BCG Pymetrics Test: all you need to know

the image depicts the cover of the article on the BCG Pymetrics Test

The BCG Pymetrics Test is a new online assessment developed by BCG and Pymetrics, used to evaluate potential consultants in their recruiting process. With the introduction of this game, BCG is in good company. A year ago, rival firm McKinsey officially launched its McKinsey Problem Solving Game, a fully digital initial assessment of its candidates in a gamified environment.

While both BCG and McKinsey use data science and algorithms to score the cognitive performance of their candidates, the setup of the BCG Game is different. In this digital assessment, there are two types of games that test social, emotional, and cognitive traits:

  1. In the first strategy game, you run a lemonade stand that simulates one of five different business environments
  2. In the second game, you play through a series of 12 mini-games, each between 1 and 3 minutes, for a total of 20 to 30 minutes. For example, you need to play the Pymetrics balloon game, where you blow up a balloon to get rewards. Currently, BCG employs only this game but the lemonade stand might make a comeback in the future

To develop this test, BCG reached out to Pymetrics, which is well known in the space of gamified cognitive assessments through its expertise in combining behavioral science and artificial intelligence to aid the recruitment of strong teams, all while minimizing potential biases.

Currently, the new Test is being deployed globally as an additional recruiting tool such as the BCG Online Case and the Chatbot Interview. It is likely not a decisive recruitment tool yet and rather used for testing and research before being fully introduced as a replacement for existing pen-and-paper tests.

As BCG puts it, “the Pymetrics games are just one of several components of our overall candidate evaluation process, and your results will always be considered alongside all other elements of your application. The Pymetrics results are never used as a “filter” to eliminate candidates from consideration; rather, BCG views Pymetrics as an inclusion tool. The games help us identify candidates with a range of backgrounds, education, and work experiences who share the behavioral and cognitive traits of successful BCGers.” Ask your local HR what you have to expect for your BCG assessment and watch a Pymetrics demo beforehand.

In the following, we will give you all the insights to prepare you for the Pymetrics Test.

Why did BCG introduce the Pymetrics Test?

The reasons why BCG introduced a digital assessment with the Pymetrics, which evaluates more abstract skills and performance compared to the BCG Online Case, are fourfold:

1. It helps to filter a greater number of candidates with less resource input

Similar to the Online Case or Chatbot Interview, BCG is able to automatically score candidates’ performance with the algorithms that work in the back. On top of that, candidates can take the Pymetrics from home, not needing any resources related to administering the test in a BCG office on a BCG computer. This way, a greater number of candidates can be evaluated, who previously would not have made the cut with their resume alone.

2. The Pymetrics is generating more insights into candidates’ profiles

BCGs primary screening filter so far was the resume or CV, which can only ever provide hard data on each candidate. What have they done? How successful were they? With a test like the Pymetrics, recruiters get a completely new dimension of their candidates. It allows them to see behind the curtain on to the ‘softer’ personality and character factors. The games measure skills consistently and create an accurate assessment of candidates’ current potential and future capabilities and strategic skills. 

3. BCG is able to attract new kind of talent and better match it with their job role

Consulting tasks have evolved over the last couple of years and BCG needs new types of talent to tackle these new challenges. Tests such as the Pymetrics attract a wider range of thinkers than traditional consulting assessment tools and make the process more engaging, and less intimidating due to the bias-free and gamified environment. At the same time, with the information collected on each candidate through the test, their actual job role can be tailored better to their strengths and liking, improving overall job satisfaction, retention, and performance.

4. The BCG Pymetrics Test is bias-free and more accessible

In the old McKinsey Problem Solving Test or the BCG Online Case (Potential Test), candidates with a business background or at least a more quantitive degree outperform candidates from other walks of life. These old tests rely heavily on business acumen and math performance, which negatively impacts the results of candidates not familiar with such tasks. Additionally, the Online Case and Chatbot Interview are based on heavily standardized formats with a specific set of question types that candidates can prepare really well for (we know the test inside-out and can attest that this testing format is more ‘hackable’).

While a format like the Pymetrics might be harder to prepare for, we are confident that candidates can also prepare for this type of assessment. After all, McKinsey has claimed the same with the introduction of their Imbellus Problem Solving Game, yet, candidates that went through our extensive training on the test significantly outperform their peers.

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What skills are assessed?

On a broader scale the BCG Pymetrics Test assesses 2 things:

  1. The first game (lemonade stand) evaluates in what business environment you perform best. Hence, it looks more about your general personality type (e.g., analytical vs. visionary)
  2. The second series of 12 mini-games captures 90 different cognitive traits and sums them up into 9 categories
The image shows the 9 core cognitive traits that are assessed by the BCG Pymetrics test
9 core traits assessed by the BCG Pymetrics Test

So, what spectrum is BCG testing you for in each dimension?

  • Attention: What are you paying attention to? How does your attention shift in a cognitive scenario? Do you fidget around or approach a given task with more structure?
  • Focus: How focused are you on the task at hand and how easily can you be distracted? How do you split your focus with changing scenarios or multiple objectives at hand?
  • Learning: How do you learn in an unfamiliar environment? Can you adjust to changes in boundary conditions, mistakes, and feedback?
  • Decision Making: What drives your decision-making, rationality, or intuition?
  • Risk Tolerance: How quickly are you willing to make decisions with unclear outcomes? Do you trade-off time to make a more, potentially, safer choice? Are you risk-averse or tolerant?
  • Fairness: What underlying criteria do you use to judge the fairness of a situation?
  • Effort: How do you plan your effort? Are you a big picture person, going for the 80/20 approach or very detail-oriented?
  • Emotion: How do you handle your emotions and read the emotions in a given situation? Are you more focused on people or on facts?
  • Generosity: How do you balance personal achievement vs. generosity towards others?

There are no right or wrong answers here since it is a personality test. Yet, some traits are more likely to be correlated with the positive performance of a future BCG consultant (more on that below).

What games are included in the test?

In its original form, the BCG Pymetrics Test consists of two games.

  1. The lemonade stand (the beta test)
  2. A series of 12 mini-games

The lemonade stand

The game is set in the business context of operating a lemonade stand and simulates five strategic scenarios in short turns. Candidates have to choose a suitable strategy to win against a computer opponent in each turn. Their approach is translated into certain skills, which are measured and benchmarked.

This game was the original beta test BCG experimented with to collect data. It is not used in current assessments but it might make a revival in the future.

The lemonade stand game was used to depict the following five scenarios:

The image shows the BCG approach to strategy which is the fundament for the Pymetrics Test
The BCG approach to strategy is the foundation of the Pymetrics Test (Source: BCG)

These five approaches to strategy allow companies to both outperform their core business and to identify and build future sources of growth.

  • Classical contains analysis, planning, and execution, suitable for predictable, nonmalleable environments.
  • Adaptive refers to iterative experimentation as the basis of success under unpredictable, nonmalleable conditions.
  • Visionary relate to envisioning and materializing new value-creating ideas when both predicting and shaping are possible.
  • Shaping comprises an ecosystem- and platform-based approach for unpredictable, malleable circumstances.
  • Renewal is defined as a swift and pragmatic transformation to ensure survival under severe resource constraints.

A series of mini-games

Now, to use the findings of the lemonade stand game and to deepen the understanding of strategy skills in candidates, BCG engaged Pymetrics to develop a set of mini-games to analyze patterns of 90 brain skills, including memory capacity and speed, learning skills, speed of reaction, risk aversion, planning aptitudes, and impulsivity.

The hypothesis behind these games is that specific cognitive abilities such as focus and reasoning lead to successful outcomes in a predictable environment, whereas other skills such as speed, and learning are more relevant in dynamic situations. The 12 mini-games evaluate exactly those skills.

Out of the five approaches to strategy BCG creates five archetypes:

  • The top classical strategist is efficient and focuses on the task at hand
  • The top adaptive strategist is quick to come up with new solutions to every problem
  • The top visionary strategist acts quickly and demonstrates resilience
  • The top shaping strategist is similar to the adaptive strategist, yet has an increased capacity to learn
  • The top renewal strategist has a little bit of all the others while focusing particularly on control and memory
The image displays the skills for each strategy archetype of BCG which is at the core of the BCG Pymetrics Test
The skills for each strategic archetype (Source: BCG)

Back to the actual games. Candidates report a collection of different games which all last between 1 and 3 minutes. So far, we have heard of the following games:

  • Face or sentiment reading: You are shown a face that displays a specific emotion and in parallel, you have to read a short statement. Afterward, you have to decide what emotion is predominant. Obviously, there is a slight difference in facial expression and the written statement. For instance, as a people person, you might focus more on the facial expression
  • Fair transactions: In this game, you have to deal with a game character, either give or take money from it based on a certain set of rules. After each transaction, you are asked to evaluate the fairness of it. You might want to demonstrate your sense of equality and fairness here
  • Pumping the balloon: You have to pump a balloon in exchange for money for each pump. You can increase your payout with each pump but risk that at some point the balloon will blow up, leaving you with 0 payouts. You might want to show a good balance of risk-taking here. The Pymetrics balloon game might be the most famous out of all
  • Task prioritization: The game asks you what task you would like to do, selecting between an easy and a hard task, each associated with different benefits. Be efficient in your decision on what to do
  • Number memory: Simple as it is, you will see a few flashing numbers in succession, and after each flash have to remember as many digits as possible
  • Attention, focus, and impulsiveness: You stare at a blank screen on which you will see either a red dot or a green dot popping up periodically. Each time a certain color flashes, you have to press the space bar. For the other color, stay put. Be as sharp as possible for this game and try not to press at the wrong time.
  • Color matching: The game asks you to link a bunch of colored rectangles to another predefined color stack in the most efficient way (with the lowest changes to the initial stack as possible).
The image describes some of the games of the BCG Pymetrics Test
Selection of BCG Pymetrics mini-games

The games cannot be paused, however, you can take a short break between the mini-games.

How to prepare and ace the BCG Pymetrics Test

Train for the most attractive qualities

We outlined the cognitive characteristics and the spectrum you can score above. Based on your answers, the Pymetrics Test creates a personal profile for each candidate. While there is no perfect profile, certain traits are more commonly found in consultants than others. Think about this when you decide on your answers on the BCG test.

So, what qualities should you focus on demonstrating during the BCG Pymetrics Test?

  • Attention: Approach each task with structure and a steady pace
  • Focus: Swiftly adjust to changes in the tasks and handle multiple issues at once without neglecting one or the other
  • Learning: Show a willingness and openness to learning quickly and adapt to the feedback you receive
  • Decision Making: Make your decisions based on evidence and data and less so by relying on your instincts or intuition
  • Risk Tolerance: Show a balanced risk-taking attitude. Do not be overly prone to take risks, but also do not spend endless time to weigh your options before you choose
  • Fairness: Put more focus on fairness and equality when making decisions in the game and spot unfair situations
  • Effort: Demonstrate an 80/20 approach, working most effectively on the task at hand to find a swift outcome. Don’t get lost in the noise
  • Emotion: Show that you can understand people’s reactions, emotions, underlying concerns, and motivators. Look below the surface
  • Generosity: Be a team player, willing to forgo personal gain for other people’s sake or the greater good of the team

If in doubt, try to err on the side of the spectrums we discuss above. Obviously, there is some leeway in the personality profile as BCG is explicitly targeting new types of candidates.

General preparation and test-taking tips

BCG and Pymetrics did not reinvent the wheel. Many firms are using this assessment now (Pymetrics games jp morgan, Pymetrics games bain, etc.). In fact, most games included in the 2nd part of the assessment are very similar to popular cognitive and brain training apps.

The user interface is easy to navigate and kept very light. While BCG is adamant that no prior knowledge is needed, you can still get an edge over other candidates by becoming familiar with this type of assessment.

Below, we have compiled some tips on how you can prepare for the day of the digital assessment and how to take the test.

  1. Be open to change and stay cognitively flexible

While everything we discuss here is true at the time of writing, our expertise with the McKinsey Problem Solving Game has shown us that such assessments are often adjusted to hinder candidates from preparing properly and discussing on forums and within their peer group. Some of the games we discuss above might be exchanged in the future for new types of games. Let this not distract you or surprise you when taking the Pymetrics.

2. Get a head start by using cognitive and brain training apps

Get into the habit of doing such assessments by practicing a few minutes a day with some brain training apps. You can easily do this on your commute or while waiting, etc. It will help prime your brain for the BCG Pymetrics Test. Some of our favorites include:

3. Read the instructions with great caution

Make sure you understand each task before working on a solution or selecting an answer. Small negligence could lead to you selecting the opposite of the answer you would actually like to choose. Never rush through the games or the user interface to avoid blunders or pitfalls on your end. If offered, look at the Pymetrics demo before you start.

4. Stay sharp

The BCG Pymetrics is short but intense, especially if your are not used to this kind of assessment. Attack it with laser-focus after a good nights rest and some caffeine in your body. 🙂

5. Do not try to replicate results or solutions

Every candidate faces a uniquely generated scenario. Focus on the process instead and the desired traits that you want to display.

6. Have a game plan ready but stay flexible

Use the tutorials to strategize on how to approach each game. Think about potential questions and scenarios that could be thrown your way. Yet, remember to remain flexible as the games might change or look completely different than to what you expected initially.

What’s next?

Since you take the test from home, once you finish all 12 games, the results are automatically analyzed and then transmitted to BCG.

After the test, you will also be able to see your results similar to the image below.

The image shows the actual test results and candidate feedback for the BCG Pymetrics Test
Actual results of the BCG Pymetrics Test (Source: Anonynous candidate screenshot)

Based on the outcome and whether or not you fit the ideal profile for the role, you will either receive an invitation to the interviews or drop out of the process. Candidates we talked to usually hear back from BCG within 1 to 2 weeks.

Did you take the BCG Pymetrics Test or are you going to take it soon? Post your experience or questions below.

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3 Responses

  1. Linus says:

    I just took the pymetrics test and got the most unique characteristics for learning concentration and attention. I am a little bit worried because I got ADD and probably that means nothing good. Is there an approach interpreting the direction? Otherwise, I will find out in the following week.

    • Florian says:

      Hi Linus, the Pymetrics never is the sole decision criterion and is always looked at in combination with other things such as the resume, other tests, or the interviews. Don’t worry! All the best, Florian

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