First of all: I actually failed my first AC with PwC on account of the report writing, so having attended it twice I have definitely learned a few things that have helped me pass it the second time. Since this forum has helped me tremendously, so I just wanted to give something back!
The day is pretty enjoyable; I have attended a few different AC’s, and PwC is one that really makes you feel welcome. It is also quite brief (only half a day) and everything seems concise and purposeful.
First of all, you’ll do a written exercise. There is no real way to prepare for this; but I actually failed the first AC on account of my report, and some of my friends failed for the same reason, so do take heed. You are given a booklet of around 10-16 pages on a topic, and a brief detailing what your report should entail. It is generally pros/cons and recommendations. I would recommend truly to understand the brief before they begin. The invigilator will actually read it out, so as they do, truly immerse yourself and get in the mindset. What are they looking for? Methods to preserve something? Advice on something - what exactly? Once you get in the zone, it will make it much easier to pick out the fluff from the content. The mistake I made the first time was getting stuck in the unnecessary stuff - bear in mind that the booklet is thick, and a lot of it is unnecessary. Skim through the pages, just to get a general feel of everything, and start writing immediately. 30 mins go by in a blink of an eye. Lay out the content of your report. I did; Introduction: Briefly entailing general purpose of report. Analysis: Option 1: Brief description; Pros/Cons Option 2: etc, etc. Conclusion. Recommendation. Some people have recommended including a recommendation in the executive summary in the beginning, but I didn’t and still passed. As long as you get it done in the end and they know what your recommendations are, you’ll be fine. Write in clear, concise language. Bullet points are ok, but make sure they are in full sentences. Bear in mind you have only two sides of a sheet to write on, so you might run out of space - pace your handwriting accordingly. I really recommend bringing a stop watch - it helped me enormously and made the world of a difference. I could keep an eye on the time and chivvy myself on. I personally rushed through my last two options, but as long as they get a clear idea of what you are going for, it should be fine. I would say the recommendation is crucial. Many people have said they didn’t finish it but still passed, but my friend was actually failed for not having a conclusion, so bear that in mind. Any reasoning is OK, as long as you can back it up. One thing I found useful is key words; so what might help is looking up business reports, taking into account the kinds of things that they take into consideration. E.g.: Stakeholder value/ Risk/ Precedence/ etc. Also, there are financial figures scattered over the booklet; in polls and charts. Make use of it as much as you can! I got good feedback on that. Write quickly, and watch the clock, and you should be fine. Quality over quantity all the way. Just remember; structure, time, clear concise language, and you’ll be fine! Get into the mindset so you won’t make the mistake I made the first time getting stuck in all the unnecessary stuff!
The numerical/diagrammatical tests are standard. 20 in 20 mins for the former, and 40 questions in 20 mins for the latter. Again, I found that a stop watch helped me tremendously. They do provide a clock, but I find that the actual countdown paces me. Practice makes perfect. I did Maths up to A levels and hadn’t done it in 3-5 years after that (non-related degree) so I did have to practice. Invest in tests if you have to: Assessmentday/ Graduatewings really helped me. Once you practice, you’ll notice an emerging pattern. Ratios/percentages; you’ll be adept at it! The diagrammatical/logical/inductive tests are possible to finish - some questions are extremely easy, and some are more difficult. Go through the easy ones quickly, don’t second-guess; this was an issue that another candidate and I discussed, and skip the ones you don’t know. I would say NOT to guess; I personally skipped the ones I didn’t know and scored well. They do rate your accuracy, so bear that in mind. I finished 16/20 in the numerical, and my score was 5/6, and i finished 35/40 for the diagrammatical, and got 5/6 also. Again, quality over quantity.
Finally the group exercise was definitely the most enjoyable part. You are given a booklet containing information on a company, and each candidate is given a separate brief entailing a specific topic. Remember this - a groupmate actually did not realise there was a separate brief, and had to rush through it during the exercise. You are given 20 mins to prepare. My structure was; read the brief first, make bullet points of your notes so you get a clear idea of your topic. Then go through the booklet, correlating the info of your brief with the general info. Such as, does your start-up costs tie in with the funds available? What is the company emphasising - environmental impact or fiscal profits?
Start speaking immediately. I volunteered, and got good feedback. Maintain eye contact, and know everyone by name. Don’t be nervous! Express your brief in a clear, concise manner; elaborate but keep an eye on the clock! Express your personal opinions but be flexible - don’t stubbornly insist on your brief if it is clearly a no-go. What I did was, after everyone had finished expressing their briefs, I clearly outlined the direction of the discussion. E.g. ‘For the purpose of maximising the time we have, I think we should first outline the direction of the discussion. I think, from hearing everyone’s briefs, it is clear that the company’s purpose is… etc.’ This will cut down time, and also show that you have a good understanding of the topic. When someone gets stuck in an unresolved issue, gently guide them toward the general discussion in a firm but polite manner. My group struggled over agreeing on the funds available (e.g. with government grant or without), and I got good feedback for suggesting we stick to the lower amount and moving the conversation along. Take charge, but don’t be domineering. Let other people speak. Drive your point in but know when to surrender - don’t be that person holding everyone back by insisting blindly on their proposition when everyone else has voted against it. Be calm and cool, don’t get agitated when you keep getting interrupted; remember that reflects badly on THEM, not you. Just always refer back to the company’s PURPOSE and time, and you should be fine. Again, I hardly think it matters what you decide upon, as long as you have logical reasoning behind that!
So all in all - do your work, practice the tests, research reports, write mock reports if you have to, and you will be fine. I don’t think they are looking for the perfect candidate, because I certainly was NOT perfect, but really just potential. Bring a stop watch! Personally I found that to be instrumental in me passing it. Hope this helped guys Good luck everyone and wish me luck in the partner interview!