.
  • Q: Who should I contact if I experience technical issues?
    • A: All technical issues should be directed from you (the candidate) to support@imbellus.com. You can email the support team directly, or use the live chat function. The support team will be able to run diagnostics on your link and help solve any issues directly with you, including the graphics not working or tech checks failing. Please contact your recruiter if you have nontechnical questions. Who should I contact if I experience technical issues? Please note: if you experience technical issues during the McKinsey Problem Solving Game and do not contact support, we cannot make any exceptions to allow for a reset.
  • Q: Will I lose time if I contact support during the McKinsey Problem Solving Game?
    • A: No, the support team will work with you to solve the issue you are experiencing and offer you extra time or reset your link depending on the issue. You will need to contact the support team at the time your technical issue arises.
  • Q: How do I change my timeslot?
    • A: If you have not yet started the McKinsey Problem Solving Game, you can click into your link and schedule a new time slot.
  • Q: Do I need specific equipment?
    • A: After clicking on your link, you will be taken through a tech check before starting the McKinsey Problem Solving. This will inform you on whether your device meets the minimum specification requirements. Sound is not necessary and a mouse is optional.
  • Q: Can I complete the McKinsey Problem Solving Game on an iPad or phone?
    • A: The McKinsey Problem Solving is only available on a PC or Mac.
  • Q: Is the McKinsey Problem Solving Game available in multiple languages?
    • A: Yes, the McKinsey Problem Solving Game can be taken in English, Spanish (Iberia or Latin America), Portuguese (Iberia or Latin America), or Japanese. Please select the language you feel most comfortable completing the McKinsey Problem Solving Game in.
  • Q: How do you counteract potential cheating?
    • A: The McKinsey Problem Solving Game uses advanced AI methods to ensure that there is ample variation in each scenario for each candidate. It is designed so that no two individuals have the same parameters and combinations of data. You may also be asked at random to take an additional task in person and/or to explain your logic used. Your recruiter will inform you if this is the case.

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