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BCG online test overview (AKA the chat-bot interview)

An overview of BCG's new online case test given to candidates in round one of interviews

Kenton Kivestu, ex-Google, ex-BCG, Founder at RocketBlocks
Published: November 4, 2020

Test format & length | Question types | Preparation tips

BCG is rolling out a new, online case assessment given by a chat-bot in its first round interviews. That's a mouthful, so let's break down exactly what BCG is up to here.

The key change is that instead of two, live interviewee-led cases in the first round, candidates should expect to do live interviews in addition to an online interview administered by a chat-bot. The range of questions will vary from multiple choice to free-response to video recorded conclusions (more on that below)!

💡 Note: At the undergraduate level, some candidates reported that they were assessed by only the online chat-bot interview and one separate live fit interview. While this doesn't appear to be the norm, it is indicative of experimentation with the interview format.

Since BCG is ramping up the use of this online assessment in 2020, it's worth reading to make sure you know what to expect. Below, we've compiled our insights from candidates who took the test to share what it is, how it's given and how to prepare for it.

Online test format and length (Top)

The key to knowing how to approach the online assessment is understanding the way in which you'll be assessed and what kinds of questions you'll encounter.

Chat-bot delivery (e.g., Casey)

The case is delivered by a chatbot called "Casey."

By the nature of its delivery (it's a chatbot!) the interview is very much interviewer-led, which contrasts with BCG's usual case format. In short, this means that the case is very much "question and answer" that leads a candidate through a predetermined path of analysis. While the questions might ask for your thoughts about what to analyze next or what types of data you may need, you won't be driving the case as much as a typical BCG interview.

Casey will introduce the case and then go right into asking you questions. Unfortunately, there is very little you can do to ask questions back to gain clarity on anything you're unsure of. One misunderstanding of a certain concept or expectation could cost you a few questions, since we've heard some of the questions depend on previous answers.

Length and number of questions

In total, you'll be asked 7-8 questions within a 25-30 minute time limit. Importantly, this time limit is for the entire case, and isn't explicitly laid out for each individual question. It's up to you to manage your time well. At the end of the case, you're given two tries to record a 1 minute video recommendation.

Types of questions asked (Top)

From our research, we've identified a few key types of questions asked throughout the assessment. It's important to note that this is not a comprehensive list and will be updated as we learn more.

Multiple choice questions

These questions will present a set of fixed answers based on the question asked. They can be both answers to math questions or general thoughts about what type of analysis you should do next/what data you think you need. Let's talk through some possible scenarios.

In some cases you'll be asked a specific case math question and will have to choose the right answer from a set, just like you would be on a multiple-choice test in school. With these questions, there are two things to keep in mind:

  • Watch the units: Cases love to have differing units on data that candidates have to sort through. For example, you might get one sales figure in per year terms and another in per month terms. Make sure you've accounted for this in your analysis and in choosing the correct answer. The same correct number could show up twice, with one paired with an incorrect unit.
  • Estimations are your friend: You might be tempted to try to get the most exact answer possible, but doing this could waste precious time when an estimation would've gotten you there faster.

In other cases you'll be asked a more qualitative question about what you should investigate first or what inputs you need to make a calculation. Let's use an example from BCG's Interactive Case Library to illustrate this (Note: this isn't an specific example from the new online case, but a similar type of question).

🎯 Example: Your client is a low-cost carrier airline that is seeing reduced profitability due to a sharp increase in fuel prices of over 50%. You've been asked to develop a strategy to respond and maintain profitability. Here's the first question you're asked: Example question from new BCG online test

This is a typical question that you might see, perhaps with a second level of complexity in the answers that drives towards specifics about factors affecting profitability, demand, or the number of sales. They're a bit more qualitative, but you still choose from a set of predetermined responses.

Open response

These questions will usually ask you to explain your thoughts or your process on a given question.

They can also be open-ended analytical questions that ask for a numerical answer, an interpretation of some analysis, or both! You'll have a strict limit on the length of your response, sometimes as short as just 2-3 lines of text, which can make answering difficult. Here's an hypothetical example to give you an idea of what you could see.

🎯 Example: Let's say you have a market entry case. Your client operates mainly in the American northeast and does about $10 million in revenue per year. You are analyzing an entry into a different market in the American northwest and you've determined that within the first 3 years your client could be doing $5 million in annual revenues if they capture 30% of the market. What would your initial thoughts be about this result?

There's no one right answer, but a good answer might mention that despite a strong projected annual revenue figure (50% of existing firm revenues), you would need information about any upfront costs, variable costs that would affect per unit profitability, and verifications concerning estimated market penetration before making a recommendation. And, of course, you'd need to give you interpretation in a concise, efficient manner to fit into the constraint!

Final case recommendation

Finally, each case will wrap up asking you to record a 1 minute video of you delivering your recommendation.

This is basically identical to how you'd usually deliver a recommendation in a case interview, with the obvious difference that you're looking into a camera and not at a person! You have two shots to do the video recommendation, but a second try erases the first attempt.

If you're looking to sharpen your recommendations, check out our videos on the topic!

We've been told the questions asked aren't particularly difficult on their own, but that the time pressure can make a relatively easy question impossible if you struggle with time management. This time pressure is similar to what candidates experienced taking the McKinsey PST - the questions weren't super difficult, but bad time management could cause you to make silly (and costly) mistakes.

Prepping for the BCG online test (Top)

We've written about other iterations of case formats before, from written cases to the difference between first and second rounders. As in those cases, we think preparation for this online assessment is more similar to regular case prep than it is different. This new online interview is evaluating all of the same things traditional interview formats are testing: your ability to structure a problem (though not as explicitly), quickly perform numerical analysis, extract insights from data, and synthesize a killer recommendation.

That said, there are a few extra things you can do to optimize your performance.

Leverage the available practice materials

First, BCG will provide you with one "practice" chat-bot case. Take the provided practice case very seriously as it's the closest experience you'll get to the real thing.

💡 Tip: We have heard anecdotally that the practice test is significantly easier than the real deal.

Outside of that, the next best set of practice materials is the BCG Interactive Case Library.

While the cases are not delivered by a chat bot, the rest of the experience is very similar. You're asked similar types of open-ended and multiple-choice structuring, brainstorming, math, and analysis questions. You'd do well to use these materials for some high-quality practice of an online case delivery before your interview.

Sharpen your math skills

When you're under the gun, the last thing you want to have happen is getting stuck on a tricky, or even simple, math problem. Math problems are also very easy to ask in this "chat bot" format. To alleviate time pressure and focus on analysis and second-order thinking, drill your case math skills until you're one step away from being a human calculator.

Build charts/exhibit reading skills

On a similar vein, poring over charts for too long will leave you wanting for time. But the assessment will certainly ask you to draw insights from a chart or exhibit of relevant data. While you don't have to worry about narrating your thought process to your interviewer, you still need to be able to very quickly read the given chart and provide a strong answer to the question asked.

Make sure you're familiar with the types of graphics presented in case interviews (the end of this article is a good start), practice making a structured and efficient analysis, and understand how the data presented can be used to motivate a contextual case math problem.

💡 Shameless Plug: RocketBlocks charts/data drills are a great way to target developing this skill!

Get really good at anticipating your "data needs"

One of the most important skills a consultant needs to do their job well is their ability to sort out what data is needed, and more importantly what isn't needed, to evaluate a given problem.

This is an important skill for a live case, but if you mess up there's more room for the interviewer to steer you in the right direction. As far as we know, that's not the case for this online assessment. Candidates have indicated that the assessment will ask you questions about what sort of data you'll need to solve a given question, and a mistake is much more permanent.

As an example, if someone tells you the revenue of a bakery is declining and they want you to fix it, what data would you want? If you could only have 3 charts to help you answer that question, what would they be and what information would they contain? These are the types of questions you can expect and you should prepare for them diligently.

Practice concise, written summarization

Certain portions of the assessment will ask you to explain your process or summarize your thoughts on an issue in just 2-3 lines of text. This might sound easy and quite similar to how you would approach a traditional case.

As you know, real-time communication is a huge part of acing live case interviews. But spoken communication has a lot of room for error. There's more bandwidth to go a bit off track, use filler words, and go back and forth with your interviewer to make sure that you're on the same page.

You don't have these options with written communication. You have one shot to express your thoughts in a clean, concise way that is immediately digestible. Like any skill, this takes practice. Our advice? Integrate this sort of practice into your usual case prep: pair your usual practice of spoken communication with written iterations.

Conclusion

The consulting recruitment process is constantly evolving.

Just last year McKinsey made a similar change with the replacement of the PST with the Imbellus game. But, importantly, with each new iteration, the core skills tested remain the same.

Based on the number of candidates being assessed this year using this new interview format, it seems that the online test is here to stay, at least in some format. Now that you've learned about the format, focus on honing your underlying skills and you'll be good to go!

P.S. Are you preparing for consulting interviews?

Real interview drills. Sample answers from ex-McKinsey, BCG and Bain consultants. Plus technique overviews and premium 1-on-1 Expert coaching.