The Bain Online Test is one hurdle to pass if you want to work for Bain & Company. It can be either a gatekeeper between application screening and the case interviews or is used in conjunction with the first round of the case interviews to evaluate candidates.
In terms of its content, it contains elements of the BCG Online Case and the BCG Pymetrics and is overall very similar to general application aptitude tests, which we are seeing across different industries.
In this post, we focus on
- the most common elements and different formats of the Bain Online Test
- ways to prepare for the Bain Online Test
- tips to maximize your performance when taking the test
The Bain Online Test in a nutshell
The Bain Online Test is a computer-based assessment to evaluate consulting applicants. In fact, you might even have to go through several successive online and (sometimes still offline) assessments, which – for the purpose of this article – we summarize as the Bain Online Test.
Similar to McKinsey and BCG assessments, it evaluates a candidate’s skills needed in the daily life of a consultant. Even though Bain stresses that no prior experience is needed or expectations to be had, candidates can benefit from proper preparation and test-taking strategies.
Understanding the tasks, practicing the key skills, and developing a certain business background are needed since the elements of the test are challenging, happen under time pressure, and sometimes are set in a business context.
Why does Bain channel consulting candidates through these tests?
Why Bain uses an Online Test to screen candidates
The purpose of the Bain Online Test is threefold.
First, it helps to filter a larger number of candidates, some that might come from a non-target background and would otherwise not receive an invitation to the interviews.
Second, Bain is able to collect additional data and observation points of the candidates besides the case interviews and the personal fit questions.
Third, since everything is automated and online, such tests are a long-term investment that save thousands of HR and consulting staff hours over the years. Hence, the Bain Online Assessment is a very efficient recruiting tool.
Please keep in mind that the specific format of the Bain Online Test depends on the office and the job you are applying for.
Also, while most tests are computer-based, for some locations you might be required to take the test from a Bain office on a Bain computer.
The format of the Bain Online Test
Compared to BCG and especially McKinsey, Bain as a firm is much more decentralized which also impacts the recruiting process. While the McKinsey Imbellus Test and the BCG assessments are more or less the same on a global level, there is no single Bain Online Test format across all geographies.
The length, the format, the elements, and questions differ across regions and across offices, which – on the first sight – makes it much more difficult to prepare for compared to other aptitude tests. Secondly, while McKinsey and BCG have presented their new testing formats quite prominently over the last year(s), Bain remains rather quiet about their own recruiting methods.
The key message for you: There is not ‘one Bain Online Test’!
Nevertheless, the underlying methodology and the skills tested are the same across all regions, as they are generally for all consulting firms on the globe.
Hence, you can actually prepare for these tests using a holistic approach that will also help you during your Bain case interviews later on.
Before you can prepare, you need to know what you are dealing with in the Bain Online Test. Let’s have a look!
The different elements of the Bain Online Test
At its core, the different types of assessments focus on the evaluation of your skill-set and personality and not your knowledge. In that regard, your analytics, problem-solving, and creative skills are put to the test across different sets of problems and contexts in a stressful and timed environment.
In general, we heard from feedback that the Bain Online Case can consist of 5 different elements.
The most common of the five is referred to as the psychometric test and consists of the Aptitude Test and the Personality Test.
- Aptitude Test: this test evaluates your cognitive skills and zeros in on your logical, numerical, and verbal reasoning. The tests Bain uses are developed by SHL, Cubiks, and SOVA. This part is very similar to the BCG Potential Test or Online Case
- Personality Test: this test is very similar to the questions that gauge your personality in the BCG Pymetrics. You will need to rate statements between most like me and least like me, from which Bain will match your personality to see if there is a fit with the job and the company culture at Bain
There are 3 other elements which are reported less frequently by candidates
- Analytical Test: in this test, Bain borrowed heavily from the GMAT to ask you about critical reasoning, data sufficiency, and problem-solving
- Business Case: this element is a full-fledged business case, as you would also see in a case interview. However, the format is digital with multiple choice questions, very similar to the BCG Online Case or the old McKinsey Problem Solving Test
- One-Way Video Interview: the one-way video interview makes you answer and record behavioral and case questions. It is very similar to the BCG one-way interview
Bain Online Test locations and types of tests
Below we have covered some insights into the different testing formats across the world.
Bain North America and Bain United Kingdom
Candidates go through the Psychometric Test, which includes the Aptitude (verbal, numerical, inductive reasoning) and Personality Assessment. Both are SOVA-based. In total, you have 75 minutes to go through it.
Bain South America
In South America, a variety of assessments are deployed. You will go through the business case, which includes two different cases, 15 questions in total, and a 45 minutes time limit. Additionally, there is an analytical test with 15 questions and a 25 minute time limit. Lastly, some candidates reported that they went through a personality test as well.
For some candidates, all three tests happened at the same time, while others had to do them sequentially in different sessions and stages of the application.
Bain South East Asia
Candidates reported that they went through a business case simulation, which included three cases with 25 questions and a 50 minutes time limit. This is very similar to the BCG Online Case or the former McKinsey PST. Also, there is a one-way video interview as described above.
The cut-off score
For obvious reasons, Bain does not communicate a cut-off score, which is the minimum score you need to achieve to pass the Online Test. However, similar to BCG and McKinsey’s older Problem Solving Test, the score you need to pass is speculated to be around 70% for tests such as the aptitude assessment, analytical assessment, and the business case. For the personality test, and the one-way interview more qualitative and softer measures are used.
You will be notified whether you passed or not but not given a numerical result of your performance. Also, you will not receive any feedback on the mistakes you have made. It will be a yes or a no only.
Deep dive on each element
First, we will discuss the most common elements, what is known as the Psychometric Test, then dive deeper into the less common parts such as the analytical test, the one-way video interview, and the business case.
The Bain Aptitude Test
You will encounter three different types of questions in this part of the test.
- Verbal Reasoning evaluates your skill to understand complex information under time pressure. In this format, you have to read one or more paragraphs to answer a multiple-choice question. Either you can select a specific answer or have to indicate if a given statement is true, false, or no statement can be supported based on the information in the text. For specific examples of what you will encounter at the Bain Online Test, look at SHL’s website on verbal reasoning.
- Numerical Reasoning questions focus on your ability to handle complex quantitative data. They use tables and other exhibits to present data and ask you to elicit specific information and facts in a multiple-choice style question. For specific examples, visit the SHL website on numerical reasoning.
- Logical Reasoning, as has been reported by candidates in the Bain recruiting process, focuses on inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning looks at how you handle abstract concepts and unfamiliar information. For example, you might be asked to continue a logical sequence (figures, numbers, etc.). Deductive reasoning questions usually give you a set of facts to answer whether a certain statement is true or false. Check out examples for each on the following websites:
The Bain Personality Test
The Bain Personality Test assesses your cultural and personal fit with the consulting lifestyle and Bain itself. Similar to the BCG Pymetrics, Bain looks at certain personality traits. While BCG lets you play games to learn about your personality, Bain has you answer very targeted questions.
A very common format that is reported is the SOVA Personality Test, which presents a number of sentences and you have to decide how much this is true for you based on a scale of:
Least Like Me, Little Like Me, Neutral, Somewhat Like Me, Most Like Me
Examples of common statements are:
- I prefer working on a topic with others
- I have a clear plan in mind when approaching a new topic
- I would describe myself as a good listener
The statements will evolve around the following personality traits:
- What is your learning style? Are you eager to learn and demonstrate flexibility?
- How do you manage complexity? Are you able to comprehend and solve complex problems?
- How do you engage with people? What are your leadership and persuasion skills? How confident, assertive, and open are you?
- How innovative are you? Do you build creative and inventive solutions and demonstrate adaptability in the process?
- How driven are you? Are you self-motivated and willing to go the extra mile to achieve a goal?
- How resilient are you? Can you handle stress, pressure, and tight deadlines?
- How do you make decisions? How do you derive recommendations, build your opinions, and approach difficult topics?
The Bain Business Case
The Bain Business Case is very similar to the BCG Online Case and the former McKinsey Problem Solving Test. It is divided into sub-cases, with each case representing a typical client problem accompanied by a lot of information in text and exhibits.
In general, it consists of four types of questions:
- Reading comprehension requires you to read, filter, and understand information and data from text, charts, and other exhibts to select an answer that correctly reflects the data
- Math word problems require you to set up and perform simple to medium-complexity calculations. Consulting math will never be too difficult. The challenge comes from the time limit and the stressful situation
- Deductive reasoning questions will have you select true or false statements
- Recommendation questions have you choose a specific recommendation for the case from a given selection
If you want to learn how to answer such questions, check out our BCG Online Case Guide, our Consulting Case Math Guide, and this article on how to interpret case interview charts and exhibits.
The Bain Analytical Test
The Bain Analytical Test is using three common types of GMAT questions in a mulitple-choice format.
- Critical reasoning questions have you strengthen, weaken, support, negate a given argument by selecting one out of several options
- Data sufficiency questions provide you with two statements and ask you if one or the other, or both in combination are sufficient to answer a given question or not
- Problem-solving questions require you to solve simple math word problems, similar to the math word problems of the business case we describe above
The Bain one-way video interview
The Bain one-way video is very similar to the BCG one-way interview we describe in detail here. It is performed via HireVue, lasts 25 minutes, and consists of three questions, both case questions, and personal fit questions.
You have only one chance per question, five minutes to prepare each answer, and then two minutes to record it.
How to prepare for the Bain Online Test
The preparation for the Bain Online Test is very similar to the prep that is needed for the BCG Online Case or the former McKinsey Problem Solving Test.
Figure out what test format applies to you
Reach out to the local HR of your target office to understand what type of test you will have to face. Usually, HR is very happy to share such information
This will make sure that you can set your expectations and prepare properly for the right type of assessment.
Work on your business acumen
If you come from a business background, business school, etc. this is less relevant for you. However, if you do not have a business background and have to answer a business case in the Bain Online Test, you might want to brush up on your business knowledge. You will need it for the case interviews as well.
This includes concepts, definitions, cause-and-effect relationships that are common in the business world.
How can you do that? Critically read and actively work through the following sources:
- Go through business cases from universities
- Go through consulting interview cases
- Read articles from The Economist, the Wall Street Journal, or the Financial Times, Forbes, etc.
- Go on Investopedia and look at their glossary
- Go through professional case coaching
- Look at the research that consulting firms are publishing (McKinsey Global Institute, BCG Insights, Bain Publications)
Brush up your mental math, pen-and-paper math as well as numerical reasoning skills
We have written extensively on case interview math here. In the article, we discuss what to expect and how to prepare. The same principles we discuss in the linked article also apply to the Bain Online Test.
In general, the level of math required is not more complex than what you have already learned in school and you do not need a specific degree to pass the test.
Keep in mind that for every calculation, there are two steps: First, you will need to come up with the correct calculations (the logic), and second, perform swift calculations both mentally as well as with pen-and-paper (the calculation).
If you want to go deeper to brush up on your math skills, we have created a program with detailed insider learning materials, 25 videos and a guidebook as well as 2,000 practice drills that mimick the McKinsey, BCG, and Bain case interview math as well as the aptitude and analytics test math for you here: the Case Interview Math Mastery.
Practice text analysis and verbal reasoning
As with every other aptitude test, you will have to sift through large amounts of data, which leaves you with significant time pressure.
For text analysis, you will have to pick a correct answer or statement. In order to do this successfully, learn three things.
- Reading comprehension: Find the needle in the haystack and zero in on the important bits of a complex business text to interpret its core statements. Use business publications, research papers, and articles to train this skill
- Chart, table, and data interpretation: Practice the ability to understand and interpret complex data and elicit true conclusions and statements from it. We have written extensively on chart interpretation here
- Logical reasoning: Learn how to deduct correct statements from the different sources of information. GMAT reasoning questions are your best friend when preparing for this
Learn what character traits make a good consultant
In order to perform well on the personality test, figure out what might make a good consultant.
Based on your answers, the 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 Bain Personality Test.
Some ideas below.
- Be structured
- Be a teamplayer
- Show focus and dedication
- Make decisions based on facts
- Do not take too many risks
- Look at fairness and equality
- Demonstrate that you have an 80/20 approach
- Be a people person
A word of caution: Provide a natural sequence of answers. Personality Tests have many control questions that assess the same dimensions to spot people that try to game them and deliberately choose favorable traits. Sometimes these tests also adjust their question sets based on your previous answer to make sure you are consistent.
Learn top-down communication
For the video interviews but also the in-person interviews, top-down communication is one of the key skills you need to demonstrate. Practice it by using the Pyramid Principle. Adopting the Pyramid Principle for your communication makes sure that your answers are highly structured and to the point.
For the personal fit, you should prepare stories in advance looking at leadership, personal impact, drive, etc. as well as draft answers to common questions such as: ‘Why consulting?’, ‘Why Bain?’, ‘strengths?, weaknesses?’, etc. We have written extensively on the personal fit part of the consulting interview here.
For the case questions, it helps you to come up with a top-down answer that covers all key points you want to make in a structured manner.
How we apply this principle in practice and come up with strong case interview answers and personal fit answers, we show extensively in our video case interview academy and pay special attention to in our 1-on-1 case interview coaching sessions.
Practice in simulated test conditions
When practicing, emulate real testing conditions. Most importantly, set yourself time constraints, focus on practice questions that are similar to the Bain questions, and use your computer as the main source of information. Do not print out any handouts, exhibits, data tables, etc.
Use the practice tests provided by the firms to prepare as well.
Look for official examples of the McKinsey Problem Solving Test, which are still online on some McKinsey recruiting websites. If you have trouble finding them, please reach out to us.
Monitor your progress
Assess your strengths and weaknesses and build your skills up from there. Create a preparation plan and monitor your progress in developing the right kind of skills. Work both on your strengths and weaknesses so that your strengths are able to secure your baseline score in the assessments. Your weaknesses should be at a good enough level to gain additional points on top of your baseline score.
Bain Online Test test-taking tips
Try to get the maximum out of your test experience by following the recommendations below.
Make sure your tech setup works
Make sure that your computer works properly, the internet connection is fast and stable. Also, take the tests in a quiet and orderly location, where you can make sure that no one will disturb or interrupt you.
Do not replicate results or solutions
Focus on your own test and the process instead of trying to replicate answers you have discussed with friends and peers.
Get comfortable with 80/20 decisions and incomplete information
There is a lot of data and many questions. Focus on the ones you can solve quickly. Sometimes, you might not select the best answer, e.g. in the personality test and that is ok too.
Get comfortable with estimations and simple math. That way you will be able to calculate and compare the expected outcomes of several options. Sometimes being in the right ballpark is good enough.
Read the instructions carefully and take an educated guess if possible
Make sure that you understand clearly what your task is and what you are asked to solve for. Also, focus on whether or not you are allowed to use a calculator and if there are any negative points for selecting the wrong answer. Adjust your strategy accordingly.
If points are deducted, focus on the quality of your answers over quantity. If there are no negative points, take an educated guess. Improve your guesses by following the exclusion principle.
If you are taking the test from home, obviously keep the calculator handy.
Scan the rest and prioritize key bits of information
Whenever you have to deal with large walls of text and data blocks, scan the information provided.
First, read the question carefully and make sure you understand what you are asked to do. Find your objective!
Second, figure out what information you need to answer the question.
Third, for a math question, draft your logic and look for the information. For a verbal reasoning question, scan the document for the relevant information.
Fourth, once you found it, zero in and read the specific part carefully.
Train your reading speed with speed reading exercises and smartphone apps.
Keep an eye on the time
It is easy to get lost in the details and the sheer complexity of information overload these tests present. Make sure to go swiftly through each task.
In the aptitude, analytical and business test, you have between 30 and 90 seconds to answer each question. Do not waste time. If you get stuck, move on to the next question.
Set yourself goals and time markers. For instance, if you know you have 30 minutes to solve 30 questions, you should have worked through 15 questions at the 15-minute mark.
Have a plan on how to approach every question
Use a process to help you make more deliberate and thoughtful decisions on how to approach each question and move through the test. This will increase your organization, your pace, and your performance.
Make proper note-taking a habit
Write down key observations, calculations, intermediate steps. Keep the notes organized since you might need them at a later stage (e.g., in the business case).
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 StrategyCase.com with the goal to make McKinsey more accessible for top-talent, using tailored and up-to-date know-how about its recruiting.