Altus Snapshot: What You Need To Know

October 11, 2022


Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 5/13/22

Many medical schools now require students to complete an Altus Snapshot interview as part of the admissions process. To learn more about Snapshot, read on. 

Personal statements are often the most dreaded part of medical school applications. With the limitation of having to eloquently articulate your thoughts into words, it can sometimes feel impossible to express yourself fully in only a few thousand characters.

Luckily, many medical schools are now requiring students to complete the Altus Suite Snapshot, which can allow you to bring your personal statement to life and expand on it. 

This guide will go over everything you need to know about Altus Snapshot and provide you with some sample questions to begin preparing for your interview!

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What Is Altus Snapshot?

Altus Suite Snapshot is a one-way video interview made up of interview-style questions that many medical schools require as part of their application process. Altus Snapshot is taken after the CASPer test and is meant to complement it.

Snapshot allows admissions committees to get to know candidates past their academic achievements and scores. Admissions committees review these interviews to get a better sense of who you are and to learn more about your verbal and non-verbal communication skills and motivation.

The Snapshot doesn’t substitute real medical school interviews, but can increase candidates’ chances of landing interview spots!

How To Prepare for Suite Snapshot

The fact that there isn’t another person on the other side of your interview may make the Altus Snapshot less overwhelming. However, it can feel awkward to talk to yourself and record it! You may also be concerned about the two-minute limit you’re given for each question – a limit that generally doesn’t exist in real-life interviews.

To ease some of your stress and to help you feel more prepared for the Snapshot, here are some tips on how to ace your video interview.

Practice Makes Perfect

The best way to get comfortable with the two-minute time limit is to practice with it before your actual interview. Using the common interview questions, we discuss below, set up your own version of the Snapshot! Give yourself 30 seconds to reflect on each question, and set a timer for two minutes to come up with an answer.

Recording your answer can help you feel more comfortable in front of the camera, and you can rewatch your answer to find any areas that need improvement.

Remember, your non-verbal communication is as important as your verbal communication. If you keep breaking eye contact with the camera, sound unsure or nervous, or can’t seem to sit still in your recording, you can catch and rectify it now instead of the committee catching it.

Come Up With Creative Questions

Snapshot might throw a wild card at you and ask you a question that isn’t common. To learn how to handle unexpected questions, try to think of unusual questions and answer them within two minutes. This will help you become a quicker thinker and a more confident speaker.

Some questions you might consider practicing with are:

  • What are three things you’d take with you on a deserted island?
  • What would you do if you won the lottery?
  • If you could commit a crime without getting caught, would you do it?
  • Which superpower would you like to have?
  • How would you describe colors to someone that is blind?
  • How would you describe music to someone that is deaf?

By practicing similar questions, you will feel less intimidated if you see an unexpected question on your Snapshot interview.

Check Your Tech

This may be an obvious step, but it can easily be forgotten under the stress of preparing for and completing the Snapshot. To ensure you don’t run into any technical errors, check your mic and camera before you sit down for your interview. 

You should also double-check that your Wi-Fi is working to the expected standard of at least 1 MB/s and that it won’t cause any issues with your assessment.

Snapshot Format

Altus Snapshot is only made up of three interview-style questions and takes no more than 10 minutes to complete! It’s a relatively short interview, but still has a lot of weight in the admission decisions! 

When you begin your Snapshot, you will first have to complete two practice questions. These questions will not be recorded and can be completed as many times as possible to ensure you’re ready for the test. 

Once you’re prepared for the actual test, the first question will pop up, and you will have 30 seconds to reflect before the recording begins. You will then have two minutes to complete each of the three questions. If you finish early, you may click the submit button to move on to the next question or to complete the test. 

Snapshot responses are automatically saved once the two minutes are up, and you will not be able to re-record any of your responses.

Snapshot Questions

As we stated, you will not be able to re-record your answers, so it’s important you submit well-thought-out answers. While this test is relatively simple and short, practicing how to articulate your thoughts in a short period of time can help you formulate better responses during the actual test.

Snapshot questions will be similar to those you’d be asked during your medical school interviews, and will focus on questions about your character and career goals. To give you a better idea of what to expect on the Snapshot, here are four sample Snapshot questions provided by Altus itself, and tips on how to answer them!

1. Tell Us About Someone You Admire and Why

To answer this question, you’ll want to focus more on the qualities of the person you admire, rather than who they are. The person you admire doesn't have to be a cliché famous person that the committee has probably heard of several times. 

You should make this answer more personal and talk about someone that actually inspired you through their dedication and work ethic. You may talk about a family member, a supervisor, or even a friend. 

By asking who you admire, medical schools are really trying to figure out the types of traits you value and what your own principles are. 

2. What Is Your Favorite Book?

Reading is an essential component of medical school and medical careers. This isn’t a trick question, so you should answer honestly! Even if you haven’t read a book for a few years, there’s likely one book that stands out to you. 

These books should not be medical books or other academic books! Contrary to popular belief, medical school admissions committees are people too! They know how boring medical books can be, and know these aren’t actually your favorites. 

None of these questions are meant to trick you, so there’s no use trying to trick the admissions committee into believing your favorite book consists of medical terminology and definitions. 

Instead, choose a book that either inspired you or taught you something new! 

For instance, maybe you read a fiction novel for one of your elective courses during your undergrad that involved historic events that you didn’t know about.

This book could have inspired you to learn more about history that’s often hidden from textbooks, igniting your desire to create more awareness about unjust contemporary events that also receive little attention.

Even if your favorite book is one of the Game of Thrones novels, you should mention it! It’s bound to at least pique the committee's interest. You can mention the complex structures and characters in this book that inspired you to continue challenging yourself with difficult readings to expand your vocabulary and become a better reader!

The possibilities are endless with these types of “favorites” questions. But, it’s often difficult to come up with your favorites on the spot. To overcome this challenge, make a list of your favorite people, hobbies, subjects, and more, so you aren’t caught by surprise during your interview! 

You’ll have a limited amount of time to figure out and explain your answer, so it’s better to determine some of your favorites before you begin your test.

3. What Is An Obstacle You Have Faced, and How Did You Get Through It?

You’ve likely answered this question in some form or another as part of your medical school application, or even in other interviews. You may even have touched on this topic in your personal statement, which can give you an advantage! 

If you did mention adversity in your personal statement, ensure you don’t simply reiterate what’s already written in your personal statement. Use this question to expand and delve deeper into what you mentioned in your personal statement. 

Many students find the word count of personal statements to be limiting, so it’s likely there were details you wanted to include but had to leave out of your statement. The Altus Suite Snapshot is your way to share these left-out details to the committee! 

It’s important to note, this obstacle doesn’t have to be life-changing adversity you faced! It can be as simple as a low grade or even the decision to change your major. You’ll want to tell the story surrounding this obstacle, detail how you overcame it, and what you learned from it.

Admission committees know people aren’t perfect and that they face difficulties that can either make or break them. Medical school itself often breaks many students, so committees want to know they are making the right investment by choosing you for their program.

Focus on how you’ve grown since the obstacle and how it made you a better, stronger, and more resilient person. 

4. What Aspect of Your Future Profession Are You Most Excited About?

Again, for this question, you want to be honest – but not too honest. For instance, if you’re in the medical field for the prestige or pay, you won’t want to mention this in your interview.

Instead, keep it patient-focused! You don’t want to be cliché and say you’re excited about how many lives you’ll save and patients you’ll treat. Dig deeper and be more specific! 

Perhaps you’d like to specialize in a particular area of medicine you feel drawn to, or you’d like to eventually open up your own practice to treat disadvantaged populations. 

Regardless of what it is, ask yourself why you chose to become a doctor in the first place. Think about what will keep you motivated throughout the six plus years of medical school and residency before you become an independent doctor. Use these thoughts to guide your answer.

More Questions

Aside from Altus’ sample questions, there are general questions you should prepare for that might show up during your interview. 

  • Tell me about yourself
  • What are your hobbies/leisure activities?
  • Why do you want to practice medicine?
  • Tell us about a mistake you made. How did you rectify this mistake?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • Why did you choose your undergraduate major?
  • What makes you unique?
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • What are your goals for the near future?
  • What motivates you?
  • How do you handle criticism?

While you should do your best to create general outlines for these questions, ensure you don’t memorize your answers!

The Snapshot interview is meant to be conversational. Medical school committees want to see how quickly you can think on your feet, so clearly memorized answers will not impress them and won’t seem genuine.

FAQs: Altus Suite Snapshot

We’ve gone over various Altus Snapshot questions, but we may not have addressed all of your Snapshot questions yet! Rest assured, you can find the answers to any remaining questions below.

1. What Is Altus Snapshot?

Altus Snapshot is a one-way video interview that compliments the CASPer test. It is another way for medical school committees to learn more about their candidates and gain more insight into their personal lives.

2. Is The Altus Snapshot Mandatory?

The Altus Suite Snapshot is not mandatory for every medical school. However, many medical schools do require the Snapshot as part of their application. In this case, you must complete the Snapshot to be considered for admission.

3. How Do You Do Well On The Altus Snapshot?

The best way to do well on the Snapshot is to prepare for it beforehand. While there’s no telling which questions you’ll see on your interview, it’s important you become familiar with the format and time restraints to hone your critical thinking and communication skills.

Go over the sample Snapshot questions and other common interview questions and try to answer them within two minutes. After this, create outlines for yourself to go over to ensure you remember the important points you want to emphasize during your interview.

4. How Long Is The Altus Snapshot?

The entire interview will take less than 10 minutes.

5. How Many Questions Are On The Snapshot?

There are only three questions on the Snapshot.

6. Should I Use The Full Two Minutes For Each Question?

You don’t have to use the full two minutes for each question. While the majority of students give themselves the full time to think through their answers and provide detailed explanations, you can submit your questions early and still provide solid answers.

If you feel like you’ve adequately answered the question before the time limit, there’s no need to continue talking just to meet the two-minute mark. If you continue rambling, you risk making points that are unrelated, repeating yourself, or making new points that would require more time to fully unpack.

You don’t want to leave the admissions committee hanging by being stopped by the timer mid-way through a sentence. Keep an eye on the timer and ensure you finish your thought completely before moving on to the next question.

Final Thoughts

Feeling overwhelmed for any interview is normal! Despite the Altus Snapshot being a one-way, short interview, these 10 minutes can make or break your application. Ensure you make each minute count by preparing for this interview ahead of time and becoming comfortable in front of the camera!

Good luck!

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