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
  • All Fit Interview Course Videos
  • All case interview self-assessment modules
  • Available on all devices
  • Premium support for questions
  • Lifetime access

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 
  • Problem Driven Approach
  • Building blocks 
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  • Problem driven structure in action
  • Roadmap for preparation planning

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mckinsey problem solving game guide

  • Tests by Leading Employers
  • Consulting Assessment Preparation
  • McKinsey Problem Solving Game

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

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!

McKinsey Problem Solving Game Expert

Hi, I'm David, JobTestPrep's expert for the McKinsey Digital Assessment. Have a question? Feel free to  send me an email at any time .

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

  • Free SHL questions
  • What's on This Page
  • What Is the McKinsey PSG?
  • How to Beat the Games?
  • Best Practice Options
  • 7 Tips to Boost Your Performance

mckinsey problem solving game guide

McKinsey Problem Solving Game – Guide 2023

Games-based assessments  are being used by a number of the  top strategy consulting firms  now. BCG has partnered with  Pymetrics and launched a BCG Online Case, Arctic Shores is working with Strategy& (via PwC), and McKinsey launched their problem-solving game developed with Imbellus in 2019.​

The game (officially called Solve, but also referred to as the problem-solving game/PSG, the Imbellus game, or the digital assessment) replaces the in-person, pen-and-paper te­st that McKinsey has used for many years up until recently (the McKinsey Problem Solving Test). The game proved very effective in assessing candidates more holistically while reducing bias against those unfamiliar with standardized testing and helping scale recruitment during the era of pandemic-driven lockdowns. As of May 2020, it has been used to test 15,000 McKinsey applicants in more than 30 countries. These numbers have undoubtedly grown exponentially since then as more cohorts take the test and McKinsey rolls it out to the rest of its firm network.​

Overall games-based assessments are gaining popularity for the ability to  filter down the candidate pool  in an intuitive, unbiased way that tests both  numerical reasoning   and  logical reasoning skills . The McKinsey digital assessment is used for exactly that purpose.

  • 1. Traits They Are Testing in the McKinsey Digital Assessment​
  • 1.1 Critical Thinking
  • 1.2 Decision-making
  • 1.3 Metacognition
  • 1.4 Situational Awareness
  • 1.5 Systems Thinking
  • 2. Look And Feel of the McKinsey Digital Assessment
  • 3. Structure of the McKinsey Digital Assessment
  • 4. Top Tips For the McKinsey Digital Assessment
  • 5. About the Author

The McKinsey digital assessment provides a way of testing candidates'  thinking ability and personality traits  that are harder to revise for and therefore offers a way of testing that does not reward those that prepare more extensively. It also provides a safe environment to test how  comfortable candidates are making decisions with imperfect information , a skill particularly important for strategy consultants.​

McKinsey prides itself on being a firm with some of the leading thinkers in the world and has been described as the ‘ CEO factory ’ for its alumni list that includes Cheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), Sundar Pichai (CEO of Alphabet and Google), James Gorman (CEO of Morgan Stanley), and many more. For this reason, it is unsurprising that their games-based assessment focuses on  testing thinking over personality traits .​

The five skills that McKinsey specifically looks to test with their digital assessment are:​

Critical thinking  is the conceptualizing, analyzing, and synthesizing of information based on observation, experience, reflection, or reasoning. For strategy consultants such as McKinsey, this is an important skill as client problems are often  unique and complex . To reach clear and concise recommendations or conclusions, strategy consultants must  practice strong critical thinking skills  to reduce the noise down to the critical points only.​

Decision-making  based on fragmented, imperfect information is critical as McKinsey advises some of the world’s largest companies. The discipline of strategy consulting brings structure and logic to some of the most important decisions CEOs will make in their tenure and so McKinsey expects all their consultants to be  competent and comfortable making decisive decisions .​

Metacognition  is the ability to  assess your own thinking and learning . Throughout a client engagement, a consultant’s knowledge and information base will increase and perhaps change the previous opinions put forward. The ability to  critique and change thinking  and logical reasoning based on the emergence of new information is important to reach the best possible outcome for the client.​

Situational awareness  has historically been tested using situational judgment tests and is the decision-making of an individual in a social-based scenario, such as the workplace. As consulting is a project-based, client-facing profession, the ability to make sound,  appropriate decisions  is important to building and  maintaining working relationships .​

Systems thinking  is the holistic approach to analysis that considers the whole system, its individual parts, and how they interact with each other. Organizations and business models can all be conceptualized using systems thinking and it is also a strategy consultant's preferred way to  isolate issues and present recommendations  as it makes it easy for clients to understand their thinking and where it fits in the wider picture.

It is important to note that candidates are continuously assessed on these traits throughout the game and not just based on the outcomes at the end. Even something as minor as a keystroke, a click, or a movement of the mouse will be tracked and assessed. The traits will then be benchmarked against a benchmark to see if the candidates will be a good fit for the firm.

mckinsey problem solving game guide

The McKinsey digital assessment is  played on a desktop  rather than a smartphone like other types of games. It looks and feels like a PC game similar to those that were popular 15 years ago such as SIMs and is  highly intuitive for the user to navigate .

In the McKinsey digital assessment, candidates have around  70 minutes  to complete two game scenarios (tutorial time is excluded), selected from a pool of six known ones.

The six  possible scenarios  in the digital assessment that have been published by McKinsey include:​

Scenario 1: Ecosystem Management

Scenario 2: plant defense, scenario 3: disaster management, scenario 4: disease management, scenario 5: migration management, scenario 6: redrock study.

Objective : To build a self-sustaining natural ecosystem in a coral reef or a mountain range.

The candidate is provided with a selection of different animals and plants, each requiring and providing varying amounts of nutrients, as well as needing different living conditions. The candidate must assess the benefits of each and  select an optimal combination  of species and location that will ensure a  sustainable ecosystem .​

The candidate needs to build a sustainable chain of 8 species in order to successfully pass this game.

Objective:  To protect an endangered species of plant from incoming invaders​.

The routes of invaders are shown on a grid that increases in size during the game. Using the combination of a limited number of defenders (i.e., predators that hunt the invaders) and terrain (which slows down or blocks the path of the invaders), the user must  prevent the plant in danger  from being reached by the invader for as long as possible.​

Objective : To identify an incoming natural disaster and take necessary evasive action for a group of animals.​

Symptoms of a natural disaster are presented to the candidate such as wind speed, precipitation, and air temperature. Using this information, the candidate has to identify a natural disaster . Each type of disaster has a different expected impact on the island, where a group of animals lives.​

Knowing this, the candidate must choose  where to relocate the group of animals  whilst ensuring they will be protected, sheltered, fed, and watered sustainably in the new location.

Objective : To identify a mysterious disease spreading through a population and the animals that could be affected by it.​

An animal population is showing  symptoms of a disease . Based on the symptoms detected, the candidate must conclude which animals will be affected next and the rules that will lead to the infection.

There are usually two maps in this game, with the second one being substantially more complex since the number of variables for each animal will increase.

Objective : To migrate a group of animals on a path from point A to point B while maximizing the number of animals surviving.

The candidate starts each map with a set of allocated resources (e.g., apples, water, nuts) and is presented with many branching paths to help their animal group reach the final destination. At each step, a certain number of resources will be consumed; the candidate will also be able to collect additional resources and animals at each step. If the candidate has insufficient resources for a specific step, a few animals will be lost.

With this in mind, the candidate must identify the resources needed for survival, plan the path to collect those resources and minimize movements to ultimately reach the final destination with as many animals as possible.  

Objective : To select relevant information out of text, graphs, and tables provided and answer a few numerical questions.

This is the new entry between the McKinsey games as it was first launched in 2022.

The candidate will see information related to a few animal species, including text paragraphs, graphs, and numbers, and will have to select relevant parts to use for his/her research. The information can be dragged and dropped into a separate part of the screen and collected in a research journal.

After the research phase, the candidate will have to use the information collected to answer three quantitative questions related to the animal species.

Here are some  key tips  to ensure you ace the McKinsey digital assessment:​

1. Use trusted prep material for the test – Guides like the Imbellus Solve Game Secrets guide  or the  Imbellus Solve Combo can help you to be ready for the game and learn tips and tricks to save precious time during the assessment. With 300+ 5-star reviews, you can be confident that these guides will deliver what they promise. 

2. Utilize an Excel template to speed up time during the Ecosystem Game  – During the common first game - the Ecosystem Management - you can greatly increase your speed with an Excel tool. The Imbellus Solve Combo includes an automated Excel that can help you to build a chain in as little as 16 minutes and complete the Ecosystem in less than 70% of the time required.

3. Take advantage of the tutorials to get ready  – Before each game, you will have a short tutorial during which time is not counted. You can use the tutorial to have a break, understand the rules of the game and get ready for the next part of the assessment. 

4. Take the assessment in a quiet environment  – The games take approximately 70 minutes. Ensuring you are taking the test in an environment without distractions will increase the chances of optimal performance in each game.​

5. Complete the assessment at the time of your peak performance – For most people, the cognitive ability is higher in the morning when they are most awake and alert. For tasks requiring focus and attention, this is particularly important, thus taking the games in the morning will likely increase your performance.

Make sure to check out the  Consulting Q&A threads  about the McKinsey Problem Solving Game   to receive  insights from former management consultants  as well as candidates who have  passed the Imbellus test !

By now you have learned a lot about how to master the  McKinsey Problem Solving Game . With all the information from the article and  further preparation material , you will be perfectly prepared to ace the Imbellus test and make it to the first round of the  McKinsey interview !

As soon as you receive the invitation to the interview, don't forget to read through the articles on the McKinsey Problem Solving Interview as well as those on how to master the  McKinsey Personal Experience Interview (PEI) . Those will give you guidance for your further case interview preparation and will help you  land the job you want at McKinsey!

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McKinsey Solve Game (2024): How to Prepare and Ace the Imbellus

the image is the cover for an article on the mckinsey solve game

Last Updated on March 26, 2024

The McKinsey Solve Game, previously known as the McKinsey Problem Solving Game, Digital Assessment, or informally as ‘the Imbellus’, serves as a pivotal tool for the renowned consulting firm in evaluating prospective candidates. This assessment is utilized in tandem with the infamous case interviews and personal experience interviews (PEI) .

For those wondering how to prepare for McKinsey’s digital problem-solving game, this article breaks down the key areas to focus on for enhanced performance. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the nuances of McKinsey Solve Game preparation, providing you with the latest strategies to ace the assessment.

It’s important to mention that we consistently update this article with the latest and most relevant information. Initially published in May 2019, our coverage was a pioneering global insight into the Solve Game, even during its beta testing phase. Our most recent update to this article was in mid-February 2024, ensuring you have the most current insights at your fingertips.

History of the McKinsey Imbellus Solve Game

Developed in collaboration with Imbellus and psychologists from UCLA Cresst, the McKinsey Solve Game invites candidates to engage in a series of stimulating scenarios. This immersive experience is a precursor to embarking on a career with McKinsey, demanding a well-thought-out Imbellus Game strategy.

The game challenges players to create sustainable ecosystem simulations within diverse environments such as reefs, mountain ridges, or jungles. Additionally, participants assume the role of a researcher, analyzing animal populations. In an earlier version of the game, your focus was on protecting plant species from invaders in a tower-defense-like game. This immersive experience is a precursor to embarking on a career with McKinsey.

When this game-based assessment was introduced by the world’s leading consulting firms four years ago, it created a significant buzz in the consulting industry for two primary reasons. Firstly, the Solve Game marked a departure from traditional recruitment methods by incorporating an actual computer game. This represented a shift from the conventional Problem Solving Test (PST), a pen-and-paper test designed to gauge candidates’ abilities to solve business problems under time constraints. Secondly, McKinsey’s stance that the game’s nature makes it impervious to specific preparation strategies initially left applicants feeling uncertain about how to best approach the assessment. This was a notable change for applicants accustomed to preparing for weeks or sometimes even months to tackle their case interviews.

Quick reality check…

However, it soon became evident that the consulting firm recruitment game was not impervious to preparation and strategy. McKinsey’s claim was more of a strategic marketing move. Our interviews with some of the first candidates who participated in the initial Imbellus Test in London in November 2019 revealed insightful feedback. This was the first instance where the Solve Game was employed as a formal part of the recruitment process beyond its beta testing phase. These early test-takers made it clear that with a better understanding of the game’s format and the skills it assessed, they could have performed more effectively. Several candidates had even prepared for the PST, not anticipating any changes in the assessment approach. They were informed about the switch to the Solve Game merely a week in advance.

Leveraging this feedback and using their dissatisfaction as a starting point, we collaborated with experts in the field and continued to gather insights from test-takers across various countries. This collective input allowed us to develop effective preparation strategies and gameplay techniques to play the games successfully.

What we found is that – in contrast to McKinsey’s initial messaging – it’s indeed possible to prepare effectively for this assessment. Adopting the right strategies for each game segment can quickly enhance relevant skills, as evidenced by our candidates’ significant performance improvements compared to their peers, thanks to these McKinsey digital assessment tips. Adopting the right strategies for each game segment can quickly enhance relevant skills, as evidenced by our candidates’ significant performance improvements

This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to mastering the Solve Game. We’ll cover five key areas:

  • Understanding McKinsey’s motivation for transitioning from the traditional Problem Solving Test to a gamified assessment, and what this means for you.
  • Introducing and examining all six games included in the assessment, along with variations reported by test-takers.
  • Clarifying the actual skills assessed, extending beyond the official communications.
  • Detailing preparation methods, exercises, and tools to elevate your performance.
  • Offering insights into effective test-taking strategies to facilitate Imbellus game skills development and maximize results

For those seeking thorough preparation, we offer a detailed preparation package including (with instant access):

  • 147-page Problem Solving Game Guide
  • Excel Solver tool for the Ecosystem Game with ecosystem game strategies
  • 14 videos that dissect every aspect of the games, including game-winning strategies.
  • Complimentary 14-page primer for McKinsey case and PEI interviews
  • McKinsey game practice tests was the pioneer in providing detailed analysis of this new assessment type, backed by authentic firsthand information. This has allowed us to continuously refine our insights based on feedback from our extensive customer base. The program has gone through 20 iterations, last updated in February 2024, and incorporates feedback from over 500 test-takers and several game designers.

We launched our original program at the end of November 2019 and have since been updating it regularly to maintain its relevance and accuracy, distinguishing ourselves from others who have merely replicated our content. To date, more than 8500 applicants  from over 70 nations have used the guide to prepare for their Imbellus. 

McKinsey Solve (Imbellus) Game Guide

Our McKinsey Solve Game Preparation Package

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.

Introduction of the McKinsey Solve 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 are quickly succumbing to an unknown illness. It’s up to you to figure out what to do—and then act quickly to protect what you can.” McKinsey & Company

Sounds exciting? Well,…you be the judge.

As a consultant with McKinsey or any other top-tier consulting firm, you often find yourself in situations where you must save the day. On an abstract level, the game simulates exactly this reality. While your consulting career mostly relates to strategy engagements with Fortune 500 companies, McKinsey chooses the environmental scenarios deliberately. More on that in a second.

Traditionally, the McKinsey way of hiring candidates was through the following funnel:

  • Screening: Your consulting resume and cover letter are screened based on a number of filters
  • Problem Solving Test: A 60-minute pen-and-paper test, covering 26 business-related questions
  • Consulting Interview Round 1 : 2 to 3 business case and personal experience interviews
  • Consulting Interview Round 2: another 1 to 3 interviews depending on the region (Rounds 1 and 2 can be on the same day in some offices)

With the introduction of the Problem Solving Game (PSG), the Problem Solving Test (PST) was on its way out.

So, why would McKinsey replace a time-tested screening tool, which has evaluated hundreds of thousands of applicants, with a computer game? The reasons are threefold, reflecting McKinsey’s typical approach:

The answer is quite simple and – as ever so often in the McKinsey world – threefold:

  • To  attract new talent  and new types of consultants.
  • To have an assessment  tool that is agnostic  (in theory)  of people’s backgrounds .
  • To have a lower-cost program (in the long run) to  assess a greater amount of candidates .

The Firm is employing the Solve Game to take into account the changes that every consulting firm faces: Changes in its client base, new types of problems the clients face, and its evolution through organic growth and acquisitions. New problems of clients require a new type of consulting workforce. The typical McKinsey career has changed. Hence, McKinsey is investing heavily in the recruitment of new types of talent, including data scientists, implementation practitioners, IT experts, product and digital designers, as well as software developers in addition to their generalist consulting roles. A digital test is only logical when hiring digital natives.

Above, we teased the environmental abstraction of the game tasks. What is that all about? McKinsey stresses that to perform well in the different games, no prior knowledge and preparation is needed or beneficial (contrary to the PST). The natural context should be easily accessible for every possible candidate, regardless of their background. The PST was geared more towards business majors and quant-heavy degrees, evaluating candidates with a simple pen-and-paper test. With the Solve Game, McKinsey has created a much more complex assessment tool to avoid any biases related to a candidate’s culture, experience, or background. Why this is a fallacy and just introduces new types of biases, a bit further down on this page…

Lastly, McKinsey is receiving several hundred thousand applications every year. Can you imagine going through all of them and dedicating proper resources to every single one of them? No? Right, because neither can McKinsey. High-level screening algorithms decide what consulting cover letter and resume gets screened by a human and even then, many candidates are quickly sorted out. As a result, many potentially talented individuals do not make the cut. The Solve Game attacks this issue from two ends.

Administering the Imbellus Game to one additional candidate comes with almost zero additional cost for the Firm. The assessment can be taken from home (in most cases) and does not block many recruitment resources from the local office. It is part of a streamlined and automated process ( sounds exactly like what a top-tier management consulting firm would do, eh? ). For the PST, on the other hand, candidates had to go to the office to take the test, blocking many resources in the process. Second, with a negligible marginal cost for one additional test-taker, more people can be evaluated and potentially deemed ‘worthy’ of moving on to the interview rounds, even if their resume lacked some important metric that was relevant to the old screening algorithm.

To hit those three points, McKinsey hired Imbellus (which has since been acquired by Roblox ) to develop the different games of the Solve Game, a company that claims to reinvent how we measure human potential. A bold claim.

Does the Solve Game live up to this claim and fill its new role as a screening device for applicants?

If you want to learn more about McKinsey’s rationale for the Solve Game, Fortune spoke with Katy George, McKinsey & Company’s chief people officer, regarding the impact of prevailing labor market trends on the consulting firm’s talent strategy.

The Firm wanted to change its talent recruitment strategy to align with current labor market trends. Shifting its focus from prestigious educational backgrounds to the potential and diverse skill sets of candidates, McKinsey now recruits from a broader range of educational institutions, increasing its outreach from 700 to about 1,500 schools, with plans to expand to 5,000. This approach supports the “paper ceiling” movement, valuing talent over formal qualifications.

To support this move, McKinsey developed the video game ‘Solve’ to attract a wider pool of applicants, including tech talent. This evaluation has reached over 150,000 candidates in the first two years of the game’s introduction, highlighting the game’s role in identifying talent with varied backgrounds, particularly in technology.

The Role of the McKinsey Solve Game

As a candidate, the Solve Game immerses you in several digital, scenario-based assessments, designed to understand and measure how you approach and solve problems, basically putting you in situations that McKinsey consultants face every day. This approach diverts significantly from other well-known testing formats such as the PST or the BCG Online Case , which test problem-solving skills in a business context.

A Digital Case Interview with Twists and Turns

The Imbellus replaces the McKinsey Problem Solving Test (which has been discontinued in several offices such as Germany and Austria years ago due to the bias it introduced –   business majors usually got much higher scores).

While the PST is useful when gathering information about a candidate’s problem-solving skills, it introduces a bias toward candidates who are familiar with business problems. Since it favors business major backgrounds, it is not in line with McKinsey looking to expand its hiring base. Also, the PST does not allow for understanding how the candidates arrived at a solution. The Imbellus Assessment allows McKinsey to get both a product score, evaluating how good your solution is, and a process score, providing insights into your problem-solving prowess and approach.

By changing this part of the recruiting process and introducing an abstracted digital assessment, McKinsey hopes to gauge applicants’ cognitive abilities in a bias-free environment while at the same time collecting way more data points on them.

The Format of McKinsey Solve Game

The Imbellus Solve Game has evolved to a format where candidates engage in two out of six available mini-games within a 70-minute timeframe. This represents a change from previous versions, which allotted up to 81 minutes for gameplay. According to our data and surveys, every candidate since March 2023 has participated in a version of the Ecosystem Creation game and the Red Rock Study game. Notably, since the end of February 2023, the Plant Defense game, previously a consistent element of the assessment, has not been featured.

This setup emphasizes effective time management, as candidates must ensure completion of both games within the allocated time, 35 minutes for each.

In the following sections, we will provide an in-depth analysis of each game, outlining various strategies and techniques to efficiently manage time and maximize performance.

The Scoring of the Solve Game

The essence of the Imbellus test aligns closely with the conventional approach of consulting cases and interviews. It demands the identification of a problem, gathering and analyzing data, making informed decisions under time constraints and with incomplete information, and then crafting actionable recommendations. Essentially, the test is designed to assess problem-solving skills, but it does so in an online format, leveraging sophisticated algorithms.

Data on the test’s efficacy indicates that a candidate’s performance in the Imbellus problem-solving simulation is a reliable predictor of their likelihood to receive an offer following the case interviews. This predictive accuracy is reportedly superior to that of the traditional Problem Solving Test (PST). Further details and specific data on these outcomes will be discussed in subsequent sections.

the image shows how solve game performance correlates with success in case interviews at McKInsey

The McKinsey Solve Game is tailored to evaluate candidates’ skills in scenarios that mimic real-life situations, going beyond what can be inferred from a consulting cover letter or resume. It scrutinizes candidates’ problem-solving approaches, their creativity in tackling tasks, and their overall thought processes. Specifically, the game is designed to assess:

  • Problem identification : The ability to accurately discern the core problem that needs resolution.
  • Analysis of information : Skill in sourcing and scrutinizing information from diverse channels.
  • Strategic solution development : Competence in formulating and methodically testing hypotheses to solve the problem.
  • Conclusion and decision making : Aptitude for drawing appropriate conclusions and making informed decisions.
  • Adaptability : Agility in responding to evolving situations or changing parameters.
  • Quantitative reasoning: With the introduction of the Red Rock game, McKinsey now also evaluates how effectively candidates can comprehend, process, and apply quantitative data in problem-solving scenarios.

To effectively measure these attributes, McKinsey and Imbellus use a dual-scoring system:

  • Product Score:  This evaluates the quality of the outcome achieved. Did you complete the game objectives, like creating a sustainable ecosystem, providing the correct outcomes for your analyses, or protecting the plant?
  • Process Score:  This score reflects the method and strategy used to achieve the outcome. It tracks every interaction, including over 100 different variables during gameplay. Factors like apparent nervousness or the execution of a logical plan are considered.

The implications of this sophisticated scoring system for new candidates are multifaceted:

For candidates, the McKinsey Solve Game’s scoring system has significant implications. It means that the assessment isn’t just about reaching the correct outcome, but also about how you get there. This dual focus on both product and process offers a more holistic evaluation of a candidate’s abilities.

  • Holistic assessment : Candidates are evaluated on their results and the strategies they employ. This approach rewards not only correct outcomes but also thoughtful, strategic processes.
  • Behavior under pressure : The game assesses how candidates perform under pressure, including decision-making speed, adaptability, and handling incomplete information.
  • Broader accessibility : Since the game is less reliant on specific business knowledge and more on general problem-solving skills, it potentially opens the door for candidates from diverse academic and professional backgrounds.
  • Increased stress : The knowledge that every action is being recorded and analyzed might increase stress levels for some candidates, possibly affecting their performance.

You might think that with such an assessment and with a focus on process, it’s harder for candidates to ‘game’ the system by preparing for specific outcomes. Yet, what we found out over time is that the range of potential outcomes for the Ecosystem game and the types of questions for the Red Rock Study game is very narrow. We have developed strategies and step-by-step approaches to navigate this challenge very well.

Overall, the McKinsey Solve Game represents a shift in how candidates are assessed, placing equal importance on the journey and the destination. For candidates, this means preparing for the game requires a focus on developing the right approach and the ability to remain calm and effective under pressure.

Current Roll-out and Scope of the McKinsey Solve Game

It’s all fun and games until your score actually determines your future McKinsey career.

A frequently asked question from candidates is about the necessity of participating in the Solve Game during their application process. The straightforward answer is that in almost all cases, yes, it’s required.

Initially, the game underwent testing with 5,000 candidates across 20 countries between May 2018 and October 2019, alongside the PST. This phase wasn’t about evaluating candidates; rather, it focused on gathering data, beta testing, and fine-tuning the games. Additionally, McKinsey’s active consultants were invited to play in trial runs, contributing further to the data collection.

As of now, McKinsey has globally implemented the Solve Game for a vast majority of applicant types, aiming to evaluate a larger pool of individuals with more refined metrics. Our internal data indicates that the game has been adopted in virtually every country with a McKinsey office. The comprehensive global deployment was finalized during the 2020 recruiting season, with many key markets initiating the rollout from January to June of that year.

Since 2022, the use of the Solve Game has extended beyond office applications. Candidates are also required to complete the game as a prerequisite for certain recruiting events, such as the McKinsey Women’s Leadership Summit.

In terms of the roles it applies to, the game is obligatory for all practice areas, including Generalist Consulting, Operations and Implementation, Research & Analytics, Digital, among others. The only exception, as of now, appears to be Orphoz , a McKinsey subsidiary specializing in transformations, which has not yet incorporated the Imbellus games.

Additionally, it’s noteworthy that senior and professional hires are often exempt from this requirement.

Timing of the Imbellus in the McKinsey Recruiting Process

Upon successful screening of your consulting cover letter and resume, you’ll be sent an email with a link to the Imbellus assessment. You have the flexibility to choose when to take the test, provided it’s within 7 calendar days of receiving the link, for most candidates.

However, in some offices and regions, you might be notified earlier (up to a month in advance) about your deadline for the test. In certain cases, you might even be required to visit the office for the test, which could coincide with your case interviews.

It’s advisable to begin preparing for the Imbellus as early as possible to develop and refine the skills evaluated in the assessment.

Post-Game Process: Waiting for Results

If you take the test remotely, the notification period to learn if you’ve passed and can proceed to the interview stage typically ranges from 1 to 14 days, though this can vary based on the office and the volume of candidates. The longest wait reported by one of our candidates was two months, an outlier, with the average wait time usually under a week. Some offices in Asia recruit continuously but only finalize decisions on Solve Game results on specific dates, potentially extending wait times. If you need a quicker response due to another job offer, contacting HR can often expedite the process.

If the Imbellus is taken in conjunction with the first round of interviews, such as in Germany, your game performance will be evaluated alongside your interview results. Different offices place varying levels of emphasis on the assessment’s outcome. For some, it’s an additional factor in the initial interview round, while for others, it acts as a crucial gateway to the interviews. Some offices may also weigh the Solve Game results in conjunction with your application and documents, where a strong resume or referral could potentially compensate for an average game performance.

Requirements to Pass the McKinsey Solve Game

After completing the McKinsey Solve Game, you can gauge your performance even before the official notification.

How to assess your performance?

  • Ecosystem Game : The key is to know whether the ecosystem you created will survive. A quick completion time can be a positive indicator. Creating a sustainable ecosystem in less than 25 minutes generally suggests a good chance of success. Tools like our Excel Solver in combination with the right strategy can assist in predicting ecosystem survival, enabling you to craft a viable solution in under 20 minutes.
  • Red Rock Game : While there’s no explicit benchmark for what constitutes a passing score, drawing parallels from the previous Problem Solving Test’s approximate 70% cutoff, a similar threshold might apply.
  • Plant Defense Game : A strong performance typically involves surviving at least 15 turns per round, with higher numbers like 25 or 30 being ideal. We delve into the implications of these benchmarks in more detail later.

The pass rate for the Solve Game is expected to be similar to or slightly lower than that of the PST. Unofficial pass rates circulating for the Solve Game suggest that only around 20% of candidates successfully pass. With thorough preparation and a clear strategy, this success rate can be increased to over 80%.

McKinsey has conducted extensive beta testing with a large pool of applicants and internal staff to fine-tune the Imbellus assessment. Over time, as more candidates become familiar with the test and preparation efforts intensify, we see a trend of score inflation due to better-prepared candidates. In response, Imbellus frequently updates and introduces new games to maintain a level of unpredictability and mitigate the effects of overpreparation.

There is a reason why our current preparation package is already version 20 in just 4 years.

The Skills Assessed by the McKinsey Solve Game

The McKinsey Solve Game, while not requiring specific business knowledge like the traditional pen-and-paper assessments, focuses on evaluating similar cognitive abilities and problem-solving skills in a gamified context. To excel in the game, candidates need to:

  • Understand the skills tested : Gain a deep understanding of what each game assesses.
  • Learn effective preparation methods : Master the right techniques and strategies to win.

The 8 Core Skills Assessed by Imbellus Games

The games aim to create a comprehensive profile of your skills across various domains. Every keystroke and mouse movement is captured and analyzed to evaluate your performance, which is reflected in both a product score and a process score. The assessment goes beyond just the outcomes; it also focuses on the cognitive dynamics behind your decisions, your adaptability to changing scenarios, and your approach to error correction.

To score well, it’s crucial to optimize both scores and understand the diverse factors influencing the outcomes in each game scenario.

The key skills assessed, which are not officially communicated by either McKinsey or Imbellus, include:

  • Critical thinking : Ability to form logical judgments from a set of facts both in the qualitative and quantitative realm.
  • Decision making : Skill in choosing the most effective course of action from multiple options.
  • Meta-cognition : Using strategies to simplify learning and problem-solving (e.g., hypothesis testing, note-taking).
  • Situational awareness : Understanding the interrelationships between various factors and predicting scenario outcomes.
  • Systems thinking : Grasping cause-and-effect relationships involving multiple factors and feedback loops, including foreseeing multiple layers of consequences.
  • Cognition : The capacity to memorize, process, store, and integrate new information with existing knowledge for later retrieval.
  • Adaptability : Flexibility in altering actions and strategies to accommodate new situations or changing conditions.
  • Creativity : Inventiveness in developing unique solutions, approaches, and ideas for various problems.

the image displays the 8 core skills evaluated by mckinsey in the solve game

The McKinsey Solve Game employs advanced data science techniques to meticulously track and analyze each candidate’s actions, offering a comprehensive assessment of their abilities. This digital format provides a wealth of insights into candidates’ skills, leveraging the vast amount of data collected and calibrated from thousands of applicants over time.

This digital assessment method enables McKinsey to observe candidates’ thought processes in a manner akin to traditional consulting interviews but with greater efficiency and depth. It’s a sophisticated approach that goes beyond just the outcomes, focusing on understanding how candidates think, analyze, and solve problems in real-time scenarios.

Demonstrating Key Skills in the McKinsey Solve Game

Maximizing your performance in the McKinsey Solve Game involves showcasing a range of skills through your actions and decision-making processes within the game. Here’s how you can demonstrate these essential skills:

  • Critical thinking : Exhibit your ability to sift through large datasets, discard irrelevant information, analyze crucial data, and synthesize your findings to devise optimal solutions. This should be done systematically and methodically both for qualitative decisions and quantitative problems.
  • Decision making : The game analyzes your decision-making process by tracking the time spent in each game menu and section, and how you form recommendations based on this data.
  • Metacognition : While not directly trackable, your choice of paths and tools in navigating the game can reveal your metacognitive strategies – how you process and approach the games.
  • Situational awareness : Demonstrate your understanding of the game’s elements, objectives, available options, and time constraints.
  • Systems thinking : Show your ability to recognize interdependencies within the game’s parameters, such as aligning the food chain characteristics with the appropriate location in the ecosystem game.
  • Adaptability : Particularly important in games like the plant defense game, where you need to adjust to changing scenarios and strategies.
  • Cognition : Utilize your skills in memorizing, storing, integrating, and retrieving information as needed throughout the game.
  • Creativity : McKinsey values innovative approaches. Display your ability to deviate from conventional methods and find unique solutions to the challenges.

To optimize both your product and process scores, it’s also crucial to have a clear understanding of the various games included in the assessment and their specific requirements. This knowledge allows you to tailor your strategies and approaches effectively to each unique scenario, thereby enhancing your overall performance.

Combine your Solve Game preparation with our McKinsey Interview Academy.

the image is the cover of the ready for mcKinsey Case Interview Consulting video academy

The Current Games of the McKinsey Solve Game

The McKinsey Solve Game typically allocates a total of 70 minutes for completion, dividing this time equally with 35 minutes dedicated to each of the two games. This standard timing, however, has not always been the case. In the past, the duration varied among candidates, ranging from 60 to 81 minutes, depending on the specific requirements of the tasks at hand.

An integral part of the McKinsey Solve Game experience is the inclusion of untimed tutorial sessions before each game. These tutorials are invaluable for candidates, as they provide a detailed introduction to the games, explaining their mechanics and objectives. The length of these tutorials is flexible, allowing candidates to take as much time as needed to fully grasp the concepts and strategies required for the games. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the game’s intricacies.

Once the actual timed games commence, candidates need to be aware that these cannot be paused. This aspect of the game adds a layer of complexity, emphasizing the importance of effective time management. Candidates need to be well-prepared and focused from the start, as the non-pausable nature of the games demands continuous engagement and strategic thinking throughout the allotted time. This dynamic is crucial in testing candidates’ ability to efficiently navigate and solve problems under time constraints.

Focus on Environmental Topics with Many Evolutions

The McKinsey Problem Solving Game, known for its focus on environmental themes, has seen a series of evolutions and variations since its introduction. Originally, the game included two distinct scenarios: Ecosystem Creation and Plant Defense. However, feedback starting from August 2020 suggested changes in these scenarios. Some candidates encountered a variation of the Ecosystem Creation along with the Disease identification game, instead of the usual Plant Defense game. It’s important to note that in these cases, the Disease Identification was not used for scoring but rather for future calibration of the Imbellus test.

In 2021, a new scenario focused on Migration Planning was introduced to the game. Yet, by the end of 2022, indications emerged that this scenario had been discontinued. McKinsey’s approach to introducing new games and variations appears strategic and careful. Over the last three years, six different games have been featured in the assessment. However, consistent with McKinsey’s methodology in their consulting interviews, the introduction of new scenarios or variations of existing games is primarily for beta testing and calibration. These new elements are not immediately used to evaluate candidates but to ensure consistency in results and skill assessments over time.

As of March 2023, the two scenarios that candidates face are the Ecosystem Creation and the Red Rock Study Game. Every candidate since then has encountered these games, making them the current standard in the Problem Solving Game.

Watch this space as we always update the article and our preparation package as soon as the next evolution is launched by McKinsey.

Let’s take a deeper look at the different games.

Ecosystem Creation

the image shows a screenshot from the mckinsey ecosystem creation game

The Ecosystem game, often referred to as the Ecosystem Building or Ecosystem Creation game, has been a cornerstone of the McKinsey Problem Solving Game. It is the only game that is still part of the Solve Game lineup since the very beginning, albeit with a couple of minor variations.

We’ll explore proven strategies to succeed in the Imbellus Ecosystem Simulation, highlighting how to effectively balance your ecosystem.

In this game, you are placed on an island (either in the reef, the jungle, or on a mountain ridge) and tasked with establishing a sustainable ecosystem in a chosen location. The primary objectives are twofold:

  • Create a sustainable chain : You need to select 8 species out of 39 that together form a sustainable ecosystem.
  • Find a suitable location : Determine the best location for this ecosystem on a map.

These tasks must be completed within a 35-minute timeframe.

The game begins with a tutorial that is untimed, providing an opportunity to understand the game mechanics.

At the core, the game is an optimization problem. You will be confronted with an overload of different data points (similar to the McKinsey Problem Solving Test, yet not business-related). You match the location to the species as well as the species with each other based on many different characteristics such as calorie need or provision and environmental requirements such as temperature, sun exposure, etc. All requirements need to be fulfilled at the same time to create and sustainable ecosystem and to successfully pass this game.

There are 2 parts:

First, you need to pick 8 species, either animal or plant, to inhabit the mountain, reef, or jungle location. Selecting a suitable, heterogeneous sample for the food chain relationship out of the numerous species is crucial. You need to account for the interaction effects between the species (e.g., coral, aquatic animals, algae, etc. in the reef) and several individual characteristics such as the required environment, place in the food chain, how many calories they need to survive, or how much energy they need, how many calories or energy they provide when consumed, etc.

Second, you need to decide on the location of the ecosystem to create good living conditions for several species. You need to consider several characteristics of the location such as altitude, cloud height, ph-level of the soil, wind speeds, precipitation, etc. for the mountain ridge or depth, temperature, salinity, etc. for the coral reef.

The catch in this game is that you are presented with information overload and need to show proper systems thinking. The food chain must not collapse, and the ecosystem must sustain itself. You will know if you have provided a good answer before submitting it since you can test your hypotheses to see if the ecosystem can actually sustain itself.

In the summer of 2020, McKinsey started to introduce new boundary conditions to make the game more challenging. For instance, you not only need to create the food chain with several levels and match it with a location but also adhere to certain new rules related to the hierarchy of the food chain. This twist adds another dimension you need to consider when drafting your solution.

There are several ways how to approach this scenario, which we worked on with our candidates and created an Excel sheet that helps you solve the eco-system puzzle. Below is a high-level approach you can use when going into the game.

What you need to know when approaching the species selection

  • Selecting 8 species : From a set of 39 animals, you must choose 8. These species include 9 producers (like corals and algae) and 30 animals (such as sharks, tuna, etc.). Producers consume natural resources and do not require calories, while animals consume other organisms and require calories for survival.
  • Environmental conditions : Species are divided into three environmental ranges, each with specific environmental characteristics like depth and temperature. For instance, depth may be categorized into ranges such as 11-15m, 16-21m, and 22-27m.
  • Distribution of species : In each environmental range, you’ll find 3 producers and 10 animals. Your final ecosystem should consist of species all from the same range.

Having this key insight into the food chain mechanics in the McKinsey Ecosystem Game can be a significant advantage. As this information isn’t explicitly communicated by McKinsey, most candidates would typically need to deduce these details during the game, consuming valuable time within the 35-minute limit. However, being aware of this beforehand allows you to approach the game with a more informed strategy.

  • Start with producers : Knowing the calorie dynamics, you can begin by selecting a set of producers that not only share the same location characteristics but also provide the right amount of calories for enough animals. This understanding narrows down your options significantly, reducing the initial choice of 39 animals to a more manageable 10.
  • Focus on the right producers : Identifying the correct set of producers is crucial, as they form the foundation of your food chain. Choosing the right producers simplifies the subsequent steps in creating a sustainable ecosystem.

In our McKinsey Solve Game Guide , we delve deeper into these strategies, offering a step-by-step approach to solve the Ecosystem Creation game efficiently – in less than 20 minutes. Our guide is designed to streamline your process, ensuring you can focus on building a viable ecosystem without getting bogged down by the multitude of options.

We also provide an Excel Solver tool as part of the guide. This tool is immensely helpful in assessing the sustainability of your ecosystem. It aids in determining whether the food chain you’ve created can sustain itself, saving you the trial-and-error time during the game. Additionally, the Excel Solver can suggest instantly which set of producers is most likely to support a survivable food chain, further enhancing your ability to make quick and effective decisions in the game.

The game intricately simulates a natural food chain, requiring you to strategically link species as either food sources or predators to create a sustainable ecosystem. Here’s a breakdown of how this works and how you can effectively create a sustainable chain:

1. Species interactions:

Each species in the game has relationships with others – as either a predator or a food source. For instance, a Blue Jay might be preyed upon by a Shark, while it feeds on Yellow Fish.

2. Caloric dynamics:

Every species is assigned specific caloric values: calories provided and calories needed.These caloric values are crucial in determining which species from the available 13 you should select to form your final ecosystem of 8. The moment you select your 3 producers, you are only left with choosing 5 animals out of 10. A much easier task than before.

3. Eating rules and algorithm to test your sustainability:

The game outlines essential rules about the feeding mechanism. The key rules include:

  • The species with the highest ‘calories provided’ value eats first.
  • It consumes the species offering the highest caloric value as a food source. In the case of ties, it splits its consumption 50/50.
  • Consumption reduces the ‘calories provided’ by the prey by the amount of ‘calories needed’ by the predator. A species needs non-zero ‘calories provided’ to survive, and all its ‘calories needed’ should be zero after feeding.
  • After the first species feeds, the next one with the highest ‘calories provided’ follows suit, and the process repeats.

4. Ensuring chain sustainability:

It’s crucial to ensure each animal receives adequate calories from its food source and that no species depletes its ‘calories provided’ to zero. If a species either doesn’t receive enough calories or depletes its own, the chain becomes unsustainable, leading to failure in the game.

To quickly and efficiently establish a sustainable chain, you must:

  • Carefully analyze caloric values : Assess the ‘calories provided’ and ‘calories needed’ for each species to determine the feeding order and the sustainability of the chain.
  • Ensure continuity : Verify that every animal in your chain is connected and that there’s continuity in the food chain.
  • Balance the ecosystem : Maintain a balance where no species runs out of calories while ensuring each one’s dietary needs are met.

By following these steps and paying close attention to the caloric requirements and relationships between species as well as the eating rules algorithm about who eats first, second, third, etc., you can successfully create a sustainable food chain within way less than the allotted time in the McKinsey Ecosystem Game.

Once you have successfully identified the 8 species for your ecosystem, the next critical step is to choose an appropriate location for this ecosystem on the island.

What you need to know when approaching the location selection

How to Approach the Location Selection:

  • Navigating the map : The game presents you with a map where you can use your cursor to explore different potential locations for your ecosystem.
  • Analyzing location conditions : Each location on the map comes with seven different environmental conditions. However, not all of these conditions are relevant to your task. Your focus should be on the variables that you identified as important in the previous step while choosing your species, usually just 2 to 4 variables.
  • Identifying relevant variables : Recall the parameters you noted earlier for each species. These are the variables you need to match in the location selection process.
  • Utilizing the interface for matching : As you hover your cursor over different locations on the map, you can refer to the top-right menu on your screen. This menu displays the environmental variables at the current cursor position. You need to check if they are all within the required range for your selected species. If you approach this effectively, you can do this in less than 1 minute.

By methodically checking these variables and finding a location that aligns with the environmental requirements of your 8 species, you can complete this task efficiently. Proper selection of species in the first task significantly simplifies this process, allowing you to quickly identify a suitable location without getting distracted by irrelevant data.

This streamlined approach helps ensure that your ecosystem is not only sustainable in terms of species interdependence but also well-suited to the chosen location’s environmental conditions.

Red Rock Study Simulation

the image introduces the mckinsey red rock game

The Red Rock Study game has become a staple in the McKinsey Solve Game lineup, replacing the Plant Defense game for all candidates since March 2023. This game marks a shift towards a more conventional analysis and problem-solving context, reminiscent of the approach used in older BCG Online Cases. Despite the game casting you in the role of a researcher, the tasks closely resemble those undertaken by a typical consultant. The game is designed to assess abilities like information processing, data collection, mathematical calculations (involving growth rates, averages, and percentages), and the interpretation of exhibits.

The game is divided into two main sections, the Study Section and the Case Section, each with distinct tasks and objectives, and you have a total of 35 minutes to navigate through them.

The Study Section

The Study Section consists of a three-step process:

Investigation Stage : Here, you are presented with an objective for your research, accompanied by data in various formats such as text, tables, and charts. Your primary task in this stage is to identify and gather insightful, relevant data, which you then record in your on-screen research journal.

  • Objective and data collection : You start by receiving text, graphs, and tables, along with a specific objective for your research. Your task is to sift through this information.
  • Selective data gathering : Key information can be dragged and dropped into your Research Journal, located on the right-hand side of the screen. It’s important to discern which data is relevant and avoid unnecessary information.
  • Preparation for analysis : Once you’ve collected all the relevant information, you proceed to the Analysis phase.

Analysis Stage : This stage involves answering three mathematical questions related to your research objective. You have access to an on-screen calculator for computations, but the main challenge lies in developing the correct approach and filtering the right data. There’s flexibility to move back and forth between the Investigation and Analysis stages, allowing you to retrieve any additional information you might need.

  • Mathematical questions : This phase presents 3 to 5 math questions, usually pertaining to different groups of animals.
  • Using tools : An embedded calculator is provided for calculations. The tricky part is setting up the right calculations and equations. You’ll also refer back to the data collected in your Research Journal to answer these questions.
  • Drag-and-drop feature: Also here, you need to drag and drop information to create your calculations and move your answers around.

Report Stage : The final stage requires you to synthesize your findings by filling in the blanks of a report and presenting them effectively. This latter involves summarizing your research and choosing an appropriate chart to visually represent your supporting data.

  • Combination of Written and Visual Tasks : This phase includes a written section and a visual representation task.
  • Written part : Answer questions based on your findings from the Analysis phase by filling in the blanks of a report text.
  • Visual part : Select and create a graph to effectively represent your analysis results.

After completing the Report, you transition to the final section of the Red Rock Study game, known as the Cases Phase.

The Case Section

In March 2023, McKinsey introduced a significant update to the Red Rock Study assessment, adding a new mini-case component. This new section includes 6 to 10 quantitative reasoning questions, each associated with the context of the study segment, yet distinct in terms of data and information.

The introduction of the mini-case has notably increased the assessment’s complexity. Candidates now face the dual challenge of completing both the study part and the case questions within a consolidated time frame of 35 minutes. This is a marked change from the previous format, where the time limit was solely allocated to the study segment. The recommended approach is to divide the time equally between the two parts, emphasizing efficient time management.

The quantitative reasoning questions in the mini case require strong quantitative and analytical skills. Candidates must swiftly interpret information presented in various charts and textual sources, perform calculations accurately, and derive correct answers. The added time pressure necessitates not only quick thinking but also precision in analysis and calculations.

Given these heightened demands, thorough preparation and practice become even more crucial. Familiarizing oneself with quick data interpretation and ways to set up calculations under time constraints is highly advantageous. Such preparation mirrors the real-world demands of consulting, where professionals are often required to process complex information rapidly and make informed decisions under pressure.

We cover this game and 6 practice tests in more detail in our McKinsey Solve Game Guide .

the image shows the solve game bundle

Each phase of the Red Rock game is designed to mimic real-world consulting tasks, testing your ability to process information, perform quantitative analysis, and present findings coherently. The game challenges you to filter through data, apply mathematical concepts, and communicate results clearly, skills that are essential in a consulting environment. By understanding the structure and requirements of each phase, you can better prepare and strategically navigate through this component of the McKinsey Solve Game.

The Red Rock game, with its business-like analysis and structured approach to problem-solving, tests a range of skills that are directly applicable to the world of consulting. It challenges candidates to not only understand and interpret data but also to apply it effectively in a simulated research context. The game’s emphasis on analytical thinking, data interpretation, and effective communication of findings mirrors the skills required for a successful career in consulting.

The integration of the Red Rock Study game into the McKinsey Solve Game lineup signifies a notable shift in McKinsey’s approach to candidate assessment. This change not only diverges from McKinsey’s previous game-based assessment strategies but also aligns more closely with the types of evaluations commonly used by other consulting firms.

In that sense, it is much more a problem-solving test rather than a game.

The demand for information for this game was so big, that we dedicated a full-length article to it here.

Creating a Strategy for the Red Rock

Developing an effective strategy for the Red Rock Study game is essential to successfully navigate its complexities. We have crafted a four-step approach to optimize your performance in the game:

1. Understanding the Objective (Investigation Stage)

  • Interpretation is key : Begin by carefully reading and interpreting the objective of the game. Understanding what is expected of you is crucial in setting the right direction for your investigation.
  • Clarity of goals : Ensure you have a clear grasp of what the game is asking you to accomplish. This understanding will guide your decisions and actions throughout the different stages of the game.

2. Identifying Relevant Data (Investigation Stage)

  • Data selection : Amidst the plethora of information provided, focus on identifying and prioritizing data that is directly relevant to the game’s objective.
  • Efficient data gathering : Aim to distinguish between essential information and potential distractors. Collecting the right data in your Research Journal will streamline your analysis process.

3. Conducting the Analysis (Analysis Stage)

  • Strategic analysis : Set up and execute your analysis and calculations. This step involves applying the data you’ve gathered to solve the problems posed in the game.
  • Accuracy in calculations : Use the provided tools, such as the on-screen calculator, efficiently to ensure your calculations are accurate and relevant to the task at hand.

4. Visualizing the Findings (Report Stage)

  • Effective presentation : Once your analysis is complete, the next step is to report your findings and visualize your data effectively in the Report Stage.
  • Choosing the right format : Select a graph or chart that best represents your findings, making sure it aligns with the narrative of your analysis.

By following these steps, you can create a focused approach to the Red Rock Study game. This strategy helps in navigating the game’s challenges methodically, ensuring that each stage is tackled with precision and clarity. Preparation, practice, and a clear understanding of each stage’s requirements are key to mastering this McKinsey assessment.

For the Red Rock Case Section (and the Study section actually as well), developing a strong proficiency in quantitative reasoning is crucial. This part of the assessment requires you to not only understand and analyze numerical data but also to set up and solve equations swiftly and effectively.

Enhancing Quantitative Reasoning Skills for the Red Rock

  • Practice with quantitative questions : Regularly engage with various types of quantitative reasoning questions. This practice will help you become familiar with different question formats and data interpretation challenges.
  • Efficient equation setup : Focus on setting up equations quickly. This skill is crucial for solving the mathematical problems presented in the game efficiently. Read up on percentages, growth rates, averages – the 3 most common operations found in the game,
  • Speed and accuracy : Balance speed with accuracy. It’s essential to work through questions rapidly, but not at the expense of making careless errors. If you get stuck on one question for too long, move on!
  • Utilize tools effectively : Make the most of the on-screen calculator provided in the game. Familiarize yourself with its functionality to enhance your efficiency during the test.
  • Analytical thinking : Develop your ability to think analytically, particularly in interpreting charts, graphs, and tables, and in drawing conclusions from complex sets of data.
  • Mock tests and timed practice : Engage in timed practice sessions. These simulate the pressure of the actual test and help improve your time management skills.

By honing these skills, you can approach the Red Rock Case Section with greater confidence, speed, and accuracy.

The skills that are needed in this game are much closer to an actual case interview and we would recommend that you also take a look at our articles on

  • Case Interview Math
  • Case Interview Exhibit Interpretation

Be aware that the game is still relatively new and we have seen many iterative changes to new games in the past. As a result, be prepared to encounter minor variations or adaptations when you face the Red Rock simulation.

The Former Games of the McKinsey Solve Game

If you are pressed for time, you can skip this section. If anything changes in the Solve Game lineup, we will adjust this article and our preparation package accordingly.

Plant Defense

the image introduces the mckinsey plant defense game

In this scenario, which was active until March 2023, you need to defend a plant species from invaders using several tools at your disposal in a static, round-based tower defense-style game. The tools consist of barriers that slow down invaders and predators that damage and eradicate them.

In this game, which, for the majority of candidates, is a bit more challenging than the first, you need to defend a plant at the center of a map from an invasive species for as long as possible. This scenario is broken down into 3 rounds. Each round lasts between 8 to 12 minutes, presenting a slight variation of the game with increasing complexity and an increase in the map size. For each round, invaders spawn in several turns per map.

Each round is divided into two parts.

In the first part, you can actively manage your defense strategy in order to react to new invaders that spawn every 3 to 5 turns. You can manage 15 turns by initially placing your defense units on the map, adjusting their positioning after every turn, and selecting new defense units every 5 turns.

Your goal is to have the plants survive each of these increasingly difficult turns. You can slow the invaders down so that they do not arrive at your plant within the number of turns or eliminate them fully before they do so.

In the second part, the endgame, you are no longer able to change your strategy and the placement of your defense units. The game fast-forwards until your plant is defeated. Depending on the quality of your last placement strategy it might take the invaders many turns to kill the plant, ideally more than 30.

Your goal is to optimize for the plant to survive as many turns as possible. Your product score is the direct result of the turns survived, while your process score focuses on how well you adjust to the changing behaviors of attackers and how much you can learn and adapt over the course of the turns and over the course of the 3 rounds.

In order to do this, you need to choose certain animals that eat the invasive species and natural barriers/ terrain to slow them down and block them, in a static and turn-based environment, contrary to most other tower defense games that are dynamic.

You are presented with information about what each tool such as animals or geographical/terrain barriers can do, e.g., how many invasive species an animal can kill in a given time or how much a forest can slow the invaders down. These animals have different stats in terms of their reach/sphere of influence (shown as squares) as well as the damage that they are able to inflict on the invaders.

For instance, there could be a dog and an eagle as animals. The eagle has a large radius and inflicts less damage whereas the dog has high damage but a smaller range of effectiveness (e.g., one square only). Some animals have a large radius and high damage (usually during the last game). The damage inflicted might also differ depending on the type of invader. The barriers are elements such as mountains, rocks, and forests. Mountains block invaders and make them change their pathway toward the plant (ideally make the pathway longer). Rocks and forests slow invaders down (different effectiveness for different invaders)

The invaders will start attacking the plants once they reach it in the middle and the game ends.

While initially, you will be able to kill the invaders, they will show up in greater numbers in each consecutive wave and it is possible that you will be defeated. This is not, per se, a bad thing since it will die eventually in the fast-forward mode of the game. Keep the plant alive for as long as possible.

The aim is to defend the plant in the center for as long as possible, hence, to kill all invaders before they reach the plant. It is very important to make use of both defending animals and barriers to unlock their synergistic effects and keep the invaders as long as possible in the sphere of influence of the animals.

Use the untimed tutorial to think about the most effective combinations and layouts of the tools before starting the game. Prepare using video games in the tower defense niche to train yourself for this scenario. The key in this game is to show adaptability by being able to learn quickly and improve your strategies and reactions with each turn and with each game.

Creating a strategy

Let’s again break down your approach into several steps.

  • Familiarize yourself with the map
  • Create your initial strategy
  • Focus on new invaders first
  • Secure the plant from future attacks
  • Adjust your strategy as the game evolves

We discuss each step, variation, and successful start-to-finish strategy in full in our McKinsey Solve Game Guide , which has been co-created with the help of tower defense game designers, who developed games for iOS and Android.

Disease Identification

the image is a screenshot of the imbellus disease and disaster identification game

It seems that McKinsey reintroduced a game briefly that was already present in the beta testing stages of the PSG, with a slight variation. It replaced the tower defense game for roughly 5% of the candidates over the course of late 2020 and early 2021. By June 2021, it appears that the game never really made it out of the testing stage and we have not heard about any reappearance in 2022. Nonetheless, let’s look into them since we cannot guarantee that they won’t come back in one form or another.

As a player, you are tasked with  identifying which animals on the map will be infected by a given disease . The nature of the disease is not important. What is important is to identify patterns of the disease and ultimately identify which animals would be infected in the next turn.

The game has many animals on the map. There are also three time periods, which they call Time 1, Time 2, and Time 3. In Time 1, a small subset of animals is already infected. When you click on Time 2, that same map will show which additional animals got infected. Your goal is to identify which animals will get infected in Time 3. The approach to this game is relatively simple:

  • Figure out what the key variables are that could give a hint about the disease progression.
  • Create an array of different filters and look at them through different points in time to see the changes in the animal population.
  • Move to time 3 and select the next animals that will be affected by the disease based on your tested hypotheses from step 2 (e.g., if you know that all animals above 6 years are affected by the disease and in time 3 there are 20 new animals that are above 6 years of age, select them)

Contrary to the old version which was used in beta tests before the game was actually launched, you do not need to provide a remedy or a treatment plan.

Disaster Identification

Another game has not made a new appearance since 2021. In this game, candidates had to figure out the nature of a natural disaster impacting an animal population and then place the animals on another area of the map so that the most number of animals survive. The mechanics are similar to the ecosystem game.

In this game, you can display three things, a map, species, and a list of events. You can tackle the game in 4 steps:

  • Identify what event has happened in an area (a natural disaster such as a tornado or a flood) by combining information from an event description with variables on the screen.
  • Identify dominant ranges to move the animals to an area that is best suited for their survival.
  • Select the location by clicking on it and check for the relevant ranges you identified before. Prioritize characteristics that allow for the greatest number of animals to survive.
  • Sanity check your selection in a similar manner as for the ecosystem game.

Migration Planning

the image depicts the mckinsey imbellus migration management game

A new game was briefly tested in 2022. We call it the Migration Planning game.

Your task is to plan the migration of 30 to 50 animals from a starting position to an endpoint on a map by selecting the best route out of several alternatives.

You have to solve up to 15 different scenarios within 35 to 40 minutes. Each scenario consists of 3 to 5 turns that have you decide on the next step of your route. In turn 1 you select the first step on your route, in turn, 2, the second leg, and so on until you reach the desired endpoint.

You start with a given number of animals and a specific set of resources (consumables such as food or water). With each turn of the game, a predetermined number of animals will die, and resources will be reduced by a specific amount, depending on your selected route. Alternatively, you can also select intermediate points on your route that will replenish and multiply existing resources as well as collect additional animals along the way.

The objective of the game is two-fold: First, you need to ensure that the highest number of animals survive until you reach the destination. Second, you need to arrive at the endpoint with some of the resources preserved as well. As said before, there are up to 15 different scenarios with 3 to 5 turns each, which leads to 45 to 75 unique decisions you must make along the way.

Organize the migration of 30 to 50 animals from one spot to the next by managing resources and animals from start to finish in 3 to 5 turns. Select the most optimal route to preserve resources and animals along the way and pass 15 rounds in total.

Map the routes on a piece of paper or in an Excel sheet.

  • Write down each available route
  • Calculate the outcome variables for resources and animals for every route
  • Select the route where most animals survive and resource requirements are met

We provide you with a specific table and approach that you can use to create your strategy for each route in our McKinsey Solve Game Guide .

Preparing for the McKinsey Solve Game

Addressing the critical question: Is it beneficial to prepare for the Imbellus test, despite official advisories suggesting otherwise? The answer is a resounding yes.

Why preparation is crucial:

  • Significant impact on outcomes : Our data indicates that preparation can dramatically increase your chances of success, from a 20% to an 80% success rate. This is even more pronounced than with the old PST, as the games in the Imbellus are more predictable than a traditional pen-and-paper test.
  • Consequences of failure : Failing the Imbellus test results in a 2-year ban from reapplying to McKinsey (1 year for internships). Post-ban, you must demonstrate substantial improvements in your consulting cover letter and resume .
  • Learnable skills : While McKinsey suggests that the games can’t be prepared for, Imbellus emphasizes that their games assess higher-order thinking skills, which are typically acquired through education, training, and experience.
  • Gaming experience matters : Familiarity with computer games and digital environments can provide an advantage in a video game-based assessment. This introduces a different kind of bias in candidate evaluation, which can be mitigated by employing effective strategies.

Understanding the games and their objectives is key to effective preparation. Knowing what each game assesses, and the skills it targets, allows you to focus your preparation on enhancing those specific abilities. Additionally, familiarizing yourself with the gaming environment and practicing similar types of games can improve your comfort level and performance during the assessment.

While McKinsey advises candidates that preparation for the Imbellus game is neither necessary nor feasible, our extensive feedback collection from over 500 candidates we talked to suggests otherwise. In fact, thorough preparation can significantly enhance performance in the game’s various scenarios.

To aid candidates, we have meticulously analyzed the test, consulted with game design experts, and applied science-backed methods to develop a comprehensive guide detailing the game’s mechanics. Here are some overarching strategies to lay the groundwork for your preparation:

Imbellus Game Practice

Train the key skills that are being assessed  by Imbellus. Playing logic games, mobile games, and tower defense games with similar themes can be beneficial to training these areas specifically. While these games will differ somewhat in their user interface, objectives, and mechanics they still train your skills, make you think about potential strategies, and just get you in the habit of interacting with a gamified environment. If you have sufficient time before taking the Imbellus, try out some of the games below to practice the Imbellus gameplay.

Games for the Ecosystem and Migration Planning

  • Plague Inc. – if you have limited time, focus on this game
  • Cities: Skylines

Games for the Plant Defense

  • Tower Duel – if you have limited time, focus on this game
  • Kingdom Rush
  • Plants vs. Zombies

Preparation for the Red Rock

Focusing on quantitative reasoning tests is an excellent way to prepare for the McKinsey Solve Game, particularly for the Red Rock Study section. Here are some effective ways to enhance your quantitative reasoning skills:

  • GMAT Quantitative Reasoning : The quantitative reasoning sections of the GMAT are a great resource to start with. They offer a wide range of problems that can improve your ability to analyze data, perform calculations, and make logical deductions under time constraints.
  • Red Rock Practice Tests : We have developed specialized practice tests specifically designed to mirror the challenges you will face in the Red Rock Study game. These tests are tailored to give you a realistic experience of what to expect during the actual game.
  • Additional Quantitative Reasoning Resources : For those seeking more extensive practice in quantitative reasoning, we provide a comprehensive question bank in our Bain SOVA Guide . This bank contains hundreds of questions similar to those you might encounter in the game.
  • Case Math Mastery Package : This package is another valuable resource that focuses on developing your case math skills. It is particularly useful for candidates who want to strengthen their ability to handle numerical data and complex calculations efficiently.

By incorporating these resources into your preparation plan, you can significantly improve your quantitative reasoning abilities. This will not only aid you in the Red Rock Study game but also enhance your overall problem-solving skills, which are crucial for a successful case interview performance.

General Preparation Advice

Enhancing your performance in the McKinsey Imbellus Game involves more than just playing similar games. It requires a multifaceted approach that focuses on developing key skills and strategies.

Approach each decision methodically and develop a plan for tackling each decision. A step-by-step decision-making process helps in making more deliberate and thoughtful choices, increasing the likelihood of selecting the most effective solution.

  • Identify the decision : Clearly define what you need to decide. Understand the primary goal and any additional objectives.
  • Gather information : Collect relevant information needed for the decision. Identify the best sources and methods for acquiring this data.
  • Identify alternatives : As you gather information, recognize various possible courses of action.
  • Weigh the evidence : Consider the potential outcomes of each alternative based on the information you have.
  • Choose among alternatives : Select the option that seems best after weighing all the evidence.
  • Review your decision : Reflect on the decision’s outcome and assess if it addressed your initial goal.

Learn to take proper notes and document your observations about each scenario’s mechanics. Using tools like Excel templates can help structure your thoughts and find solutions more efficiently.

Develop skills in structuring, analyzing, and synthesizing complex issues. Combine logical thinking with creativity to formulate effective recommendations.

Adopt a hypothesis-driven mindset. Start each game with one or more hypotheses, then test and refine them as you progress. This approach helps in focusing your analysis and quickly deriving recommendations.

Visualize processes and relationships. Practice creating quick sketches to visualize situations, processes, and relationships. This skill is particularly useful in unfamiliar scenarios and helps in breaking down complex issues.

Practice estimations and setting up equations. Engage in exercises that improve your quick math skills. These are essential in all games, from calculating calorie budgets in the ecosystem game to determining damage points and optimal routes in others. Become familiar again with basic equations, ratios, growth rates, and averages.

Test-taking Tips and Advice

To excel in the McKinsey Imbellus Game and enhance your test performance, consider the following insights into McKinsey’s innovative recruitment game. These guidelines are designed to help you navigate the unique challenges of the game effectively:

Avoid replicating solutions : Each test taker encounters unique scenarios and numbers in the Imbellus game. The games are set in ecological contexts, making them accessible to all backgrounds, but with thousands of possible variations, no two experiences are identical. Focus on your strategy and process rather than trying to replicate specific results.

Make decisions with incomplete information and practice 80/20 decision-making : Often, you won’t have time to reach the perfect answer in the ecosystem game. Aim for a good answer that demonstrates a sound problem-solving strategy and fulfills the objectives. Avoid getting lost in excessive details and consider writing down various outcomes to test your ideas.

Read instructions thoroughly and understand the tasks : Overcoming challenges in the McKinsey Solve Game requires a deep understanding of the game’s objectives. With the increasing variety of game scenarios, it’s crucial to read and comprehend all instructions. A missed detail can make your approach invalid. Ensure clarity on your objectives before proceeding.

Ensure a stable test environment and check your setup : If taking the test from home, ensure a reliable internet connection and a fully charged computer. Some candidates have reported high CPU usage; consider using a more powerful system if needed. Remember, you can always contact the 24/7 Imbellus service center for any issues during the test.

Monitor time closely and manage it well : The complexity and depth of the games can make it easy to lose track of time. Keep a close eye on the time, aiming to allocate the right amount of time for each step of the way (e.g., 15 minutes for the ecosystem species and 2 minutes). The progress bar will help you monitor the remaining time. Have pre-determined time goals that you execute if they are met (e.g., only taking 2 minutes to think about a quantitative reasoning question in the Red Rock).

Elevate Your Score with Our Comprehensive Preparation Package

Preparing for McKinsey’s recruitment game: Tips and strategies included in this comprehensive guide to mastering the Imbellus game are designed to give applicants a competitive edge. Unlock your potential to ace the Imbellus game with our comprehensive Solve Game preparation package. It comes with

  • a 147-page guidebook with best practices for McKinsey digital assessment preparation
  • an Excel Solver for the Ecosystem Creation
  • a 14-part video series
  • 6 Red Rock full-length practice tests
  • a McKinsey case interview and PEI interview primer

The package gives you the definite edge in your preparation and test-taking, detailing winning strategies for the Ecosystem in less than 20 minutes and ample practice opportunities for the Red Rock Game. Gain immediate access to PDFs, Excel tools, templates, and video content, ensuring you’re up-to-date with McKinsey’s evolving assessment criteria.

Since November 2019, we’ve led with first-hand information, starting with interviews with early test-takers and experts. Our ongoing customer interviews have built a vast database, aiding over 8500 candidates in 70+ countries. We regularly update our guide, offering you the latest insights. On top of that, our team, comprised of ex-McKinsey consultants and interviewers, brings deep insights into McKinsey’s evaluation criteria, surpassing the generic advice found elsewhere.

Six pillars of our strategy:

  • Understanding McKinsey’s criteria : As former McKinsey consultants and interviewers, we grasp what McKinsey seeks in their next-gen consultants.
  • In-depth scenario analysis : Learn the nuances of user interfaces and gameplay mechanics.
  • Skill development : We cover the core skills with actionable advice and practice resources.
  • Effective test strategies and shortcuts : Benefit from proven strategies and tools, derived from successful candidate experiences, meticulously refined over 4 years.
  • Efficient preparation hacks : Accelerate your readiness with our targeted tips and techniques.
  • Low-cost and accessibility: We are a small team and sell directly to consumers without an intermediary. Hence, we can offer this product at a much lower price than every competitor.

Additional benefits:

  • Exclusive support : Join our McKinsey applicants’ inner circle for 24-hour support on all consulting interview questions. Get access to the world’s leading McKinsey interview coach, who has helped generate almost 200 McKinsey offers for coaching clients in 3 years.
  • Regular updates : Stay ahead with our constant updates and a free 1-year access guarantee.
  • Free McKinsey interview primer : Get a 14-page primer with essential case and PEI preparation tips.
  • FREE BONUS: A 10% discount on the Solve Game Simulation by MConsultingPrep.

Our credentials:

  • Extensive reach : Assisted 8500+ students from 70+ countries over the last 4 years.
  • Rich experience : Built on 500+ test-taker interviews, expert inputs, and McKinsey know-how, 100% proprietary information
  • Comprehensive materials : Includes a 147-page guide, automated Excel Solver, 14 concise videos to get you up to speed quickly, and 6 full-length Red Rock practice tests.

Currently, the package leads to an 87% success rate with our clients ( based on customer feedback from Nov 23 – Jan 24 )

Latest update: February 2024 (includes the new Red Rock Simulation variation and 6 practice tests)

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McKinsey Solve Game Guide (Imbellus) 20th Edition

SALE: $89 / $54


McKinsey Solve Game FAQ

Navigating the McKinsey Solve Game can be a challenging part of your journey towards joining a top-tier consulting firm. To help demystify the process and enhance your preparation, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions. Whether you’re wondering about the skills assessed or looking for the best preparation resources, you’ll find the answers here.

What specific skills does the McKinsey Solve Game assess?

  • The game evaluates problem identification, strategic solution development, decision-making under pressure, adaptability, and quantitative reasoning.

Can you really prepare for the McKinsey digital assessment, and how?

  • Yes, preparation is possible and beneficial. Focusing on having the right tools at your disposal such as an Excel Solver, playing similar simulation games, and developing a strategic approach to problem-solving and quantitative questions can enhance your readiness.

What are the key strategies for succeeding in the ecosystem simulation?

  • Success involves understanding ecosystem balance, prioritizing tasks, managing time effectively, and applying logic to predict the outcomes of different actions.

Are there any official practice tests available for the Imbellus Game?

  • McKinsey does not provide official practice tests, but various online resources and guidebooks offer simulations and strategies that mimic the game scenarios.

How does the Imbellus Game differ from traditional consulting firm recruitment tests?

  • Unlike traditional pen-and-paper tests or computer-based case assessments that focus on business scenarios, the Imbellus Game uses gamified simulations to assess a wider range of problem-solving and strategic thinking skills in diverse contexts.

What resources are recommended for McKinsey Solve Game preparation?

  • Comprehensive guidebooks and videos, strategic game-playing, online forums for candidate experiences, and practicing with games that require similar skill sets are highly recommended.

How important is game familiarity in succeeding in McKinsey’s digital assessment?

  • Familiarity with the game’s format and the types of challenges presented can significantly improve performance by reducing the learning curve and anxiety during the actual assessment.

Can playing similar digital games improve my performance in the Solve Game?

  • Yes, engaging in similar strategy and simulation games can enhance relevant skills such as critical thinking, strategic planning, and decision-making under time constraints.

What is the most challenging aspect of the McKinsey Solve Game, according to past participants?

  • Many participants find the time pressure and the requirement to make strategic decisions with incomplete information to be the most challenging aspects.

How does McKinsey use the Solve Game results in the recruitment process?

  • The results are used alongside resume screenings to provide a holistic view of a candidate’s problem-solving abilities and potential as a consultant, influencing the decision on whether to proceed with the candidate.

We value your feedback and experiences with the McKinsey Solve Game! If you have additional questions, insights, or tips that weren’t covered in this article, please share them in the comments section below.

15 Responses

Hello, thank you for this introduction. I would like to ask about one thing. In the ecosystem… From all 8 species – they have to survive? Or they can be eaten by predators? I understand how to create the food chain, but still…if you create a food chain and the species do not replicate, they will be eaten by predators…

Dear Lenka, All species in the food chain (animals and plants) need to survive. The sum of the calories provided by a species – the sum of calories needed for the predator species should always be positive. Cheers, Florian

hi Florian,

I only have 3 hours before the PSG is due, is it possible or useful to buy the guide given such a short time limit? Thank you

Dear Angelina, 3 hours would be enough to read through the strategy section, watch the videos and familiarize yourself with the Excel. While not ideal and we receommend more time to practice, it would still make sense. Cheers, Florian

[…] using digital badges to recognise learning and, for example, the consultant company McKinsey uses a game during its recruitment process,” adds Nikoletta-Zampeta […]

Hello Florian Daniel or Colleague, I am very pleasantly surprised to see this guide that you have masterfully complied. Having tips from insiders is such a confidence boost! I purchased this pack without hesitation and am hoping to try it out before investing in the comprehensive 6h coaching program. Nonetheless, I wonder if you can email me back by helping me with downloading the actual guide? I encountered a technical issue whereby I completed my payment on my phone, but it became impossible to download it via my laptop. I am very worried as the deadline of the test is approaching so could you please get back to me asap?

Many Thanks Aspiring Consultant

I have just sent you your documents, which also contain access to the video program.

Please let me know if I can assist further.

Kind regards, Florian

Hi, how long would you suggest I prepare for the McKinsey digital assessment test after purchasing the digital assessment guide? 2 weeks? 4 weeks?

Hi Emmanuel,

We have candidates that prepare between 2 days and 1 month. The shorter your preparation time, the more your focus should be on learning the proven strategies we outline in our guide (so that you can implement them properly on the game day) and go through and practice the most effective and important tools we provide you with to quickly raise your skill levels.

Obviously, when you have more time on your hands, you can prepare in a much more relaxed way and go deeper with all our exercises and tools. Generally, I would say that 2 weeks is the sweet spot we have seen with our candidates and it is rare for them to fail after they have gone through all exercises and tools, practiced the preparation tips, and have our game-plan and strategies internalized over this time period.

4 weeks would give you enough time to prepare without a rush, and in parallel to the case interview practice. In any case, should something change in the game between your purchase and the testing date, we will send you a new version of the guide and the videos free of charge!

Let me know if you have any further questions!

All the best for your preparation and your application.

I heard that there are also other games that could be part of the PSG like predicting and preventing an environmental disaster. Are you sure that there are ‘only’ the 2 two games you describe?

Hi Luiz, we talk briefly about these potential other scenarios in our Problem Solving Game Guide. Be aware that they were used during the trial stages in 2018/19 only and none of our more than 700 customers has reported on them pro-actively. From the 80+ customers we interviewed since November 2019, all went solely through the ecosystem game and the tower defense-like game. In the ecosystem game, recent candidates report having done the mountain ridge scenario and not the reef (even though this has no impact on the actual gameplay).

Hi, how do I know if I passed the ecosystem simulation task?

Hi Patricia, on an aggregate level the game looks at both your product score (did you produce a good outcome?) and your process score (did you perform well under stress while working towards the outcome?).

In order to pass the ecosystem simulation, ideally, you reach the threshold McKinsey set for both scores (which is unknown). For the product score, you should be able to test your hypotheses during the game and see if your food chain is actually sustainable and works out. However, for the process score, you can only take a guess. McKinsey and Imbellus record every movement of your mouse, every click, as well as how long you pause, go back and forth in the menus, etc. In short, the more you have worked in a calm and collected manner towards selecting your food chain, the higher the chances to reach a solid process score.

Hi, I have one question, Is McKinsey problem-solving game material included in Mc Kinsey program?

Hi Federico, do you mean the Video Academy or the Interview coaching?

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mckinsey problem solving game guide

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 (Solve)

Welcome to our market-leading interactive McKinsey Solve Game Simulation. You'll have the chance to experience the assessment firsthand with our proprietary software. Our simulation includes three games from the assessment: Ecosystem Creation, Redrock Study, and Plant Defense.

Watch our videos to learn key tips to excel in the game, and understand what you'll encounter in our simulation. We've also created a demo version of the game, allowing you a few minutes to experience it yourself before making a purchase.

Explore Our Interactive Demo Today

We invite you to dive into the first few minutes of the Ecosystem Creation: Coral Reef game through our free demo provided below. Experience the tutorial, browse the guidebook, select four monitors, and hover over the ecosystem to pick your starting location.

As you purchase the full game, you can browse the entire set of species and start building your ecosystem. Alternatively, you'll also get access to the other ecosystem creation game, Ecosystem Creation: Mountain Ridge, as well as Redrock Study and Plant Defense games.

Video Guide: Tips and Game Walkthrough

Dive into the McKinsey Solve (Problem Solving Game) with our detailed guide, featuring exclusive in-game footage from Prepmatter's interactive simulation. Our video offers a comprehensive look into the game's structure, covering the Ecosystem Creation (including both Mountain Ridge and Coral Reef scenarios), the Redrock Study, and the Plant Defense game. 

For the Ecosystem Creation game, we break down the general layout and share key eating rules and strategic tips on selecting the optimal location to establish a sustainable ecosystem, supplemented with practical examples. This segment is designed to equip you with the knowledge needed to navigate through the complexities of ecosystem management.

The Redrock Study, a newer addition to the Solve game, receives an in-depth analysis across its Study and Cases sections. We dissect the Investigation, Analysis, and Report phases, providing in-game visuals to demystify the game's setup. Our guide includes best practices for gathering relevant data points, performing accurate calculations, and effectively summarizing findings in both written and graphical forms. Additionally, we delve into the Cases section, where you'll encounter 6 mini-cases, offering insights into what to expect and how to approach each scenario.

Although the Plant Defense game has been largely replaced by the Redrock Study, we haven't overlooked it. Our guide presents the game setup, detailing essential strategies for terrain transformation and the deployment of animals to defend the native plant. Through strategic advice, we aim to help you extend the plant's defense for as long as possible.

Full Game Reveal: Master McKinsey's Problem Solving Game

Dive into the comprehensive gameplay experience with our brand-new video guide! We're excited to unveil the first complete walkthrough of the McKinsey Problem Solving Game in the market, providing an unmatched practical learning opportunity. Follow along as we navigate through the intricacies of Ecosystem Creation, Redrock Study, and Plant Defense.

In the Ecosystem Creation section, discover how to identify the optimal habitat, select a balanced group of species, and employ strategies that pave the way for a thriving ecosystem. Progressing to the Redrock Study, we dissect the study and case phases of the intriguing Nolotiles scenario, exclusively provided through Prepmatter. Concluding with Plant Defense, our guide imparts tactics for positioning animals and barriers to safeguard the native plant.

How else can I prepare?

Break into the McKinsey Problem Solving Game. Launch Your Consulting Career Today!

Your ultimate resource for mastering the mckinsey problem solving game. prepare, excel, and unlock endless consulting opportunities..

Welcome to, the premier platform dedicated to providing detailed and up-to-date information on the McKinsey Problem Solving Game. Our mission is to support aspiring consultants in their journey to excel in the game and secure their dream careers in the consulting industry. With a team of experienced professionals, we curate valuable resources, including test breakdowns, recruitment updates, free practice materials, and a thriving consulting community. Join us as we empower you with the knowledge and tools you need to conquer the McKinsey Problem Solving Game and pave your way to success in the world of consulting.

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Our Latest Articles

Stay updated with our insightful articles on problem-solving, consulting strategies, and industry trends. Gain valuable insights and expert perspectives to excel in the McKinsey Problem Solving Game and beyond. From interview tips to case study analysis, our articles equip you with the knowledge to navigate your consulting career with confidence. Stay informed, expand your skills, and make informed decisions as you pursue your consulting aspirations.

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  2. McKinsey Problem Solving Game (Imbellus): Full Practice Guide

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  3. A Detailed Guide To The McKinsey Problem Solving Game

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  4. A in-depth guide to the McKinsey Problem Solving Game

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  5. McKinsey Problem Solving Game (Solve) Explained

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  6. McKinsey Problem Solving Game (Imbellus): Full Practice Guide

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  1. McKinsey Solve Game: Newest Updates & Guide (2024)

    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 ...

  2. A in-depth 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 ...

  3. McKinsey Problem Solving Game (Imbellus): Full Practice Guide

    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 ...

  4. Solve, McKinsey's assessment game

    Learn more about Solve, McKinsey's assessment game, and how you can showcase your skills in an interesting and engaging way. Read our FAQs for more details. Solve: A glimpse into the Look & Feel. Watch a walkthrough of the tutorial for one of the games you may play. This is an example of what it will feel like to play Solve. Keep in mind that ...

  5. McKinsey Problem Solving Game (Solve): Full Guide [2024]

    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.

  6. How to Pass the McKinsey Problem Solving Game [Guide]

    This is a complete guide to the McKinsey Problem Solving Game, also called McKinsey Solve. Learn about the McKinsey digital assessment game, tips to pass it, and how you can practice.

  7. PDF Solve, the McKinsey Game

    McKinsey Game. We also cannot provide any other information that may disclose our proprietary recruiting methodologies and intellectual property, in particular trade secrets. Will you make a decision just on the results from Solve, the McKinsey Game? Solve, the McKinsey Game is valid for 70 minutes. We suggest finding a time slot where

  8. McKinsey Problem Solving Game

    Here are some key tips to ensure you ace the McKinsey digital assessment: . 1. Use trusted prep material for the test - Guides like the Imbellus Solve Game Secrets guide or the Imbellus Solve Combo can help you to be ready for the game and learn tips and tricks to save precious time during the assessment.

  9. Ace the McKinsey Solve in 15 Minutes

    Practice the McKinsey Solve here: Interview Course:

  10. The McKinsey guide to problem solving

    The McKinsey guide to problem solving. Become a better problem solver with insights and advice from leaders around the world on topics including developing a problem-solving mindset, solving problems in uncertain times, problem solving with AI, and much more.

  11. McKinsey Solve Game (2024): How to Prepare and Ace the Imbellus

    The McKinsey Solve Game, previously known as the McKinsey Problem Solving Game, Digital Assessment, or informally as 'the Imbellus', serves as a pivotal tool for the renowned consulting firm in evaluating prospective candidates. This assessment is utilized in tandem with the infamous case interviews and personal experience interviews (PEI).

  12. McKinsey Problem Solving Game: the ultimate guide

    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.

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    If you apply to join McKinsey, you'll likely be asked to play our innovative assessment game, Solve. It was created to help you demonstrate your problem-solv...

  14. McKinsey Solve: Step-By-Step Guide to Passing (2024)

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  15. Mastering the McKinsey Problem Solving Game in 2024

    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 ...

  16. McKinsey Problem Solving Game: Full Practice Guide 2023

    The McKinsey Problem Solving Game offers a stimulating and immersive experience for individuals aspiring to excel in the consulting industry. By understanding the structure of the game, focusing on key strategies, and practicing problem-solving skills, you can enhance your performance and stand out in consulting case interviews.

  17. PDF McKinsey Problem Solving Game

    McKinsey Problem Solving Game FAQs All technical issues should be directed from you (the candidate) to [email protected]. You can email the support team directly, or use the live chat function. The support team will be able to run diagnostics on your link and help solve any issues directly

  18. Your Detailed Guide for the McKinsey Solve Game (2024)

    The McKinsey Problem Solving Game evaluates the following abilities: Critical thinking: The ability to quickly and accurately synthesize and understand complex information. Decision-making: The ability to select the best course of action based on sometimes insufficient information. Metacognition: The ability to step back, evaluate the way you ...

  19. McKinsey Problem Solving Game (Solve)

    Dive into the McKinsey Solve (Problem Solving Game) with our detailed guide, featuring exclusive in-game footage from Prepmatter's interactive simulation. Our video offers a comprehensive look into the game's structure, covering the Ecosystem Creation (including both Mountain Ridge and Coral Reef scenarios), the Redrock Study, and the Plant ...

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

    The McKinsey Problem-Solving Game (PSG), also referred to as McKinsey Imbellus or McKinsey Digital Assessment, is a gamified test that has replaced the previous Problem-Solving Test (PST) in McKinsey's recruitment process. The PSG consists of two mini-games with a duration of approximately 71 minutes, including reading the instructions.

  21. My experience with Solve, McKinsey's assessment game

    Ana - I heard about the game at a recruiting event. The recruiters and the consultants I met explained the game would give us a chance to show our problem-solving skills. I was curious about the experience, so I watched the video and browsed the interviewing page. It was my first time hearing of such a test for recruiting, so I was intrigued ...

  22. Break into the McKinsey Problem Solving Game. Launch Your Consulting

    Gain valuable insights and expert perspectives to excel in the McKinsey Problem Solving Game and beyond. From interview tips to case study analysis, our articles equip you with the knowledge to navigate your consulting career with confidence. Stay informed, expand your skills, and make informed decisions as you pursue your consulting aspirations.

  23. PDF Solve The McKinsey Game

    (the candidate) to [email protected] You can email the support team directly, or use the live chat function. The support team will be able to run diagnostics on your link and help solve any issues directly with you, including the graphics not working or tech checks failing. Please contact your recruiter if you have non-technical questions.