CASPer Test Complete Guide

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What is the CASPer Test

The CASPer test is a situational judgement test, run online. It stands for Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal characteristics. It was initially designed to screen applicants to a US medical school, and has since been used by various academic programs – not just for Medicine. Each scenario in the CASPer is presented as a paragraph of text, or a short video. There are then three questions that you must answer on each scenario, with a total of five minutes to answer all three questions.

How long is the CASPer test?

The entire CASPer test is 15 scenarios, and the entire test takes around 100 to 120 minutes. There are two sections. The first features 3 text based scenarios and 9 video scenarios, and you must respond to three questions on each. You have five minutes in total to answer the three questions. The second section requires that you video your answers, using your webcam. There are 2 text based scenarios and four video based, and each again features three questions. You will have 1 minute to record your answer to each question.

Each video scenario will be around 60 to 90 seconds, and you will not be able to pause or rewind the video. You will not be able to pause or rewind at all throughout the test – as soon as the video is over, your five minutes to answer the prompts will begin.

When can I sit the CASPer? How much does it cost?

You can sit the Casper on a range of dates throughout the year. There are between 25-30 sittings per year, with the majority being from May to September – there are around 20 sittings from May – September and up to 10 from October through to April. You should note that different medical schools will have different ‘distribution deadlines.’ The distribution deadline is the last time that the school can be added to your CASPer distribution list. The CASPer costs only 10 USD to sit, although you must pay an additional 10 USD to distribute your score to your chosen schools.

What is the CASPer used for?

The CASPer was first developed as an online version of an MMI – a test designed to make sure that potential doctors had the right personal attributes to succeed, and to make their patients feel comfortable. The test therefore assesses ethics, empathy, team working ability, professionalism, ability to communicate with others, conflict resolution, problem solving, ability to judge a situation, and awareness of diversity and cultural issues. You should be able to make decisions under stress, and communicate easily with people from a range of backgrounds and of varying degrees of authority and knowledge.

When sitting the CASPer, you should bear this in mind. Your ability to work as a compassionate doctor, who communicates well and effectively with their patients, and does the ‘right thing’ – or at least does their informed and rational best to do so – is what is being examined here.

How is the CASPer scored?

The test is scored by a range of reviewers, who may be doctors, medical students, or members of the lay public. They will have undergone a training program to prepare them to score the tests. They are trained to be as objective in their assessment of given criteria as possible. Each CASPer response is graded using a scale from 1 to 9, with 1 being an unsatisfactory response and 9 being a superb response. All three responses to a given prompt are graded by the same scorer, with the score you receive being an average of your ability over the three questions. Each individual section (of three prompts) will be scored by a different marker, meaning that you should have 12 different markers over the course of the entire test. Each marker is given a series of candidate responses to individual scenarios, meaning that their marking should be uniform throughout – meaning that the marking should be as fair as is possible.

Can one fail the CASPer?

No. You cannot fail the CASPer. However, what ‘failing’ means will depend from one person to another, and it is likely that your definition of failing the test would involve a score that was deemed too low to enable you to get into the school of your choice. Therefore, you should be aware of how the test is scored, find any information possible about how much it is used in the admissions processes of schools that you are interested in, and aim for the highest mark possible.

Does the CASPer test record you during the written section?

The CASPer test does record you during the written section, but only for the purposes of ensuring that you are the person writing an answer to every question. You have to stay within view of the webcam throughout, although you may leave the webcam’s field of view during the break in the middle of the test.

How important is the CASPer test?

This will change from school to school – for some it may be used as a main judging tool – meaning that those with the requisite academics will then be screened for interview using the CASPer primarily. For others it may be used as an adjunct, to check that students don’t score very lowly. How important the test is to you will therefore depend on the schools that you choose and their use of the test.

Is the CASPer difficult?

This is a subjective question, but it is normally seen as a tough assessment of soft skills. The questions are not designed to be simple and easily answered, rather to be complex enough that you have to demonstrate an ability to think in a logical way. If you are able to prepare effectively and become used to the question formats, then the test need not be overly stressful.

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Should I study for the CASPer?

Yes. Whilst the developers of the test claim that it is immune to preparation, research has found that preparation can help. Any aptitude test can be revised for – even an IQ or EQ test can still be prepared for. If you consider two otherwise identical people, one of whom has answered 100 practice questions, and compared their answers for each to a model answer, and then timed themselves throughout multiple practices, versus one who has never researched the test format before, who do you think would do better? You should give yourself the best chance of success, and of taking the exam in your stride.

You should note that you will only get better through practising with the help of model answers, and feedback.

What is a good CASPer score?

Your score will be a huge determinant in the likelihood of your gaining an interview at a medical school. We can look at the example of McMaster University, the first to introduce the CASPer test, that is now a part-owner of the company that administers the test. They explain that the CASPer accounts for a third of the pre-interview score for any applicants. We can also see that of the students admitted, many have below average GPA and MCAT (around 30%) – showing that a competitive CASPer score and a good interview are vital to succeeding in the admissions process. You can contact the admissions department of certain schools that you are interested in to find out more information

How do I do well in the CASPer exam?

In order to succeed, you must have a clear plan on how to approach both your preparation for the test, and the test itself.

During the test

When sitting the test, you should prioritise time management – be aware of how long you have spent on a question and how long you might have left. Always plan your answer first, as a coherent answer will be quicker to write and more likely to succeed than an unplanned and rambling answer.

Always demonstrate professionalism through formal wording, awareness of others and their cultures, and through avoiding any wording or content that could be perceived as politically incorrect.

During video questions, speak clearly and make sure to emphasise core concepts. Don’t rush, and take time to think if needed.

Before the Test

You should give yourself 2 months to prepare for the test, which is enough time to learn the behaviours and attributes that you will be expected to demonstrate. You should begin by thoroughly researching the test, so that you understand exactly what you are preparing for. Then, your preparation should consist of working through practice questions, and consistently checking your answers against model answers or feedback. Only through checking your answers will you be able to progress. You should prepare your own approach to the questions, based on the following approach.

Develop an approach to the questions

This is an outline of how to approach any question type.

Firstly, review the brief to understand the following:

    1. Relevant Role
      Are you a teacher? Or a parent? Are you a manager or a junior? Your role will determine how you are able to react, how quickly, the background elements that you should consider, and who else you may choose to involve.
    2. Scenario Focus
      What type of scenario is this? Depending on the scenario type, your focus/expected questions will vary – for example in a team-working question, your focus should be very different to a resilience question, and you ought to find keywords to involve for each.
    3. Capture the Core Concern
      If you could correct only one issue, which would you choose?
    4. Assumptions & Additional Information
      What assumptions does the prompt make, and what additional information might you require to answer it?
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Read all 3 questions before commencing your answers

  • This ensures that your answers for different questions don’t overlap – a common error is to answer the third question as part of question one and so forth

Answering the questions:

  • You may find it easier to start with the less challenging question 3, and proceed 3,2,1. However, you should practice until you feel you have found a way that works best for you – be it 1,2,3 or 3,2,1.
  • Overlapping answers: With the very limited time, ensure that you don’t repeat points that you have made for other questions in the same scenario

Answering Video Questions:

  • Use the 10 seconds’ reading time well – don’t rush, and pick up on keywords.
  • Speak slowly and clearly, and emphasise core concepts.
  • Look at the webcam, and act in the manner that you’d expect of a professional.

Troubleshoot Points – The following ideas will help you to create an answer if you find yourself struggling to think of valid points under exam pressure.

  • Short Term v Long Term: Almost every action will have one consequence in the short term and a different effect in the long term. For example, lending a colleague money who is in debt would likely relieve their financial pressure in the short term, however in the long term it may make them more financially dependent as well as setting an unsustainable precedent whereby the colleague may expect your continued financial support.
  • Keywords: For each question type, think about the keywords and phrases that you should be writing. For example, in a question that appears to be about collaboration, you should include words like team-working, communication, leadership, togetherness, empathy, understanding. If the question appears to be about equity, you might want to include words like diversity, multicultural, privilege, equality, broadening horizons, learning from others. Whilst you should avoid being formulaic, having keywords in your head can help you to trigger memories or thoughts under intense pressure in the exam.
  • Beginning a discussion: Many scenarios will feature a colleague or friend that you have to speak to. In these situations, you should have a formula for how to approach them. This should normally involve speaking to them in private; choosing a time that is convenient to them or that allows them to continue if they are busy; and you should stress that you would consider using open questions, and listen actively to what they have to say.
  • Slippery Slope: This is the principle of ‘one thing leading to another’. In the case of a colleague not completing their fair share of work for a class project, failing to address this directly may result in the colleague becoming more complacent with future projects as well as examinations, likely to their personal detriment.
  • Address The Root Cause: The majority of CASPer candidates will take an ethically appropriate stance that addresses the immediate concern. However, very few will address the underlying cause, which is imperative in preventing a recurrence of the scenario. For example, in a scenario where you have identified a student stealing, the obvious action to take is to address this with the student and consider escalating to a tutor/supervisor. Equally if not more important is to consider and address the circumstances that has required the student to steal (eg. Substance misuse, family challenges, pressure from external influences). Without considering and addressing the underlying cause, the perceived problem will likely persist.
  • A v Z: Almost every action can be analysed from two polar perspectives; in the case of ethical scenarios, the only ‘right approach’ is the approach that recognises the potentially opposing views. Even in the most universally unacceptable circumstance, you should be able to consider (not necessarily agree with) opposing views. For example, if there was a scenario regarding a student who was cheating in an examination, the majority of students would identify this as being inappropriate and consider reporting this to a scenario tutor; this is a suitable and safe approach to take. Excellent candidates would potentially also state the following; ‘On the other hand, one may argue that there are likely significant stressors that have resulted in the student cheating and by reporting this student, this would likely add to those stressors and encourage further unacceptable behaviour in the future. As such, providing a stern warning in the first instance, may be a more appropriate course of action.’

Additional Information: Finally, when you are struggling for key points, ask yourself ‘what additional information would help me come to a judgement’. For example, in the case of a ‘friend asking for money’, key factors are likely to be: the amount of money requested, my present financial circumstances, what the friend requires the money for as well as if this is a regular occurrence or unexpected request. Through documenting these factors, the examiners can note your well-reasoned thought processes.

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