(PwC) ‘Career Unlocked’
Updated September 2021
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is a multinational professional services network, ranking second in professional services organizations globally, and is one of the 'Big Four' accounting firms.
Alongside fellow Big Four organizations Deloitte and KPMG, PwC has embraced the growing trend of using game-based assessments as part of their recruitment process.
Career Unlocked is PwC’s game-based psychometric assessment of choice, developed by Arctic Shores and is available as an app for mobile devices.
Career Unlocked tests your suitability for the role you have applied for by assessing your personality traits and cognitive reasoning.
What Is the PwC Test Format?
The Career Unlocked test is designed for use on mobile devices, such as a mobile phone or tablet. It can be used on a computer, but it is recommended that you use a mobile device.
The Career Unlocked app tends to run at a delay when used on a PC, which may affect your results because reaction times are one of the elements assessed.
Equally, the app does not work on older models of mobile phones or tablets, so it may be necessary to update your current model or borrow a newer phone or tablet to take the test.
There is no overall time limit for the test but spending too long on it may count against you. The recommendation is to complete the test in 75-85 minutes. It should take at least an hour to complete.
Career Unlocked is designed to challenge you with assessments of high difficulty. As such, it is advised that you have a separate calculator to hand, as using the one on your phone/tablet will require you to go out of and back into the app, potentially breaking your concentration and definitely slowing down your answering times.
Also, have a pen and paper handy for note-taking.
The test has three sections:
- 18 numerical reasoning questions
- 20 logical reasoning questions
- Nine games to assess cognitive reasoning and personality traits
The logical reasoning questions may not always be required, depending on the role you apply for, but you will be informed of this before you begin the test.
What Is Involved?
Career Unlocked includes four types of games and additional questions:
1. Memory Game
There is one memory game in the test. In this game, you must remember in what order a series of leaflets is stamped, with the complication of an additional stamp which you must disregard.
This is one question where pen and paper are a definite must.
Improving your memory is all about practice and strategy.
One strategy that may help with the memory game is to find a pattern in the order in which the leaflets are stamped.
You may also wish to improve your memory using puzzles and online memory exercises in the run-up to taking Career Unlocked.
Here is a sample memory exercise:
Look at a random list of ten words and memorize them for 30 seconds. Try finding connections between the words, for instance, tiger and orange, or window and glass. After the 30 seconds is up, turn over the paper or close the screen and write down as many of the words as you can remember_.
2. Adapting Strategy Game
There are two adapting strategy games in the test.
These questions assess how well you can adapt to a new or changing scenario or when presented with unexpected and/or new information.
The first game asks you to inflate balloons of different sizes, increasing their value as they grow bigger.
But they burst at a certain size. You must assess when the balloon has reached as high a value as it can manage without bursting and then ‘bank’ it.
The second game asks you to balance the input/output of four generators to arrive at the highest level of power possible. However, the generators may at any point begin to lose power.
Consider this sample adapting strategy scenario to feel how it can get stressful and think about dealing with such things:
You are in charge of a steam train running from station A to station B at a set speed to guarantee arrival at a specific time. The train starts and it becomes clear how much fuel is used to maintain the set speed. However, as the route proceeds, it encounters hills of varying gradients. Consider how you would balance the amount of fuel used at each point to make sure you could get up the hills while not burning up too much to fail to get to the destination at the set time.
3. Fixed Strategy Game
There is one fixed strategy game in the test. In this game, you are a member of one of two sales teams. The aim of the game is to make as much money as possible. You must decide whether your team will sell electronic devices for $50 or $300 with no knowledge of what the other team will decide until you reveal your answer. Here are the possible outcomes:
- Both teams choose $50. Each receives that amount. $100 also goes to PwC.
- One team chooses $300 and the other $50. The team who chose the higher amount receives $300. The second team receives nothing.
- Both teams choose $300. Neither team receives anything.
This question asks you to develop a strategy based on a balance between risk-taking and teamwork. It is a ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’-based scenario, where the ‘betrayal’ and ‘co-operation’ options are replaced with higher or lower amounts of money.
Read up on Prisoner’s Dilemma scenarios to help with this game.
There is no right or wrong answer overall in Prisoner’s Dilemma scenarios; this game is to help PwC understand your priorities.
4. Reaction Games
In the test, there are five games designed to assess how you react under pressure and within time constraints.
- Open the safe – You are asked to enter the correct series of numbers to open the safe.
- Emotions – Match the correct emotion to the face. For instance, are they happy, afraid, or surprised?
- Bulbs and Spanners – A bulb or a spanner pops up at the top of the screen. Click on the corresponding letter displayed at the bottom of the screen.
- Arrows – You are presented with an image of multiple arrows, but you must only concentrate on the central arrow. Press the corresponding letter to denote what direction the central arrow is pointing, regardless of the arrows around it.
- Moving Numbers – A shape and a number will appear at the top or bottom of the screen. If the image appears at the top, answer a question on the number. If the image appears at the bottom, answer a question on the shape. This test increases in speed as it progresses.
The best way to prepare for these game questions is to improve your reaction time and hand-eye coordination.
Playing sports can be a great help, especially tennis, badminton or squash.
Equally, playing first-person shooter games can improve your reaction times.
In addition to the games, there are 18 numerical reasoning questions.
Each multiple-choice question will present you with information that you must analyze.
The questions are all GCSE level and relatively simple to calculate. However, with less than one minute to answer each question, only a few people manage to answer all 18 questions.
The best way to prepare for this section of the Career Unlocked test is to brush up on your math skills.
It is possible to source practice questions online:
But in general, any numerical questions will help you prepare.
Here is a sample numerical reasoning question:
Look at this table and answer the questions below.
Give an approximate percentage of the above sample who are self-employed.
The answer is: c) 5%
Quickly total the sample up to 2,285,000. Add the number of self-employed women and men together to get 115,000. Divide 115,000 by 2,285,000, then times by 100 to get the percentage.
This equals 5.03, and the closest answer is c) 5%.
This article can help with understanding percentages and fractions if you need more explanation.
How to Get a Good Score in Career Unlocked
Career Unlocked is not scored like an academic test; it does not give a result like 98 out of 100.
Instead, it uses 18 indicators to assess your personality and different aspects of your cognitive skills. It gives a report card, explained further below.
A successful result will depend on which job that you are being matched to and hence the personality and skills required.
A good score when you apply for an auditing position at PwC, for instance, could be different from when you apply for a role within their legal function.
Furthermore, your performance will be examined against a comparison group, rather than as an isolated result.
The purpose of Career Unlocked, along with the entire recruitment process, is to find a good fit for the relevant PwC team, both skills-wise and personality-wise.
This benefits you as well by indicating whether PwC would be a good or terrible fit for you as a person before you have worked there for ages.
The Report Card
Once you have completed Career Unlocked, you will receive a report card.
This measures your performance against a comparison group using indicators.
The report card is split into five sections:
1. Personal Style
This section has one indicator that expresses how well you recognize facial expressions and interpret emotions.
This section has two indicators:
The first measures the speed that you process information, compared to other candidates.
The second indicator examines whether you are more confident handling small or large amounts of data.
This section has three indicators:
- The first indicator measures how motivated you are by reward.
- The second indicator measures your resilience, which is how quickly you recover after setbacks and how well you maintain your focus in stressful situations.
- The third indicator measures how motivated you are by thoughts and feelings as opposed to values and goals.
4. Interpersonal Style
This section has four indicators:
- The first measures how adaptive your working style is or if you consistently prefer your own.
- The second indicator measures whether you care more about your own needs or the needs of others.
- The third measures whether you tend to be thoughtful and passive or assertive and dominant.
- The final indicator measures your reaction to social situations, such as if they energize or drain you.
5. Thinking Style
This final section has the most indicators, with eight in total:
- The first indicator measures if you trust your instincts or think things over before acting in risky situations.
- The second measures whether you are realistic or optimistic.
- The third measures your preference for consistency and familiarity, or change and variety.
- The fourth indicator is similar and measures whether you prefer new, experimental approaches or tried-and-tested, familiar ones.
- The fifth is similar to the first and measures whether you are impulsive or deliberate more.
- The sixth measures your use of intuition or rational thinking in your decision-making.
- The seventh indicator measures your levels of comfort regarding uncertainty and unpredictability.
- The final, eighth indicator measures if your thinking style is more creative or more precise.
What Happens After Career Unlocked?
Once you have completed the Career Unlocked test, you will generally receive one of two responses.
If you have been successful, you will proceed to the next stage of the PwC recruitment process.
This is an asynchronous video interview called the Career Conversation.
You will be invited to PwC’s video interview portal where you will record your responses to several questions and case studies. The deadline for the interview will generally give you a few days to prepare.
Alternatively, if your results require further examination, an automated response will inform you that your application is under review.
Applications can remain ‘under review’ for some time, often until the deadline for the job application. This is so they can compare everyone who applies for the job and does not quite meet the 'clearly successful' threshold.
Top Tips to Perform as Well as You Can
As with any job interview or recruitment-related test, the best way you can improve your performance is to prepare in advance.
Here are some top tips that may prove helpful:
Inform PwC If You Have a Disability
PwC will account for your disability in the assessment of your Career Unlocked performance, but they can only do this if they know about it.
If you feel that your disability may affect your test performance, tell PwC as soon as possible.
Use a Compatible Mobile Phone or Tablet
It may be tempting to take the Career Unlocked test on your computer, but due to the delay often experienced this can be to your detriment.
The delay will make it seem like your reaction times are slower than they actually are.
The Career Unlocked app also does not run well on older mobile device so make sure you use an up-to-date mobile phone or tablet.
This may mean that you have to borrow one from a friend or family member.
Set Up a Distraction-Free Zone
Give yourself the highest chance possible of completing the Career Unlocked test well by setting up a distraction-free zone.
Turn off notifications and turn down the volume on everything on your device, both media and phone calls.
If your device has a Do Not Disturb setting, turn that on. Make sure the vibrations are off too.
Tell people who may contact you when you are going to take the test, so they do not interrupt.
If you take the test on your phone or a tablet, close everything else down except for the Career Unlocked app. This means more of your device’s processing power can be used for the app and it will run more smoothly.
Try to take the test somewhere quiet, where you will not be distracted. If you feel that someone may walk in on you, phone or send a text, let them know in advance that you must not be disturbed for this time slot.
Use headphones without music as noise-canceling devices.
Set Aside at Least an Hour and a Half
The Career Unlocked test should take you at least one hour, but you will probably need up to an hour and a half to complete it.
Remove the stress of fitting the test in between other tasks by setting aside plenty of time in your day.
Read the Instructions Carefully
Make sure that you have fully read any pre-test instructions before you begin. Continue to read each question so that you fully understand it before you answer or react.
This will help you avoid silly mistakes because you misread a question or answered based on an incorrect assumption.
Devise a Strategy
Once you have read the instructions for each game or question, quickly decide what your strategy is for it before you answer or start, and keep it in mind as you go.
This is one of the reasons that you should develop your strategic and decision-making skills before you take the Career Unlocked test.
PwC uses Career Unlocked to get to know you, your personality and your skills, to better decide whether you are a good fit for the company and the role you have applied for. Therefore, it does not serve you to act unlike your real self. On the day, be the best possible version of yourself.
Where you feel you may be lacking in some way, do not be tempted to let another person take the test in your place. This will send PwC false information and cause problems further into the role when it transpires you are not who they thought you were.
Remember: There is a Job at Stake
Because most of the Career Unlocked test is based on games, you may be tempted to not take it seriously and treat it as you would a game played for enjoyment.
Do not fall into that trap. The test uses games to reduce triggering exam anxiety, but it is still an exam for landing the job you want. Try your hardest.
Relax and Enjoy the Experience
Having said that, that does not mean that you cannot enjoy it. These are games, after all, and when people relax into playing games and enter a flow state they show faster reaction times and speedier, effective decision-making.
Relax as much as you can and try to enjoy the experience.
There is no doubt that the Career Unlocked test is challenging and not intuitive for everyone who takes it. It has certainly left many applicants disappointed with results that they feel do not match their true potential.
However, it is an important step in the PwC recruitment process and unlikely to be changed in the near future. The best way to provide yourself with a good chance of success, therefore, is to prepare thoroughly, recognize the test for the new learning experience that it is and go into it with an open mind. When you know more about yourself, you can take the best advantage of any opportunity.