McKinsey Solve Game: Newest Updates & Guide (2024)

Check out the only, fully-playable McKinsey Solve Test (Problem-Solving Game) Simulation in the entire market, with the new 2024 Redrock Study Task.

With that out of the way, let's continue to learn about the test, shall we?

What is McKinsey Solve (or Problem-Solving Game)?

Mckinsey solve is a gamified, pre-interview screening test .

McKinsey Solve (formerly called Problem-Solving Game, Digital Assessment, or colloquially the "Imbellus Game") is  a gamified test designed by Imbellus for the McKinsey & Company. 

In the McKinsey recruitment process, the Solve Game sits between the resume screening and the case interviews , serving the same purpose as the paper-based tests – ruling out the “unfit” candidates to save time and resources during the expensive case interview phase.

Solve has entered trial since 2017 (back then it was known as the Digital Assessment) and has been rolling out extensively in 2020. Since then, Solve had replaced the paper-based Problem Solving Test in every McKinsey office.

The test is mandatory for candidates applying in all practices: General, Operations & Implementation, Research & Analytics, Digital, etc.

Note: As this is a gamified test, in this article, the two terms “game” and “test” will be used interchangeably when referring to the McKinsey Solve.

McKinsey Solve Simulation (All-in-One)

The one and only existing platform to practice three mini-games of McKinsey Solve in a simulated setting

Thumbnail of McKinsey Solve Simulation (All-in-One)

The new gamified test is supposedly crack-proof

Now, why did McKinsey change the test format from a paper-based test to a game? Keith McNulty, McKinsey’s Global Director of People Analytics and Measurement, put it this way:

“Recruiting only knows if candidates got the right answer, not how they approached the question. Plus, there’s a large amount of strategy, preparation, and luck involved in multiple-choice tests, and if you use them in the selection process, it reinforces the status quo—at a time when you are looking to widen the scope of candidates you’re hiring.”

So essentially, McKinsey is trying to create a test/game that is impossible to game (ironic, isn’t it?).

But in fact it can be broken down into bite-size pieces

With field reports from hundreds of real test takers, we have gathered enough insights to break down the McKinsey Solve into bite-size pieces, which are fairly consistent across candidates. Using those insights, we can derive working overall approaches to the game.

In this article, we will cover:

Technical details of the test : time limit, number of tasks and mini-games, assessment criteria

Break-down of each mini-game : description, underlying logic, and recommended strategy

Test-taking tips to maximize your chances

Similar games for practicing the McKinsey Solve Game

It is important to keep in mind that since neither Imbellus nor McKinsey publicizes the exact details of the criteria/mechanisms used in-game, the insights in this article – reported by our correspondents – may not reflect 100% of the in-game elements.

What is the McKinsey Solve like?

The McKinsey Solve Test or Digital Assessment has a time limit of 60-80 minutes . The candidate is asked to solve 2 out of 6 possible mini-games. Both the final results and the process are assessed , and if the candidate is found to possess similar skills and tendencies to a McKinsey consultant, they are offered an interview.

For a more detailed guide on the technical details of the game, please check out the McKinsey PSG Simulation (All-in-one) package.

mckinsey problem solving game feedback

Figure 1: Overview of McKinsey Solve / McKinsey PSG

Time limit is 71 minutes

As of April 2021, the reported time limit for the McKinsey Solve is exactly 70 or 71 minutes , with 35 minutes recommended for the first game (Ecosystem Building), and 35 minutes for the second game ( Redrock Study ), or 36 minutes (Plant Defense). Time spent on tutorials is not counted towards the limit.

Ever since the start of the game, there have been variations in time limit reports, however, these tend to stay between 60-80 minutes. This variation depends on the length of each mini-game.

Pre-2023, i.e. with Plant Defense mini-game : Actual time allocation depends entirely on the candidate’s decision – however since the first game is much more predictable, we recommend playing this quickly to allow more time for the second game. With a proper approach, the first game should take only 15-20 minutes, with time for a double-check taken into account.

Summer 2023 onward, i.e. with Redrock Study mini-game : The Ecosystem Building mini-game is now allocated a fixed 35-minutes, and the Redrock Study another 35. That means even if you finish the first game early, there is no additional time for the second game.

Candidates should also make the most out of the tutorial time – try to guess the objective of the mini-game, and think of an overall approach before beginning a mini-game. You can also use that time to make necessary preparations, such as pen and paper, or maybe a light snack to keep yourself energized.

Each candidate has to solve 2 out of 6 mini-games 

As of June 2023, 6 mini-games are confirmed for the McKinsey Solve Test: Ecosystem Building, Redrock Study, Plant Defense, Disaster Management, Disease Management, Migration Management . The 2 main mini-games that nearly all candidates will encounter are the Ecosystem Building Game and the Redrock Study Task. 

Our reports indicate that 100% of the McKinsey Solve Test will have Ecosystem Building in the first game slot. For the second game slot, right now, 80-90% of the candidates will have the Redrock Study Task , while 10-20% will have the Plant Defense game (before this, the ratio for the second game was reversed). This means McKinsey is gradually phasing out Plant Defense in favor of the Redrock Study Task .

The first one, Ecosystem Building, is similar to city building games - except with animals instead of buildings - where you have to build an ecosystem with a number of species.

In the Redrock Study Task, your mission is to solve ONE large study using on-screen tools then move on to answering 10 smaller cases with a similar topic.

Watch this video to gain more insight into the interface, functions, and contents of the Redrock Study Task (2024 latest version)! 

The other 3 games - Disaster Management, Disease Management, Migration Management - are alternatives that McKinsey previously used for beta testing. They no-longer appear in the McKinsey Solve test in 2023.

Disaster Management involves identifying the natural disaster occurring in an ecosystem and moving the whole system to another location to minimize damage. This mini-game appeared occasionally from 2020 to 2021.

Disease Management is about identifying an infectious disease, figuring out its rules of infection, and predicting its spread within an ecosystem. This mini-game appeared occasionally from 2020 to 2021.

Migration Management is about directing a group of animals from one point to another such that it loses the least amount of resources and animals. This mini-game appeared occasionally from 2021 to 2022.

If you are looking for a tool simulating exactly the McKinsey Solve to familiarize with the test, our McKinsey Solve Simulation can help you. Using the code “ SOLVEMCPYT ”, you can get a 10% off for any first purchase of this product. Check it now!

The next part will be about how candidates are assessed – if that’s not in your interest, you can skip straight to the mini-game and strategy guide using this link.

Every keystroke and mouse movement will be assessed

Each candidate will be assessed using both product scores (i.e. the final results) and process scores (i.e. how they get those results).

Product scores are determined by your level of success in achieving the objectives of the mini-games.

In the first mini-game, while there is no 100% right answer, some solutions will be better than others. You will be given this information through a report screen. For the second mini-game, the final results are definitive fact-based and data-based answers. There will be right and wrong answers, but McKinsey will not inform you how many correct answers/actions you get.

Mini-game 1: How many species survive? 

Mini-game 2: Did you pick the right data points? Are your calculations and reports correct? Did you choose a suitable graph to display the data?

Process scores, on the other hand, are dictated using data on your patterns during the whole problem-solving process – every keystroke, every click, and every mouse movement will be assessed.

The process and product scores are combined to form a profile of problem-solving skills and capabilities. And while there is no official statement from McKinsey about which candidates they select, it is likely that the more you resemble a high-performing consultant at McKinsey, the higher your chances will be.

Candidates are assessed on five core dimensions

Your problem-solving profile is drawn using the five following dimensions:

Critical thinking : the ability to form a rational judgment from a set of facts

Decision-making : the ability to select the best course of action among options

Meta-cognition : the ability to use strategies to make learning information and solving problems easier (e.g., testing hypothesis, taking notes)

Situational awareness : the ability to determine the relationships between different factors and to project the outcomes of a mini-game

Systems thinking : the ability to understand cause & effect relationships involving several factors and feedback loops (e.g., anticipating several orders of consequences)

The good news is that all the skills assessed are generally not evaluated by themselves, which means training one skill will probably also drive up your assessment scores in others . This is absolutely crucial because you won’t have to go into every nitty-gritty task just to squeeze out some extra score.

Furthermore, while all capabilities must be presented for success, some metrics are considered to be more impactful than others. From this Imbellus research paper , we could deduce that Critical thinking, Situational awareness, and Systems thinking are the fundamental skills that all successful candidates need to possess.

Meanwhile,  Decision-Making and Meta-Cognition skills mastery are the advanced skills that will transform candidates from good to great ones.

Median Construct Percentile through McKinsey Recruiting Pipeline

Figure 2: Median Construct Percentile through McKinsey Recruiting Pipeline (Source: Imbellus)

The test measures telemetry data to calculate the five dimensions

While it is hard to pinpoint exactly the telemetry data gathered since Imbellus does not fully disclose this information, one way of framing this is by each stage of the problem-solving process itself.

Based on our findings from real candidates, we believe the telemetry could be assorted into the following sets, each directly influencing the key activities during the stages from identifying the problem to delivering the next-step recommendation.

Problem Identification: your systematic thinking pattern

Methodological vs. abstract

Big-picture thinking vs. detail-oriented

Example telemetry: prioritization and focus tendency, clicking and decision pattern

Quantitative analysis & data synthesis: the ability to translate data into insights

Drawing relationship between data

Filter out correlated or irrelevant information

Example telemetry: data focus pattern, time spent on quantitative task

Hypothesis-crafting: bringing insights into actionable hypothesis

Putting emphasis on a certain approach / methodology from insights

Example telemetry: duration of the transition from analysis to decision-making, disrupted status quo period

Decision-making: coherence in actions and thinking

Random selection or well-thought out decisions based on analysis

Decisiveness in carrying out actions with the chosen tactics

Reaction under growing time pressure – panic clicking vs. calm and focus

Example telemetry: factors connecting each selection, time spent deciding between options

Next-step recommendation: learning and reflection

Ability to adjust existing strategy and preference for tried-and-true method in presence of new data set or shifting conditions

Progressive learning and reflection with failures and successes

Example telemetry: number of clicks, scrolling speed, time spent on certain data blocks

Breaking down the test –  Redrock Study Task

Mini-game overview & description.

The Redrock Study Task began appearing as early as July 2023. Then in March 2023, it received an update which divided the Task into 2 Parts which we will see below.

The first part of the mini-game, also the most important one, consists of ONE large study with a main objective and a set of supporting data . This part is divided into 3 main phases: INVESTIGATION, ANALYSIS, AND REPORT.

Phase 1 - INVESTIGATION : Your task is to skim through the case description, identify the objective and necessary data points, then collect them into an on-screen Research Journal.

Phase 2 - ANALYSIS : Using a provided calculator, you process the data points to answer 3 quantitative questions. These answers will be used to fill in the report in phase 3. Your calculation history will be recorded.

Phase 3 - REPORT : With the results calculated from phase 2, your main job is to complete the textual and graphical report (you have to choose which type of graph to use).

In the second part, you have to answer 10 cases with a similar topic to part one (i.g. If your part 1 case is about clothing sales, the mini cases will also be about clothing sales). Though, our user reports show that the topic is purely cosmetic and does not affect the final assessments.

As of July 2023, we have only received reports of  Single-select Multiple choice questions (that is, choose an answer out of A, B, or C) and Numerical-answer questions . There have been no signs of open-ended questions.

As for the time limit, the whole task is given a total of 35 minutes for both parts . While there are no official time constraints, we recommend spending 25 minutes on the first part , and 10 minutes on the second part to optimize your outcome.

We suggest you to watch this video in advance for better visualizing how the Redrock Study Task works.

Breaking down the study in Part 1

In the first part of the Redrock Study Task (we’ll refer to this as the study or case ), the study’s flow is designed to test candidates’ logical and reasoning skills. If you don’t follow the logic carefully, the algorithm may be unable to recognize your thinking process, and view you negatively. Here, we have broken the study down into 4 aspects.

Game aspect 1: understanding the study

This refers to the first phase of the Redrock Task, which is INVESTIGATION. To truly grasp what you need to do, you must first clearly identify the case's objectives . Then, your next task is to understand all the data points presented within the case, to identify which ones can be used to answer the objective.

In general, all information presented on the screen is needed towards understanding and solving the case. But some are less important than others. Background information and test instructions are usually text-based data that you can’t select or move around. They only serve to give you an overview of the case, like the case’s theme, and don’t need to be collected. 

By contrast, important data points are highlighted and presented in boxes on the screen. You can click and drag these boxes around to work inside the case. Among these movable data points , there are 3 types of crucial information that you need to find:

Case objectives : These are text based data, informing you about the goal that you must solve in the case. It usually sits at the top of the case, right after the instruction . 

Calculation instructions : These are data points telling you which math formula you must use and which numbers to choose. They are often long texts/sentences that describe the relationships (higher/lower/etc.) between subjects in the case .

Numbers : These make up the largest portion of the data points in the case. They usually appear in charts/diagrams (bar chart, pie chart,...), tables, or sometimes in-between texts. You have to collect these numbers into the journal to calculate in the next phase. Only a small percentage of these numbers (10-15%) are actually important to the case.

mckinsey problem solving game feedback

Figure 3: Data points in the study

In general, the rule of thumb is that once you have collected the case’s objectives, you must identify which math formula to use. Only then can you gather suitable numbers that the calculation requires. Also, only a handful of data points are necessary to solve the case, so pick wisely.

Game aspect 2: collecting data points

You can drag any movable data point in any phase of the Redrock test into the Journal to “collect” it. In the Research Journal, each collected “data point” will show up as a card, with its own label and description. Data in the Journal can be used to feed into the Calculator, or into “answer inputs” , (blank spaces under the questions).

Some data comes with appropriate labels for its contents, but some do not . All data labels can be manually changed – we recommend doing so if the default label does not adequately describe the contents. Appropriate labeling will speed up your analysis later, since it allows you to quickly identify the relevant data.

Once collected, each data point can also be highlighted by using the “I” button (presumably for “important”) on the left of its label. Toggling on this button will cover the whole data point in an orange tint. We recommend highlighting information that is needed during the ANALYSIS (or calculation) phase.

Inside the Research Journal, you can move these data points up and to organize them from top to bottom . It’s possible that McKinsey will look at how you organize the data. We’ll give some insights on that later. The specific sorting method is still receiving changes, so we’ll update it as we go.

mckinsey problem solving game feedback

Figure 4: The research journal, which is always present on the left of your screen

Game aspect 3: processing the data points for insights

During the second phase of the game, you will be provided with 3 quantitative questions that directly relate to the game’s objective. Each one has 2-3 sub-questions with an answer input gap requiring an answer from the calculator. To answer these questions, you have to feed the collected numerical data points into an on-screen calculator, then drag the results into the appropriate gap.

The calculator has a simple interface, similar to a phone’s digital calculator , with basic operators like *,+,-,/. It’s safe to assume that the math involved are usually simple calculations (similar to most candidates' reports). Though they lack the ‘%’ button for percentage calculation.

We recommend that you perform all calculations on the provided calculator, as all your operations are recorded in a history log. So, we assume that how you work towards the answers will also weigh on the final results.

A recommended workflow is to drag the data points from your research journal into the calculator’s input screen to perform the operation. Then you’ll need to drag the result and drop them into the blank space in the question. You should avoid typing the number on your keyboard as it may lead to unfortunate typos.

Here are a few confirmed question types and calculations during phase 2 of part 1:

Basic operations (add/subtract/multiply/divide): Basic operations don’t often sit alone. They usually have to be involved in complex questions.

Simple percentages and ratios: They require you to calculate simple ratio, percentages and fractions. For example: “What is the percentage of population growth between 2021-2022?” (Provided data: Population number in 2021, Population number in 2022)

Compound percentage questions: They require you to calculate multiple ratios and percentages in a row. For example: “What is the population number at the end of 2023?” (Provided data: Population number at the start of 2022, Population growth rate for 2022, Projected increase in population growth rate for 2023 compared to growth rate for 2022)

One important thing to note, as reported, the results that you get from these questions are almost always needed in the REPORT phase. There’ll be a review screen s o ALWAYS collect your answers into the journal.

Game aspect 4: completing the case report

The Report phase is the last part of the Redrock Study Task. It consists of two parts: Summary and Data Visualization.

Summary involves filling in the blanks of a text-format report, using numbers already given and produced in the previous phases, and expressions such as “higher”, “lower”, “equal to”, etc. The blanks in this phase will likely be somewhat like the answer inputs in the Analysis phase.

Data Visualization involves choosing the correct type of chart and filling in the numbers to produce a meaningful chart for the report. For this step, a difference between the Redrock Study and the old McKinsey PST is the lack of compound chart type. This drastically reduces the difficulty, as you only have to work with simple chart types like bar or pie charts.

mckinsey problem solving game feedback

Figure 5: Screenshots of questions for the report phase

Mastering the Redrock Study

From what we can see, the Redrock Study Task is more similar to its Problem-Solving Test predecessor than a game . That makes the tips to this task a bit different from the previously-popular Plant Defense game. There’s no instant formula that can guarantee the best chance of survival (maybe this is why Plant Defense got canceled), rather, you must act and think like a McKinsey consultant.

Watch more: Redrock walkthrough video

Tip 1: Show a top-down and structured approach while collecting data

A good McKinsey consultant always takes a top-down approach when analyzing a problem, and recruiter often favor candidates with this trait. During the Study, McKinsey can assess this trait when you collect and arrange data.

Always collect the objectives first . They are the central problems of the case, and represent the highest level of your issue tree. You must always collect them into the Research Journal. If they are too long, you can always note down a summary on a piece of scratch paper.

mckinsey problem solving game feedback

Figure 6: Study's objectives

The next step is to identify the math formula . This type of data governs which calculation formula you need to use, and in turns, which numbers to collect next. We’ll call this the relational data . The objectives will determine the relational data points you need.

Finally, collect the necessary numbers . These are the ones needed for calculating and filling in the final reports . Collect only the ones you need by analyzing the objectives and relational data. Don’t collect all data points erratically , as this showcases that you have no structured thinking.

Tip 2: Label and organize data

As stated before, once collected into the journal, each data point will have a label and description . Some data points already have good labels, some do not.

It’s possible that  McKinsey can recognize good labels , so we suggest always changing the label and description of a data point when necessary. Good label can seem good to an algorithm, and it can also help you analyze them more conveniently. We have a few suggestions as to what constitute a good label:

What is the timeframe? (“Is this data for 2020, or 2021?”)

Which subjects are concerned? (i.e., the things represented by rows and columns in a spreadsheet, or axes on a chart).

Is there anything else I need to keep in mind? (i.e., the footnotes or any auxiliary information that accompanies a chart/table) 

As for arranging data, try to keep it consistent and top-down . “Overview” data points should be placed above the “granular” ones.

For example, keep the objectives at the top of your research journal, and below them are relational data points. Numerical data points from the same table should be placed together, and beneath the relational data that refers to them. McKinsey MIGHT take this as a sign that you are a structured person, if not, it will help you solve the case easier.

Tip 3: Avoid going back and showing indecisiveness

The game allows you to go back and forth freely between each phase to collect more data points. While this is great for when you make a mistake or need to double check, we don’t recommend doing so.

This behavior signals that the candidate does not understand each section fully and is uncertain about the task. And in phase 1, McKinsey’s instruction clearly states that you should collect all and only relevant data before moving on. It’s possible that moving back and forth can be viewed negatively by the algorithm .

Tip 4: Choose the correct chart-type (bar/line/pie)

We have written an entire guide on how to chart like a McKinsey consultant, so be sure to check it out before attempting this task. But in short, you need to choose the correct type of chart that best describes a certain type of data , in the McKinsey way.

Part 2 cases tear down

Since this part of the test has only been introduced recently, we are still in the process of interviewing and synthesizing insights. More information will be updated later as things develop.


There are 10 cases in Part 2 , each has a question with directions, text information and data exhibits. Each case also has an onscreen tool to assist you. You must solve the cases sequentially, that means you can’t skip forward and must answer one case before the next.

All 10 cases will follow the same theme/topic with the Part 1 study. But from candidate reports, it’s safe to assume that the theme does not play any part in the answer, and each case is self-contained (which means you don’t need numbers of another case to get the answer).

The word count to the 10 cases can vary between 100 and 400 words . They only require a fundamental level of quantitative or reasoning skill to solve and don’t require advanced mathematical skills. But most of our candidates struggle to solve them within 10 minutes, so be careful. 


The questions types that we have seen from candidate reports generally mirror those in part 1. We categorize them into five main types : Word Problems, Formulae, Verbal Reasoning, Critical Reasoning, and Visualization. We also deduced the rate at which these questions appear part 2.

Word problems (50%) are math exercises that require candidates to read the text and exhibit data to solve

Formulae (20-30%) are a similar question type to word problems, but the candidate only needs to identify the formula used for calculation.

Verbal Reasoning (7-8%) and Critical Reasoning (7-8%) are single-select multiple choice questions requiring candidates to choose a “true” or “false” statement among 3-5 options.

Visualization (10%) requires the user to choose the correct type of chart to illustrate the given data.

Part 2 has a near identical format to a traditional Problem-Solving Test (except for the on-screen tool like a calculator similar to Part 1’s). Thus, to save time, we only recommend getting familiar with the interface and mastering fundamental knowledge for a McKinsey consultant (like the issue tree , MECE, etc.) which we covered many times before.

Watch more: McKinsey PSG Explained

Breaking down the test –  Ecosystem Building

In the Ecosystem Building mini-game, you have to create an ecosystem with 8 species from a list of 39. There are three key objectives:

(1) The ecosystem must form a continuous food chain

(2) T here must be a calorie surplus for every pair of predator and prey (that is, the prey’s production is higher than the predator’s consumption)

(3) The ecosystem must match the terrain specifications of the chosen location

Here’s a detailed description of data and metrics in the mini-game, and how they relate to the objectives.

Figure 7: "the Moutain" and "the Reef"

Objective 1: Terrain Match

There are two scenarios on which you must build the ecosystem: “the Mountain” and “the Reef”. 

Each location in the Mountain world has the 8 following specifications: Elevation, Temperature, Wind Speed, Humidity, Cloud Height, Soil pH, Precipitation, Air Pressure.

Each location in the Reef has the 7 following specifications: Depth, Water Current, Water Clarity, Temperature, Salt Content, Dissolved Oxygen, Wind Speed.

Terrain specifications have very little correlation.

Each species also has a few required terrain specifications – if these terrain requirements are not met, the species will die out . These requirements are often not exact numbers, but ranges (e.g: Temperature: 20-30 C). 

All 39 species are organized into 3 equal groups using their terrain specs – I call them “layers”. Species of the same layers have exactly the same terrain specs.

Objective 2: Food Chain Continuity

Each species has a few natural predators (Eaten By), and prey (Food Sources) – see below for exceptions.

The species are divided into producers (which are plants and corals, which consume no calories), and consumers. Consumers can be herbivores (plant-eating animal), carnivores (animal-eating animal), or omnivores (eats both plants and animals).

Producers always have the Food Sources as “sunlight” or other natural elements, i.e. they do not have prey. Some consumers are “apex animals”, meaning they do not have natural predators (can be recognized by empty the “Eaten By” specs). These have strategic implications in building the food chain. 

 Objective 3: Energy Balance

Each species has a “calorie needed” and a “calorie provided” figure . A species lives if its calorie needed is less than the sum calorie provided of the species it eats (so it has enough energy to survive) and its calories provided is higher than the sum calorie provided of the species that eat it (so it’s not eaten to extinction).

Two caveats apply here: a species often don't eat all of its prey and is not eaten by all of its predators. There are certain rules for priorities (see the “Feeding Overlap” issue) and more often than not, predators and prey will interact on a one-to-one basis.

In old versions of the game, each species will be placed on a group basis, with the number of individuals in each group ranging from 20 to 60. In these versions, calorie specs are “per individual”, so you have to perform the math to get the true consumption and production figures of the whole species.

New versions discarded this “per individual” feature, presenting the calorie specs for the whole species as one, but there is no guarantee the old feature won’t be re-introduced.

As of game-flow, the candidate is free to switch between choosing location and species during the mini-game . There is also a time bar on the top of the screen.

Old reports indicate that once you’ve submitted your proposed ecosystem, you would receive a scorecard in the end, showing how it actually plays out. Key measurements might include calories produced and consumed, and the number of species alive.

However, recent reports have indicated that results aren't displayed at the end. In either case, it is safe to assume that the underlying principles remain the same.

Cracking the mini-game

The biggest challenges in the Ecosystem Building mini-game are task prioritization and data processing – most test-takers report that they are overwhelmed by the amount of data given, and do not know how to approach the problem. However, the second problem can be mitigated by reading the rules very carefully, because McKinsey provides specific and detailed instructions in the tutorials.

To overcome both challenges at the same time, first, we need to know the “eating rules” (i.e. how species take turns to eat) and then we can develop a 3-step approach to meet those challenges.

Description of Ecosystem Building game interface

Figure 8: Description of Ecosystem Building game interface


In the McKinsey PSG Ecosystem mini-game, species take turns to eat and get eaten, in accordance to very specific and comprehensive rules:

1. The species with the highest Calories Provided in the food chain eats first.

2. It eats the species with the highest Calories Provided among its prey (if the eating species is a producer, you can assume it automatically bypass this step, as well as steps 3-5).

3. The eating species then “consumes” from the eaten species an amount of Calories Provided that is equal to its Calories Needed, which is at the same time substracted an amount equal to the Calories Provided taken from the eaten species.

4. If there are two “top prey” species with the same Calories Provided, the eating species will eat from each of them an amount equal to 1/2 of its Calories Needed.

5. If the Calories Needed hasn’t been reduced to 0 (i.e.: satisfied), even if the eating species has consumed all the Calories Provided of the first prey the eating species will move on to the next prey with the second-highest Calories Provided, and repeat the above steps; the prey that has been exhausted its Calories Provided will be removed permanently from the food chain and considered extinct.

6. After the first species have finished eating, the cycle repeats for the species with the second-highest Calories Provided, then the third-highest, etc. until every species has already eaten. Note: in every step where species are sorted using Calories Provided, it always uses the most recent figure (i.e. the one after consumption by a predator).

7. At the end of this process, all species should have new Calories Provided and Calories Needed, both smaller than the original figures. A species survive when its end-game Calorie Needed is equal to 0, and Calorie Provided is higher than 0.

Let’s take a look at an example – try applying the rules above before reading the explanation, and see if you get it right:

Example of McKinsey Solve - Ecosystem Building's food chain

Figure 9: Example of a food chain in Ecosystem Building minigame

Now, here’s how this food chain is resolved:

The three producers automatically have their Calories Needed satisfied and does not need to eat anything.

The first species to eat is an animal – the Mouse. It eats equally from Grass and Mushroom, which have equal Calories Provided, an amount of 2,000 each. The Mouse’s Calories Needed reduces to 0, while the Calories Provided for Grass and Mushroom reduce to 3,000 each (Grass and Mushroom survive).

The second species to eat is the Squirrel. It should have eaten Grass, but Grass’s new Calories Provided is only 3,000, so the Squirrel picks Nuts instead. Squirrel’s Calories Needed becomes 0, while Nuts’ Calories Needed becomes 500 (Nuts survive).

The third species to eat is the Snake. It eats the Mouse, reducing its own Calories Needed to 0 while taking 2,000 from the 3,000 of the Mouse’s Calories Provided. (Mouse survives).

The fourth species to eat is the Fox. It eats the Squirrel, reducing its own Calories Needed to 0 while taking 2,000 from the 2,500 of the Squirrel’s Calories Provided. (Squirrel survives).

The last species to eat is the Tiger. It eats the Snake first, taking away all of the Snake’s 1,500 Calories Provided, then proceeds to take 500 from the Fox’s 1,200, so that its Calories Needed can be reduced to 0 (Snake becomes extinct, Fox survives).

The Tiger is not eaten by any other animal (Tiger survives).

Solution of a food chain in Ecosystem Building minigame

Figure 10: Solution of a food chain in Ecosystem Building minigame

With these rules in mind, let us go through a 3-step process to building a food chain:

Step 1: Select the location:

Use a spreadsheet or scratch paper to list the terrain specs and calories provided of the producers of the mini-game.

Skim through the data to see which terrain specs remain the same across all species, and which ones change. Only changing terrain specs are relevant (there should be 2 of them), the rest are merely “noise” intended to cause information overload.

Calculate the sum calories provided for the producers of each layer. The layer with the highest calories provided is likely to be the easiest to build the chain.

Step 2: Build the food chain:

Look through the data to list the consumers with compatible terrain requirements in your spreadsheet.

Pick the apex predator with the lowest calorie needed as the starting point of the food chain.

Build the food chain top-down like an issue tree, by listing the food sources of the top predators. Continue drilling down until you reach the “base” level of corals and plants. Ideally the food chain should contain 3-4 levels, and 8 species.

Alternatively, you can build the food chain in a bottom-up manner, by looking at the “Eaten By” specs of each species, until you reach the top predators. Our reports indicate that in real test conditions, this approach can be just as fast as the top-down one.

During the whole process, try to prioritize species with high calories provided, and low calories needed. This should maximize the chance of calorie surplus in the food chain, and leave room for new additions should the first chain not meet the required 8 species.

If you finish the chain short of the required 8 species, work bottom-up to find gaps (i.e unused surplus calories), and plug in those gaps with predators or plant-eating animals.

The whole process should be done on a spreadsheet/scratch paper to facilitate calculations.

Step 3: Triple-check and adjust:

Go back to the beginning of the process and check if every species of your food chain is compatible with the chosen location.

Make sure the food chain is continuous – that is, the food sources listed fit with the description of each species.

Check if each species in the food chain is supplied with enough calories and not eaten into extinction using the given eating rules.

Adjust the food chain if any of the three checks are not met.

Breaking down the test – Plant-Defense

*June 2023 Update: Though McKinsey is gradually phasing out this test, we are still receiving sporadic reports of it being used for candidates (about 10-20% in total). So for the sake of information sharing, this section will still remain on our article, and will be updated as changes happen.

The second mini-game of the McKinsey Solve Game – Plant-Defense – is a turn-based tower-defense game . The candidate is charged with defending a plant at the center of a grid-based map from invading pests, using obstacles and predators, for as long as possible, until the defenses are overwhelmed and the plant is destroyed.

Screenshot of Plant Defense minigame

Figure 11: Screenshot of Plant Defense minigame

Here’s a detailed description of the gameplay:

The visual map is divided by a square grid (size from 10×10 to 12×12), with natural obstacles (called Terrain, or Terrain Transformations) are scattered across the map.

The game has a recommended time allocation of 12 minutes per stage – which makes 36 minutes in total.

The game is divided into three maps, each with 2 phases – “planning phase” and “fast-forward phase”.

The “planning phase” is divided into 3 waves of 5 turns each. Every 3-5 turns, a new stack of Invader appears at the border of the map and starts travelling towards the center base – you have lay out defensive plans to tackle them. The phase lasts until you eliminated all the Invaders / you survive at the end of the 15th turn / your plant is destroyed.

The “fast-forward phase” comes after the 15th turn of the planning phase. All the remaining Invaders from the planning phase will continue attacking. Your defensive scheme remains unchanged, and unchangeable. Invaders will continuously spawn and attack until the base is destroyed.

After you’ve finished the game, the number of turns your plant survived will be used as the basis for the product scores.

Game aspect 1: Resources

At the beginning of each wave, you are allowed to choose and place 5 resources – divided into Defenders (such as Coyote, Snake, Falcon etc. which kill the Invaders) and Terrains (comprised of Cliff, Forest, and Rocky, which slow down or block the invaders). Each will be assigned to one turn of the current wave.

After each turn, the Defender/Terrain of that turn will be activated and locked – meaning you cannot change or remove its placement. The rest can be altered to adapt with the circumstances. The only exception is the Cliff, which activates right after its placement. 

Each Defender has a range/territory – once an invader steps into that range/territory, the Defender will damage them, reducing their population. The range vary between each Defender type – but in general the more powerful they are, the smaller their range is.

Each Terrain is effective towards different types of Invaders and in different ways, with some blocking the Invaders while others slowing them down.

Each Terrain and Defender will occupy one square. You cannot place Defender on top of an existing Defender, and if a Terrain is placed on top of an existing Terrain, it will replace the existing Terrain.

Defenders and Terrains form mutually compatible pairs which can exist on one same square. 

 Game aspect 2: Invaders

Invaders will appear from the map borders every 3-5 turns, in stacks of 100-200 population each, and move one step closer to your plant by each turn. The population of the stacks increase gradually.

Each Invader stack is accompanied by a path indicator – a long yellow arrow showing the direction it will take. The invader will always take this path unless blocked by Cliff.

Each Invader is countered by certain types of Terrain/Defender.

Description of Plant Defense minigame's interface

Figure 12: Description of Plant Defense minigame's interface

As the Plant Defense mini-game of the McKinsey Solve Game is essentially a tower-defense game, the basic tactics of that game genre can be applied – namely inside-out building and kill-zones. However, as the mini-game locks you from changing placement after a number of turns, contingency planning is also necessary.

I will elaborate each of those tactics:


In this tactic, you build multiple layers of defenders outwards from the base, assisted by terrain.

Place your resources close to the plant first. As the inner rings of the map are smaller in circumference, and paths usually converge as you advance towards the center, this helps you maximize the coverage of each resource around the plant early on.

In the example below, the “inside-out” approach only takes 8 resources to protect the plant from all directions, while the “outside in” approach takes 24. With this approach, place your most powerful resources closest to the plant, and expand with the less powerful, but longer-range ones.

Visualization of Inside-out, multi-layered defense tactic

Figure 13: Visualization of the Inside-out, multi-layered defense tactic


This isn’t so much of a “tactic”, but a reminder – after 15 turns, you won’t be able to change or place more resources, so try to identify the pattern of the invaders, and quickly adapt your strategy accordingly. It will take a few initial turns to experiment which works best for each type of invader.

Use your resources prudently, create an all-round protection for the plant – lopsided defenses (i.e heavy in one direction, but weak in others) won’t last long – and lasting long is the objective of this mini-game.

Alternative mini-games

In June 2023, we have received reports that these alternative mini-games have disappeared completely . When McKinsey decided that these games can’t accurately assess a candidate’s skills , they removed these tests. But in the future, as the McKinsey Solve evolves, there’s a chance they will re-adopt these games or develop new ones based on them. Thus, this section of the article exists only to provide a record, you can skip right to the next part.

Alternative 1: Disaster Management

In the Disaster Management mini-game of the Solve Game, the candidate is required to identify the type of natural disaster that has happened to an ecosystem, using limited given information and relocate that ecosystem to ensure/maximize its survivability.

With the two main objectives in mind, here’s how to deal with them:

Identify the disaster: this is a problem-diagnosis situation – the most effective approach would be to draw an issue tree with each in-game disaster as a branch, skim through data in a bottom-up manner to form a hypothesis, then test that hypothesis by mining all possible data in game (such as wind speed, temperature, etc.)

Relocate the ecosystem: this is a more complicated version of the location-selection step in the Ecosystem-Building mini-game, with the caveat that you will first have to rule out the locations with specs similar to the ongoing disaster. The rest can be done using a spreadsheet listing the terrain requirements of the species.

Like the Ecosystem Building mini-game, you will solve this mini-game only once, unlike the Plant Defense and the next Disease Management mini-games with multiple maps.

Alternative 2: Disease Management

In the Disease Management mini-game of the Solve Game, the candidate is required to identify the infection patterns of a disease within an ecosystem and predict the next individual to be infected.

The game gives you 3-5 factors for the species (increasing as the game progresses), including name, age, weight, and 3 snapshots of the disease spread (Time 1, Time 2, Time 3) to help you solve the problem.

There is one main objective here only: identify the rules of infection (the second is pretty much straightforward after you know the rules) – this is another problem-diagnosis situation. The issue tree for this mini-game should have specific factors as branches. Skim through the 3 snapshots to test each branch – once you’re sure which factor underlies and how it correlates with infection, simply choose the predicted individual.

Screenshot of Disease Management minigame with description

Figure 14: Screenshot of Disease Management minigame

Alternative 3: Migration Management

The Migration Management mini-game is a turn-based puzzle game. The candidate is required to direct the migration of 50 animals. This group carries a certain amount of resources (such as water, food, etc.), often 4-5 resources, each with an amount of 10-30. Every turn, 5 animals die and 5 of each resource is consumed.

It takes 3-5 turns from start to finish for each stage Migration mini-game, and the candidates must place 15 stages in 37 minutes. The candidate must choose among different routes to drive the animals. In each stage, there are points where candidates can collect 3 additional animals or resources (1-3 for each type), and choose to multiply some of the collected resources (1x, 3x and 6x); the game tells the candidate in advance which resources/animals they will get at each point, but not the amount.

The objective is to help the animals arrive at the destination with minimal animal losses, and with specific amounts of resources.

With all of these limited insights in mind, here’s what I recommend for the strategy:

Nearly every necessary detail is given in advance, so use a scratch paper to draw a table, with the columns being the resources/animals, and the rows being the routes. Quickly calculate the possible ending amount for each resources, assuming you get 2 at every collection point (good mental math will come in handy).

Choose the route with the highest number of animals, and “just enough” resources to meet requirements.

Watch this video below for a detailed, visualized explanation of all frequently encountered McKinsey Solve games:

Test-taking tips for the McKinsey Solve 

Besides the usual test-taking tips of “eat, sleep and rest properly before the test”, “tell your friends and family to avoid disturbing”, etc. there are five tips specifically applicable to the McKinsey Solve Game I’ve compiled and derived from the reports of test takers:

Tip 1: Don’t think too much about criteria and telemetry measurements

You can’t know for sure which of your actions they are measuring, so don’t try so much to appear “good” before the software that it hurts your performance. One of our interviewers reported that he refrained from double-checking the species information in the Ecosystem Building mini-game for fear of appearing unsure and unplanned.

My advice is to train for yourself a methodical, analytic approach to every problem, so when you do come in for the test, you will naturally appear as such to the software. Once you’ve achieved that, you can forget about the measurements, and focus completely on problem-solving.

Tip 2: Don’t be erratic with in-game actions

While you don’t want to spend half your brain-power trying to “look good” to the software, do avoid erratic behaviors such as randomly selecting between the info panels, or swinging the mouse cursor around when brainstorming (yes, people do that – my Project Manager does the same thing when we do monthly planning for the website).

This kind of behavior might lead the software into thinking that you have unstable or unreliable qualities (again, we can never know for sure, but it’s best to try). One tip to minimize such “bad judgment” is to take your brainstorming outside of the game window, by using a paper, or a spreadsheet. 

Tip 3: Always strive for a better solution (Ecosystem Building)

Some of the interviewed test-takers seem to be under a wrong impression that “the end results do not matter as much as the process” – however, for the McKinsey Solve, you need good end results too. This is especially true in the Ecosystem Building, where a “right” answer with no species dying can be easily found with the right strategy.

Consulting culture is highly result-oriented, and this game/test has product scores to reflect that. Having a methodical and analytical approach is not enough – it’s no use being as such if you cannot produce good results (or, “exceptional” results, according to MBB work standards).

Tip 4: Showcase fundamental skills for a McKinsey consultant (Redrock Study)

McKinsey is always looking for candidates with the exact skill set for a model consultant: structured, logical, and professional. The McKinsey Solve Test is designed to do just that: to look for the right set of skills (with a lot of tracking and algorithms).

Through all parts of the Redrock Study Task , you must exhibit that you are a model McKinsey prospect. Here are a few things that they will value during the Redrock Study:

Strong mental math skills: A consultant MUST quickly pitch insights and calculations to clients and CEOs (elevator pitch). You’ll have to quickly choose a logical math formula and deliver results (not necessarily accurate). That’s why in all stages of the test involving math and a calculator, always do your calculations step-by-step on screen (if there’s an on-screen tool) . 

Structured, top-down thinking: A candidate has to demonstrate that they are  a hypothesis-driven, structured problem solver . In other parts of the interview process (like the case interview), it is shown through a MECE, top-down issue tree. In the Redrock Study Task, you can show off this skill via organizing data points in the Research Journal, which we discussed above.

Choosing the right charts: A McKinsey consultant will chart like a McKinsey consultant . Each type of data must go with a corresponding type of chart. We have included a guide on consulting charts in our product shop. So check it out 

We have also linked to relevant preparation resources below, to help you master these skills more easily. So be sure to check them out.

Tip 5: Prepare your hardware and Internet properly before the test

While the McKinsey Solve Test does not require powerful hardware, the system requirements are indeed more demanding than the usual recruitment games or tests. A decent computer is highly-advised – the smoother the experience, the more you can focus on problem-solving.

On the other hand, a fast Internet connection is a must – in fact, the faster, the better. You don’t want to be disconnected in the middle of the test – so tell other users on your network to avoid using at the same time as the test, and go somewhere with a fast and stable connection if it’s not available at your home.

How to practice for the McKinsey Solve Test

Hypothesis-driven problem-solving approach.

See this article: Issue Tree, MECE

You may have noticed a lot of the solutions for the mini-game involve an “issue tree” – the centerpiece of the hypothesis-driven problem-solving approach that real consultants use in real projects.

This problem-solving approach is a must for every candidate wishing to apply for consulting – so learn and try to master it by applying it into everyday problems and cases you read on business publications. Practicing case interviews also helps with the McKinsey Solve as well.

You can see the above articles for the important concepts of consulting problem-solving.

Mental math and fast reading skills

See this article: Consulting Math, Fast Reading

The McKinsey Solve Test – especially the 3 ecosystem-related mini-games – require good numerical and verbal aptitude to quickly absorb and analyze the huge amounts of data. Additionally, such skills are also vital to case interviews and real consulting work.

That means a crucial part of practice must include math and reading practice – see the above articles for more details on how to calculate and read 300% faster.

Practice with video games

*June 2023 update: As many games in the previous PSG have been eliminated, playing video games as part of practice has become less effective. But, we still recommend playing similar games to the Ecosystem Building (mainly) and Plant Defense mini-games.

Test-takers who regularly play video games, especially strategy games, report a significant advantage from their gaming experience. This is likely due to three main factors:

The McKinsey Solve Test’s games are in fact similar in logic and gameplay to a few popular video game genres. The more similar a game is to the McKinsey Solve, the better it is for practice.

Video games with data processing and system management also improve the necessary skills to pass the Solve.

Playing video games helps candidates understand how the interface as well as the objective system of a game works – improving their “game sense”.

I am not a fan of video games – in fact, after leaving McKinsey I founded an entertainment startup with the mission to fight the increasing popularity of video games. Yet now I have to tell you to spend a few hours each week playing them to get into McKinsey.

The question is, which games to play? Here’s a list of the games and game genres my team have found to possess many similarities with the McKinsey Solve Test:

City-building games

SimCity series

Caesar series (Zeus and Poseidon, Caesar III, Emperor ROTK)

Anno series (Anno 1404, Anno 2070, etc.)

Cities Skylines

These are very similar in logic to the Ecosystem Building mini-game – you need to balance the production and consumption of buildings and communities, which usually have specific requirements for their locations.

The difference between these and the PSG is that most games are real-time and continuous, meaning you have the opportunity to watch your city develop and correct the mistakes – in the Solve you need to nail it from the start! With that said, the amount of data you need to process in these games will make the McKinsey Solve a walk in the park; the learning curve is not too high either, making these games good practice grounds.

Screenshot from Cities Skylines

Figure 15: Screenshot from Cities Skylines

 Tower defense games

Kingdom Rush series

Plants vs Zombies series

Tower-defense games such as Kingdom Rush are near-perfect practices for the Plant Defense mini-game of the McKinsey PSG. Our basic “kill-zone” tactic in fact comes from these games.

Again, there is a caveat when practicing with games – both Plants vs Zombies and Kingdom Rush allow you to correct your mistakes by having the invaders attack the base multiple times before you lose. Both games also feature fixed and predictable paths of invasion. In the PSG, the path of the invaders changes with your actions, and if they reach your base, you’ll lose immediately.

Screenshot from Kingdom Rush

Figure 16: Screenshot from Kingdom Rush

Grand strategy and 4X games

Civilization series

Europa Universalis series

Crusader Kings series 

Grand strategy and 4X games combine the logic of system-building and tower-defense games (with Civilization being the best example), making them good practice for both games of the Test . They also require players to manage the largest amount of data among popular game genres (sometimes multiple windows with dozens of stats each).

However, they are also the game with the steepest learning curves – so if you are not one for video games, and/or you don’t have much time before the Test, these games are not for you. They are also less similar to the PSG on the surface, compared to the two genres above.

Screenshot from Civilization VI

Figure 17: Screenshot from Civilization VI

New release: Redrock Expansion (early access), an update of McKinsey PSG simulation

In 2023, we released a new product – Redrock Expansion to feature a new game of McKinsey. The Redrock Simulation can be purchased standalone or in Mckinsey Solve Simulation (All-in-one package) . Use the code “SOLVEMCPYT” and get a 10% discount for this tool if it is your first purchase. Practice now!

As the official game is still in Beta, we are constantly updating the product. The simulation is now providing a 90% accurate reconstruction of the Part 1 case. Part 2 will come later in a future update.

Scoring in the McKinsey PSG/Digital Assessment

The scoring mechanism in the McKinsey Digital Assessment

Related product

Thumbnail of McKinsey Solve Simulation (All-in-One)

If you rank above the 75th percentile (i.e. top 25% of candidates), and has a good resume, you are likely to pass the McKinsey Solve Game / PSG.

You can increase your McKinsey Solve scores through: time management, data-scanning, noise-filtering, note-taking, and having a good computer and Internet.

Experienced hires are preferred for expert and implementation roles, while opportunities for freshers are available for positions requiring less expertise"

McKinsey Solve

  • Fundamentals
  • How it works
  • Skills tested
  • How to prepare
  • A guide to the McKinsey Problem Solving Game

MCC is here to help

McKinsey’s Solve assessment has been making candidates sweat ever since it was initially trialled at the firm’s London office back in 2017 - and things have gotten even more difficult since a new version launched in Spring 2023, adding the Redrock case study.

More recently, in Summer 2023, we have seen a new iteration of that Redrock case, as we continue to interview test takers to keep you updated. This replaces the case study about optimising wolf pack populations across Redrock Island with one about boosting the overall plant biodiversity on the same island.

Since its initial roll-out, the Solve assessment has definitely been the most idiosyncratic, but also the most advanced, of the screening tests used by the MBB firms.

It can be hard to understand how an ecology-themed video game can tell McKinsey whether you’ll make a good management consultant, let alone know how to prepare yourself to do well in that game. When you consider that McKinsey are potentially cutting 70%+ of the applicant pool based on this single test, you can hardly blame applicants for being worried.

Matters are definitely not helped by the dearth of reliable, up-to-date information about what could very well be - with a top-tier consulting job on the line - the most important test you will take over your entire career. This was already true with the version of Solve that had been around for a few years, let alone the new iterations.

What information is available online is then often contradictory. For a long time, there was huge disagreement as to whether it is actually possible to meaningfully prepare for the Solve assessment - before you’ve even considered how to go about that preparation. There is also a lot of confusion and inaccuracy around the new Redrock case - largely as it is such a recent addition, and individual test takers tend to misremember details.

Luckily, we at MCC have been interviewing test takers both before and after the Redrock case rollout and have been following up to see which strategies and approaches actually work to push individuals through to interview.

Here, we’ll explain that it is indeed possible to prepare effectively for both versions of Solve and give you some ideas for how you can get started. Understanding how the Solve assessment works, what it tests you for and how is critical for all but the most hurried preparations.

This article makes for a great introduction to the Solve assessment. However, if you are going to be facing this aptitude test yourself and want full information and advice for preparation, then you should ideally get our full PDF guide:

Master the Solve Assessment

What is the mckinsey solve assessment.

In simple terms, the McKinsey Solve assessment is a set of ecology-themed video games. In these games, you must do things like build food chains, protect endangered species, manage predator and prey populations, boost biodiversity and potentially diagnose diseases within animal populations or identify natural disasters.

Usually, you will be given around 70 minutes to complete two separate games, spending about the same amount of time on each.

Until recently, these games had uniformly been Ecosystem Building and Plant Defence. However, since Spring 2023, McKinsey has been rolling out a new version across certain geographies. This replaces the Plant Defence game with the new Redrock case study. Some other games have also been run as tests.

We’ll run through a little more on all these games below to give you an idea of what you’ll be up against for both versions and possible new iterations.

An important aspect that we'll cover in more detail here is that the Solve games don't only score you on your answers (your "product score"), but also on the method you use to arrive at them (your "process score") - considerably impacting optimal strategy.

In the past, candidates had to show up to a McKinsey office and take what was then the Digital Assessment or PSG on a company computer. However, candidates are now able to take the re-branded Solve assessment at home on their own computers.

Test takers are allowed to leverage any assistance they like (you aren’t spied on through your webcam as you would be with some other online tests), and it is common to have a calculator or even another computer there to make use of.

Certainly, we strongly advise every candidate to have at least a pen, paper and calculator on their desk when they take the Solve assessment.

Common Question: Is the Solve assessment the same thing as the PSG?

In short, yes - “Solve” is just the newer name for the McKinsey Problem Solving Game.

We want to clear up any potential confusion right at the beginning. You will hear this same screening test called a few different things in different places. The Solve moniker itself is a relatively recent re-branding by McKinsey. Previously, the same test was known as either the Problem Solving Game (usually abbreviated to PSG) or the Digital Assessment. You will also often see that same test referred to as the Imbellus test or game, after the firm that created the first version.

You will still see all these names used across various sites and forums - and even within some older articles and blog posts here on MyConsultingCoach. McKinsey has also been a little inconsistent on what they call their own assessment internally. Candidates can often become confused when trying to do their research, but you can rest assured that all these names refer to the same screening test - though, of course, folk might be referring to either the legacy or Redrock versions.

How and why does McKinsey use the Solve assessment?

It’s useful to understand where the Solve assessment fits into McKinsey’s overall selection process and why they have felt the need to include it.

Let’s dive right in…

How is the Solve Assessment used by McKinsey?

McKinsey's own account of how the Solve assessment is used in selection can be seen in the following video:

Whilst some offices initially stuck with the old PST, the legacy Solve assessment was soon rolled out globally and given universally to candidates for roles at pretty well every level of the hierarchy. Certainly, if you are a recent grad from a Bachelor’s, MBA, PhD or similar, or a standard experienced hired, you can expect to be asked to complete the Solve assessment.

Likewise, the new Redrock case study versions seem to be in the process of being rolled out globally - though at this point it seems you might be given either (especially as McKinsey has been having significant technical problems with this new online case study) and so should be ready for both.

At present, it seems that only those applying for very senior positions, or perhaps those with particularly strong referrals and/or connections, are allowed to skip the test. Even this will be office-dependent.

As noted above, one of the advantages of the Solve assessment is that it can be given to all of McKinsey’s hires. Thus, you can expect to be run into the same games whether you are applying as a generalist consultant or to a specialist consulting role - with McKinsey Digital , for example.

The takeaway here is that, if you are applying to McKinsey for any kind of consulting role, you should be fully prepared to sit the Solve Assessment!

Where does the Solve assessment fit into the recruitment process?

You can expect to receive an invitation to take the Solve assessment shortly after submitting your resume.

It seems that an initial screen of resumes is made, but that most individuals who apply are invited to take the Solve assessment.

Any initial screen is not used to make a significant cut of the candidate pool, but likely serves mostly to weed out fraudulent applications from fake individuals (such as those wishing to access the Solve assessment more than once so they can practice...) and perhaps to eliminate a few individuals who are clearly far from having the required academic or professional background, or have made a total mess of their resumes.

Your email invitation will generally give you either one or two weeks to complete the test, though our clients have seen some variation here - with one individual being given as little as three days.

Certainly, you should plan to be ready to sit the Solve assessment within one week of submitting your resume!

Once you have completed the test, McKinsey explain on their site that they look at both your test scores and resume (in more detail this time) to determine who will be invited to live case interviews. This will only be around 30% of the candidates who applied - possibly even fewer.

One thing to note here is that you shouldn’t expect a good resume to make up for bad test scores and vice versa. We have spoken to excellent candidates whose academic and professional achievements were not enough to make up for poor Solve performance. Similarly, we don’t know of anyone invited to interview who hadn’t put together an excellent resume.

Blunty, you need great Solve scores and a great resume to be advanced to interview.

Your first port of call to craft the best possible resume and land your invitation to interview is our excellent free consulting resume guide .

Why does this test exist?

Screenshot of an island from the McKinsey Solve assessment

As with Bain, BCG and other major management consulting firms, McKinsey receives far far more applications for each position than they can ever hope to interview. Compounding this issue is that case interviews are expensive and inconvenient for firms like McKinsey to conduct. Having a consultant spend a day interviewing just a few candidates means disrupting a whole engagement and potentially having to fly that consultant back to their home office from wherever their current project was located. This problem is even worse for second-round interviews given by partners.

Thus, McKinsey need to cut down their applicant pool as far as possible, so as to shrink the number of case interviews they need to give without losing the candidates they actually want to hire. Of course, they want to accomplish this as cheaply and conveniently as possible.

The Problem Solving Test (invariably shortened to PST) had been used by McKinsey for many years. However, it had a number of problems that were becoming more pronounced over time, and it was fundamentally in need of replacement. Some of these were deficiencies with the test itself, though many were more concerned with how the test fitted with the changing nature of the consulting industry.

The Solve assessment was originally developed and iterated by the specialist firm Imbellus ( now owned by gaming giant Roblox ) to replace the long-standing PST in this screening role and offers solutions to those problems with its predecessor.

We could easily write a whole article on what McKinsey aimed to gain from the change, but the following few points cover most of the main ideas:

  • New Challenges: Previously, candidates were largely coming out of MBAs or similar business-focussed backgrounds and the PST’s quickfire business questions were thus perfectly sufficient to select for non-technical generalist consulting roles. However, as consulting projects increasingly call for a greater diversity and depth of expertise, McKinsey cannot assume the most useful talent – especially for technical roles – is going to come with pre-existing business expertise. A non-business aptitude test was therefore required.
  • Fairness and the Modern Context: The covid pandemic necessitated at-home aptitude testing. However, even aside from this, online testing dramatically reduces the amount of travel required of candidates. This allows McKinsey to cast a wider net, providing more opportunities to those living away from hub cities, whilst also hugely reducing the carbon footprint associated with the McKinsey selection process.
  • Gaming the System: More pragmatically, the Solve assessment is a much harder test to “game” than was the PST, where highly effective prep resources were available and readily allowed a bad candidate with good preparation to do better than a good candidate. The fact that game parameters change for every individual test taker further cuts down the risk of candidates benefitting from shared information. The recent move towards the Redrock version then also helps McKinsey stay ahead of those developing prep resources for the legacy Solve assessment.
  • Cost Cutting: A major advantage of scrapping the old pen-and-paper PST is that the formidable task of thinning down McKinsey’s applicant pool can be largely automated. No test rooms and invigilation staff need to be organised and no human effort is required to devise, transport, catalogue and mark papers.

Impress your interviewer

Group of blue fish in a coral reef

There has been a bit of variation in the games included in the Solve assessment/PSG over the years and what specific form those games take. Imbellus and McKinsey had experimented with whole new configurations as well as making smaller, iterative tweaks over time. That being said, the new 2023 Redrock case studies (seemingly added by McKinsey themselves without Imbellus) are by far the largest change to Solve since that assessment's genesis back in 2017.

Given that innovation seems to continue (especially with the lengthy feedback forms some candidates are being asked to fill in after sitting the newest iteration), there is always the chance you might be the first to receive something new.

However, our surveys of, and interviews with, those taking the Solve assessment - both before and after recent changes - mean we can give you a good idea of what to expect if you are presented with either the legacy or one of the Redrock versions of Solve.

We provide much more detailed explanation of each of the games in our Solve Assessment PDF Guide - including guidance on optimal scenarios to maximise your performance. Here, though, we can give a quick overview of each scenario:

Ecosystem Building

Screenshot showing the species data from the ecosystem building game

In this scenario, you are asked to assemble a self-sustaining ecosystem in either an aquatic, alpine or jungle environment (though do not be surprised if environments are added, as this should be relatively easy to do without changing the underlying mechanics).

The game requires you to select a location for your ecosystem. Several different options are given, all with different prevailing conditions. You then have to select a number of different plant and animal species to populate a functioning food chain within that location.

In previous versions of the game, you would have had to fit as many different species as possible into a functioning food chain. However, newer iterations of the Solve assessment require a fixed number of eight or, more recently, seven species to be selected.

Species selection isn’t a free-for-all. You must ensure that all the species you select are compatible with one another - that the predator species you select are able to eat the prey you have selected for them etc. All the species must also be able to survive in the conditions prevailing at the location you have selected.

So far, this sounds pretty easy. However, the complexity arises from the strict rules around the manner and order in which the different species eat one another. We run through these in detail in our guide, with tips for getting your food chain right. However, the upshot is that you are going to have to spend some significant time checking your initial food chain - and then likely iterating it and replacing one or more species when it turns out that the food chain does not adhere to the eating rules.

Once you have decided on your food chain, you simply submit it and are moved on to the next game. In the past, test takers were apparently shown whether their solution was correct or not, but this is no longer the case.

Test takers generally report that this game is the easier of the two, whether it is paired with the Plant Defence game in the legacy Solve or the Redrock case study in the new version. Candidates will not usually struggle to assemble a functioning ecosystem and do not find themselves under enormous time pressure. Thus, we can assume that process scores will be the main differentiator between individuals for this component of the Solve assessment.

For ideas on how to optimise your process score for this game, you can see our PDF Solve guide .

Plant Defence

Screenshot showing the plant defence game in progress

As mentioned, this game has been replaced with the Redrock case study in the new newer version of the Solve assessment, rolled out from Spring 2023 and further iterated in Summer 2023. However, you might still be asked to sit the legacy version, with this game, when applying to certain offices - so you should be ready for it!

This scenario tasks you with protecting an endangered plant species from invasive species trying to destroy it.

The game set-up is much like a traditional board game, with play taking place over a square area of terrain divided into a grid of the order of 10x10 squares.

Your plant is located in a square near the middle of the grid and groups of invaders - shown as rats, foxes or similar - enter from the edges of the grid before making a beeline towards your plant.

Your job then is to eliminate the invaders before they get to your plant. You do this by placing defences along their path. These can be terrain features, such as mountains or forests, that either force the invaders to slow down their advance or change their path to move around an obstacle. To actually destroy the invaders though, you use animal defenders, like snakes or eagles, that are able to deplete the groups of invaders as they pass by their area of influence.

Complication here comes from a few features of the game. In particular:

  • You are restricted in terms of both the numbers of different kinds of defenders you can use and where you are allowed to place them. Thus, you might only have a couple of mountains to place and only be allowed to place these in squares adjacent to existing mountains.
  • The main complication is the fact that gameplay is not dynamic but rather proceeds in quite a restricted turnwise manner. By this, we mean that you cannot place or move around your defences continuously as the invaders advance inwards. Rather, turns alternate between you and invaders and you are expected to plan your use of defences in blocks of five turns at once, with only minimal allowance for you to make changes on the fly as the game develops.

The plant defence game is split into three mini-games. Each mini-game is further split into three blocks of five turns. On the final turn, the game does not stop, but continues to run, with the invaders in effect taking more and more turns whilst you are not able to place any more defences or change anything about your set-up.

More and more groups of invaders pour in, and your plant will eventually be destroyed. The test with this “endgame” is simply how many turns your defences can stand up to the surge of invaders before they are overwhelmed.

As opposed to the Ecosystem Building scenario, there are stark differences in immediate candidate performance - and thus product score - in this game. Some test takers’ defences will barely make it to the end of the standard 15 turns, whilst others will survive 50+ turns of endgame before they are overwhelmed.

In this context, as opposed to the Ecosystem Building game typically preceding it, it seems likely that product score will be the primary differentiator between candidates.

We have a full discussion of strategies to optimise your defence placement - and thus boost your product score - in our Solve guide .

Redrock Case Study

Pack of wolves running through snow, illustrating the wolf packs central to the Redrock case study

This is the replacement for the Plant Defence game in the newest iteration of Solve.

One important point to note is that, where the Solve assessment contains this case study, you have a strict, separate time limit of 35 minutes for each half of the assessment. You cannot finish one game early and use the extra time in the other, as you could in the legacy Solve assessment.

McKinsey has had significant issues with this case study, with test takers noting several major problems. In particular:

  • Glitches/crashes - Whilst the newest, Summer 2023 version seems to have done a lot to address this issue, many test takers have had the Redrock case crash on them. Usually, this is just momentary and the assessment returns to where it was in a second or two. If this happens to you, try to just keep calm and carry on. However, there are reports online of some candidates having the whole Solve assessment crash and being locked out as a result. If this happens, contact HR.
  • Poor interface - Even where there are no explicit glitches, users note that several aspects of the interface are difficult to use and/or finicky, and that they generally seem poorly designed compared to the older Ecosystem Building game preceding it. For example, test takers have noted that navigation is difficult or unclear and the drag and drop feature for data points is temperamental - all of this costing precious time.
  • Confusing language - Related to the above is that the English used is often rather convoluted and sometimes poorly phrased. This can be challenging even for native English speakers but is even worse for those sitting Solve in their second language. It can make the initial instructions difficult to understand - compounding the previous interface problem. It can also make questions difficult, requiring a few readings to comprehend.
  • Insufficient time - Clearly, McKinsey intended for Redrock to be time pressured. Whilst the newest, Summer 2023 iteration of the Redrock case seems slightly more forgiving in this regard, time is still so scarce that many candidates don't get through all the questions. This is plainly sub-optimal for McKinsey - as well as being stressful and disheartening for candidates. We would expect further changes to be made to address this issue in future.

McKinsey are clearly aware of these issues, as even those sitting the new version of Redrock have been asked to complete substantial feedback surveys. Do note, then, that this raises the likelihood of further changes to the Redrock case study in the near term - meaning you should always be ready to tackle something new.

For the time being, though, we can take you through the fundamentals of the current version of the Redrock case study. For more detail, see our freshly updated PDF Guide .

The Scenario

Whilst changes to the details are likely in future, the current Redrock case study is set on the Island of Redrock. This island is a nature reserve with populations of various species, including wolves, elk and several varieties of plant.

In the original Redrock case, it is explained that the island's wolves are split into four packs, associated with four geographical locales. These packs predate the elk and depend upon them for food, such that there is a dynamic relationship between the population numbers of both species. Your job is to ensure ecological balance by optimising the numbers of wolves in the four packs, such that both wolves and elk can sustainably coexist.

In the newer iteration of the case, first observed in Summer 2023, you are asked to assess which, if any, of three possible strategies can successfully boost the island's plant biodiversity by a certain specified percentage. Plants here are segmented into grasses, trees and shrubs.

The Questions

The Redrock case study's questions were initially split into three sections, but a fourth was added later. These sections break down as follows:

  • Investigation - Here, you have access to the full description of the case, with all the data on the various animal populations. Your task is to efficiently extract all the most salient data points and drag-and-drop them to your "Research Journal" workspace area. This is important, as you subsequently lose access to all the information you don't save at this stage.
  • Analysis - You must answer three numerical questions using information you saved in the Investigation section. This can include you dragging and dropping values to and from an in-game calculator.
  • Report - Formerly the final section, you must complete a pre-written report on the wolf populations or plant biodiversity levels, including calculating numerical values to fill in gaps and using an in-game interface to make a chart to illustrate your findings. You will leverage information saved in the Investigation section, as well as answers calculated in the Analysis section.
  • Case Questions - This section adds a further ten individual case questions. These are wolf-themed, so are thematically similar to the original Redrock case, but are slightly incongruous with the newer, plant-themed version of Redrock. In both instances, though, these questions are entirely separable from the main case preceding them, not relying on any information from the previous sections. The ten questions are highly quantitative and extremely time pressured. Few test takers finish them before being timed out.

This is a very brief summary - more detail is available in our PDF Guide .

Other Games - Disease and Disaster Identification

Screenshot of a wolf and beaver in a forest habitat from the Solve assessment

There have been accounts of some test takers being given a third game as part of their Solve assessment. At time of writing, these third games have always been clearly introduced as non-scored beta tests for Imbellus to try out potential new additions to the assessment. However, the fact that these have been tested means that there is presumably a good chance we’ll see them as scored additions in future.

Notably, these alternative scenarios are generally variations on a fairly consistent theme and tend to share a good deal of the character of the Ecosystem Building game. Usually, candidates will be given a whole slew of information on how an animal population has changed over time. They will then have to wade through that information to figure out either which kind of natural disaster or which disease has been damaging that population - the commonality with the Ecosystem Building game being in the challenge of dealing with large volumes of information and figuring out which small fraction of it is actually relevant.

Join thousands of other candidates cracking cases like pros

What does the solve assessment test for.

Chart from Imbellus showing how they test for different related cognitive traits

Whilst information on the Solve assessment can be hard to come by, Imbellus and McKinsey have at least been explicit on what traits the test was designed to look for. These are:

Diagram showing the five cognitive traits examined by the Solve Assessment

  • Critical Thinking : making judgements based on the objective analysis of information
  • Decision Making : choosing the best course of action, especially under time pressure or with incomplete information
  • Metacognition : deploying appropriate strategies to tackle problems efficiently
  • Situational Awareness : the ability to interpret and subsequently predict an environment
  • Systems Thinking : understanding the complex causal relationships between the elements of a system

Equally important to understanding the raw facts of the particular skillset being sought out, though, is understanding the very idiosyncratic ways in which the Solve assessment tests for these traits.

Let's dive deeper:

Process Scores

Perhaps the key difference between the Solve assessment and any other test you’ve taken before is Imbellus’s innovation around “process scores”.

To explain, when you work through each of the games, the software examines the solutions you generate to the various problems you are faced with. How well you do here is measured by your “product score”.

However, scoring does not end there. Rather, Solve's software also constantly monitors and assesses the method you used to arrive at that solution. The quality of the method you used is then captured in your “process score”.

To make things more concrete here, if you are playing the Ecosystem Building game, you will not only be judged on whether the ecosystem you put together is self-sustaining. You will also be judged on the way you have worked in figuring out that ecosystem - presumably, on how efficient and organised you were. The program tracks all your mouse clicks and other actions and will thus be able to capture things like how you navigate around the various groups of species, how you place the different options you select, whether you change your mind before you submit the solution and so on.

You can find more detail on these advanced aspects of the Solve assessment and the innovative work behind it in the presentation by Imbellus founder Rebecca Kantar in the first section of the following video:

Compared to other tests, this is far more like the level of assessment you face from an essay-based exam, where the full progression of your argument towards a conclusion is marked - or a maths exam, where you are scored on your working as well as the final answer (with, of course, the major advantage that there is no highly qualified person required to mark papers).

Clearly, the upshot of all this is that you will want to be very careful how you approach the Solve assessment. You should generally try to think before you act and to show yourself in a very rational, rigorous, ordered light.

We have some advice to help look after your process scores in our PDF Guide to the McKinsey Solve Assessment .

A Different Test for Every Candidate

Another remarkable and seriously innovative aspect of the Solve assessment is that no two candidates receive exactly the same test.

Imbellus automatically varies the parameters of their games to be different for each individual test taker, so that each will be given a meaningfully different game to everyone else’s.

Within a game, this might mean a different terrain setting, having a different number of species or different types of species to work with or more or fewer restrictions on which species will eat which others.

Consequently, even if your buddy takes the assessment for the same level role at the same office just the day before you do, whatever specific strategy they used in their games might very well not work for you.

This is an intentional feature designed to prevent test takers from sharing information with one another and thus advantaging some over others. At the extreme, this feature would also be a robust obstacle to any kind of serious cheating.

To manage to give every candidate a different test and still be able to generate a reliable ranking of those candidates across a fundamental skillset, without that test being very lengthy, is a considerable achievement from Imbellus. At high level, this would seem to be approximately equivalent to reliably extracting a faint signal from a very noisy background on the first attempt almost every time.

(Note that we are yet to confirm to what extent and how this also happens with the new Redrock case studies, but it seems to be set up to allow for easy changes to be made to the numerical values describing the case, so we assume there will be similar, widespread of variation.)

Preparation for the McKinsey Solve assessment

Understanding what the Solve assessment tests for immediately begs the question as to whether it is possible to usefully prepare and, if so, what that preparation should look like.

Is it Really Possible to Prepare for the McKinsey Solve Assessment?

Clown fish swimming in a coral reef

In short, yes you can - and you should!

As noted previously, there has been a lot of disagreement over whether it is really possible to prep for the Solve assessment in a way that actually makes a difference.

Especially for the legacy version, there has been a widespread idea that the Solve assessment functions as something like an IQ test, so that preparation beyond very basic familiarisation to ensure you don’t panic on test day will not do anything to reliably boost your scores (nobody is going to build up to scoring an IQ of 200 just by doing practice tests, for example).

This rationale says that the best you can do is familiarise yourself with what you are up against to calm your nerves and avoid misunderstanding instructions on test day. However, this school of thought says there will be minimal benefit from practice and/or skill building.

The utility of preparation has become a clearer with the addition of the Redrock case study to the new version of Solve. Its heavily quantitative nature, strong time pressure and structure closely resembling a traditional business case make for a clearer route to improvement.

However, as we explain in more detail in our PDF guide to the Solve assessment, the idea that any aspect of either version of Solve can't be prepared for has been based on some fundamental misunderstandings about what kind of cognitive traits are being tested. Briefly put, the five key skills the Solve assessment explicitly examines are what are known as higher-order thinking skills.

Crucially, these are abilities that can be meaningfully built over time.

McKinsey and Imbellus have generally advised that you shouldn’t prepare. However, this is not the same as saying that there is no benefit in doing so. McKinsey benefits from ensuring as even a playing field as possible. To have the Solve test rank candidates based purely on their pre-existing ability, they would ideally wish for a completely unprepared population.

How to prep

Two stingrays and a shark swimming in blue water, lit from above

We discuss how to prep for the Solve assessment in full detail in our PDF guide . Here, though, we can give you a few initial pointers to get you started. In particular, there are some great ways to simulate different games as well as build up the skills the Solve assessment tests for.

Playing video games is great prep for the legacy Solve assessment in particular, but remains highly relevant to the new Redrock version.

Contrary to what McKinsey and Imbellus have said - and pretty unfortunately for those of us with other hobbies - test takers have consistently said that they reckoned the Problem Solving Game, and now the Solve assessment, favours those with strong video gaming experience.

If you listened when your parents told you video games were a waste of time and really don’t have any experience, then putting in some hours on pretty much anything will be useful. However, the closer the games you play are to the Solve scenarios, the better. We give some great recommendations on specific games and what to look for more generally in our Solve guide - including one free-to-play game that our clients have found hugely useful as prep for the plant defence game!

PST-Style Questions

The inclusion of the Redrock case studies in the new version of Solve really represents a return to something like a modernised PST. Along with the similar new BCG Casey assessment, this seems to be the direction of travel for consulting recruitment in general.

Luckily, this means that you can leverage the wealth of existing PST-style resources to your advantage in preparation.

Our PST article - which links to some free PST questions and our full PST prep resources - is a great place to start. However, better than old-fashioned PDF question sets are the digital PST-style questions embedded in our Case Academy course . Conducted online with a strict timer running, these are a much closer approximation of the Solve assessment itself. These questions are indeed a subset of our Case Academy course, but are also available separately in our Course Exercises package .

Quick Mathematics With a Calculator and/or Excel

Again, specifically for the Redrock assessment, you will be expected to solve math problems very quickly. The conceptual level of mathematics required is not particularly high, but you need to know what you are doing and get through it fast using a calculator nand/or Excel, if you are already comfortable with that program.

Our article on consulting math is a great place to start to understand what is expected of you throughout the recruiting process, with our consulting math package (a subset of our Case Academy course) providing more in-depth lessons and practice material.

Learn to Solve Case Studies

With the Redrock case studies clearly being ecology-themed analogues to standard business case studies, it's pretty obvious that getting good at case studies will be useful.

However, the Solve assessment as a whole is developed and calibrated to be predictive of case interview performance, so you can expect that improving your case solving ability will indirectly bring up your performance across the board.

Of course, this overlaps with your prep for McKinsey's case interviews. For more on how to get started there, see the final section of this article.

Learning About Optimal Strategies for the Games

The first thing to do is to familiarise yourself with the common game scenarios from the Solve assessment and how you can best approach them to help boost your chances of success.

Now, one thing to understand is that, since the parameters for the games change for each test taker, there might not be a single definitive optimal strategy for every single possible iteration of a particular game. As such, you shouldn’t rely on just memorising one approach and hoping it matches up to what you get on test day.

Instead, it is far better to understand why a strategy is sensible in some circumstances and when it might be better to do something else instead if the version of the game you personally receive necessitates a different approach.

In this article, we have given you a useful overview of the games currently included in the Solve assessment. However, a full discussion with suggested strategies is provided in our comprehensive Solve guide .

With the limited space available here, this is only a very brief sketch of a subset of the ways you can prep.

As noted, what will help with all of these and more is reading the extensive prep guidance in our full PDF guide to the Solve assessment...

The MCC Solve Assessment Guide

Preparing for the Solve assessment doesn’t have to be a matter of stumbling around on your own. This article is a good introduction. From here, though our new, updated PDF guide to the McKinsey Solve assessment is your first stop to optimise your Solve preparation.

This guide is based on our own survey work and interviews with real test takers, as well as iterative follow-ups on how the advice in previous editions worked out in reality.

Does it make sense to invest in a guide?

Short answer: yes. If you just think about the financials, a job at McKinsey is worth millions in the long run. If you factor in experience, personal growth and exit opportunities, the investment is a no-brainer.

How our guide can help you ace the test

Don't expect some magic tricks to game the system (because you can't), but rather an in-depth analysis of key areas crucial to boost your scores. This helps you to:

As noted, the guide is based on interviews with real recent test takers and covers the current games in detail. Being familiar with the game rules, mechanics and potential strategies in advance will massively reduce the amount of new information you have to assimilate from scratch on test day, allowing you to focus on the actual problems at hand.

Despite the innovative environment, the Solve assessment tests candidates for the same skills evaluated in case interviews, albeit on a more abstract level. Our guide breaks these skills down and provides a clear route to develop them. You also benefit from the cumulative experience of our clients, as we have followed up to see which prep methods and game strategies were genuinely helpful.

A clear plan of how to prepare is instrumental for success. Our guide includes a detailed, flexible preparation strategy, leveraging a whole host of diverse prep activities to help you practice and build your skills as effectively as possible. Importantly, our guide helps you prioritise the most effective aspects of preparation to optimise for whatever timeframe you have to work in.

Overall, the MyConsultingCoach Solve guide is designed to be no-nonsense and straight to the point. It tells you what you need to know up front and - for those of you in a hurry - crucial sections are clearly marked to read first to help you prep ASAP.

For those of you starting early with more time to spare, there is also a fully detailed, more nuanced discussion of what the test is looking for and how you can design a more long-term prep to build up the skills you need - and how this can fit into your wider case interview prep.

Importantly, there is no fluff to bulk out the page count. The market is awash with guides at huge page counts, stuffed full of irrelevant material to boost overall document length. By contrast, we realise your time is better spent actually preparing than ploughing through a novel.

If this sounds right for you, you can purchase our PDF Solve guide here:

McKinsey Solve Assessment Guide

  • Full guide to both the legacy version of the Solve assessment and the newer Redrock Case Study versions
  • In-depth description of the different games and strategies to beat them
  • Preparation strategies for the short, medium and long-term prep
  • No fluff - straight to the point, with specific tips for those without much time
  • Straight to your inbox
  • 30 days money-back guarantee, no questions asked. Simply email us and we will refund the full amount.

The Next Step - Case Interviews

Male interviewer with laptop administering a case study to a female interviewee

So, you pour in the hours to generate an amazing resume and cover letter. You prepare diligently for the Solve assessment, going through our PDF guide and implementing all the suggestions. On test day, you sit down and ace Solve. The result is an invitation to a live McKinsey case interview.

Now the real work begins…

Arduous as application writing and Solve prep might have seemed, preparing for McKinsey case interviews will easily be an order of magnitude more difficult.

Remember that McKinsey tells candidates not to prepare for Solve - but McKinsey explicitly expects applicants to have rigorously prepared for case interviews .

The volume of specific business knowledge and case-solving principles, as well as the sheer complexity of the cases you will be given, mean that there is no way around knuckling down, learning what you need to know and practicing on repeat.

If you want to get through your interviews and actually land that McKinsey offer, you are going to need to take things seriously, put in the time and learn how to properly solve case studies.

Unfortunately, the framework-based approach taught by many older resources is unlikely to cut it for you. These tend to falter when applied to difficult, idiosyncratic cases - precisely the kind of case you can expect from McKinsey!

The method MCC teaches is based specifically on the way McKinsey train incoming consultants. We throw out generic frameworks altogether and show you how to solve cases like a real management consultant on a real engagement.

You can start reading about the MCC method for case cracking here . To step your learning up a notch, you can move on to our Case Academy course .

To put things into practice in some mock interviews with real McKinsey consultants, take a look at our coaching packages .

And, if all this (rightfully) seems pretty daunting and you’d like to have an experienced consultant guide you through your whole prep from start to finish, you can apply for our comprehensive mentoring programme here .

Looking for an all-inclusive, peace of mind program?

Our comprehensive packages.

Get our Solve guide for free if you purchase any of the following packages. Just email us with your order number and we will send the guide straight to your inbox.

Access to our Case Academy and to coaching will help you prepare for Solve and for the following rounds!

The MCC bundle

  • All Case Interview Course Videos
  • All Case Interview Course Exercises
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  • All case interview self-assessment modules
  • Available on all devices
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Bridge to Consulting

  • 5 one-hour sessions with ex-MBB (McKinsey/Bain/BCG) coach of your choice
  • Session personalisation (skill level and preparation stage)
  • Choice of interview format (Fit, Case or Both)
  • AI-powered performance benchmarking, skill-gap assessment and actionable feedback through your Dashboard
  • Full Access to Case Academy (Course, Exercises, Self-Assessments, Fit and Math)
  • McKinsey Digital Assessment Guide
  • All our PST material

Case Interview Course

  • 16+ hours of lectures  covering  all aspects of the case interview
  • Introduction to the consulting interview
  • Case Interview foundations section 
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  • Problem driven structure in action
  • Roadmap for preparation planning

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McKinsey Solve Game: 13 Tips to Ace this Test

  • Last Updated May, 2024

If you plan to interview with McKinsey, you will find yourself playing a video game as part of your recruiting process. The McKinsey Solve Game is a “digital gamified assessment” designed to test your problem-solving skills in a fun & intuitive way.

This game goes by different names, including the McKinsey problem solving game and the McKinsey digital assessment. Whatever you call it, you need to know what this game is and how to prepare for it.

In this article, we discuss recent updates to the McKinsey Solve Game and also provide tips from our coaches, who are former MBB recruiters, consultants, and interviewers. We’ll cover:

  • An overview of the McKinsey Solve Game
  • Detail on the Redrock Study Scenario
  • The skills the game measures
  • 13 tips on beating the McKinsey Solve Game

Let’s get started!

What Does the McKinsey Solve Game Look Like?

Candidates have 60-70 minutes to play the game on a computer browser (not an iPad or phone). You can play the McKinsey Solve Game in one of 4 languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, or Japanese.

The assessment begins with this 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 McKinsey Solve Game has 2 primary tests. McKinsey previously had a larger library of tests, but the firm now focuses on these:

  • Ecosystem Building Game. Create a stable ecosystem and populate it with plants and animals.
  • Redrock Study. An ecological field study including a mini-case and 10 multiple-choice questions at the end of the game.

Working through each of these tests takes you through the life-cycle of a consulting case, from understanding the problem to be solved, to collecting then analyzing data, to making a decision with limited time and imperfect information, and then recommending a solution.

We’ll walk you through each of these tests.

Pro tip! McKinsey continues to evolve the tests in the Solve game. So if the instructions in McKinsey Solve look different, go by those guidelines. These overviews and tips should help you prepare even if the game is updated again.

During the McKinsey Solve Game, you should be flexible, just like a consultant!

Common McKinsey Solve Game Scenarios

Ecosystem building game.

Photo credit: McKinsey & Company

Task: Create a stable ecosystem. It could be marine-based or terrestrial.

You start by choosing a location on the map and then you must select 8 plant and animal species that will best survive in that environment.

  • Food chain sustainability: Can all 8 plants and animals find enough food to meet their calorie requirements? You’ll want to be sure that every plant or animal has a food source and understand how many calories each species produces.
  • Terrain compatibility: Can the species survive in the environment? An obvious example is that coral can’t survive on land. There are likely a set of plants and animals that are more compatible with the terrain than others. You will need to analyze the species based on the conditions they need to survive (humidity, temperature, and soil acidity for terrestrial environments; temperature, depth, currents, and salinity for marine environments.)

These concepts are pretty straightforward. However, in McKinsey Solve, there will be complex math constraints that will drive you to the optimal answer. You will need to develop a structured framework to organize the list of plant and animal species according to those dimensions.

Here’s how the game works:

  • Take a tutorial to learn how to review and organize information. There is no time limit on the tutorial, so be sure you experiment with all the tools and features so you don’t have to waste time in the simulation figuring it out. Take down a few ideas that will help you structure your thinking before you start the simulation.
  • Select 8 plant and animal species out of the 20+ provided to place in the ecosystem to form a viable food chain. Match the profiles of the species with the conditions in the location. Also, match the prey each species likes.
  • Optimize the chance of the ecosystem’s survival by balancing the food chain and ensuring the ecosystem doesn’t collapse. The calories required by each species (how many it needs to eat) and the calories provided to predator species are given. For instance, you need to ensure your apex predator (such as a bear) doesn’t consume so many calories that it wipes out the smaller creatures from your ecosystem.
  • This scenario takes 35 minutes to complete.
  • Play the game on one device with another device open to do some quick calculations.
  • Take time at the beginning to develop and follow a structured process, creating your food chain from the top down (starting with the apex predator) or the bottom up (starting from plants/fungi/coral). If you are able to build tables and do calculations for each species in Excel rather than doing the math by hand, this could save you time.
  • Be hypothesis-driven: choose producers (plants/fungi/coral) with high calories provided and which are eaten by many animal species. Choose small animals/herbivores with low calories needed and high calories provided, when possible.
  • Narrow your choice of species down from 20 to 10-12, then run the math to ensure your ecosystem is in balance.
  • Once you’ve selected 8 species, use your Excel table to confirm that each species is a good fit in that location, that there is enough food for each species based on the eating rules provided, and that every species has a food source present in the 8 chosen species.

 To win: Identify relevant and irrelevant data quickly. Set up a table and do basic calculations in Excel to make sure the ecosystem is in balance.

McKinsey Solve Game Scenario: RedRock Study

Task: Create an ecological field study investigating wolf packs on an island. The goal is to relocate the pack(s) so they will best balance with the species around them and survive. Study the wolf pack’s hunting behavior and balance it with other species, such as deer.

You will have 35 minutes to complete the Red Rock Scenario, which is broken down into two sections: 

  • A Study, that mimics a case interview
  • Cases, a series of ten short exercises that leverage the same Red Rock data set but are usually not related to the Study 

There are no specific time constraints within the Red Rock scenario, but it’s recommended to prioritize time on the Study rather than on the Cases. Aim for 20 minutes on the study, 10 minutes on the cases and reserve 5 minutes in case you make a mistake somewhere. 

You read that right! That’s one minute per mini-case. When you take the McKinsey Solve test, you will want to be energized and focused. 

You will be given an untimed tutorial for the Red Rock scenario. Take advantage of this time to learn how the tools work. You will not have time to explore the digital tools during the test. 

First up is the Study which includes three sections:

Investigate and structure the case

You’ll be given an article with past data on the wolf packs. You’ll need to read through a lot of information and drag the most significant data points into a notebook, then use it as a basis for calculations.

Review collected observations and relevant data points. The main things you want to do in this phase are 1) get a clear understanding of the objectives of the case and 2) gather the relevant data you need in a digital journal within the game. There will be a lot of relevant data, but you won’t need all of it to solve the Study. 

Recommended time: 5 minutes. You will not have time to read all the data you receive. So get clear on the objectives and quickly add the information you need to your digital journal. 

Pro Tip 1: As you collect data or information in the digital journal, add meaningful labels to it so it’s easy for you to find the data later in the game. You may want to organize your data so that related points are near each other in the digital journal. 

Pro Tip 2: Only bring over key relevant data into your journal. Your score will be negatively impacted if you just drag everything over. Keep track of random notes offlines on a scratch piece of paper. 

Analyze the Data

You’ll be asked to answer 3 quantitative questions based on your original research objective. Each of these calculations will have sub-questions and you will need to fill in data gaps to get the answer.

The math itself should be fairly straightforward, simple arithmetic, percentages, and fractions. But the context may be complex since there are layers to the math. Be sure to read the questions carefully.

Good news! You’ll get a virtual calculator as well as the option to go back to the article if you need more data.

Be sure to use the digital calculator and not your own calculator or Excel to do these calculations. You’ll need to drag your answers into the digital journal in order to complete the report in the next phase. Additionally, McKinsey Solve tracks your movements and you will get a benefit from recording the math in the calculator.

Recommended time: 10 minutes.

Create a written summery and graphics to help readers visualize what you found in your analysis. 

The written element of the report is not a freehand writing exercise. You will be given prompts and asked to fill in data and some qualitative terms like”faster” or “slower.”

In the graphical phase of the report section, you’ll be asked to select the best format for the graph and input numbers. As a reminder, here are some general guidelines of which types of charts are the best in various situations:

  • Pie chart: for comparing parts to a whole
  • Line chart: for demonstrating change over time
  • Bar chart: for comparing independent variable
  • Keep your research objective in mind. That’s your North Star to identify what data is most relevant and how to present your analysis.
  • Get comfortable with all the tools during the tutorial.
  • Be sure you’re ready to move on from the Investigation phase and that you have all the data you need.
  • Leave yourself enough time for the Cases.

McKinsey Solve Cases

After the game, you’ll be asked 10 questions based on the data you received and your calculations. The format will be similar–you’ll be provided information and graphs and you can use the digital journal to pull out relevant information. Each question will either be multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blank with a numerical answer.

There are 4 types of questions:

  • Visualization: choose the best graphical format for a set of data
  • Word and math problems: read text and solve a quick math problem
  • Formula selection: read text and select the appropriate formula to use to answer the questions
  • Verbal reasoning: multiple-choice questions to assess if a statement is true or false

The written element of the report is not a freehand and writing exercise. You will be given prompts and asked to fill in data and some qualitative terms like”faster” or “slower.”

Some examples of Red Rock case questions include choose the best graphic format to visualize specific types of information, or calculate the percentage change in wolf population under hypothetical scenarios. 

The quantitative questions in the cases may also include basic statistics, weighted averages, and basic probabilities. Be sure to refresh yourself on those concepts before you sign in to Solve. During the cases, if you need a calculator, you will be provided one and you should use it. 

You will need to answer the case questions in order and cannot move  back and forth. Plan your time accordingly.

To win: Again, you need to process a lot of data quickly. This is a key skill for consultants. Do basic calculations and present your findings in a clear, concise manner.

McKinsey Solve Game Instructions, Timing, & Preparation

Your performance in the McKinsey Solve game is assessed based on 2 criteria: your product score and your process score.

Product score: This is your success in each of the individual game scenarios. How well did you accomplish the game tasks?

Process score: This is an assessment of your process for achieving that score. Did you come up with a good strategy for addressing the scenario? Did you consistently follow your strategy (rather than making random guesses)? 

McKinsey assesses your strategy by reviewing your mouse movements, keystrokes, and decisions. Be sure to conduct all key analysis in the digital calculator in the simulation so you get “process credit” for your math! Avoid unnecessary movements and guessing within the system. 

For example, while you can move back and forth during the Red Rock study, it will negatively impact your process score for the test. You should try to get all the information you need during the Investigation phase. If you need information to answer a question or complete a report, you should go back for it. Just understand the impact of moving back and forth on your score. 

You’ll find out your results on the McKinsey Solve Game within 2 weeks of taking it. The results will be a simple pass/fail without more detail.

A tutorial is provided before each scenario. The time you spend on the tutorials is not timed, so spend as long as you need to ensure you understand your task and the data provided.

The tutorial suggests how long to spend on each task, but you have the flexibility to manage your own time. Tasks in the 1st scenario typically take longer than tasks in the 2nd scenario, so consider that as you plan your time.

Imbellus, the company McKinsey worked with to create the McKinsey Solve game, says they didn’t design the test to create a time constraint. Some people report having time left over at the end of the 70 minutes. Others feel pressed for time at the end.

McKinsey indicates that no advanced preparation for the test is required. Neither business knowledge nor gaming experience is required. The game provides all the information you need.

Based on how complex the games and tools are, it’s a good idea to do some prep. Whether that’s playing more games or practicing structure and math to make sure you hit the ground running. 

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How 800+ candidates have landed consulting offers at mckinsey, bain and bcg, what does the mckinsey solve game measure.

  • Critical thinking : the ability to make thoughtful decisions based on data .
  • Decision making : the ability to make the best possible decision with limited time and imperfect information.
  • Metacognition : The abi l ity to use strategies such as hypothesis-testing to problem-solve effectively.
  • Situational awareness : the ability to perceive what’s going on in a complex environment, what it means, and to make projections.
  • Systems thinking : the ability to understand multi-factor cause-and-effect relationships.

McKinsey notes that the firm will not make hiring decisions based solely on the results from the Solve test. So if you ace or bomb the simulation, know that it’s just one aspect of your candidacy.

McKinsey Solve scores will only be relevant until the case interview phase of the recruitment process. Once you have been invited to interview, they will no longer be relevant.

13 Tips on Excelling at the McKinsey Solve Game

  • Understand the 5 cognitive skills being tested (listed above). Solve is not a mindless game. Understanding these skills will help you focus on the right things during the assessment, such as having and following a strategy and keeping track of the big picture.
  • Complete the technical check and select a starting window for taking the test as soon as possible. The technical check won’t start the game, and if you have a technical problem, you want to know about it and solve it before taking the test. Also, there’s a limit on the number of people who can play the McKinsey Solve Game simultaneously, and openings can fill up.
  • Take time to understand the instructions. The Solve Game is not simple. The amount of data you’ll be given may feel overwhelming. But the 70-minute time limit for the game doesn’t start until after you finish the tutorial , so make sure you understand the instructions before you begin the game. Maximize the tutorial period by attempting to anticipate the mini-game’s objectives and crafting a general approach before starting the game itself.
  • Make sure you understand the objectives of each task. You need to plan for how to “win” at each task before you start it to make effective choices. For example, in the ecosystem game, you need to know the eating rules/calorie requirements. 
  • Take good notes . Keep track of important information and use the data to make decisions. Use scrap paper or, ideally, an extra computer for notes and to help with computations.
  • Prioritize and don’t get lost in the details. There is a lot of data provided in the assessment. Focus on the big picture to ensure you don’t get lost in the details.
  • Do the easy math.  Pause early in each game to see if you can figure out the simple equations driving the relationships between variables (e.g., 1 of X resource = 3 of Y resource). Use these equations to guide your decision-making. But don’t spend too long on this. Instead. . .
  • Test your ideas and note outcomes. Some questions ask you to assess different strategies. Testing ideas and adapting will help you answer these questions and develop a fact base for making good decisions. Use pen and paper or another device. Limit the key strokes, clicks, and typing on your test device to boost your process score.
  • Make decisions with limited or too much information. In some cases, you won’t have every piece of information you’d like or the time to make perfect decisions. Make the best decisions with the time and information you have. In other cases, you’ll be overwhelmed with data and need to sift quickly through to what is important. This reflects trade-offs consultants need to make on the job.
  • Don’t replicate the solutions of other test-takers. The McKinsey Solve Game creates unique scenarios for each test taker so that no one can cheat the test.
  • Keep track of your time. It is more important to complete all the tasks in the allotted 70 minutes than to do marginally better on the first tasks but not complete the last ones. The first task is meant to take longer than the others, but make sure you know how much time you have remaining so you don’t run out.
  • Don’t rush into actions that can’t be undone. People report feeling rushed and making hasty decisions they later regret. Take a moment to think before committing resources or finalizing a strategy.
  • Get comfortable with digital strategy games. If you aren’t a gamer, you may want to spend a little time getting acquainted with some games before you take the McKinsey Solve test. All games have logic and once you identify how to win, you can choose the best actions. This may feel foreign at first, but with some reps beforehand, you whould be able to start the game with confidence.

Relax and let yourself absorb the game world, the information provided, and the problem you’re asked to solve.

Links to Additional Resources

You can watch McKinsey’s video for an introduction to the digital assessment .

For more information about the test, read this article .

And if you really want to geek out, there’s this abstract .

Still have questions about the McKinsey Solve Game?

If you have further questions on the McKinsey Problem Solving Game, leave them in the comments below. We’ll have one of  My Consulting Offer’s   coaches provide more information.

Also, let us know if you’re asked to take the digital assessment. We’d love to know what you think of it! 

People who are interested in the McKinsey Solve Game typically find the following other My Consulting Offer pages helpful:

  • McKinsey Case Interview
  • McKinsey PEI
  • Online Consulting Tests: A Roundup
  • BCG Pymetrics Test
  • Oliver Wyman Online Test

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Consulting Articles > MBB Online/Screening Tests > McKinsey Solve Game: Full Guide [2024]

McKinsey Solve Game: Full Guide [2024]

Updated: January 23, 2024

Table of Content:  

What is mckinsey solve game, what does mckinsey solve game look like, what traits is mckinsey assessing in mckinsey solve game.

  • Ecosystem Building
  • Red Rock Study
  • Plant Defense

The Importance of Practicing McKinsey Solve Game

Check out the only, fully-playable, and FREE McKinsey Solve Test (Problem-Solving Game) Simulation in the entire market!

McKinsey Solve Game, also known as the Problem Solving Game, PSG, Digital Assessment, or informally referred to as the "Imbellus Game," is a gamified assessment developed by Imbellus for McKinsey & Company. ( Click to see all screening tests by McKinsey, BCG and Bain! )

Within McKinsey's hiring process, the Solve Game is screening test, positioned between the application and the case interviews. Its primary objective remains consistent with the traditional Problem-Solving Test: to efficiently identify suitable candidates and streamline the resource-intensive case interview phase. This approach optimizes both time and resources in the recruitment process.

mckinsey problem solving game feedback

The one and only existing platform to practice three McKinsey Solve simulation games for FREE !

The McKinsey Solve Test, also known as the Digital Assessment, is subject to a total time of approximately 71 minutes. Candidates are given 2 out of 6 possible mini-games. The assessment evaluates both the final results and the solving process. If a candidate demonstrates skills and tendencies similar to those of a McKinsey consultant, they may receive an invitation for an interview.

The McKinsey Solve Test includes 6 confirmed mini-games: Ecosystem Building , Red Rock Study , Plant Defense , Disaster Management, Disease Management, and Migration Management. It's worth noting that almost all candidates, nearly 100%, will start with the Ecosystem Building Game as their first challenge. Subsequently, they will encounter either the Red Rock Study (in approximately 80% of cases) or the Plant Defense mini-game (in about 20% of cases) as their second task. There is a strong indication that McKinsey may be phasing out the Plant Defense mini-game in favor of the Redrock Study.

Please note that the other three games, namely Disaster Management, Disease Management, and Migration Management, were previously used by McKinsey for beta testing purposes. However, they are no longer included in the McKinsey Solve test in 2023.

The time allocated for tutorials is not factored into the overall time limit. It's advisable for candidates to maximize this tutorial period by attempting to anticipate the mini-game's objectives and crafting a general approach before initiating the mini-game itself. This time can also be utilized for essential preparations, such as having pen, paper, and excel sheet readily available.

The McKinsey Solve game assesses five critical cognitive abilities:

  • Critical Thinking : Your ability to thoroughly analyze information.
  • Decision-Making : Your capacity to take appropriate actions based on your analysis.
  • Metacognition : How effectively you implement strategies to achieve the game's objective.
  • Situational Awareness : Your capacity to maintain focus on the environment and anticipate future changes.
  • Systems Thinking : How well you comprehend the cause-and-effect relationships among the elements within the system.

What does McKinsey Solve Game include?

Game 1: ecosystem building.

mckinsey problem solving game feedback

What is Ecosystem Building Game?

This is a 35-minute time limit game. You will be placed randomly into either a mountain or a reef scenario. ( Click here to sign up and play the game for FREE! )

Your goal is to construct an ecosystem comprising 8 species from a selection of 39. There are three primary objectives to accomplish:

  • The ecosystem should establish a continuous food chain.
  • Ensure a calorie surplus for each predator-prey pair.
  • Align the ecosystem with the terrain specifications of your chosen location

What does Ecosystem Building Game include?

1.  Terrain Specifications

Each location within the ecosystem is characterized by seven to eight terrain specifications, which can be selected by pinpointing a location.

In the Mountain scenario, there are 8 terrain specifications: Elevation, Soil pH, Precipitation, Temperature, Wind Speed, Air Pressure, Humidity, and Cloud Height.

In the Reef scenario, you'll find 7 terrain specifications: Depth, Water Current, Water Clarity, Temperature, Salt Content, Dissolved Oxygen, and Wind Speed. 

Each species has its own set of required terrain specifications, typically ranging from two to four. Failure to meet these terrain requirements will result in the species dying out. These requirements often come in ranges.

2. Food Chain Continuity

In the game, you will be given a total of 39 species, categorized into two main types: producers and consumers.

  • Producers: These include plants and corals. Their sole source of food is typically sunlight or other natural elements. Consequently, they neither have prey nor consume calories.
  • Consumers: This category comprises animals, which can further be classified as Herbivores (plant-eating animals), Carnivores (animal-eating animals), or Omnivores (consumers of both plants and animals). Additionally, some consumers hold the status of "apex animals," indicating that they do not have natural predators and are not consumed by any other species within the ecosystem.

3. Calories Balance

Each species in the ecosystem is characterized by two essential figures: Calories Needed and Calories Provided.

A species can thrive under the following conditions:

  • Sufficient Energy for Survival: The species' calorie needed is lower than the total calorie provided by the ecosystem.
  • Avoiding Extinction by Predation: The species' calorie provided surpasses the combined calorie consumption by the species that prey upon it.

In essence, for a species to thrive, it must have enough energy to sustain itself and should not be consumed to the point of extinction by its predators.

Main Challenges of Ecosystem Building Game:

  • Information Overload: Handling a significant amount of data that requires absorption, calculation, analysis, and prioritization. This encompasses the specifications of 39 species, terrain characteristics of each location, and dietary rules.
  • Distracting and Irrelevant Information: Certain details provided may not be relevant and are included to divert your attention or lead you into making assumptions. It's essential to refrain from making any guesses or relying on any prior knowledge related to the environment, ecology, or zoology

How to tackle Ecosystem Building Game:

Here's a breakdown of how to approach the game, following a 3-step process:

Step 1: Location Selection

  • Use a spreadsheet or scratch paper to record the terrain specifications and calorie provided data for the mini-game's producers.
  • Examine the data to identify which terrain specifications remain consistent across all species and which ones change. Focus only on the changing terrain specifications (usually 2 of them), while the others are intended to divert your attention.
  • Calculate the total calories provided for the producers in each group of terrain specifications. The group with the highest calorie provision is likely the easiest to construct the food chain.

Step 2: Food Chain Building

  • Examine the data to list consumers with compatible terrain requirements in your spreadsheet.
  • Select the apex predator with the lowest calorie requirement as the starting point for the food chain.
  • Construct the food chain starting from the apex predators and work your way down, listing the food sources for each top-level predator. Keep progressing in this manner until you reach the lowest tier, which includes corals and plants. Ideally, the food chain should encompass 3-4 levels and encompass 8 species.
  • Alternatively, you can build the food chain from the bottom up by examining the "Eaten By" specifications of each species, working your way up to the top predators.
  • Throughout the process, prioritize species with high calorie provision and low-calorie requirement. This should increase the chances of a calorie surplus in the food chain and allow room for additional species if the initial chain falls short of the required 8 species.
  • If your food chain doesn't reach the necessary 8 species, work from the bottom up to identify gaps of unused surplus calories and fill these gaps with predators or plant-eating animals.

Step 3: Sanity Check

  • Ensure that each species in your food chain aligns with the chosen location.
  • Verify that the food chain is continuous, meaning that the listed food sources match the descriptions of each species.
  • Confirm that each species in the food chain has an adequate calorie supply and isn't consumed to extinction based on the provided eating rules.
  • If any of the three checks are not met, make adjustments to the food chain.

Game 2: Red Rock Study

This is a game with a 35-minute time limit, during which you will complete the Red Rock Study, consisting of both Part 1 and Part 2. ( Click here to sign up and play the game for FREE! )

The McKinsey Red Rock Study divides the tasks into 2 parts:

Part 1: Study

Part 2: cases.

In Part 1, you'll get one study with a main goal and some data to support it. This part has three steps:

Phase 1: Investigation

  • Phase 2: Analysis
  • Phase 3: Report

In Part 2, you'll receive 10 short cases that are related to the same topic but not directly connected to the Part 1 Study. Each case will come with two different types of questions:

  • Multiple choice questions
  • Numerical answer questions

You need to finish both tasks (Part 1 & Part 2) within a total time limit of 35 minutes. Although there are no specific time constraints for each part, it's advisable to allocate more time to the first part and less to the second part.

Now, let's delve into the specifics of Part 1 and Part 2 of the tasks.

Your goal is to read through the case description, recognize the main objective and essential data points, and then gather them in an on-screen Research Journal.

The data and information provided are divided into three sections, with each section containing the necessary information required to complete the study:

  • Study Information

How to tackle this phase:

  • Understanding the study
  • Collecting important data points

1. Understanding the study

Your objective here is to identify case’s objectives.

Every piece of information displayed on the screen is crucial for comprehending and resolving the case. However, some are more critical than others. Significant data points are highlighted and displayed in boxes on the screen, allowing you to click and drag these boxes to focus on them while working within the case.

The data provided comes in two formats:

  • Movable data points : These text-based data points consist of case objectives and calculation instructions. They clarify the case's goal, specify the mathematical formulas to be applied, and outline which numbers need to be gathered. Typically, these are detailed sentences or paragraphs that describe the relationships (such as higher, lower, etc.) between the elements within the case.
  • Non-Movable data points : These text-based data points encompass background information and test instructions. They are not selectable or movable and are intended solely to provide an overview of the case. They do not need to be collected as their purpose is to offer context.
  • Number-based data : These typically consist of movable data points and comprise the majority of the data in the case. They can be found in two locations: within charts, diagrams (such as bar charts, pie charts, tables, etc.), or within the text. It's necessary to gather these numbers into the journal for calculations in the next phase.

2. Collecting important data points

You can drag any movable data point into the Research Journal to collect. In the Research Journal, each collected piece of information will appear as a card, with its own name and description. The data in the Research Journal can then be used in the Calculator or as answers in phase 2.

You have the option to change the labels for all the data yourself. We suggest doing this if the default label doesn't describe the contents well enough. Using the right labels will make your analysis faster because it helps you easily find the important data later on.

After you've collected the data, you can also include your own notes with each piece of information. This can assist you in explaining the information required during the Analysis phase.

Here’s a summary of our recommended approach:

  • Determine the objectives of the case.
  • Identify the mathematical formulas needed to address these objectives.
  • Collect in your Research Journal only the essential data points necessary for the calculations during the Analysis phase.

Phase 2 – Analysis

Your objective here is to use the data points gathered during the Investigation phase to answer three quantitative questions using the provided calculator. These answers will be utilized to complete the report in Phase 3.

The three quantitative questions typically consist of 2 to 3 sub-questions, each with an answer input gap that requires a response from the calculator. To address these questions, you need to input the numerical data points you've collected into an on-screen calculator and then transfer the results to the corresponding gaps.

The calculator features a straightforward interface, resembling a digital calculator found on a phone, and includes basic operators such as multiplication (x), addition (+), subtraction (-), and division (÷).

The calculations required for the questions can be categorized into two types:

  • Basic Operations : This category includes addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. While these operations are fundamental, you may need to use them in combination to perform more complex calculations.
  • Percentages/Ratios/Fractions : These calculations are used to address questions related to relationships, such as percentage differences, growth rates, and similar concepts.

We advise you to carry out all calculations using the provided calculator since all your actions are documented in a history log. It's safe to assume that the process you follow in arriving at the answers will also impact the final results.

It's crucial to keep in mind that the answers you obtain from these questions are almost always required in the Report phase. Therefore, it's essential to consistently record your answers in the journal.

  • Carefully read the questions to understand what is being asked.
  • Drag the relevant data points from your Research Journal into the calculator's input screen to perform the necessary calculations to answer the questions.
  • Drag the results and drop them into the empty spaces provided under the questions.
  • Ensure that you collect the answers in your Research Journal for use in the Report Phase.

Phase 3 - Report

Your objective here is to finalize the textual and graphical report. You will have the option to choose one of three types of graphs to include in the report, and these graphs will be based on the results calculated in Phase 2.

The Report phase is the final segment of Part 1 Study and comprises two sections: the Written Report and the Visual Report.

  • Written Report : This summary report involves completing the text-format report by filling in the blanks with numbers obtained in the preceding phases, as well as using expressions like "higher," "lower," "equal to," and so on. The blanks in this phase are likely to resemble the answer inputs in the Analysis phase.
  • Visual Report : This aspect involves data visualization, where you select the appropriate chart type and input the numbers to create a meaningful chart for the report.

Your objective is to answer 10 cases, each featuring a question with instructions, textual information, and data exhibits.

In each of the 10 cases, there is an onscreen tool available to aid you. It's essential to solve the cases in a sequential manner, which means you cannot skip ahead and must address one case before proceeding to the next.

All 10 cases will revolve around the same theme or topic as Part 1 of the study, but they are not interconnected. These cases primarily demand a basic level of quantitative or reasoning skills and do not necessitate advanced mathematical abilities. 

However, it can be challenging to solve all 10 questions within a short time limit, so it's important to use your time wisely.

The question types in Part 2 can be grouped into four primary categories:

  • Word problems : These involve mathematical exercises where candidates must read the text and interpret data to find solutions.
  • Formulae : These questions are similar to word problems, but candidates only need to identify the formula used for calculation.
  • Verbal Reasoning : These are single-select multiple-choice questions that ask candidates to determine which statement is true or false.
  • Visualization : These questions require candidates to choose the appropriate chart type to represent the provided data.

Game 3: Plant Defense

What is Plant Defense Game?

This is a turn-based tower defense game with a time limit of 36 minutes. ( Click here to sign up and play the game for FREE! )

The objective of this game is to safeguard a plant positioned at the center of a map and fend off invading pests.

What does Plant Defense Game include?

  • The game map is divided into a square grid, ranging in size from 10x10 to 12x12. Right from the beginning of the game, you'll encounter natural obstacles known as Terrain Transformations, which are spread across the game area.
  • McKinsey recommends allocating 12 minutes for each map, resulting in a total game time of 36 minutes.
  • The game is composed of three maps, and each map has two phases: the planning phase and the fast-forward phase.
  • The planning phase is divided into 3 waves each comprising 5 turns. New stacks of Invaders appear at the map's border every 3-5 turns and advance toward the central base to attack. Your task during this phase is to strategize and set up defenses or obstacles to counter them. This phase continues until you've eliminated all the Invaders, survived until the end of the 15th turn, or your base is destroyed. 
  • The fast-forward phase occurs after the 15th turn of the planning phase. During this phase, all remaining Invaders from the planning phase will persist in their attacks. Your defensive setup remains fixed and cannot be altered. Invaders will continuously spawn and assault your base until it is destroyed.
  • After completing the game, the number of turns your base survived becomes the basis for calculating your final score.

Below are the elements and resources in this game:

Your base is represented by the native plant, and your primary objective is to protect it from invaders at all costs. If an invader reaches your base, you will lose the game.

The longer you manage to survive, the higher your score will be.

2. Invaders

In the game, there are two types of invaders. They both move in the same way on the map, and the only difference between them is the type of terrain that can slow them down.

Once an invader appears on your map, it will select the shortest path to reach your base plant. This path will be indicated by an arrow line.

3. Terrains

In the game, three types of terrains exist: Forest and Rocky, each of which slows down one type of invader for one turn, and Cliff, which blocks the path of both types of invaders, preventing them from passing through.

Each terrain occupies one grid on the map, and you cannot place terrain on a grid that already has another terrain or a defender on it.

4. Defenders

In the game, you have access to several defenders that help eliminate invaders by attacking them, though not all of them are available at the same time.

Each defender has two important specifications to consider:

  • Damage : Each defender can inflict a specific damage value on an invader's population.
  • Range : Each defender can cover a predetermined number of grids on the map. Generally, the higher an invader's damage, the smaller its range is.
  • Placement : Some defenders can be placed on the ground, while others can only be placed on trees.

Main Challenges of the Plant Defense Game

In this game, there are 2 main challenges:

  • Limited Information and Unexpected Events : You must make decisions with incomplete information and adapt to unforeseen circumstances, including new invaders from various directions.
  • Dual Objectives : You need to simultaneously focus on surviving each turn and maintaining your survival for as long as possible in the game.

Here are few tips to help you overcome these challenges:

  • Ready for Surprises : Be ready for unforeseen events during the game
  • Strategic Resource Management : Develop low-risk solutions using your terrains and defenders.
  • Practice : Get hands-on and practice to better prepare yourself for the real test. ( Click here to sign up and enjoy unlimited FREE practices !)

How to tackle Plant Defense Game :

  • Layered Defense : Create multiple layers of defenders starting from the base (inside-out approach), using the terrain to your advantage.
  • Close Resource Placement : At first, put your resources near the plant to cover the smaller inner rings of the map better, where paths often come together.
  • Resource Priority : Place your strongest resources closest to the plant and gradually expand with weaker, longer-range ones.
  • Adaptation Plan : After 15 turns, you can't change or add more resources, so quickly change your strategy based on the invaders' patterns. Experiment during the early turns to figure out what works best for each type of invader.
  • Smart Resource Use : Use your resources wisely to create a balanced defense for the plant. Avoid defenses that are too focused in one direction. Remember, the goal in this game is to last as many turns as possible.

The McKinsey Solve Game is meant to assess your critical thinking skills. However, if you haven't practiced beforehand, you might not be familiar with these mini-games, including how they work and what you're supposed to do.

According to our survey, many candidates were surprised when they took the test, even if they had read guides and watched game walkthroughs. These mini-games have complicated interfaces and various functions. Most candidates, when they first encounter them, need to spend time just figuring out how they work, then what the goals are, and finally start playing the game. Going through all these steps in a very short time can be nearly impossible.

You might have the exact set of thinking skills McKinsey is looking for and still not do well in the mini-game. This could happen because you might not understand how the game works, struggle with time management, or get confused by some aspects of the game.

That's why practicing with the McKinsey Game is so helpful. With our FREE McKinsey PSG Simulation , you can become familiar with these types of mini-games and improve the thinking skills you need to do well.

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McKinsey Problem Solving Game (Imbellus): a Complete Practice Guide to Pass the Digital Assessment

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There is a lot of secrecy around the McKinsey Problem Solving Game, aka Imbellus.

This gamified assessment is used to filter out a large chunk of the many McKinsey applicants, and it’s supposedly crack-proof.

The internet is packed with blog posts, Reddit discussions, and forum threads about the McKinsey PSG, some even contradicting.

This information overload coupled with the huge importance of the test makes the whole preparation process nerve-wracking.

That’s why this practice guide strives to give you accurate and easy-to-digest information about your upcoming test.

It includes:

  • A complete overview of the mini-games
  • The best things to keep in mind while playing them
  • The most helpful practice options available right now
  • Useful tips and tactics to increase your chances of passing it

So, buckle up, and let’s get started.

Find out everything you need about the  McKinsey Problem Solving Game , aka Imbellus, and prepare using actual simulations!

Gal Jacobi

Gal , Expert on Game-Based Assessments at  JobTestPrep .

What is the McKinsey Problem Solving Game (PSG)?

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game, also named McKinsey Imbellus, McKinsey Digital Assessment, and Solve, is a gamified test that replaces the previous assessment, PST, in the recruiting process. The PSG consists of two mini-games lasting for 70 minutes and evaluates candidates on five key cognitive abilities.

Only candidates who pass this stage are invited to the next hiring step, the case interviews.

What Skills Does the PSG Evaluate?

The PSG evaluates the consulting traits and qualifications of a candidate and then compares them to a real McKinsey consultant. If the applicant appears similar or better than the actual consultant, they'll pass the test.

Five main thinking skills are being assessed :

  • Critical Thinking : The ability to solve problems by breaking them down into smaller parts.
  • Decision-Making Process : The ability to take in large amounts of information and process it efficiently to make the best possible decision within time constraints.
  • Meta Cognition : The ability to monitor your cognitive processes and improve them.
  • Situational Awareness : The ability to keep track of several tasks or activities concurrently.
  • Systems Thinking : The ability to identify the root causes of problems and possible solutions.

Do All Candidates Get the McKinsey Problem Solving Game?

As of 2024, almost all candidates for nearly all Mckinsey offices receive the Problem Solving Game. The PST, on the other hand, is no longer in use.

Get to Know the McKinsey PSG Format Inside Out

The Problem-Solving Game is sent to candidates once they pass the initial resume screening, making it the second hiring step.

McKinsey has created five mini-games, but you'll need to take only two of them. The most common ones are Ecosysystem Building and Redrock Study , and there are four other less common mini-games that only a fraction of the applicants receive (outlined below).

The time limit for the two common mini-games is 70 minutes , and for the others, it may range between 60 to 80 minutes. Each game will also have a tutorial, which is untimed.

Now, let's dive into each of the mini-games so you'll know what to expect on the test.

  • Ecosystem Building

The first mini-game you'll need to pass is Ecosystem Building. In this game, you'll be randomly placed in either a mountain ridge or a coral reef scenario.

McKinsey PSG Mountain Scenario Example

Your main objective in this mini-game is to build a sustainable ecosystem using exactly eight species from a collection of 39 species.

To achieve this goal successfully, you must strictly follow these guidelines:

  • Terrain specs : The chosen location in the ecosystem must provide suitable living conditions for all eight species.
  • Calories balance : Each species must be fed with enough calories from food to sustain itself.
  • Food chain continuity : Each species must not be eaten into extinction by its predators.

The gaming platform provides specific information to help you meet these guidelines (some are seen in the game's "guidebook"):

Terrain Specs

Each location in the ecosystem has seven to eight terrain specs. You can choose a location using a pinpoint.

Of these seven or eight specs, only four can be displayed at any given time, using a checklist table in the upper-right corner of the screen:

McKinsey Digital Assessment Terrain Specs Checklist Sample

Now, here's what's crucial about these living conditions:

Each species has specific terrain specs that have to be met. If they aren't met, the species won't survive, and you won't achieve the game's main objective.

Luckily, the species' living conditions usually come in ranges, allowing you to be more flexible with the species you choose for your ecosystem.

Additionally, each species has only two to four terrain specs , when Depth/Elevation and Temperature appear for all species:

McKinsey Imbellus Coral Reed Terrain Specs Example

Knowing that you only need to look at specific terrain specs on the checklist table helps eliminate species or locations that are not suitable for creating a sustainable ecosystem.

Food Chain Continuity

The 39 species are divided into producers and consumers.

Producers are plants and fungi (in the Mountain scenario) and corals and seaweeds (in the Coral Reef scenario). They don't have any calorie needs, so their "calories needed" spec is always zero.

Consumers are animals that eat either plants, other animals, or both. Some consumers are at the top of the food chain and therefore not eaten by any other species.

While creating the food chain, it's important to ensure that no species is eaten to extinction. This can be monitored using the " calorie needed " and the " calorie provided " specs that each species has (shown below).

Calories Balance

Each species has a calorie needed and a calorie provided, as you can see below:

McKinsey Imbellus Species Calories Example

A species lives if its "calories needed" are less than the sum of the calories provided by other species it eats (other consumers or providers).

Furthermore, the species' "calories provided" must be higher than the sum of the calories needed by other species that eat it.

The Main Challenges of the Ecosystem Building Mini-Game

Ecosystem creation is first of all a decision-making game.

You get all the information you need to deliver correct decisions so there's no uncertainty or inaccurate details.

The problem is that you have a vast amount of information to absorb, calculate, analyze, and prioritize . This includes the specs of 39 species, the terrain specs of each location, and eating rules.

Some of the information is irrelevant and is there to distract you or tempt you to make assumptions . In this mini-game, you must not make any assumptions and you don't need to have any environmental, ecological, or zoological knowledge.

So, your ability to make quick and accurate calculations and ignore irrelevant data will have a great impact on your performance.

The preparation course we recommend on this page includes a replica of McKinsey's Ecosystem Building game. It enables you to practice using a like-for-like game experience and learn about every single rule, move, and item in detail. Plus, you’ll master calculation methods and other tactics to ensure the food chain survives in your chosen location.

Redrock Study

The second mini-game you'll most likely encounter is Redrock Study. 

In the game's storyline, your task is to analyze the species inhabiting an island, which includes wolves and elks. The objective of your analysis is to formulate predictions and conduct various calculations , specifically focusing on percentages, by examining data on the evolution of the animal population.

The game has 4 sections:

  • Investigation   You will be presented with a written text that includes tables and graphs. Your task is to sort information and gather valuable data for the following test sections.
  • Analysis   You will be presented with 3 or 4 math problems ; each is separated into two parts. You will be given a calculator and a Research Journal to gather information relevant to the questions.
  • Report You will be presented with two types of questions - 
  • 5 written questions regarding your findings in the analysis section
  • 1 visual question in which you will need to choose a graph and use it to show what you found in the analysis.
  •  Cases You will be presented with 6 to 10 questions that are unrelated to the analysis you did so far. 

You will have 35 minutes to complete all four sections , with a short, non-timed break before each one. 

Alternative Mini-Games

As of 2024, the Ecosystem Building game is constant, but the second mini-game may vary in rare cases. This means that there's a slight chance you won't get the Plant Defense mini-game, but rather one of the three we show below.

Disaster Management

In the Disaster Management game, you have to identify what type of natural disaster has happened to an animal population in an ecosystem.

Then, based on the data and information given, you need to choose a different location that will ensure the survival of the ecosystem.

The Disaster Management mini-game has only one objective - the sustainability of the ecosystem, similar to the Ecosystem Building mini-game.

Disease Management

In the Disease Management mini-game, you have to identify patterns of a disease within an ecosystem and predict who will be infected next. You can then use the information given about each species to help you solve the problem.

Migration Management

Migration Management is a turn-based puzzle game. The candidate must direct the migration of 50 animals while helping them arrive at their destination with minimal casualties and with a pre-determined amount of resources.

  • Plant Defense

Plant Defense is a turn-based mini-game (similar to popular Tower Defense games). Your main objective is to defend a native plant that's located at the center of a 10x10, 10x14, or 12x12 grid from invader species, using defensive resources for as many turns as possible .

This mini-game consists of three maps, and each map is divided into two - the planning phase and the fast-forward phase. McKinsey recommends allocating 12 minutes per map, which makes it 36 minutes in total.

Planet Defence Example

The 36-minute time limit is not fixed though, as it depends on how long it took you to finish the first mini-game, Ecosystem Building.

Many candidates mention that the Plant Defense game is more challenging than the Ecosystem creation. So, keep that in mind while taking the first one and plan your time wisely .

Now, let's take a closer look at the different elements and resources of this mini-game:

Your base is the native plant that you have to defend from invaders at all costs. Once an invader reaches the base, you lose the game.

Note that eventually, everyone loses, and you can't hold your base forever. But the more turns you manage to survive, the better .

There are two types of invaders in the game - Groundhog and Fox. Their movements on the map are the same, and the only difference between them is the terrain type that holds them back (more on terrains below).

Once an invader appears on your map, it will choose the shortest path to reach your base plant. This path will be shown as a yellow arrow .

McKinsey Plant Defense Example

There are three types of terrains in the game:

  • Forest : Slows down the Groundhog for one turn
  • Rocky : Slows down the Fox for one turn
  • Cliff : Blocks both the Fox and the Groundhog from passing this square

Each terrain holds one grid on the map, and you cannot place terrain on a grid that already has another terrain or a defender on it (more on defenders below).

As opposed to terrains, defenders don't just slow down or block an invader, they eliminate it for good.

There are several defenders you can use in the game: Bobcat, Falcon, Wolf, Python, and Coyote.

Note that you won't see all of the defenders at once.

Each defender has two important specs you must take into account:

Range : Each defender can cover a pre-determined number of grids on the map. For example, a Python can cover only one grid, while a Falcon can cover as many as 13 grids.

Damage : Each defender can cause specific forms of damage to an invader's population. When an invader attacks, you'll be able to see its population number and the damage that your defender can cause him. A Wolf, for example, has a damaging impact of 60, while a Falcon has only 20.

The Main Challenges of the Plant Defense Mini-Game

In this mini-game, you have to make decisions based on limited information and face unexpected events (like new invaders from any direction). Also, you must achieve two simultaneous objectives - survive each of the turns separately and for as long as possible.

This is the complete opposite of the Ecosystem Building game, in which you have all the data in front of you, and you have just one objective.

Two things that can help you overcome these challenges are (1) preparing for the unexpected events that will happen during the game and (2) planning low-risk solutions based on your resources (terrains and defenders).

The prep course that we recommend on this page has the closest simulation possible to the actual Plant Defense game. It has the same gameplay, invaders, and resources, and it's based on the same algorithm that appears in the McKinsey Problem Solving Game. This will enable you to learn the most effective tactics to ensure your base plant survives as many turns as possible.

How to Beat the McKinsey Problem Solving Game?

The proven way to beat the McKinsey PSG is by properly preparing beforehand.

There's no way around it. That’s because the mini-games include an immense amount of information, rules, and patterns you must master . And they require you to use tactics and strategies that are not obvious and take time to plan and execute.

All of that is under great time pressure and the high stakes of possibly failing it and losing an opportunity to work at McKinsey.

Now, there are a few practice options you can use to get a better understanding of the PSG and improve your chances of passing it, with the PSG Interactive Simulation being the most accurate one.

McKinsey Problem Solving Game Practice Options

PSG Interactive Simulation

The  PSG Secrets simulation is an interactive platform that includes accurate practice for every part of McKinsey’s PSG. It mirrors what the actual game scenarios look like, what each button does, how the logic of the games works, how it generates the data, and more.

It has a full simulation option (two mini-games, 70 minutes), which includes:

  • A full video course in 24 videos and 2h30m of content on Ecosystem, Redrock, and Plant Defense
  • 2 excel solvers for the Ecosystem Game
  • 10 Redrock test drills specifically for the case section
  • 152 page-pdf guide 
  • 60-day money-back guarantee.
Tips to Improve Your Performance on the McKinsey Problem Solving Game

Here are several specific tips to help improve your overall performance on the test as well as tips to avoid any disturbances that could hurt your score:

#1 Sharpen Your Mental Math Abilities

The ability to make fast and accurate calculations can help a lot in this Problem-Solving Game. That’s because one wrong calculation might ruin your carefully built Ecosystem or cause an invader to reach your Native Plant.

There are several free apps and sites, like the renowned Khan Academy , that can help you improve your math skills quickly.

#2 Learn Fast Reading Skills

Mckinsey’s PSG requires you to absorb and analyze a tremendous amount of information under strict time constraints.

Fast reading skills come in handy in this test and can help reduce the amount of time needed to understand the numerous guidelines of the mini-games.

There are certain apps and browser extensions that allow you to practice this important skill , even on the go.

#3 Focus Only on What Matters

Don't get nervous when you first see the immense amount of data on the mini-games. That’s because a lot of the data is irrelevant, and you’ll be only using some particular parameters .

For example, in the Ecosystem game, you’ll only have to use specific species and terrain specs for your calculations, while ignoring others that are there only for distraction.

In the complete   PSG Simulation Practice , you’ll see how to remove as much as 70% of the irrelevant data and remain just with the information that matters.

#4 Ignore Outside Information

While taking the assessment, especially the Ecosystem game, try to ignore any outside knowledge and information.

For example, if you’ve learned biology or zoology and you see that your food-eating rules don’t seem logical but the numbers are correct, always go with the numbers .

If you start to rely on previous knowledge, you might get confused and mess up your progress in the game.

#5 Learn to Solve Problems Like a Consultant

The PSG measures your consulting traits and compares them to a model McKinsey consultant.

That’s why learning to think and solve problems like a real consultant can help you pass this assessment.

Two main problem-solving skills you should practice are decision-making in fully controlled situations and with limited information.

Both of these skills can be trained using complex strategy games (examples are mentioned above) as well as  practicing with the   full PSG interactive simulation .

#6 Cut Down on Calculation Time Using Microsoft Excel

Mental math is an effective way to make calculations in the mini-games.

But as you’re only human, it’s not error-free. That’s why using a calculation tool, such as Excel formulas, can be a great way to make super fast and accurate calculations.

You can use it to gather all the relevant data, arrange it with columns and formulas (even in advance!), and turn the whole process into a no-brainer.

That said, you’ll need to use another monitor (preferably with a different browser) or another laptop since the assessment’s platform will take over your entire screen.

#7 Prep Your Hardware and Internet Connection

The last thing you want during the assessment is a “blue screen of death.”

Blue Screen of Death Example

It may happen if your hardware is not strong enough, since the McKinsey PSG is pretty demanding in its system requirements.

Any computer that is more than five years old or without an HD screen will likely encounter lags and performance drops.

Also, you must have a fast and stable internet connection. If you get disconnected in the middle of the test, you might need to start all over again or even reschedule for another testing date.

The PSG scores are divided into two types -

  • Product score - the final outcome of your performance
  • Process score - the efficiency (time and number of clicks) of your performance 

If you get the   PSG Practice Simulation , you’ll have a mock grading system that monitors your results and behavioral patterns.

This will allow you to track your progress while you practice for the test and see which areas demand improvement.

Why Did McKinsey Develop the Problem-Solving Game?

McKinsey created the Problem-Solving Game as an unbiased way to identify candidates from around the globe with strong cognitive abilities. The former assessment, Problem Solving Test (PST), was less challenging for candidates who were familiar with standardized tests, such as SAT and GMAT, or used the numerous mock tests found online.

The PSG, on the other hand, is supposedly crack-proof. That's because it takes into account the approach you use to solve the problems and not just the final solution. This seemingly removes any lucky guessing and shortcut techniques that were common on the McKinsey PST.

While on the PST you had just your final score, on the PSG your score is comprised of dozens of scoring criteria apart from your final result , including mouse movement, keystrokes, and clicks.

McKinsey can analyze these factors for every recorded candidate, which allows them to compare candidates more fairly.

What Does Imbellus Mean?

Imbellus is a company that creates immersive simulation-based assessments to assess cognitive processes. To develop a new testing format for the McKinsey recruitment process, they've teamed up with McKinsey consultants and UCLA Cresst psychologists.

In 2020,  Imbellus was purchased by Roblox , an online gaming platform, to help sharpen its recruitment practices.

This was an in-depth prep guide for the McKinsey Problem Solving Game. It gave you an overview of the different mini-games, explained their main challenges, and offered some useful solving tips.

Additionally, you saw the best ways to prepare for the assessment, when the PSG Practice Simulation being the most realistic and accurate one.

Other JobTestPrep Assessments

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  • What's on This Page
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  • Best Practice Options
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McKinsey Problem Solving Game: the ultimate guide

McKinsey Problem Solving Game

McKinsey's Problem Solving Game (PSG), also known as the Imbellus test or Digital Assessment, is a virtual "test" used to evaluate McKinsey candidates during the application process.

McKinsey says that no specific preparation is needed for the new assessment. However, in our experience you can (and should) prepare for the test. In the guide below we've compiled key information about the McKinsey Problem Solving Game and some tips to help you get ready. Let's get started!

Click here to practise 1-on-1 with McKinsey ex-interviewers

1. background, 1.1 what is the mckinsey problem solving game (psg).

Let's start high-level. The McKinsey Problem Solving Game is an assessment that the firm is using in order to evaluate their applicants during the early stages of the interview process. 

If you're familiar with the McKinsey PST (Problem Solving Test), then it will be helpful to know that the Problem Solving Game is intended to serve a similar function (i.e. screen candidates early in the process) but in a very different way.

McKinsey's Problem Solving Game is really the first assessment of it's kind in the consulting industry. For a brief overview of the assessment that comes straight from McKinsey, check out this video .

1.2 Purpose

At the end of the day, McKinsey's business is dependent on hiring exceptional problem-solvers to serve their clients. The purpose of the Problem Solving Game is to help McKinsey do a better job of finding the best talent among their vast pool of annual applicants. 

Now, to be more specific, the Problem Solving Game is intended to help the firm do a few things in particular:

  • Hire the candidates who will perform best on-the-job, not just the candidates who can do well on a test
  • Evaluate the thought process of candidates, rather than just their final answers
  • Increase diversity by reducing the biases of other methods of standardised testing (like the McKinsey PST)

McKinsey's global director of people analytics and measurement, Keith McNulty , alluded to the above priorities when he made this comment about standardised multiple-choice tests: " [T] here’s a large amount of strategy, preparation, and luck involved in multiple-choice tests, and if you use them in the selection process, it reinforces the status quo—at a time when you are looking to widen the scope of candidates you’re hiring.”

1.3 Imbellus (acquired by Roblox)

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game was not built in-house by the firm. Instead, they worked directly with a start-up called Imbellus, in order to develop the assessment. In 2020 Imbellus was acquired by Roblox but McKinsey has continued using the digital assessment.

The core idea of the Problem Solving Game is to evaluate how people think, not just what they know. McKinsey believes that standardised testing is a poor predictor of real-world performance, and so they aim to evaluate candidates in a more robust and less biased way with this test.

1.4 Pilot and roll-out

The Problem Solving Game was tested with an initial group of 527 McKinsey candidates  at the London office in November of 2017. Then in late 2018 , the test was given to additional candidates from additional McKinsey offices. During these tests, the assessment could only be given on McKinsey-owned computers at a local McKinsey office. 

But then, a new version of the assessment was developed that allowed it to be taken online. The online version of the assessment was rolled out in late 2019, and as of the writing of this article, the Problem Solving Game has been played by over 15,000 people in at least 30 countries. 

Today McKinsey uses the PSG as its default initial assessment in the interview process.

2. Game structure

Now let's dig into more details about the Problem Solving Game and what you can expect on the assessment. Let's start with an overview.

2.1  Overview

Here is a brief summary of the way the PSG is structured:

  • A computer-based assessment
  • An experience similar to a video game
  • About 70 minutes of total run time
  • 2 scenarios
  • 2-4 tasks within each scenario

Although the above elements are fairly consistent, the game is actually different for every candidate.

2.2 Different for every player

When you are invited to take the PSG, you will be given a unique link which will allow you to do three things:

  • Run a tech diagnostic programme to ensure your computer and network meet the requirements needed to complete the assessment
  • Schedule a specific time slot for you to take the assessment
  • Take the assessment during your scheduled time slot

Here's where it gets interesting. When you begin the assessment during your scheduled time slot, the system will load a unique version of the game just for you. That means that the iteration of the game that you face will be different than every past or future iteration of the game.

With that said, all versions of the game contain something called "scenarios". 

2.3 Scenarios

The assessment is divided into two primary components: scenarios and tasks. A scenario is the digital world and situation where you find yourself. Each scenario has an over-arching objective and contains several tasks, which are smaller "bite-sized" objectives. When you take the Problem Solving Game, you should expect to face 2 different scenarios .

One is called Ecosystem, and the other Redrock. These are the only two scenarios currently being used. There are other scenarios which you might have heard of (Plant protection, Disaster management, Disease management, Migration management) but these aren't used anymore.

So to summarize, as of writing this article, here is what you need to know about the scenarios:

  • Ecosystem creation - Currently used
  • Redrock study - Currently used
  • Plant protection - Not used anymore
  • Disater management - Not used anymore
  • Disease management - Not used anymore
  • Migration management - Not used anymore

Let's dig deeper into the two scenarios currently being used.

Ecosystem management

The McKinsey Ecosystem game is a crucial part of McKinsey's recruitment process. In this game, candidates are tasked with creating a sustainable ecosystem on an island and selecting an appropriate location for it, all within a strict 35-minute time limit. To succeed, candidates must choose 8 species out of a pool of 13, considering factors such as whether they are producers or animals and their environmental requirements.

The game challenges candidates to create a balanced food chain within the chosen environment, ensuring that each species receives enough calories from its food source. To simplify the process, an Excel Solver tool is available to quickly identify if a selection can lead to a sustainable chain. This tool can be a valuable resource during the game.

Ultimately, the Ecosystem game assesses candidates' ability to make rapid and strategic decisions under pressure, demonstrating their problem-solving skills in creating a sustainable ecosystem.

Redrock study

The Redrock is a new addition to the McKinsey game, introduced in 2022 in the United States and replacing the previous second game, Imbellus – Plant Defense, as of February '23. This change brought a different format to the Problem Solving Game (PSG), focusing more on calculations, especially percentages, similar to the older McKinsey PSTs.

In the Redrock game, players are sent to an island to analyze the population of animals, specifically wolves and elks, and make predictions based on the data. The game consists of four phases: Investigation, Analysis, Report, and Cases, with a total time limit of 35 minutes, including short breaks before each phase.

The Investigation Phase involves gathering information from provided text, graphs, and tables, which can be used in later phases. The Analysis Phase requires answering math questions related to different animal groups, with access to a calculator and the Research Journal. The Report Phase includes both written and visual components, where you answer questions and choose a graph to represent analysis results. Lastly, the Cases Phase, introduced in 2023, involves answering up to 10 unrelated questions, typically taking around 2 minutes each.

Overall, the Redrock game represents a significant shift in the McKinsey recruitment process, focusing on analytical skills and calculations, and it may be challenging for candidates to complete within the time limit.

3. Skills tested

McKinsey is using the Problem Solving Game for a reason. They want to make sure that the candidates they hire, have what it takes to succeed on the job as consultants. 

So, what exactly is McKinsey evaluating when you play the game? You could call them skills, but skills isn't quite the right term to use here.  This abstract describes the areas upon which candidates are assessed during the PSG as "cognitive constructs".

This makes it sound complicated, but you can simply think of these "cognitive constructs" as the areas of your thinking that McKinsey wants to measure. There are 5 of these areas, and we've covered them in more detail below:

3.1 Critical thinking

As you may be aware, consultancies (and other employers) place a high value on their candidates' critical thinking abilities. Just so we're working off of the same definition, here is how Stanford defines critical thinking: "critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking".

When a consultant begins on a project, they will typically have (or form) a set of objectives that the client wants to accomplish. At the same time, they will likely encounter competing priorities and a combination of relevant and irrelevant data.

The best consultants will have a knack for focusing on objectives, and systematically identifying the most relevant information to form an approach and recommendation. That's why critical thinking is one of the primary areas that McKinsey wants to evaluate with the assessment.

3.2 Decision making

The Problem Solving Game also evaluates your decision making. And one of the elements of the test that distinguishes it from more traditional standardised tests is that it evaluates both your end result and HOW you came to that decision. Whereas a multiple-choice test (like the McKinsey PST) is only capable of assessing candidates based on their end results.

For example, as you progress through a scenario within the Problem Solving Game, you'll gather information, do some analysis, and then take action to implement your approach. During each interaction you have with the game, the software is gathering data. It's measuring details like the amount of time you spend on each task, what information you are looking at onscreen, as well as the actions you ultimately take.

In the real world, McKinsey would rather have candidates who can make decisions strategically, even if they are wrong occasionally, rather than candidates who are good at guessing on standardised tests. Some people can do both, but you get the point.

3.3 Metacognition

Candidates are also evaluated on their metacognition. As described by Nancy Chick of Vanderbilt University , metacognition can be summarised as "thinking about one's thinking". 

You could also characterise metacognition as a person's ability to take a step back and recognise their own understanding and knowledge gaps for a particular topic. 

Having strong metacognition can make a significant difference in a person's ability to learn and adapt to new situations. McKinsey consultants often work on complex projects, and it's important for the firm to hire people that can learn quickly and excel in changing circumstances.

3.4 Situational awareness

When a candidate interacts with the scenarios within the PSG, their  situational awareness  is also put to the test. Situational awareness is a person's ability to understand their environment as well as it's likely future outcomes. To illustrate this point, situational awareness is an important ability for firefighters.

Imagine a home catches on fire and the fire department is called. When they arrive on the scene, the firefighters need to quickly assess the situation and understand key pieces of information (e.g. are any people inside? Where are the nearest fire hydrants? Etc.). At the same time, the firefighters will also understand the likely future outcomes of a particular fire, and they can use this insight to help them prepare their approach for extinguishing the flames.

In a similar way, McKinsey wants to hire candidates who are able to understand the key elements of a new situation, anticipate the likely outcomes, and use their situational awareness to prepare a strategic approach.

3.5 Systems thinking

Finally, the Problem Solving Game is meant to test candidates' systems thinking . Systems thinking is a person's ability to understand and work with the complexities of an interconnected system. To test this ability, the Imbellus test uses the natural world, which provides some excellent examples of complex systems. 

For example, a coral reef is a system with a variety of interdependent parts, including plants, animals, water, the water temperature, and more. If you change one element of the system, it can impact the system as a whole.

Likewise, the clients that McKinsey serves are deeply impacted by systems (e.g. the global economy, data processing, and more). As a result, hiring candidates that can understand and work within a systems-context, will be an advantage for McKinsey.

4. How to prepare

Now let's talk about beating the game. 

First, we want to remind you that every candidate who plays the Problem Solving Game is encountering a completely unique game. You can't memorise a set pattern or sequence that will consistently get you a high score.

Also, remember that the game is measuring HOW you approach the problem and not just your outcomes. So, even if you have good results, if you got there using a strange or illogical approach, that could pull down your overall score.

Due to these factors, you can't prepare for McKinsey's Problem Solving Game in the same way that you would prepare for other tests (like the PST). In fact, according to McKinsey you DON'T even need the following for the Problem Solving Game:

  • Any specific preparation
  • Experience with video games
  • Specific business knowledge

That's what they say, but if you have the opportunity to interview with McKinsey, we know that you'll want to be as prepared as possible! So, we've compiled the below tips, which we recommend you use to get ready for the assessment.

 4.1 Play video games, seriously

Even though no video game experience is required to play the Problem Solving Game, it was designed (at least in part) by game designers. And if you play the right kind of video games, there are elements of the strategy and mechanics that will be similar to what you may encounter on McKinsey's assessment.

We recommend that you specifically play two types of video games to help you prepare: 

  • A "world builder" simulation game like SimCity
  • A "tower defense" game like Kingdom Rush

To be clear, the graphics and experience of the games above will likely look quite different than what you'll find within the Problem Solving Game. BUT, by playing games like these, you'll pick up helpful strategies and a better understanding of the game mechanics and flow. 

We would also recommend that you practise these video games on the same device that you would use to take the Problem Solving Game (likely your primary laptop or desktop computer). That way you will be replicating the style of play as closely as possible.

The two games we've mentioned above are most closely aligned with the ecosystem creation and plant protection scenarios of the Problem Solving Game that we mentioned in section two of this article.

Similar to the ecosystem creation scenario on the Problem Solving Game, in SimCity you have to build a system (in this case a city) with a variety of interdependent parts. And in both games, you have to achieve a level of balance between different parts of the system. 

Similar to the plant protection scenario on the Problem Solving Game, in Kingdom Rush, you have a variety of elements that you can build to slow or stop invaders. And although the elements that you'll have will be different (e.g. predators vs. archers) the basic strategies involved in most tower defense games are similar.

Now, as you may have already noticed, these games are useful for two of the scenarios we mentioned in section two above. For the other scenarios, we have not found any video game that is clearly relevant. So, for those scenarios, you'll need to rely more on the other preparation steps below.

4.2 Study the known scenarios

As we mentioned previously, there are four publicly known scenarios that have been used on the Problem Solving Game. As a recap, here's what they are:

  • Ecosystem creation
  • Plant protection
  • Disease management
  • Disaster management

We'd encourage you to carefully review the information that we've summarised for each scenario in section two of this article. This will help you to start getting comfortable with the situations you'll encounter (note: McKinsey could add new scenarios not listed above).

As you learn the basic details of each scenario, you could also outline potential strategies for each one, as a mental exercise.

For example, in disease management, you'll need to identify the disease you're dealing with, and then take action to contain and treat it. Until you play the PSG, you won't have all the data, but you do know the basic objective of the game. So, make-up a hypothetical disease situation, and then outline a few potential strategies that you could take to help local wildlife.

A mental exercise like this obviously won't match the exact way the Problem Solving Game operates. However, it will get you to start thinking strategically, within the context of the specific scenarios that you will face. This alone will likely make you feel more confident when you take the assessment, and you may find that some of your ideas will come in handy on game day.

4.3 Prepare your workstation

This is a bit more logistical, but it's very important.

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game is somewhat demanding from a hardware perspective. You'll need a computer that runs pretty quickly and has at least 8GB of RAM. If you have an old or slow computer, then we would recommend that you either borrow or purchase a new one prior to taking the test. 

You'll also want to make sure you have a fast and stable internet connection before taking the assessment. If your wifi is spotty, you could try connecting to the internet through a direct ethernet connection. Or, you could ask a friend or relative with a good connection if you can take the assessment at their place.

Prior to taking the test, you will need to run McKinsey's "tech diagnostic" to ensure you have the processing power to run the Problem Solving Game. When McKinsey invites you to take the assessment, they'll send you more details on how to access this tech test. 

As much as possible, you'll also want to carve out a time and space to take the assessment with no distractions. It's important to plan this in advance, and it also helps if you can do your preparation in the same environment.

4.4 Start practicing case interviews

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game is very different than a case interview. However, if you get good at solving case interviews, some of those skills will also be helpful on the Problem Solving Game. 

For example, in the game, you'll need to develop a strategy with incomplete or inconclusive information. You also have to do this when you're solving a case interview. 

This is also a great strategy because it will help you get a head start on your preparation for the case interviews that you'll encounter later in the McKinsey interview process.

After getting some practice on your own, you should find someone who can do a mock interview with you, such as a friend or family member.

We’d also recommend that you do mock interviews with ex-interviewers from McKinsey. This is the best way to replicate the conditions of a real interview, and to get feedback from someone who understands the process extremely well. You may not have the connections to do this on your own, but we’ve made the connections for you. Book your McKinsey mock interview now .

Related articles:

Why McKinsey? Why BCG? Why Bain? Interview questions

mckinsey problem solving game feedback

Get Active in Our Amazing Community of Over 458,000 Peers!

Has anyone tried the new mckinsey imbellus problem solving game any tips / lessons learnt.

Hello community,

I will be soon taking the new McKinsey Imbellus Problem Solving Game.

Has anyone on this platform gone through this same testing? If so, could you please provide any raccomandations/ tricks to keep in mind during the assesment?

Thank you in advance!

Overview of answers

  • Date ascending
  • Date descending

Imbellus’ psychologists designed the game to evaluate candidates across five cognitive abilities:

  • Critical thinking: forming a judgment based on a set of data
  • Decision making: selecting the best course of action under time constraints
  • Meta-cognition: planning and monitoring own learning and performance
  • Situational awareness: forecasting outcomes based on the relationship between multiple variables
  • Systems thinking: understanding cause and effect relationships

McKinsey says that the game tracks every move of the mouse, hesitation, and time spent on every action. It then uses data science to score the candidate across the five abilities.

How does it work?

The assessment consists of two scenarios, each taking approximately 30 minutes, with the second scenario broken into three parts. While the time limits are recommended, it has been reported that candidates who spend more time in the first scenario, have less time for the second one.

1. Ecosystem Management : candidates are expected to create a sustainable ecosystem either on a mountain ridge or a coral reef. The first step is to select the best location based on a range of attributes, such as wind speed, pH of the soil, and temperature; next choose 8 species of animals and plants from a selection of 40 based on a range of characteristics, such as number of calories needed to survive and ideal environment.

The most complex part is matching the animals to each other by calculating the number of calories they need to consume vs the number of calories they offer when consumed. Working down the food chain, starting from the predators can simplify the task.

McKinsey Imbellus Problem Solving Game

2. Protect the Plant : candidates need to protect a plant from invading species through six rounds of play, using the provided tools, such as predators and terrain barriers, to stop or slow them down.

One of the challenges is deploying the majority of tools before knowing where the invasion will start or what the effect of the measures will be on the invaders. The key is to experiment, carefully record the results, and leverage the learnings in subsequent rounds.

How to succeed?

No-one really knows how to “win” in the game just yet, but one thing not to do, is to try and replicate the actions of someone who has taken the assessment before. The game has enough variability to prevent any attempt of cheating. Every user sees a unique version of the scenarios.

It is especially important to read the instructions carefully and take the time in the tutorials. There are a lot of details that can feel overwhelming. Think 80/20 and get comfortable with making decisions in conditions of ambiguity, and partial information, while always rooting the decisions in the facts.

How to prepare?

One of the reasons for switching to Imbellus is that candidates can prepare for the PST. Multiple previous and mock tests available online can get you in order for the old 1 hour, 26 questions test. McKinsey found a strong bias towards applicants with the time and resources to purchase mock tests and practice for the PST.

The Digital Assessment is meant to be a novel scenario for applicants, which is still evolving and changing between recruitment cycles. In theory, the game should prevent candidates with exact sciences background from having an advantage. Instead, it tests logic, decision-making, and clarity of thought.

If you are into video games, you are in luck! If not, it might be a time to start. Candidates report that the Imbellus assessment reminds them of the popular category of “tower defense” games, in particular, Kingdom Rush and Planet Zoo. Worst case, this is another, potentially useful way to spend time during the quarantine.

Please get in touch if you'd like to discuss in more detail.

Does Anyone know more about the new Mckinsey test "Imbellus" which is replacing PST? Anyone who took this exam? Tips?Tks

McKinsey Digital Assessment is based on a game developed by an American start-up Imbellus that uses Artificial Intelligence to place candidates in a range of lifelike scenarios and assess their decision-making skills and cognitive processes. Thus far it has been only deployed at McKinsey, but rest assured that other top tier consultancies will be quick to follow with a digital game-based assessment of their own.

McKinsey Imbellus Test

If you are into video games, you are in luck! If not, it might be a time to start. Candidates report that the Imbellus assessment reminds them of the popular category of “tower defence” games, in particular, Kingdom Rush and Planet Zoo. Worst case, this is another, potentially useful way to spend time during the quarantine.

Get in touch if you would like to discuss further.

mckinsey problem solving game feedback

Imbellus test McKinsey

This is probably too late for you, but hopefully useful for someone else.

I did an in-depth study on the Imbellus. Most of the comments I found online are something like this:

  • You cannot prepare – it tests who you are
  • Play a lot of videogames
  • Don’t waste time
  • Be yourself
  • Take notes well
  • Enjoy yourself

Not sure what you think, but I don’t believe that’s very useful. Nor did the several people I coached who had to do the test.

So I worked hard with the candidates that actually did the test and created a guide with everything you need to know on the Imbellus .

This guide will:

  • Show you the perfect strategy for each of the 4 Game Scenarios
  • Explain every single part of the Game with ad-hoc pictures
  • Detail the exact steps to improve in the 5 Skills tested in the game
  • Provide you insider information from previous applicants who succeeded in the game
  • Reveal the must-know answers to the most common questions on the Imbellus
  • Offer you a ready-to-use Excel template to maximize results in Scenario 1 with a detailed tutorial
  • Give you a proven template to build the food chain in Scenario 1

This guide will cover every single part of the Game , so you can be 100% confident the day of the assessment, without worrying “I should have prepared better for this”. You won’t need any additional material to prepare after it .

You can download the guide instantly here:

McKinsey Imbellus Guide

As an extra bonus, I am offering for a limited time the Consulting Industry Cheat Sheet (worth $29) for free with the guide. You will get access to key insights of the 17 most common industries in case interviews.

If you need additional support or have any questions on the guide please feel free to PM me , I am happy to provide extra tips for free.

Is it possible to convert this bonus for the total guide price? The exchange rate for the BRL currency is high

Hi there, thanks for your comment, unfortunately that’s not possible. If you need anything else, please feel free to PM me. Best

McKinsey Imbellus Game (experience share only please)

I did an in-depth study on the Imbellus. I can tell you that most of the comments you will find are something like this:

So I worked hard with the people that actually did the test and created a guide with everything you need to know on the Imbellus .

This guide will cover every single part of the Game , so you can be 100% confident the day of the assessment, without worrying “I should have prepared better for this”. You won’t need any additional material to prepare after this .

Here is a screenshot of the guide:

McKinsey Imbellus Game Experience

McKinsey Imbellus Problem Solving Game - How to prepare?

mckinsey problem solving game feedback

Hi Francesco, happy to find your post here. do you think your Game Secrets Is also applicable to the McKinsey application in Hong Kong?

Hi there, thanks for your comment. The test has the same format globally, thus so far that you have to do it, yes, the guide is going to be useful. You can check with HR if your specific office is already implementing it (China recently started to test it, not sure if HK is doing it as well at this stage). Best

McKinsey Digital Assessment - Imbellus

I did an in-depth study on the Imbellus. Most of the comments I found online were something like this:

McKinsey Imbellus Problem Solving Game

Preparing for McKinsey new digital assessment (Imbellus)

I have done an in-depth study on the Imbellus. Most of the comments I found online are something like this:

mckinsey problem solving game feedback

Imbellus Mc Kinsey

This is likely too late for you, but hopefully useful for someone else.

The test is used at the moment before the first round as screening for it. This means you have to pass it to move to interviews . This may change in the future though.

mckinsey problem solving game feedback

Hi, it's a gamified test for which different environments are been developed. It's pretty easy and no preparation is needed: only pay attention to time and instructions. It's usually divided into 2 games and you have 1h to complete both of them (you can decide when passing to the next game). - In the first one you are going to create a balanced ecosystem based on the rules of the environment you choose (e.g. in a mountain scenario you fix a point with certain values of elevation, humidity, wind, ... and then you have to choose animals and plants that can survive each other and in the environment). - In the second game, you have to defend an object (usually a plant) from the enemies (usually rodents) with the help of slowers (barriers) or killers (predators). I developed some good strategies to handle it, feel free to text me. Hope it helps, Antonello

Hi Antonello. Super-useful thread, one additional question: Is it a go/no-go step in the application process or does it just give an additional indication for the selection?

Hi, Thanks for the insight, Can you please share your strategies? Regards,

Hi Lidia, it's a gamified test for which different environments are been developed. It's pretty easy and no preparation is needed: only pay attention to time and instructions. It's usually divided into 2 games and you have 1h to complete both of them (you can decide when passing to the next game). - In the first one you are going to create a balanced ecosystem based on the rules of the environment you choose (e.g. in a mountain scenario you fix a point with certain values of elevation, humidity, wind, ... and then you have to choose animals and plants that can survive each other and in the environment). - In the second game, you have to defend an object (usually a plant) from the enemies (usually rodents) with the help of slowers (barriers) or killers (predators). I developed some good strategies to handle it, feel free to text me.

Here the introductory McK video about it:

Hope it helps, Antonello

Hi Antonello, thank you for your insights. Can you please share your strategy with me. Regards.

Hi Antonello, I found your comment extremely useful. Could you please share the strategies you developed with me please? Many thanks,

Hi Antonella, could you please share your strategy with me? Kind regards, Philip

Hi Antonella, could you please share your strategy with me? Kind regards, Jessica

Hi Antonella - Thank you for the response. Would you mind to share your strategies with me? Much appreciated. Regards, Davis,

Hi Antonella, could you please share your strategy with me? Thanks!

Hi Antonello, I’m highly interested in the strategies, can you please share it with me?

Hi Antonello, thanks for your response, could you please share your strategy with me?

Hi Antonello, thank you for your comment and insights. Do you mind sharing your strategies with me ? Thanks!

Hi Antonello, many thanks for your detailed response. Would you mind sharing your strategies with me please? Thank you very much! Kind regards, Lisa

Hi Chi, it's a gamified test for which different environments are been developed. It's pretty easy and no preparation is needed: only pay attention to time and instructions. It's usually divided into 2 games and you have 1h to complete both of them (you can decide when passing to the next game). - In the first one you are going to create a balanced ecosystem based on the rules of the environment you choose (e.g. in a mountain scenario you fix a point with certain values of elevation, humidity, wind, ... and then you have to choose animals and plants that can survive each other and in the environment). - In the second game, you have to defend an object (usually a plant) from the enemies (usually rodents) with the help of slowers (barriers) or killers (predators).

Hi Oisin, it is an addition to your application. It's a gamified test for which different environments are been developed. It's pretty easy and no preparation is needed: only pay attention to time and instructions. It's usually divided into 2 games and you have 1h to complete both of them (you can decide when passing to the next game). - In the first one you are going to create a balanced ecosystem based on the rules of the environment you choose (e.g. in a mountain scenario you fix a point with certain values of elevation, humidity, wind, ... and then you have to choose animals and plants that can survive each other and in the environment). - In the second game, you have to defend an object (usually a plant) from the enemies (usually rodents) with the help of slowers (barriers) or killers (predators). I developed some good strategies to handle it, feel free to text me.

Here the introductory McK video about it:

Hi, it's a gamified test for which different environments are been developed. It's pretty easy and no preparation is needed: only pay attention to time and instructions. It's usually divided into 2 games and you have 1h to complete both of them (you can decide when passing to the next game). - In the first one you are going to create a balanced ecosystem based on the rules of the environment you choose (e.g. in a mountain scenario you fix a point with certain values of elevation, humidity, wind, ... and then you have to choose animals and plants that can survive each other and in the environment). - In the second game, you have to defend an object (usually a plant) from the enemies (usually rodents) with the help of slowers (barriers) or killers (predators). I developed some good strategies to handle it, feel free to text me.

Hi Minh, it's a gamified test for which different environments are been developed. It's pretty easy and no preparation is needed: only pay attention to time and instructions. It's usually divided into 2 games and you have 1h to complete both of them (you can decide when passing to the next game). - In the first one you are going to create a balanced ecosystem based on the rules of the environment you choose (e.g. in a mountain scenario you fix a point with certain values of elevation, humidity, wind, ... and then you have to choose animals and plants that can survive each other and in the environment). - In the second game, you have to defend an object (usually a plant) from the enemies (usually rodents) with the help of slowers (barriers) or killers (predators). I developed some good strategies to handle it, feel free to text me.

Whilst you don't have to be a gamer to perform well, the game will certainly test your problem solving ability and your ability to navigate in challenging circumstances.

Which skills are tested?

The game records all of the candidate’s actions (e.g., every movement of the mouse, time spent to choose an action) and uses machine learning to assess candidates’ way of thinking. It’s as much about how close candidates come to the best solution as about how they tackle the problem through. During the game McK assesses 5 cognitive abilities that are critical for a career in consulting:

  • Critical thinking: the ability analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment
  • Decision making: the ability to select the best course of action among several options
  • Self-awareness: the ability to self-assess
  • Situational awareness: the ability to be fully aware of your surroundings at all times, allowing you to react effectively
  • Systematic thinking: the ability to understand different parts of a system and how they work together through cause/ effect relationships

How to cultivate these skills?

Let’s break down each skillset and find ways to improve.

Critical thinking could be broken down into the following subskills:

  • Think about a topic in an objective and critical way
  • Identify the connections between ideas and working out whether the evidence provided supports those ideas or not
  • Evaluate a point of view to determine how strong or valid it is
  • Recognize any weaknesses that there are in the evidence or argument
  • Notice what implications there might be behind a statement
  • Provide structured reasoning and support for an argument that we wish to make

In order to improve your critical thinking I would suggest using mind mapping technique. It exploits the fact that our brains process information visually much more effectively than they do when it’s presented in a written document.

The idea behind mind mapping is that you start with a central theme or idea, typically drawn in a box in the middle of the page, and then from that you create branches, which lead to other ideas, or to supporting evidence or ancillary information.

Decision making could be broken down into the following subskills:

  • Establishing a positive decision-making environment
  • Generating potential solutions
  • Evaluating the solutions
  • Checking the decision

In order to improve your decision making skills I would suggest that you start applying it to your everyday life situations and start developing small decision making frameworks for each situation (e.g. going to the shop)

Self-awareness could be broken down into the following subskills:

  • Monitor Your Performance
  • Seek Out Feedback and Then Use It

The best way to improve your self-awareness is to reduce your EGO barrier and blind spots. You can read Ray Dalio Principles for more details.

Situational awareness could be broken down into the following subskills:

  • Identifying the baseline for the situation you are in
  • Recognizing any variations to the baseline

In order to improve your situational awareness I suggest that you take typical life situation and:

  • Monitor the Baseline. At first, this will require concentration effort. But after a while, you will find that you can monitor the baseline subconsciously
  • Fight Normalcy Bias. This requires you to be paranoid for a while as you develop your skill. Look at every disturbance to the baseline - this will allow you to stop ignoring or discounting any factors

Systematic thinking could be broken down into the following subskills:

  • Identifying all the elements in the system
  • Understanding the correlations between the elements

This skill could be largely improved by solving business cases.

ALSO I suggest that you should start investing your time into playing different computer/mobile game, where you can practice applying these skills.

Hope it helps!

Anyone know whether failing / doing poorly on the Imbellus test would mean completely losing your chance to move on to the next round / interview process?

The games change a bit every recruitment season - so it’s difficult to predict what exactly will you get.

It is a time-pressured gamified-environment test. Candidates are allotted 60 minutes, the recommended amount of time excluding cases of learner accommodation, to complete the three scenarios. It is done on laptop in a controlled environment. Multiple scenarions have been developed by Imbellus, but the one i have been hearing about is a simulated world where there are species of animals and plants are dying to an unknown illness and you need to you to figure out what to do in order to protect them. Here (just for fun reading) I shared the paper of the pilot test results they have done within McK: Evaluation of your score will be done on these codified criteria: 1) Critical Thinking 2) Decision Making 3) Metacognition 4) Situational Awareness 5)Systems Thinking No specific preparation needed. As general tips: - Have a good sleep before the test - Keep an eye on time Best Riccardo

Thank you Riccardo!

You can keep in mind the following tips for the Digital Assessment.

  • Focus on the process
  • Follow time tracking. It is easy to get lost in the details and the sheer complexity of information overload the test presents.
  • Look into the key skills that are being assessed by Imbellus and if you find any weaknesses - then work on them in advance.
  • Get ready to make 80/20 decisions based on incomplete information. Likely you won’t reach the best answer within 60 minutes, however, you should reach a good answer, demonstrating a clever problem-solving strategy along the way.
  • Take notes of your observations on the mechanics of each scenario so that you can analyze it.
  • Get comfortable to calculate with pen and paper math.

Hope it helps,

You will be given 1 hour to make your Imbellus test and there is no way to prepare it. Although, you can keep in mind the following tips for the Digital Assessment.

You are right, there is no possible to prepare, but you can keep in mind the following tips for the Digital Assessment.

Dear Andrew,

It's gamplified test for 1 hour long. And the thing is that there is no way to prepare for it. But here are some tips, you can follow:

Yes, it's addition to your application. To pass successfully this test, you can keep in mind the following tips:

You will be given 1 hour to make your test. To get more information, just keep in mind the following tips for the Digital Assessment.

It's gamplified test. So no way to prepare for it.

You will be given 1 hour to make your test. To get more information, just keep in mind following tips for the Digital Assessment.

I took the test sometime in February. I'm not sure if I can offer that much of good advice as I didn't prepare beforehand. It is supposed to measure the skills that you should already have. Anyway, my advice for the first part:

I got the coral reef situation, it had lots of data with species and plants. I started by looking at all of them and checked which category was the biggest in terms of temperature. When I selected that I looked between species and plants a lot and note down the calorie intake. The amount of data can be overwhelming and I actually changed the strategy after 5 minutes in the game. You should spend most of the time on this case (I think the game suggests half of the time), read through the data, write down some important information (for example a lot were useless and didn't have an impact on the question).

The second part was the maze game - I think it was similar to traditional chess games as you could select your move after your opponent. I guess even some strategic games on the Internet could be relevant in this case. What was important was to think of every move and that the game continues AFTER you finish your moves (which I didn't know and messed up the first part). So basically it'll count how many moves the opponent needs to destroy whatever your protecting (I think it was some sort of plant), e.g. if you get 6 moves then the game can continue until 6, 8 or even 50 if your strategy was really good. Having said that out of my three round one was really high, one was quite low (as I didn't know the games continue) and one was quite okay.

I found from my local Mck office that you need to be above 75th percentile to pass (at least in Warsaw). I also was told I scored one of the highest score recorded in the game which was really surprising - as I mentioned above I did not prepare and took the game with just some paper notes after reading the instruction provided. Honestly, the best way to prepare (if you want to) is to play those strategic games online as it actually felt a lot like games I played as a kid.

PS: Make sure you have a good computer, my old Macbook Air really heated up after a few minutes.

It´s much better than the old test used to be.

It's a gamified test

1st one is a game about keeping an ecosystem balanced

2nd one is a defense game

It´s fun and there is not really a "way" to prep for it.

My advise would be to be fresh when you do it and pick a right enviroment -during my BCG test in their office there was construction in the patio and the screen was even shaking-.

Hi Clara. Thanks for the comment, one additional question: is it a go/no-go step in the application process or does it just give an additional indication for the selection?

I understand you totally, you need to feel that at least you made all that was in your hands to get ready.

However, truly, this one is very hard to prep for the following.

  • It is a timed, gamified, online assessment
  • Consists of 2 tasks (1 hour for each)
  • They are similar to this smart-phone games that are brain teaser, testing logic, your ability to defend an objective, etc.

Divided into 2 games, 1h to complete both of them:

hi Clara, thank you for your reply. This was actually what I wanted to avoid- I was rather looking for specific approaches and experiences .

On top of the descriptions below, the only thing that could indeed help you prep are logic test or games (GMAT perhaps, or some MENSA tests)

The McKinsey Imbellus Problem Solving Game (PSG) is a unique assessment tool designed to evaluate a candidate's problem-solving skills, cognitive abilities, and adaptability in a game-based format. Here are some tips and lessons learned from those who have taken the test: Understanding the Imbellus Game The Imbellus game is divided into different scenarios that test various cognitive abilities such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making. Common scenarios include: Ecosystem Creation: You need to create a balanced ecosystem by placing different species and plants in an environment while considering their interactions. Disease Outbreak: You need to manage resources to contain a disease outbreak effectively.  

General Tips  

1.Familiarize Yourself with the Game Format: Understand the types of scenarios you might encounter. This helps in reducing anxiety and allows you to focus on problem-solving rather than figuring out the rules. Practice Strategic Thinking: Play strategy-based games or puzzles to enhance your critical thinking and decision-making skills. Games like Sudoku, chess, and resource management games can be helpful. Stay Calm and Focused: The game is designed to test your problem-solving skills under pressure. Stay calm, read the instructions carefully, and think logically about the best course of action. Manage Your Time Wisely: While the game is not strictly timed, being efficient with your decisions can help you perform better. Avoid spending too much time on one aspect of the scenario. Pay Attention to Details: Details matter in these scenarios. Make sure to consider all the factors and interactions in the ecosystem or any resources and constraints in other scenarios. Specific Tips for the Ecosystem Scenario Understand Species Interactions: Each species and plant has specific needs and interactions. For example, predators need prey, and plants might require certain environmental conditions. Ensure you balance these elements.  

2. Maintain Balance: The goal is to create a sustainable ecosystem. Avoid having too many predators without enough prey or too many plants without enough pollinators. Think Long-Term: Consider the long-term sustainability of your ecosystem. Think about how changes over time might affect the balance and make decisions accordingly. Specific Tips for the Disease Outbreak Scenario Prioritize Resources: Resources are usually limited. Prioritize them effectively to contain the outbreak. Focus on areas with the highest need or potential for the greatest impact. Monitor Spread Patterns: Pay attention to how the disease spreads and allocate resources to contain it effectively. Use logical patterns and anticipate future outbreaks based on current data. Adapt Strategies: Be flexible with your strategies. If something isn't working, be ready to change your approach and try a different method to contain the disease. Lessons Learned  

3. Experience Matters: Those with experience in strategy games or similar problem-solving tasks often find the Imbellus game less daunting. Practice with relevant games can help improve your performance.  

4. Critical Thinking is Key: The game assesses your ability to think critically and adapt to new information. Focus on honing these skills through various exercises and real-life problem-solving scenarios.  

5.Understand the Purpose: Remember that the game is designed to measure your natural problem-solving abilities rather than your knowledge or memorization skills. Approach it with a problem-solving mindset.

Hello Lidia,

I have had the chance to follow several candidates taking this test and I have written (together with them) a detailed guide on how to successfully approach Imbellus test .

mckinsey problem solving game feedback

The guide includes:

  • Detailed hands-on strategy to ace the Imbellus
  • Excel model with an algorithm to solve the first scenario
  • Hands-on example and practical tips to crack the game

On top of that, you will receive an interesting paper on Imbellus valuation metrics and a coupon code for a session with your purchase !

Feel free to text me if you are interested. You can find a screenshot of the excel model below. Best, Luca

mckinsey problem solving game feedback

Hi luca, would you please send me this paper as I have online problem solving game coming up soon ?

Hi Luca, could you please send me this paper as my testing is approaching?

Hi Luca, could you please send me this paper as well Many thanks

Hi Luca, Would it be possible for you to share the paper with me. I would love to know the mechanics behind the test.

Hi Luca, could you please share this paper with me as well Many thanks

Hi Luca, Can you please send me this paper as well. I am getting ready for the game test.

Hi, can I get the paper? Thanks

Please share with me. I have less than two days to do the test

Hi Luca, could I please have access to the paper? Thanks, Philip

Hi Luca, could you please send me this paper as my DDL is tonight?

Hi Luca, could I please have access to the paper? Thank!

Hi Luca, could you please send me the paper as well? Thanks so much in Advance

Hi Luca, thanks for this. Could you please share your paper with me if you don't mind? Many thanks, P

Hello Luca, I would be very interested if you could share your paper with me. Thank you in advance! M.

Hi Luca, could you kindly share the paper with me? Would really appreciate it. Thank you very much!

Hi, Luca. I'd appreciate it very much if you could send me the paper. :)

Hi Luca, would you be so kind as to sending me your valuable paper? Thanks in advance

Hello Minh,

I have an interesting paper about imbellus and the valuation rationals.

Feel free to text me if you are interested. Best, Luca

Hello, I have an interesting paper on Imbellus valuation metrics that I would suggest to read. More over, I have had the chance to follow several candidates taking this test and I have written (together with them) a detailed guide on how to successfully approach Imbellus test. Feel free to text me if you are interested.

Hello Luca, How can I access to this guide? Thank you very much

Hello Chi, I have had the chance to follow several candidates taking this test and I have written (together with them) a detailed guide on how to successfully approach Imbellus test .

Hello Oisin,

I have an interesting paper about the Imbellus test, feel free to text me if you want to have a look.

  • There are 2 tasks, 1 hour for each
  • One is based on logic, another one is closer to the online game (Tower defense)
  • Both tasks are super easy and an hour is more than enough
  • The key thing is to read carefully the descriptions

I believe there is no way to prepare, so just relax and have a good rest before that

1 hour in total, not for each

One thing to know - it's not about winning the game, it's about how you do that. ML algorithms literally track the movements of your cursor and compare it vs the best consultants

  • There are 2 tasks, hour for each

You probably already took the test, but I thought I'd add to this thread!

I took the assessment two days ago. I just found out that I passed and scored really well. I didn't practice anything at all, I just made sure to read all the articles I could find about the assessment to understand what they're looking for.

The first part I got was the island ecosystem creation game, which took me around 30 mins. I took another 5 mins just to check my answers and make sure the numbers all added up. This is not new information, but I definitely recommend starting from the top with predators and moving down the chain. Make sure you read the instructions clearly and watch out for the consumption rules in the system (it's all outllined in the game). You want the chain to be the most optimal. Don't change your animals around too much. You kind of have to commit, the software records everything.

My second part was defending a plant from invaders. I found this way more challenging, so I would heavily recommend dividing your time 50/50 between the ecosystem creation and this part. I ran out of time in my last round. As others have already said, remember that each round of play is supposed to last beyond what's shown. The game would show 5 or 6 moves, but will extend to 15 and beyond if your strategy is good. It's hard to explain if you haven't seen it, but you'll know once you begin. Don't hectically click around.

My biggest advice would be to really get into the game and forget that it's a test. You could also watch youtube videos of gameplay if you have a lot of time, but I didn't find that extra helpful.

Hope this helps! Good luck to everyone taking it :)

I haven't seen any youtube videos/ gameplay. Anyone find any?

It's in addition to your casing + fit interview

There really isn't any material on it (it's an immersive simulation, so hasn't been replicated). However, there is a good Q&A here on what to keep in mind:

You should prepare to be open-minded, flexible, turn on your problem-solving, and pay careful attention to the time + instructions

There are some great prior answers here!

To add to the other mentions, there is indeed not much to prepare, but you can refresh logic and brainteaser a bit. This is not so much about studying but more having it top of mind.

There is no way to prepare, it's just a game-test where you have to do your best to make it work ;p

It's not difficult, though, I'm sure is going to be ok!

Great to hear that you're preparing for the McKinsey Imbellus Problem Solving Game. I can highly recommend Francesco's PSG Secrets course. Besides that here some tips: 

Practice Cognitive Skills: The Imbellus game assesses cognitive skills, so practice puzzles, brain teasers, and logic games to sharpen your cognitive abilities. Games like Sudoku, crossword puzzles, and even chess can help.

Stay Calm and Focused: The game may present complex 

Rest and Relax: Ensure you're well-rested and relaxed on the day of the assessment. A clear mind can make a significant difference.

Remember that McKinsey is interested in assessing your problem-solving abilities and cognitive skills, so focus on honing these areas during your preparation. Good luck with your assessment, Lidia!

Warm regards, Frederic

In additional to all of this, make sure to not exit out of full screen if you are doing the test on a Mac laptop. I have heard that your laptop could freeze and you won't be able to complete the assessment.

Not much to study. They will test you in a way which is hard to prepare for. If you have the chops you´ll be fine. If you dont its probably for the best!

Then get to stressed out about it.

Did you end up taking the test ? anyone else ?

Hey Lidia can you recommend to me what you know. I have the test in less than 2 days

Can you please share your experience with the Problem Solving Game? is there any guide you recommend to purchase?

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McKinsey Solve Game: Red Rock Study

the image is the cover for an article on the mckinsey solve game red rock study. the image showws a consultant working on an analysis on a computer,

Last Updated on March 26, 2024

McKinsey Solve’s Redrock Study game is a unique addition to the Problem Solving Game lineup that evaluates candidates’ skills in data collection, processing, and interpretation, case math, and numerical and verbal reasoning. The McKinsey Problem Solving Game challenges candidates to utilize these skills effectively in a simulated setting, making it a pivotal part of the assessment process for prospective consultants.

Looking for how to prepare for the McKinsey Red Rock Study Game? Our guide provides comprehensive strategies tailored for success. This article not only offers a comprehensive overview but also aids in Redrock Study game preparation, outlining its primary objectives and providing valuable insights.

An Introduction to the McKinsey Redrock Study Game

The McKinsey Red Rock Study Game, the latest offering in McKinsey Solve’s Problem Solving Game collection, is a research-focused assessment that measures candidates’ aptitude for dissecting and resolving issues within a simulated setting. Acting as the McKinsey PST replacement, this game serves as a modernized counterpart to the former Problem Solving Test, which was replaced by the original Solve games, including the ecosystem creation and plant defense games. The reintroduction of a PST-inspired game highlights McKinsey’s evolving approach to candidate evaluation.

Distinct from the original PST, the Redrock Study game situates challenges within a research context rather than a consulting or business framework. As a result, candidates do not require prior business knowledge to excel in this assessment. Instead, the Redrock Study game emphasizes candidates’ problem-solving capabilities independent of their domain expertise.

This means that candidates from all academic and professional backgrounds can engage with the game on an equal footing, as it prioritizes general problem-solving skills over specific business knowledge or experience. This aspect of the Redrock Study game is particularly important for candidates to understand, as it allows for a more equitable evaluation process, free from domain-specific biases.

Despite its new format, the Redrock simulation fundamentally assesses the same skills as the previous Problem Solving Test (PST) that was discontinued in 2019 and 2020 in favor of the Solve Game. For instance, in the PST, you might have analyzed a company’s financial statement to project its growth over the next decade. In contrast, the Redrock game might present data on a jungle animal species, requiring you to forecast their population numbers in the next ten years. Implementing strategies for solving the McKinsey Problem Solving Game is crucial for candidates aiming for high scores.

The skillset remains consistent, but the context has shifted. This change in the McKinsey consultant evaluation process indicates a move away from the Plant Defense game, previously a part of the Solve Game lineup, towards the Redrock simulation. Our prediction from 2020 holds true: the McKinsey game-based assessment model might not always effectively identify consulting talent as it is too far removed from the typical tasks of a consultant (like defending plants in a tower-defense-like game). The first part of the McKinsey game-based assessment, the Ecosystem Creation, lives on, requiring a specific Solve Game strategy.

Rollout of the McKinsey Red Rock Study Game

The Red Rock Study game was initially released in late summer 2022. During that period, McKinsey conducted a testing phase, with only a select group of candidates experiencing this new addition to the assessment process. However, from the end of February and into early March 2023, there was a notable shift. All of the candidates we interacted with reported encountering both the Ecosystem game and the Redrock Study game in their assessments as of February 2024.

McKinsey Solve (Imbellus) Game Guide

McKinsey Solve Game Guide

Elevate your Solve Game score with the original game guide, a 14-part video course, an Excel Solver tool, and Red Rock practice tests. Trusted by more than 8,500 customers from 70+ countries since November 2019.

Exploring the Tasks Within the McKinsey Red Rock Study Game

Curious about how McKinsey evaluates consultants through gaming? The Red Rock Study Game provides insights into their innovative approach.

The Redrock Study game evaluates a candidate’s problem-solving skills through a detailed research task based on specific criteria. The game is divided into two main sections. The first is the Study Section, the namesake of the Redrock game, which involves a three-phase process: the investigation phase, the analysis phase, and the report phase. The second is the Case Section, consisting of 6-10 individual questions. Both sections are set in an environmental context, usually dealing with an animal population of a certain kind.

The Redrock Study Section

The Redrock Study Section consists of three stages:

Game stageKey challengesTips for success
Investigation StageIdentifying relevant data amidst distractions; managing a large volume of diverse information.Focus on the objectives to filter relevant information; use the drag-and-drop feature to organize data effectively in the Research Journal.
Analysis StagePerforming complex calculations with a potentially buggy interface; deriving accurate conclusions from data.Practice calculations to increase speed and accuracy; be prepared to troubleshoot or find workarounds for technical issues.
Report StageSynthesizing findings into a coherent report; selecting the most effective visual data representation.Ensure clarity and conciseness in written summaries; understand different chart types to choose the most suitable one for data representation.

The Investigation Stage

In the initial investigation phase of the Redrock Study game, candidates are presented with a context and specific research objectives, along with a wealth of data in various forms, including text snippets, charts, and tables. The main aim during this stage is to gather relevant information for inclusion in the Research Journal.

This phase requires players to meticulously examine data that aligns with their set objectives, as this will be pivotal for their progress in the game. Amidst a range of distractions and potentially misleading data, it’s important for candidates to hone their skills in ignoring irrelevant information and spotting crucial data points. While focusing on key elements is important, attention should also be paid to smaller details like units and timeframes.

Both overarching points and finer details are essential and should be systematically recorded in the Research Journal. This is facilitated through the game’s drag-and-drop feature, enabling players to select pertinent data and place it into their Research Journal, located on the right side of the screen. Within the journal, players can organize the information and mark crucial data with an exclamation point for emphasis.

Particular attention should be paid to any anomalies in the data, such as an animal in the study exhibiting distinctly different characteristics from others. Spotting such outliers can be critical in the context of the game’s objectives.

the image shows a chart in the red rock study game by mckinsey

The Analysis Stage

Following the investigation phase in the Redrock Study game, candidates enter the analysis stage, where they face several numerical questions, typically ranging from three to five, sometimes with additional sub-questions. In this phase, players use an on-screen calculator to analyze the data collected earlier.

The game allows for a drag-and-drop functionality: candidates can move data from their Research Journal into the calculator to formulate and execute necessary calculations, then transfer the results back into the designated fields in the game interface. Key findings must be carefully selected and recorded back in the Research Journal, again utilizing the drag-and-drop feature. These documented outcomes are crucial as they form the basis of the final report in the concluding stage of the game.

Two main challenges are prevalent in this stage. Firstly, the interface of the game, particularly the on-screen calculator, can be somewhat laggy and prone to bugs, which can complicate the process of performing calculations. Many candidates have reported that the calculator and the drag-and-drop function do not always work smoothly, making it a tricky tool to use effectively under the time constraints of the game. Secondly, the complexity of the required calculations presents its own set of difficulties. Often, these calculations are not straightforward, and candidates must devise the correct formulas quickly and accurately.

These interface and calculation challenges have led many candidates to seek assistance from the help desk during or after their assessment. Some have been granted a second attempt, while for others, the results from the Redrock game were not considered in their overall evaluation due to technical issues with the user interface. This aspect of the game has been a significant point of feedback from our clients, highlighting the need for both technical improvements and perhaps more robust preparation for the analytical demands of this stage.

Based on the data above, what is the percentage change in the average stopover duration of all species between 2018 and 2022? The answer is -11.76%. A typical question in the Red Rock game

The Report Stage

In the final phase of the Redrock Study game, candidates are tasked with compiling a comprehensive report that includes both a written summary and graphical data representation. This phase is crucial as it tests the candidate’s ability to synthesize and present the data collected and analyzed in the earlier stages, emphasizing the importance of synthesizing and the ability to create convincing arguments.

The textual part of the report involves filling in the blanks in a given text template. This task is relatively straightforward, provided that the candidate has effectively analyzed and understood all the relevant data points from the previous stages of the game. The key here is to accurately summarize the findings and insights derived from the data in a clear and concise manner, ensuring that the report effectively communicates the main conclusions drawn from the analysis (which is ideally saved in the Research Journal as well).

The graphical component of the report requires candidates to select the most appropriate way to visually represent the data. This part of the task demands a good grasp of various chart types such as line charts, bar charts, and pie charts, and an understanding of which type best suits the data at hand. The ability to choose the right chart type is critical, as it helps in illustrating the relationships and trends within the data more effectively. A well-chosen graph can significantly enhance the clarity and impact of the report, making it easier for the reader to grasp the key messages and insights.

The concluding report phase of the Redrock Study game is designed to test a candidate’s ability to coherently present both textual and visual information, drawing upon their analytical skills to create a report that accurately reflects their findings.

the image shows the user interface of the red rock study game by mckinsey

Interface of the Redrock Study Game

The Redrock Study game features an interface designed to facilitate seamless navigation and interaction across its different stages. Each component of the interface is tailored to the specific requirements of each stage.

1. Navigation panel

  • Central to the game : The navigation panel is a key element of the interface, allowing players to access all stages of the game.
  • Access to stages : Through this panel, players can move between the Investigation, Analysis, and Report stages in the Study section, and view the mini-case questions in the Case Section.

2. Data and tools

The game provides distinct sets of data and tools for each stage, designed to match the requirements of the tasks at hand.

  • Interaction with scenario data : Here, players interact with the scenario’s data, which includes objectives and various charts.
  • Objective-focused approach : The focus is on understanding the scenario and identifying relevant data for the tasks ahead.
  • Calculation prompts : This stage presents calculation challenges, requiring players to engage with numerical data.
  • Draggable calculator : A unique feature is the draggable on-screen calculator, enabling real-time math calculations essential for this phase.
  • Compilation of findings : Players are tasked with compiling their findings into a coherent report.
  • Visualization tools and text inputs : The stage is equipped with tools for data visualization and text fill-ins to facilitate report creation.

3. Research Journal

  • Central repository : The Research Journal is a crucial component where players can store key data.
  • Drag and drop functionality : Players can drag important data from the central game area into the Journal.
  • Utility across stages : The stored data in the Journal is instrumental for calculations in the Analysis stage and for generating the final report.

This interface design of the Redrock Study game ensures that players have all the necessary tools and functionalities at their disposal to effectively navigate through the game’s stages, from understanding and analyzing data to reporting findings.

The Redrock Case Section: A New Challenge in the Assessment

In March 2023, McKinsey introduced a significant update to the Red Rock Study assessment, adding a mini case component that significantly ramps up the challenge. This new section features 6 to 10 questions focused on quantitative reasoning, closely related to the scenarios explored in the study segment of the game, yet with individual data and information for each. This addition brings a new challenge in terms of time management.

Time management and increased complexity

One of the key changes with this update is the consolidated time limit. Candidates are now required to tackle both the study portion and the quantitative reasoning questions within a total time frame of only 35 minutes. This has significantly raised the assessment’s difficulty, as candidates must think rapidly and use their time efficiently to complete all tasks within this period. Feedback indicates that this has been a major hurdle for many test-takers, with a considerable number struggling to finish within the allotted time.

Analytical demands of the mini-case

The mini-case questions demand a high level of quantitative and analytical skills. Candidates are required to extract and process information from various data representations, including pie charts, bar graphs, line graphs, and textual data. The objective is to set up and perform accurate calculations to derive the correct answers. This part of the assessment tests the ability to quickly and accurately interpret complex data sets. In that sense, it is very similar to the Study section, yet with less information overload for each question.

Alignment with Industry Standards and Technical Issues

The addition of the Redrock simulation signifies a shift in McKinsey’s approach to candidate evaluation. Moving away from purely game-based assessments, this new format aligns more closely with the types of assessments typically used in the consulting industry. However, this transition has not been without its challenges.

The Red Rock game, in its current iteration, has faced a range of technical issues that have impacted the user experience. Reports from users indicate frequent bugs and crashes, leading to disruptions during the game and necessitating restarts and support from the Imbellus team.

These technical difficulties have affected not only the performance of candidates but also raised questions about the fairness and reliability of the assessment outcomes. The recent updates, while intended to improve the experience, seem to have exacerbated some of these issues, particularly with the Ecosystem User Experience (UX), which has been noted to be increasingly unstable.

In conclusion, while the addition of the Red Rock Study game adds depth and aligns with broader industry practices, it also introduces new challenges in terms of complexity, time management, and technical stability. These factors are crucial for candidates to consider as they prepare for and engage with this evolved assessment tool.

Preparing for the Updated McKinsey Red Rock Game

This section is dedicated to offering McKinsey Redrock Study game tips and tricks to enhance your performance.

In response to the recent addition of the mini case section in the McKinsey Red Rock Study game, we’ve revised our McKinsey Solve Game Guide to encompass these latest developments. This updated guide is specifically tailored to assist test takers in preparing for the new challenges they will face. It includes targeted tips and strategies for effectively tackling the scenarios and the associated questions.

The integration of the Red Rock simulation marks a significant shift towards a more comprehensive and diverse skill assessment, aligning more closely with the evaluation practices of other top consulting firms (and with the evaluation McKinsey used before the Problem Solving Game or PSG). This change, while elevating the complexity of the assessment, also opens the door for test takers to practice a broader spectrum of their abilities, while also working on skills that are relevant for the McKinsey case interviews later on. Previously, preparing for the Solve Game was seen as beneficial solely for the game, with little to no relevance for subsequent case interview preparation.

However, the skills you develop for the Solve Game are no longer confined to the game alone. The approach and techniques you practice, particularly those involving hypothesis-driven analysis and mathematical problem-solving, are also applicable in the case interview scenario. The key difference is that in case interviews, you apply these skills within a business context.

Therefore, it’s advisable to focus on enhancing your data interpretation and numerical reasoning abilities. Engaging in case studies and practice tests can be especially effective in sharpening these skills. This dual-purpose preparation not only helps you succeed in the Solve Game but also equips you with valuable competencies for your case interviews.

Tips for Approaching the McKinsey Red Rock Study Game

Effective time management.

Time management is essential for success in the Red Rock Study game, especially given the stringent 35-minute limit. It’s important to utilize each minute wisely. If the Red Rock game is included in your assessment, remember that this 35-minute limit also applies to the Ecosystem Creation game.

Understanding the timer

A common issue among some candidates has been a misunderstanding of the game’s timer. It’s crucial to note that the timer at the top of the screen covers both the case study and the mini-case questions that follow. This means that the entire game, including both components, must be completed within the single allotted time frame.

Balancing time between game segments

With the addition of the Case Study segment, properly allocating your time between the game’s two main parts becomes even more important. Ideally, you should divide your time equally between the Investigation-Analysis-Report section and the Mini Case Questions. This balanced approach will help ensure that you have adequate time to address both sections effectively.

Staying focused on objectives

Focus is key in the Redrock Study game, especially regarding the objectives. During the investigation phase, it’s vital to concentrate on information directly related to these objectives. Time spent on irrelevant data is time wasted, as it doesn’t contribute to the analytical questions you’ll face later. Learning to distinguish essential data from unnecessary details is crucial – think of it as finding the signal in a sea of noise.

Vigilance in analysis

Accuracy in analysis is non-negotiable in the Redrock Study game. This means thoroughly checking your work and recalculating as needed to ensure that your information and answers are correct. Make sure every part of each question is addressed and that all relevant data is integrated into your final report. Watch out for common pitfalls, such as overlooking units in measurements – these mistakes can lead to incorrect comparisons and flawed conclusions.

Enhancing data interpretation and quantitative reasoning skills

The ability to interpret data and apply quantitative reasoning is at the heart of the Redrock Study game. Understanding and interpreting data accurately is essential for drawing valuable insights for your report. Familiarize yourself with various chart and graph types, as this knowledge will help you choose the most effective way to visualize and represent your data findings. Developing these skills will not only aid in your success in the game but also bolster your overall analytical capabilities.

For more information on data and chart interpretation and case interview math, check out our articles below, as well as our data interpretation drills.

  • How to interpret data and charts in case interviews and aptitude tests
  • How to work with quantitative problems in a case interview

Our Solve Game Guide includes 6 Red Rock tests, 3 Study sections with all stages, and 3 Case sections, in total, 99 questions like the ones you have to expect in the game:

the image shows mckinsey red rock practice tests by there are 6 tests

Staying Updated with the McKinsey Red Rock Study Game

As the Redrock Study game continues to evolve, it’s important to keep abreast of the latest developments. Since the game is currently undergoing modifications, there may be further changes and updates in the future. Staying informed about these modifications is crucial to adjust and refine your preparation strategy effectively.

Don’t hesitate to contact us for the most recent updates regarding the McKinsey Solve Game.

Key takeaways for success in the Redrock Study game

In summary, the Redrock Study game is a recent addition to the McKinsey Solve Game suite, designed to evaluate skills in information processing, data collection, case mathematics, and the interpretation of visual data. To excel in this game, candidates should:

  • Manage time efficiently : Given the strict time constraints of the game, effective time management is crucial.
  • Focus on objectives : Keep the game’s objectives in mind throughout and focus on relevant data.
  • Conduct thorough analysis : Ensure a meticulous approach to analyzing data, double-checking calculations for accuracy.
  • Sharpen data interpretation skills : Practice interpreting various types of data and visual representations.

While the Redrock Study game is still in a phase of testing and development, staying updated on any new changes is essential for candidates. By following these guidelines, you can prepare thoroughly for the Redrock Study game and enhance your chances of success in the McKinsey PSG application process.

Our comprehensive guide to the Red Rock Study game offers an all-encompassing look into mastering the assessment. It is packed with effective strategies for the McKinsey Solve Game, ensuring you tackle the challenges proficiently.

Our McKinsey Solve Game Guide

The original and most comprehensive guide from former McKinsey consultants with

87% pass rate in the Solve Game *

Your benefit

  • Crack each of the 6 games with our proprietary guide and video insights on the exact steps and strategies (including a Redrock study guide)
  • Score high  with tailored strategies and gameplay walkthroughs based on successful test-taker feedback
  • Focus on what matters most, and don’t waste time in your preparation with proven ways to master all skills
  • Prepare with 100% confidence for the latest changes  in the scenarios with our constant update policy and  free 1-year access guarantee
  • Practice the quantitative reasoning part of the Red Rock game with full-length 6 practice tests
  • Includes a free 14-page McKinsey Interview Primer , giving you essential tips on how to prepare for the case and the PEI
  • FREE BONUS: A 10% discount on the Solve Game Simulation by MConsultingPrep
  • *based on customer feedback from Nov 23 – Jan 24

Latest update: February 2024 (includes the new Red Rock Simulation variation and 6 full practice tests)

Our Credentials

  • Helped 8500+ students from more than 70 countries since November 2019
  • Based on 500+ test-taker interviews  since the inception of the game, expert game designer input, and  our McKinsey experience
  • Includes a 147-page guide, automated Excel templates for the Ecosystem creation, and 14 concise videos on the gameplay and winning strategies (1 hour in total to cover everything you need in the shortest time possible), 6 Red Rock practice tests for the Study and the Case section
  • 100% proprietary information

the image is the cover of the mckinsey solve game guide by

McKinsey Solve Game Guide (Imbellus) 20th Edition

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FAQ for the McKinsey Red Rock Study Game

Navigating the McKinsey Red Rock Study Game is a complex process for most candidates. This FAQ section is designed to provide concise answers to some of the most common questions about the game, its structure, and preparation strategies.

What skills does the McKinsey Red Rock Study Game assess? The game evaluates data collection, processing, case math, numerical reasoning, and verbal reasoning skills.

How is the Redrock Study game different from the original PST? Unlike the PST, which was set in a business context, the Redrock Study game focuses on research and problem-solving in various scenarios, requiring no prior business knowledge. Yet, the analytical challenges are the same

Can candidates from non-business backgrounds excel in the Redrock Study game? Yes, candidates from all backgrounds can excel, as the game assesses general problem-solving skills over specific business knowledge. If you are familiar with quantitative and logical reasoning exercises found in standardized aptitude tests like the GMAT you are at an advantage, however.

What are the main challenges candidates face in the Redrock Study game? Candidates often struggle with time management, navigating the interface, and performing complex calculations under time constraints.

How can candidates effectively manage their time during the Redrock Study game, and what should you do if you get stuck? Prioritize tasks, practice under timed conditions, and if stuck, move on to questions you can answer to maximize your score. Set a strict time limit for each question to avoid running out of time as so many candidates do.

Are there any technical issues to be aware of when playing the Redrock Study game? Yes, candidates have reported bugs and interface lag, particularly with the on-screen calculator and drag-and-drop functionality. Reach out to tech support if you have suffered from any issues to get a second chance.

How does the Redrock Study game interface work? The interface includes a navigation panel for accessing different game stages, tools for data analysis and report compilation, and a research journal for organizing data.

What is the best way to prepare for the Redrock Study game? Practice with similar games and questions to improve your problem-solving and time-management skills, and familiarize yourself with various data representation forms, and common calculations found in the game. Review tips and strategies from professional preparation guides.

How does the addition of the mini-case section affect the game’s complexity? The mini-case section increases the assessment’s complexity by adding quantitative reasoning questions.

Can skills developed for the Redrock Study game help in case interview preparation? Yes, the problem-solving, data analysis, and numerical reasoning skills are directly applicable to case interviews, offering valuable practice for these critical consulting interview components.

We value your curiosity and engagement!

If you have any questions about the McKinsey Red Rock Study Game or need further clarification on preparation strategies, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section below.

2 Responses

I did not manage to finish the last part of the red rock. ecosystem was fine. is it still okay to pass?

Hi, Yes I have worked with several candidates that did not finish all elements of the Solve game over the last couple of years, also the Red Rock part and passed. The overall answer is that it is hard to tell from the outside. It depends on several other factors like the performance in the rest of the game (how much time did you take to pass the ecosystem and are you sure it is correct, how much time did you take for the first part of the rr game and are you sure all answers are correct), your resume, the general hiring situation. Fingers crossed for a positive outcome! Florian

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mckinsey problem solving game feedback

Florian spent 5 years with McKinsey as a senior consultant. He is an experienced consulting interviewer and problem-solving coach, having interviewed 100s of candidates in real and mock interviews. He started to make top-tier consulting firms more accessible for top talent, using tailored and up-to-date know-how about their recruiting. He ranks as the most successful consulting case and fit interview coach, generating more than 500 offers with MBB, tier-2 firms, Big 4 consulting divisions, in-house consultancies, and boutique firms through direct coaching of his clients over the last 3.5 years. His books “The 1%: Conquer Your Consulting Case Interview” and “Consulting Career Secrets” are available via Amazon.

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McKinsey Problem Solving Game

Konica Stones

What is the McKinsey Problem Solving Game?

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game (PSG) is a psychometric tool used by recruiters to identify which candidates in their applicant pool demonstrate the aptitudes and skills needed for success in a role at McKinsey .

The test created by the organization Imbellius is also known as the McKinsey Digital Assessment or Solve and is a gamified assessment evaluating candidates in five areas:

Situational awareness: an appreciation of what is happening around you and the multiple tasks you need to complete.

Meta Cognition: an awareness of your mental capabilities and thought process.

Critical Thinking: analyzing and evaluating a problem to reach a logical and reasoned conclusion.

Systems Thinking: being able to determine the cause of an issue and provide a relevant solution.

Decision-making: having the aptitude to come to a conclusion based only on the information given.

The McKinsey PSG differs from other tests in that it is a gamified assessment comprising mini-games. The mini-game format provides a more engaging experience for the test taker as they are guided through a series of two to three scenarios as part of the game.

There are five mini-games within the McKinsey PSG. Candidates generally have to complete only two of the mini-games; the most common games given to candidates last around 70 minutes. The other three mini-games last between 60 - 80 minutes.

Each test starts with a short tutorial followed by game scenarios for the candidate to complete. The results of the test are given as two scores.

Process score: calculated by tracking mouse clicks and movement to determine an individual's thought process when completing a task.

Product score: number of correct answers.

Types of McKinsey Problem Solving Games

mckinsey problem solving game

The most commonly used problem solving game is Ecosystem Building, followed by Plant Defense. Each game comprises a series of scenarios that candidates work through.

While the test has an overall time allocation, candidates must manage their time in each section, ensuring they provide structured and reasoned responses. The exact details and criteria of each game are randomized for every candidate to protect the integrity of the game.

Ecosystem Building

The Ecosystem Building is an assessment of an individual's decision-making ability.

Candidates are given several pieces of information to consider, some of which will be irrelevant to the criteria asked. So, they must carefully review the details and then analyze, calculate, evaluate and synthesize the information to achieve the game’s objective - building an ecosystem where species can survive.

The game sets candidates in either a coral reef or a mountain ridge. They need to select a suitable site to build an ecosystem that will support eight species.

From a list of 39 species, candidates need to select the eight that their ecosystem will support according to the following criteria:

Calories: the species selected must be able to feed and gain adequate nutrition to live

Food chain: consideration must be given when selecting species to ensure that the food chain is preserved and no species becomes extinct

Terrain: All species selected must be able to live comfortably on the selected site.

The challenge with the Ecosystem Building game is the vast amount of information and the ability to make quick calculations when analyzing the data.

Plant Defence

The Plant Defense game evaluates individuals’ on their ability to make logical and reasoned decisions. Candidates are given limited information and deal with unexpected occurrences as they progress through the game, ensuring they meet two clear objectives.

Their objective is to protect a plant species, ensuring that it survives when under attack from various invaders, and to keep the plant alive for as long as possible.

Individuals must consider the types of invaders (fox and groundhog) and the defenders (falcon, wolf, python, coyote, and bobcat). They also need to take into account the different types of terrain on each map (rocky, cliff, and forest), considering how this impacts each invader's speed and ensuring the guidelines are met for different types of terrain.

There are three map scenarios within the mini-game, with each map being split into two phases: planning and fast forward.

Each mini-map game takes around 12 minutes, resulting in an approximate time duration of 36 minutes for the Plant Defense game. The time available depends on the time taken to complete the Eco Building game, meaning that time management is a key factor.

Disease Diagnosis

The Disease Diagnosis mini-game requires individuals to determine the similarities and links between diseases in an ecosystem to determine who or what is likely to be infected.

Information is given on the different species in the ecosystem. Using only the information provided, candidates can then solve the problem and reach the correct conclusion.

Disaster Management

In the Disaster Management mini-game, candidates are placed in an ecosystem that has been subject to a natural disaster.

The task is to determine what kind of natural disaster has occurred in the ecosystem, then find a suitable site to relocate the species to ensure their survival.

Candidates evaluate and analyze the information provided using appropriate calculations to make their decision.

Migration Management

The Migration Management is a puzzle-type game that requires candidates to migrate 50 animals, ensuring they reach their destination. Guidelines are given, such as minimizing the number of animals injured and making the best use of the resources provided.

Tips to prepare for the McKinsey Problem Solving Game

mckinsey problem solving game

While the McKinsey Problem Solving Game evaluates individuals on their inherent aptitudes, there are many things you can do to help your natural abilities shine through.

Here are five tips to help you perform to the best of your abilities if you are invited to sit the McKinsey PSG.

1. Focus on the information provided

The McKinsey PSG mini-games are designed to evaluate your decision-making skills. In the games, you are presented with several pieces of information, some of which may not be relevant to the situation.

When making your decisions ensure you base your decisions only on the information given rather than making assumptions.

2. Hone your abilities

The Ecosystem Building game requires candidates to perform quick calculations to analyze various pieces of information.

Before taking the test, hone your numerical reasoning abilities . Make sure to refresh your memory on basic maths concepts and principles such as ratios or percentages.

3. Consider the role of a Consultant

Be aware of the role of a consultant and what consultants do when solving business cases. Thinking like a consultant when it comes to analyzing, evaluating and synthesizing solutions will help your decision-making and problem-solving abilities shine through.

The McKinsey PSG game assesses these skills as relevant to a McKinsey consultant. Approaching the mini-games with this in mind shows your suitability for the role based on your skills.

4. Recognize irrelevant information

Recognizing which information is relevant to the problem will aid your decision-making. Eliminate irrelevant information and focus only on the pieces of data that you need.

This approach can make things less overwhelming and ensures you don’t become distracted by the volume of information provided.

5. Keep calm

The McKinsey PSG is a gamified assessment designed to be engaging and assess candidates on their thought processes in reaching logical and reasonable decisions.

Even if you are nervous before taking the assessment, stay calm, focus on each element of the mini-game and ensure you manage your time efficiently.

Practice strategies, such as deep breathing so you have a clear head, and can rationally think through your decisions.

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Mastering the McKinsey Problem Solving Game in 2024

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game is a gamified test to screen candidates.

Your college’s reputation and GPA or GMAT score are not enough anymore.

Now, you must pass the McKinsey Problem Solving Game to get interviews .

And like everything else at McKinsey: it’s very selective.

Thus, in this guide, you’ll learn:

  • What the McKinsey Problem Solving Game is
  • Which skills are assessed during the test
  • What are your chances to pass
  • What technical information you must know (duration, constraints, etc.)
  • How to tackle the game’s various scenarios
  • How to prepare for the McKinsey PSG
  • And lots more.

Update July 2023 : you’ll also find an in-depth analysis of the newest Redrock scenario in this guide.

If you want to practice the McKinsey Solve beforehand to ensure no surprises on test day, check out PSG Secrets’  McKinsey Solve simulation . These exercises simulate the actual exercises you’ll work through on test day.

Let’s dive in right now!

Table of Contents

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game in a nutshell

Get the latest data about salaries in consulting

Understanding the mckinsey problem solving game.

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 quickly succumb to an unknown illness. It’s up to you to figure out what to do – and then act quickly to protect what you can.

Are you familiar with this paragraph?

This is the description of one of the McKinsey Problem Solving Game scenarios .

It’s a gamified test to assess candidates’ problem solving skills

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game, also known as the McKinsey Digital Assessment, is designed to evaluate your cognitive ability and problem-solving skills in a fun and engaging way .

But, unlike traditional testing methods, this innovative digital assessment uses the Imbellus software to assess the quality of solutions generated through mini-games, such as the Ecosystem Building Game and the Redrock Study.

McKinsey Problem Solving Game

But how does it work, and how can you prepare for this unique recruitment process?

Let’s dive deeper into the game’s purpose and key components.

The Purpose of the Game is to screen candidates

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game is used to screen candidates and is part of the recruiting process.

McKinsey PSG - recruitment process

Interviewing candidates is expensive.

Thus, the McKinsey Problem Solving Game evaluates if candidates possess the characteristics to become successful consultants before interviewing those candidates .

To do so, the game assesses five key cognitive abilities:

  • Critical thinking,
  • Data decision making,
  • Meta-cognition,
  • Situational awareness,
  • Systems thinking.

McKinsey PSG - skills assessed

And McKinsey will use the test taker’s score for these five criteria to predict the candidate’s likelihood of thriving at McKinsey .

This innovative approach to candidate evaluation goes beyond traditional testing methods.

It utilizes real-time data such as mouse movement, keystrokes, and clicks to assess a candidate’s thinking process.

In other words:

The game’s scoring system considers both the quality of the solutions generated and the efficiency and organization of the approach .

Note: The Solve assessment was developed and iterated by Imbellus ( now owned by gaming giant Roblox ) to replace the McKinsey PST

Note: McKinsey Solve, McKinsey Imbellus, McKinsey Game, Imbellus Test, McKinsey Digital Assessment, and McKinsey Problem Solving Game are all synonyms.

Related article : check this article to learn about the McKinsey recruitment process .

Test takers are asked to play 2 out of 6 mini-games

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game is divided into several mini-games, each designed to assess different aspects of your problem-solving skills.

The game features scenarios, time restrictions, and a scoring system, making it similar to a video game.

The different PSG scenarios

As mentioned in the above picture, since March 2023, the two scenarios you’ll most likely encounter are the Ecosystem Game and Redrock Study.

In the Ecosystem Building Mini Game ?

The sustainability of the constructed ecosystem and the efficiency and organization of the approach taken are evaluated.

Secondly, the Redrock Study is an updated version of the original PST assessment, focusing on chart reading, percentage calculations, and data interpretation .

To succeed in this mini-game, candidates must be able to analyze data and make informed decisions based on the available information.

The 2 parts of the McKinsey Problem Solving Game

There is no right or wrong answer

Like case interviews, there is no right or wrong answer.

Like other top consulting firms, McKinsey is more keen to evaluate candidates’ thinking process.

In other words, your decision making process is as important as your answer .

Finally, check this video – from McKinsey’s website – explaining what to expect in the Problem Solving Game.

To see what these games actually look and feel like, you can practice these games through PSG Secrets’  McKinsey Solve simulation .

Tackling the Ecosystem Building Scenario

The Ecosystem Building scenario is a core McKinsey Problem Solving Game component, requiring candidates to construct a balanced marine or terrestrial ecosystem.

As stated at the beginning of the game, the goal is threefold:

  • Select 8 species (from a list of 39 species) that must survive as an ecosystem
  • Choose a location for the ecosystem
  • Submit your ecosystem

McKinsey PSG - Ecosystem building - main goals

To build this sustainable ecosystem, you must do the following:

  • Terrain specifications: the location of the ecosystem must meet the living conditions for the 8 species you’ll select
  • Calories balance: Each species must be fed with enough calories from food to sustain itself.
  • Food chain management: each species must not be eaten into extinction by its predators.

The next three sections will examine the challenges and strategies for success in the Ecosystem Building scenario .

Terrain Specifications

Understanding terrain specifications is crucial for success in the Ecosystem Building scenario, as it directly impacts species selection.

The terrain specifications refer to the environmental conditions of a given location, including temperature, humidity, and air pressure.

These specifications directly influence the species that can thrive in that location .

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game features Mountain, Reef, and Desert terrains, and each species has required terrain specifications, typically expressed as ranges (e.g., Temperature: 20-30 C).

McKinsey PSG - Ecosystem building - terrain specification and living conditions

To construct a sustainable ecosystem, candidates must carefully consider the terrain specifications and select species that can thrive in the designated location.

Each species has specific terrain specs that have to be met.

If they aren’t met, the species won’t survive, and you won’t achieve the game’s objective .

Food Chain Management

Creating a balanced food chain is another critical aspect of the Ecosystem Building scenario.

In the game, the food chain consists of two types of species: producers and consumers.

Consumers can be classified as herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores, and each species has a few natural predators (Eaten By) and prey (Food Sources).

To ensure the sustainability of the ecosystem, it is vital to monitor the “calorie needed” and “calorie provided” specs of each species, ensuring that no species is eaten to extinction .

McKinsey PSG - Ecosystem building - jaguar

Calories balance

To make the ecosystem sustainable, your food chain must respect 3 rules.

To begin with, the species with the highest “calories provided” eats first. And it eats its “food source” with the highest calories provided.

Secondly, when a “food source” is eaten, its “calories provided” decrease permanently by an amount equal to the eating species’ “calories needed.”

Next, the species with the highest current “calories provided” eats.

To win the game, all the species must have their “calories needed” fully provided and “calories provided” above zero .

McKinsey PSG - Ecosystem building - eating rules

An example of a working food chain:

McKinsey PSG - Ecosystem building - food chain working

And an example of a food chain not working:

McKinsey PSG - Ecosystem building - food chain not working


A sample game

Now that you know the Ecosystem Management game, you can watch the following video.

In this video?

A candidate filmed his screen while taking the McKinsey Solve Game:

Mastering the Redrock Study

The RedRock Study is the latest McKinsey Problem Solving Game addition to test your decision making process.

The game’s plot is that you are sent to an island to analyze the species.

To solve this mini-game, you must go through 3 phases: investigation, analysis, and report .

Each of these phases, mimicking a consulting project, will be detailed in the next sections.

Also, after the 3 phases, you’ll have to answer 10 case questions.

Besides, like the first game (Ecosystem Management), you have 35 minutes to complete the RedRock study.

The investigation phase

In this first phase, you must read a text.

And then collect the information you might need later.

The main challenge is identifying the relevant data.

Because most of the information shown is irrelevant.

Thus, be careful not to waste too much time.

And once you’ve collected all the information, you can move to the analysis phase.

The analysis phase

Here, you’ll be asked to answer three numerical questions.

And don’t worry: a virtual calculator is embedded in the game.

But, you need to use the information gathered in phase 1 to answer these questions correctly.

And very important: write down your answers because you’ll need them in the next phase.

The report phase

Finally, you’ll have to write a summary of your analysis and present your data in charts.

The report phase has two main components:

A written part where you’ll be asked to answer 5 questions based on your analysis,

And a visual part where you’ll be asked to choose a type of graph to show the results of your analysis.

You’ll move to the case questions after completing the report phase.

The case questions

In this final phase, you must answer up to 10 case questions.

And these case questions are similar to those in the McKinsey Problem Solving Test (PST).

McKinsey PST sample question

Thus, I recommend practicing with the old McKinsey PST practice tests (see below).

Because the goal will be to sharpen your numerical and chart interpretation skills.

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mckinsey problem solving game feedback

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Acing the Plant Defense Mini Game

Preliminary note: since March 2023, McKinsey has no longer used the Plant Defense Game.

However, I encourage you to study the following tactics if McKinsey uses this game again .

What is the Plant Defense Game?

The Plant Defense scenario is another McKinsey Problem Solving Game core component.

In this scenario, candidates must defend a base (a square on the map), represented by a native plant, from various invading species, such as rats, foxes, and other predators.

McKinsey Problem Solving Game - Plant Defense Scenario

In the Plant Defense scenario, candidates must strategically place defenders and manage resources effectively to protect the base from invading species .

Defenders, such as terrain features like mountains or forests, or animal defenders like snakes or eagles, have a specified range of coverage and inflict damage on invaders that enter it.

Terrain features can also obstruct or slow down various types of invaders.

How to Win the Plant Defense Game?

You must protect the particular land as long as possible.

To do so, you must predict when and how the invaders will attack to protect the land.

Now, here are my expert tips to win the Plant Defense game.

Step 1: Understand barriers and defenders

First, select the resources you’ll use to protect the plant.

And those resources can be defenders (snakes, eagles, coyotes, etc.) or natural barriers (forests, rocks, cliffs, etc.).

Plus, each animal and barrier has specific characteristics.

Animals can kill the invaders (or damage them), while barriers can slow them down.

And each defender is effective on a certain number of squares around them.

For instance:

Eagles cover more squares but inflict less damage.

Snakes cover only one square but inflict more damage.

McKinsey Problem Solving Game - Plant Defense Scenario - step 1

Step 2: Define a strategy to place resources

At the beginning of the game, you must place five barriers or defenders on the map.

Expert tip : place defenders with large areas of influence close to the plant to defend.

And use barriers to create bottlenecks to make defenders even more effective.

McKinsey Problem Solving Game - Plant Defense Scenario - step 2

Step 3: Understand and analyze the invaders

The invaders appear at the edge of the map.

And their numbers increase during the game.

Check the invaders’ characteristics to identify the best barriers or defenders to use.

McKinsey Problem Solving Game - Plant Defense Scenario - step 3

Step 4: Adjust the strategy

Your defense strategy can be adjusted after each invader’s move.

Remember: try to create circular defenses around the plant.

Note: all of the above screenshots are from our partner .

Now, let’s discuss the other mini games that McKinsey used. 

McKinsey Problem Solving Game - Plant Defense Scenario - step 4

Alternative Mini-Games and Their Challenges

All the candidates who recently passed the game (as of July 2023) had to deal with the Ecosystem building game and Redrock scenarios.

However, consulting is an ever-changing industry.

And so does the McKinsey Problem Solving Game!

Hence, maybe you’ll have one of the following scenarios.

Or a new one that has never been given so far.

Bottom line: be prepared for anything.

Ok, let’s discuss the alternative mini-games previous candidates had.

Disaster Management Game

The natural Disaster Management mini-game involves identifying the type of natural disaster in an ecosystem and relocating the animals from this ecosystem to maximize their survival.

Disease Management

The Disease Management mini-game requires candidates to accurately identify the disease that has infiltrated the ecosystem and implement the necessary measures to contain it.

To succeed in this mini-game, candidates must discern the disease pattern within the ecosystem and anticipate who will be exposed next.

Finally, candidates must select a treatment based on the characteristics of the disease, the animal population, and the treatment options.

Migration Management

The Migration Management mini-game involves identifying the migration patterns of the animals in the ecosystem and implementing necessary steps to ensure their safety.

This requires a deep understanding of the factors that influence animal migration.

Preparing for the McKinsey Problem Solving Game

Mckinsey solve simulation platforms.

Several simulation platforms help candidates practice the mini-games like the original McKinsey Game.

By utilizing these simulation platforms, candidates can familiarize themselves with the game’s mechanics, challenges, and time constraints.

I recommend using the simulations at .

Francesco Rieppi, a former BCG consultant, has designed this platform and offers an incredible money-back guarantee if you don’t pass the Game.

PSG secrets

Note for full transparency : this is an affiliate link. Hence, I’ll get a commission if you purchase Francesco’s product (but without additional costs for you).

Developing Critical Thinking for Success

This is the most important skill to develop to secure a McKinsey offer. 

McKinsey - Importance of Critical Thinking to get an offer

Source: McKinsey and Imbellus teams .

So, what does “critical thinking” mean?

According to Wikipedia :

Critical thinking is the analysis of available facts, evidence, observations, and arguments to form a judgment by applying rational, skeptical, and unbiased analyses and evaluations.

Thus, candidates must be able to quickly assimilate and analyze large quantities of data, identify patterns and trends, and make well-informed decisions based on available information.

How can you develop your critical thinking?

In the next sections, we will discuss strategies to improve your critical thinking and how these strategies can be applied to tackle the game’s various scenarios .

Practice analyzing data with McKinsey PST questions

First, practice with the good old McKinsey PST questions

McKinsey Problem Solving Test

The McKinsey PST practice tests look like this.

First, you have a text to give you some context.

McKinsey PST - example 1

Secondly, you can also find exhibits to provide more information.

McKinsey PST - example 2

And finally, you have a list of questions.

McKinsey PST - example 3

And to answer those questions, you must use the information and data provided at the beginning.

Practice analyzing data with GMAT questions

Besides the McKinsey PST, you can also use GMAT questions to develop your skills.

But not any GMAT question.

The Quantitative Reasoning and Integrated Reasoning questions are great drills to prepare for the screening tests and case interviews used by top consulting firms like McKinsey.

Quantitative Reasoning

There are two questions in the Quantitative Reasoning Section: Problem-Solving: Measures your ability to use logic and analytical reasoning to solve quantitative problems.

Data Sufficiency: Measures your ability to analyze a quantitative problem, recognize the relevant data, and determine when enough data exists to solve the problem.

Both types of questions require some knowledge of arithmetic, elementary algebra, and commonly known concepts of geometry.

Rest assured that the difficulty of the questions stems from the logic and analytical skills required, not the underlying math skills.

Sample Problem-Solving Question

If u > t, r > q, s > t, and t > r, which of the following must be true?

u > s s > q u > r (A) I only

(B) II only

(C) III only

(D) I and II

(E) II and III

Answer: (E)

Sample Data Sufficiency Question

If a real estate agent received a commission of 6 percent of the selling price of a certain house, what was the house’s selling price?

(1) The selling price minus the real estate agent’s commission was $84,600.

(2) The selling price was 250 percent of the original purchase price of $36,000.

(A) Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) alone is not sufficient.

(B) Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) alone is not sufficient.

(C) BOTH statements TOGETHER are sufficient, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient.

(D) EACH statement ALONE is sufficient.

(E) Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient.

Answer: (D)

Integrated Reasoning

There are four types of questions in the Integrated Reasoning Section:

Multi-Source Reasoning: Measures your ability to examine data from multiple sources text passages, tables, graphics, or some combination of the three—and to analyze each source of data to answer multiple questions carefully.

Table Analysis: Measures your ability to sort and analyze a data table, like a spreadsheet, to determine what information is relevant or meets certain conditions.

Graphics Interpretation: Measures your ability to interpret the information presented in a graph or other graphical image (scatter plot, x/y graph, bar chart, pie chart, or statistical curve distribution) to discern relationships and make inferences.

and Two-Part Analysis: Measures your ability to solve complex problems. They could be quantitative, verbal, or some combination of both. The format is intentionally versatile to cover a wide range of content. Your ability to evaluate trade-offs, solve simultaneous equations, and discern relationships between two entities is measured.

The questions involve quantitative and verbal reasoning, separately or in combination.

Sample GMAT Integrated Reasoning question:

Sample GMAT Integrated Reasoning Question


And here is the best part:

You can easily find online many GMAT simulation platforms with free trial periods.

Hence, you’ll be able to practice with time constraints.

And better feel the pressure of the clock ticking in a test 😅

Mental calculations

Most questions on the Redrock involve math, particularly percentages.

Therefore, it is wise to practice calculations involving percentages before the game.

What’s 80% of 8,200?

How much sales (today: $82m) should increase to reach $140m?

Like the GMAT, these questions are not too difficult.

But the limited time (and the pressure) makes it challenging.

Hypothesis Formation

Forming hypotheses based on available information is another essential McKinsey Problem Solving Game skill.

Hypothesis formation is the process of devising a predictive statement or tentative explanation about a phenomenon or problem based on limited evidence or prior knowledge.

To form hypotheses effectively, it is necessary to consider the context of the problem, analyze the available data, and evaluate the potential implications of the hypothesis .

Additionally, it is important to consider the potential for bias in the data and contemplate alternative hypotheses.

As new data is presented during the game, candidates must be able to adjust their hypotheses accordingly.

This may include revising the hypothesis, discarding it, or forming a new hypothesis.

Being flexible and adaptable in the face of new information is crucial for success in the McKinsey Problem Solving Game, as it allows candidates to respond effectively to changing circumstances and make the best decisions based on the most up-to-date information.

Gaming for Success

Some applicants said the McKinsey Digital Assessment could be overwhelming if you aren’t accustomed to playing computer games.

The learning curve for the PSG is shortened for players who play frequently, particularly those who enjoy strategy games.

They are quicker to figure out what to do next and when to do it because they are usually more familiar with game environments.

However, some video game genres will be more helpful in preparing for the McKinsey Problem Solving Game.

The gameplay in the following video games is somewhat reminiscent of that in the McKinsey PSG :

  • Zoo Tycoon – similar to Ecosystem creation
  • Planet Zoo – similar to Ecosystem creation
  • Kingdom Rush – similar to Plant Defense
  • Roller Coaster Tycoon – similar to Ecosystem creation
  • Planet Coaster – similar to Ecosystem creation
  • Plants VS Zombies – similar to Plant Defense

As you can see, there is a lot of mini games you can use to practice.

Besides, if you know any, you can play a traditional board game, especially strategy games.

Zoo Tycoon

Frequently asked questions (and final tips)

How hard is it to pass the mckinsey problem solving game.

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game can be challenging due to its difficult passing rate.

Estimates suggest that only 20-30% of test candidates are successful.

Does everyone get invited to the McKinsey problem solving game?

As of 2023, all the candidates who passed the resume screening were asked to take the Problem Solving Game.

And the game is used by all McKinsey divisions (Digital and Operations) in their hiring processes.

Will I receive a score for my performance after the McKinsey Online Assessment?

Usually, you don’t receive a score but a confirmation of whether you passed the game.

What is the purpose of the McKinsey Problem Solving Game?

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game tests a candidate’s ability to think critically and solve complex problems.

And this game is an important part of the McKinsey recruitment process.

It happens before PEI and case interviews.

So McKinsey can identify the best possible candidates for their consulting roles.

What are the differences between the McKinsey PSG and McKinsey PST?

The McKinsey PST (Problem Solving Test) was a traditional standardized admission test.

These traditional assessments focus on content mastery, processing speed, and memory. These factors ignore the increasing need to develop and measure capabilities required by the 21st-century workforce. These tests ignore the cognitive process that users engage in during that task.

Source: Imbellus and McKinsey teams

Thus, unlike the PST, the game doesn’t require business knowledge.

Besides, the McKinsey Problem Solving Game score is based on the final results and the steps to reach the results.

Imbellus assessments focus on evaluating how people think instead of what they know. Through the scenarios in our simulation-based environments, we observe details of users’ cognitive processes, not just their end choices.

How long is the McKinsey Problem Solving Game?

The total time is between 60 and 75 minutes.

And time management is a critical success factor to pass this test.

What is the usual response time from HR?

Normally candidates receive an answer within two weeks after they’ve completed the test.

Will I have to take the test from home?

Yes. McKinsey will send you a link to take the test.

Also, they will provide you with another link to check if the technical characteristics of your laptop are enough to play the McKinsey Problem Solving Game.

Can I pause the game once it has started?

No. You must go through all the mini games at one time once you have started.

Any last advice?

Before you start the Game, make sure you are in a silent room (mute your phone) and check your internet connection.

The best way to practice is to simulate the actual games themselves. PSG Secrets offers a realistic simulation of the McKinsey Solve  that you can play through.

Besides, prepare pens, papers, and the templates provided in the psgsecrets platform.

I hope you enjoyed this guide about the McKinsey digital assessment.

And that you feel more confident of winning the McKinsey Problem Solving Game.

The best way to practice this is by playing through a realistic simulation of the McKinsey Solve .

Now, I’d like to hear from you:

Which scenario is the most challenging, in your opinion?

Will you play more video games to prepare for this test?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment below right now.

Related articles :

How to answer the question “Why consulting” and “Why McKinsey? Why BCG? Why Bain & Company?” .

Also: read this article to write a compelling and personalized cover letter.

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