Now that you have spent countless hours working on your personal statement, gathering letters of recommendation, studying for the MCAT, and preparing your AMCAS and secondary applications, you find yourself facing another hurdle in the long road to medical school: the Computer Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics, or the CASPer Test. In recent years, a growing number of allopathic and osteopathic medical schools and allied health professional graduate programs have incorporated the CASPer test into their evaluation of applicants in order to assess traits that are not captured by other components of the application. Currently, over 35 U.S. medical schools offer the CASPer test. A full list is included here for your reference.
Situational judgment tests (SJTs), like the CASPer test, are designed to assess an applicant’s personal qualities, such as critical thinking, integrity, honesty, ethics, and interpersonal skills. Administered by Altus Assessments Inc., the CASPer test provides ethical dilemmas in a series of 12 video or text-based scenarios intended to help you demonstrate key qualities and characteristics that are highly sought out in your chosen field. The prompts are often related to scenarios encountered in everyday life, such as advising a colleague about paternity leave or determining whether it is ethically sound to accept an item from a customer without a receipt. While there are no full-proof ways to prepare for this assessment, we have outlined below the most critical steps you need to take in order to sufficiently prepare for this assessment.
1. Register at least three days in advance of your preferred test date
In order to ensure adequate preparation for the test, it is important to register for the CASPer test at least three days in advance of your preferred test date. The test is usually offered at least once a month. Medical schools differ on the exact date by which they want the test completed, but it is important to ensure that there is ample time to process your application and payment. Thus, it is recommended to take the test as early as May and latest by the end of July of the year you are applying, since some institutions are now requiring the CASPer test for initial processing of your AMCAS application.
For students with disabilities who require testing accommodations, it is even more crucial to submit all the required documentation approximately 3 weeks prior to your scheduled test date. When scheduling your test, keep in mind that the CASPer test can only be taken once per admission cycle and that the results of your test are valid for one admissions cycle and only for the test type you originally registered for. You will need to take a separate CASPer test if you plan on applying for different program types (in different countries or languages) or for additional admission cycles.
In order to register for a test date, you should first create a CASPer account and have the following information on hand: 1) Valid email address, 2) Webcam, 3) Government-issued photo ID in English or French. The test times are in the Eastern Time Zone (EDT or EST), unless mentioned otherwise. The fee for the test for U.S.-based students is ~$10 and it costs an additional ~$10 to send your scores to each school. All fees are non-refundable and valid for a single admissions cycle.
Prior to your test, verify your account information, ensure that your webcam is working properly, disable VPNs, firewalls, and plug-ins, and ensure that you have the most updated versions of your internet browsers (Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, or Firefox) on hand. Do not take the test on a tablet or mobile device. If you face a technical problem, contact the CASPer Applicant Support Team!
2. Familiarize yourself with the CASPer Test format, timing, and technological requirements
The CASPer test can be taken anywhere, so long as the test taker has reliable internet connectivity. The test is 90 minutes long and consists of 3 questions for 12 scenarios (8 video-based and 4 text-based), resulting in 36 questions in total. The three questions are open-ended and you will have 5 minutes to answer all three of them.
Each scenario is scored by two different evaluators who are both trained to assess the scenario in a standardized way to provide rankings of students’ performance relative to their peers. Two scorers are needed in order to minimize any potential bias or errors that may occur as a result of the test being scored by one scorer. The scores are based on the content of the answers, and evaluators are specifically instructed to ignore spelling or grammatical errors. Students should not expect to receive their scores or feedback on their performance on the test. Additionally, expect to wait three weeks for your test scores to be distributed to the med schools you are applying to.
3 days prior to the test, perform the CASPer System Requirements Check in order to ensure that your webcam and internet connection are functioning properly. The CASPer System Requirements Check also encompasses a full 12-section practice test that you can take as many times as you want for practice. Taking this test will help you get a better sense of the five-minute time limit designated for the three questions per scenario and will help you formulate your responses more efficiently for the real test.
3. Practice with CASPer test question prompts
On the CASPer website, there are three sample scenarios that are provided to give you a better sense of the kinds of scenarios you will likely encounter on the actual test. The scenarios consist of a combination of behavioral descriptor questions and situational judgment questions.
4. Build an Ethics Framework
Many pre-medical students do not complete coursework in ethics at their undergraduate institution. Hence, it is highly encouraged to spend some time reading about ethics so that you can build a framework to help you answer some of the test questions related to ethical dilemmas. In medical ethics, familiarize yourself with the four cardinal principles of medical ethics: autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence. Stanford has a great resource on medical ethics, along with the University of Washington.
For example, the first sample video-based scenario on the CASPer website involves providing advice to a colleague who would like to take paternity leave. Your responses to the question prompts could emphasize empathy, your willingness to gather more information about your colleague’s situation and your employer’s paternity leave policy, and your willingness to engage with your colleague in a non-judgmental, honest, and non-confrontational manner. Additionally, a great strategy for answering situational questions involves balancing the risks and benefits of decisions and also takes into consideration perspectives and concerns of different parties involved in a given scenario. It would also be helpful to acknowledge that the situations described in the scenarios are challenging, sensitive and require a nuanced understanding of the priorities, needs, and responsibilities of each party. This will demonstrate your critical thinking skills, in addition to your active listening skills.
5. Take a free typing speed test
Because you are only allotted five minutes to type out responses to three questions per scenario, you want to ensure that your typing speed is up to par. Visit this website to ensure that you can type at least 40 words per minute without substantial spelling, syntax, or grammatical errors.
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