The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) was founded in 1963 and is part of the ‘Big 3’ consulting firms; McKinsey, Bain and BCG. They have more than 21,000 employees globally and receive more than 100,000 job applications every year.
For penultimate year and MBA students BCG offer internship programmes. The internships last between 8-10 weeks and are usually in the summer although some network firms do offer off-cycle internships throughout the year.
Over the course of the 8-10 weeks interns are introduced to the basic fundamentals of consulting and typically staffed on 1-2 live projects with clients. Whilst interns aren’t expected to lead or be responsible for any deliverables they are integrated into the project team as if they were a permanent member of staff.
1. What BCG are looking for
BCG openly state on their careers site what they are looking for in potential candidates:
Problem solving - the ability to understand and solve complex problems
Structured thinking - pragmatic thinking that considers all the available options in a logical way
Feedback incorporation - candidates that react well to feedback and use it to develop their point of view or argument further
Alternative thinking - ideas and points of view that don’t always follow the norm
The recruitment team and resume screeners at BCG will use these four traits to guide their assessment of candidates applications so incorporating them into your resume and cover letter is recommended.
2. Application process
The first stage of the BCG internship application process is to submit a resume and cover letter as well as fill out personal details online. These documents need to demonstrate your academic, professional and personal achievements to date, why you are interested in the consulting industry and why specifically BCG.
Following the submission of the online application students are invited to take the BCG Quantitative Reasoning Test online. The invitation email points out that passing the test does not guarantee an interview. The test is a numerical based test consisting of 20 questions in 40 minutes. The test is different from the BCG potential test and has a stronger focus on pure mathematical ability.
There are two interviews in the first round of the BCG internship application process and both are with a junior consultant. They both last one hour and follow the same structure with the first 15 minutes involving fit and experience questions such as “why consulting?” and the remaining 45 minutes involving a case interview question.
The second round of interviews are structured the same as the first round interviews but are conducted by a senior consultant (partner or director).
3. Quantitative Reasoning Test
The invitational email details the format and important points of the BCG Quantitative reasoning test:
The Quantitative Reasoning Test will take 40 minutes to complete 20 questions. You will receive one point per correct answer and no points for an incorrect answer, the maximum score for the test is 20 points. The test will not show you your score at the end or the correct answers. You can complete the test at any time convenient to you, before the deadline. The test will be live from the moment you receive your login details later today.
Important points to note:
The test is designed for completion on a computer in one sitting - you cannot save and restart
You will have one attempt to complete the assessment - the timing is designed to be challenging so don’t worry if you don’t manage to complete the full assessment
You may navigate forwards and backwards through the questions at any point during the test
Answer boxes will be provided for each question in the test with clear instructions on how to format your answers - please pay close attention to the format requested as no marks will be awarded for partial answers
Please do not include units in your answers, just submit the numerical value
You are able to use a calculator for this test
You will not lose a point for a wrong answer
The email is accompanied by a sample test paper consisting of 10 questions to give you an idea of the types of questions you will face in the test.
You can download the sample test here:
4. Example questions
The questions consist of a mixture of numerical reasoning style questions, worded maths problems and pure maths.
Numerical reasoning questions (e.g. question 10) involve a dataset in table or graph format and require an element of interpretation and subsequent calculation to find the correct answer.
Example: Question 10 from the sample test
Question: A company is trying to estimate its revenues in 2009. The chosen methodology is to assume the same annual percentage increase as was achieved from 2006 to 2007. Using the financial information above, what is the companies expected revenue in 2009?
1540 divided by 1400 = 1.1 (therefore the revenue growth from 2006 to 2007 was 10%)
1540 multiplied by 1.12 = 1863.4 (forecast is for 2 years time)
Units are thousands of pounds, therefore expected revenues in 2009 are £1,863,400
The worded maths questions closely resemble many of the questions asked in the Oliver Wyman Numerical Test. They require you to understand the situation, choose the right calculation and make the calculation (can be done on a calculator).
Example: Question 2 from the sample test
Question: A retailer stocks 4 sizes of a particular shirt: small, medium, large and extra large. There are one third as many small shirts as there are medium shirts, twice as many small as there are large, and the same number of large as there are extra large. What percentage of the shirts are medium?
S = 3M
2L = S
L = XL
2L = x
(½)x = (½)x
S + M + L + XL = x + 3x +(½)x + (½)x = 5x
Percentage that are medium is ⅗, therefore they account for 60% of the shirts.
The pure maths questions involve basic maths rules such as equation expansions but does advance to branches such as vectors and weighted probability calculations.
Example: Question 11 from the sample test
(0.5)(-0.4) = -0.2
(0.8)(-0.25) = -0.2
-0.2 + -0.2 = -0.4
-0.4 ÷ -0.2 = 2
5. Helpful tips
Use a calculator - The test has a digital calculator on the screen if you don’t have your own but always use a calculator for the calculations. Choosing not to use a calculator increases the risk of basic calculation errors
Guess if necessary - The test is not negatively marked in the same way that tests like the Oliver Wyman Numerical is. That means you are not penalised for guessing and so if you cannot find the answer then it is worth taking a guess
Manage your time - There is only 2 minutes per question and it is designed to be a difficult time allowance therefore if you get stuck on a question take advantage of the ability to flag questions to come back to later. Make sure you answer all of the questions you can before attempting one you are less confident on