For McKinsey applicants, the Imbellus (more formally known as the McKinsey Problem-solving Game) is notorious for its difficulty and strict requirements. Only 20% of people who apply pass the McKinsey Solve test. It’s easy to understand as the Imbellus is meant to be a candidate filter. 

This article will explain why many candidates fail the Imbellus and give info on how you can prepare for this rigorous game.

Why is the Imbellus pass rate so low?

Out of the roughly 200,000 applicants who apply to McKinsey each year, 80% are screened by the PSG at McKinsey. 


Firstly, McKinsey introduced the Solve game (the McKinsey Digital Assessment) because the firm believed the Solve game is more partial and can pick out unrecognized talents that might not perform well in the PST. The previous Problem-solving Test (PST), a pen-and-paper, more business-focused test, was considered unfair for candidates who come from less privileged backgrounds and also too predictable as it can be studied for. Since the candidate pool is widened, it makes sense that more people are failing in the PSG than in the PST. 


Secondly, McKinsey’s decision to make the Solve test digital correlates with the changing situation in the consulting industry. Everything is becoming more and more digitized, which presents new problems. McKinsey is looking for new types of talents besides conventional business consulting roles, such as IT experts, data scientists, or software developers. This sudden change has left many candidates anxious as they are not yet familiar with such tests. 


What is challenging about McKinsey Imbellus?

After researching, we find that most applicants who have taken the McKinsey Imbellus struggled due to three main reasons: unexpected game format, vague assessment system, and being underprepared

Unexpected game format

The McKinsey Solve game is a complete 180 from the usual screening test you would expect from a consulting firm. It consists of six minigames, but you will only be required to play two of them in the actual test. 


Five of the minigames use the settings of a natural environment where you’ll be working on issues involving animals, plants, and ecosystems. In addition, each minigame has its own instructions and different strategies required to win. 


To learn more about the game format and strategies, see this article we wrote.

Vague assessment system

It is difficult to understand the PSG scoring system completely. Both players’ answers (the “product score”) and their thought processes (the “process score”) count toward the final tally. While the former can be calculated, it is still relatively unknown how the latter operates. Remember that every one of your movements on screen is also being graded. 


To understand the PSG’s scoring system better, see this article

Being underprepared

This is the main reason for most candidates’ confusion when taking the Solve game. Because there are so many details in the game that you need to learn quickly, the Solve game can be a daunting experience for anyone unfamiliar. So in the next part, we will give you some quick tips on improving your prospect in the Imbellus.

How do I maximize my chance of passing the Imbellus?

The official statement from both McKinsey and Imbellus, the test’s maker, is that the Solve game cannot be studied for. However, there are still many ways to practice beforehand: 


  • Practice with PSG simulators: they offer the most accurate representation of the McKinsey PSG. Think about using simulation games as entertainment and preparation for the actual PSG.
  • Play video games, especially those with an ecology theme: since most PSG minigames take place in wilderness settings and have similar gameplay to many commercial games, you can familiarize yourself through games like Plants vs. Zombies, SimCity series, Cities Skylines, etc.

Image source: Plants vs Zombies