GPAs. MCATs. CARS. AACOMAS. AMCAS. PREview. The abbreviations and acronyms you need to wade through on your journey to medical school can seem endless. Here’s another one: the Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics – Casper for short. This situational judgment test (SJT) is designed to assess core competencies related to social intelligence and professionalism, including collaboration, problem solving, empathy, and ethics.
What is CASPer?
In 2010, McMaster University, the Canadian university that created the MMI (multiple mini interview) format, implemented Casper to assess the intangibles and soft skills needed for medicine – aspects of a candidate’s character that aren’t reflected in one’s quantitative scores on the MCAT or by their GPA. The test has evolved over the years and now includes both typed and video response sections and a total of 14 scenarios.
Today, 54 American medical schools include Casper in their admissions process, as do many dental and veterinary schools, nursing programs, and even medical residency programs. This makes it the most widely used, open-response SJT in higher education.
While medical schools in general view Casper as an additional aid in their admissions decisions, individually, they use candidates’ scores in very different ways. Some schools, such as UVM’s Larner College of Medicine, use the score to screen applicants for interview invitations. At others, such as the Medical College of Wisconsin, it is one of many data points used to gain insights into who an applicant really is. At programs such as the Tulane School of Medicine, the test is encouraged and considered in the application process, but is not required.
To find out whether or not your target medical program requires that you take the Casper, please visit the Acuity Insights website. First, select the country in which your chosen school is located, then select the type of program you’re applying to, and you’ll find the schools, dates, and times available to book your test.
More about Casper
It takes candidates 90-110 minutes to complete the test, and they can do so anywhere, as long as they have a computer and an internet connection. However, the test must be booked ahead of time, because it is proctored.
The test includes a series of video- and text-based scenarios, and applicants are asked open-ended questions about each scenario presented. Webcams and microphones are required for the Casper test to confirm the applicant’s identity and to complete the video response portion. Your webcam must be turned on, uncovered, and facing you throughout the test.
Students have a set amount of time in which to answer each question; however, their spelling and grammar are not assessed. It’s also worth noting that each rater is required to take the Casper test. As Kelly Dore, one of the creators of Casper, says, “They [the raters] know what it’s like to write your response or be saying your response and get cut off, so they understand that sometimes you don’t finish your last thought.”
Dore also shares that trained raters score a candidate’s responses relative to those of their peers, and each rater focuses on a scenario rather than on the entire test. Test takers are not graded against any “ideal” standard. In other words, your score doesn’t indicate whether your answers were “right” or “wrong,” only how strong your responses were relative to those of other applicants. This gives you more freedom, as a test taker, to approach each scenario with your personal values, experiences, and priorities. Hear more about how Casper is scored.
Tips for taking Casper
Months before taking the test
Here are three tips you should act on months before you take the Casper test.
1. Write every day.
When I start working with clients, I challenge them to begin keeping a journal and to write in it daily. In preparation for Casper, keep an electronic journal. If you are especially concerned about the speed at which you type, you can play typing games or time yourself regularly as you work to increase your speed.
2. Work with a professional editor/consultant or tutor one-on-one.
One benefit of working with someone like me or one of my Accepted colleagues is that you will have a “personal writing coach.” I work closely with my clients in preparing outlines for their writings and editing drafts. With each draft, their writing gets better and better. Over time, they build the confidence and skills to skip steps to produce a more polished essay with less effort.
3. Take the practice test.
Acuity Insights offers a free practice test on its website, and we (and Acuity) highly recommend that students review the materials on the organization’s Test Prep Page. There, you’ll find general tech tips, a practice test, and an introduction to the test format.
Weeks before taking Casper
As you approach exam day, you’re going to want to increase the intensity of your practice efforts. I offer the following advice for this stage of the process:
1. Find practice problems, and time yourself.
If you know that you struggle when writing under pressure, simulate the test conditions, and time yourself responding to practice problems. The test questions are similar to MMI interview questions.
2. Share your thought process.
Medical schools want to see how you think under pressure and how well you can problem solve. Demonstrate your thinking process by explaining each step you would take, depending on the situation you are presented with. Don’t leave anything out. No detail is too insignificant. Cover all your bases by being thorough and methodical.
For more assistance, check out Accepted’s one-on-one Medical School Admissions Consulting Services. Your consultant can assess a sample of your writing to inform you of your weaknesses and provide guidance on how to address and overcome those weaknesses when taking the Casper.
Since 2001, Cydney Foote has advised hundreds of successful applicants for medical and dental education, residency and fellowship training, and other health-related degrees. Admissions consulting combines her many years of creating marketing content with five years on fellowship and research selection committees at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She’s also shared her strategy for impressing interviewers in a popular webinar and written three books and numerous articles on the admissions process. Want Cydney to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!