What You Need to Know About the CASPer Test and Medical Schools

After the MCAT, personal statement, hours of working on your AMCAS, you finally thought you were done with all of the pieces of your medical school application, but then: CASPer. Find out more about what CASPer entails, what it is trying to measure, and all the logistical information you will need to succeed.

WHAT IS THE CASPER TEST?

CASPer stands for “Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics”.  It is an admissions test developed by McMaster’s University in order to assess traits relevant to future physicians such as communication, equity, empathy, professionalism, and ethics.  It is being used by more medical schools as part of the application process.

WHY DO MEDICAL SCHOOLS USE CASPER?  

CASPer test developers aim to provide admissions committees an additional method for evaluating an applicant’s interpersonal and interprofessional characteristics perhaps not captured by other components of your application (i.e. GPA, personal statement).

WHAT IS CASPER TRYING TO MEASURE?

CASPer is attempting to assess non-cognitive skills such as ethics, empathy, communication, and professionalism that have traditionally been more difficult to assess in other components of your medical school application.  These skills indeed have been less examined historically by admission committees despite being core attributes of effective physicians.

WHAT IS CASPER’S FORMAT?

CASPer is a 90-minute online exam consisting of 12 video or word-based scenarios (“stations”) each followed by three open-ended questions that you have 5-minutes total to respond to.  8 of the stations are video-based and 4 are word-based.  The scenarios comprise a mix of situational judgement tests (SJT) and behavioral descriptor questions (i.e. reflecting about past experiences).  You can check out official CASPer test question examples here.

HOW IS CASPER EVALUATED?  HOW DO ADMISSIONS COMMITTEES USE YOUR SCORE?

Each station is graded by a different human rater and the scores are averaged and standardized to provide relative rankings of students relative to their peers.  The exact standardization process is not publically available information as of the writing of this post.  Graders focus on content and are told to ignore spelling or grammar areas.  Scores are automatically sent to programs and students to not receive their scores.  

HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR CASPER?

The test takers say their test is pretty resistant to improving scores as there is “no obvious approach to answering questions the ‘right’ way”.  While there is some truth to this, and you shouldn’t spend a ton of time studying, we have found students benefit from some preparation.  So, what should you do?

  • Practice reflecting on challenging experiences, professional failures, and personal weaknesses. Practice what you’ve learned and how you grew.  This will help you for your secondaries and your MMI interviews as well.
  • Look over and practice some sample questions.  There are plenty of other resources available online as well.
  • Give yourself a little bit of time to review medical ethics of necessary.  Many students have not had exposure to ethics as an undergraduate, so a primer may be helpful.

You don’t need to invest a lot of time doing this, you just shouldn’t go into this test (or usually any test) completely blind.

CASPER LOGISTICS & FAQS

How do I enroll for the CASPer Test?

Enroll here: https://takecasper.com/.

How much does it cost to take CASPer?

A $10 initial fee with an additional $10 for each school you choose to distribute your score to.

When should I take the exam?

The test is usually offered at least once per month. We recommend taking it in May or earlier of the year you are applying while preparing your primary application as some schools have now required your score for initial review.  

I have more questions!

CASPer has a great FAQs page that should answer most of them!

Which schools use CASPer?

You can view a full list of schools here.  More schools are typically added every application cycle.

The medical school admissions process is already strenuous, long, and at times, frustrating.  While this is definitely another “hoop” to jump through, it may provide schools a different perspective on who you are as an applicant.  At the time of writing this, the overall impact of CASPer on admissions is still unclear as it is relatively new.  As more time passes and more data is gathered, the  role it will play in the admissions process should become clearer.  In the meantime: do the best you can and don’t spend an excessive amount of time preparing at the expense of other portions of your application.