Student writing on sticky notes to help them prepare for the CASPer test

How to Prepare for the CASPer Test

July 5, 2021
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Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. What is the CASPer Test?Part 3. Importance of Preparing for the CASPer TestPart 4. How to Prepare for the CASPer TestPart 5. CASPer Challenges and Tips for Overcoming ThemPart 6. FAQsPart 7. Conclusion

Introduction

The CASPer test, which stands for Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics, is one of the tools that admissions committees use when processing applicants for medical school. This type of exam is different from the MCAT as it is less of an academic assessment and more of a psychological test. The CASPer test prompts you with multiple, different, hypothetical scenarios and asks you to respond with how you would react to them while solving the issue at hand. The number of schools that require the CASPer test has increased in recent years, but each school you're applying to may have their own requirements. It may appear daunting at first because of how unique a challenge it is, but we're here to teach you how to prepare for the CASPer Test. 

What is the CASPer Test? 

The CASPer test was originally introduced into the medical school admissions process approximately ten years ago. The test was first developed and introduced into the admissions process at McMaster University in Canada. Now, its popularity and adoption into the medical school admissions process has grown and become an essential part of the application process for several schools such as the Boston University School of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine, and the University of Texas Medical Branch. More and more schools are using the CASPer test as another method of further screening the thousands of applications they receive each year. 

The CASPer test is a situational judgment test (SJT), meaning that it is purely a psychological assessment that examines your abilities to respond to specific behaviors and scenarios that you may experience in your future career. It's different from tests like the MCAT, which assesses your science background to ensure you are academically ready for medical school.

Specifically, the CASPer test assesses your empathic abilities, your communication skills, and ethical conduct. The CASPer test is not an academic assessment to test your scientific or medical background. Instead, it is a psychological test that identifies whether or not you possess the necessary interpersonal and intrapersonal skills required to succeed within a professional setting. 

There are no testing centers for the CASPer Test; it is taken  from the comfort of your own home, online, using your webcam and other peripherals. It is highly accessible and can be pretty much taken from anywhere, as long as you have a stable internet connection and are in a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. 

It costs $10 to take the test, and for each school you send your scores to, it is an additional $10. Each school is different and may or may not require the CASPer test as you go through the application process, so make sure that you check and know which schools to require your CASPer results. 

There are 12 sections within the test, and each one is five minutes long; the test will take approximately 100 minutes to complete. There is an optional 10-minute break at the halfway point that can reduce or lengthen the total time. You will be presented with 12 different scenarios, eight through video and another four that are text-based. Each of these scenarios is  presented to you in random order and there are three follow up questions you must answer after each clip. The questions will be in regard to the presented scenario and you must type out your response to each one as quickly as you can; you are only given five minutes per section. 

The video-based scenarios are generalized and are designed not to favor one type of applicant. These hypothetical scenarios can place you in a doctor's office, at a night out with your friends, or within your own house having a discussion with a sibling. Each scenario is devised to be answered without having clinical experience; this factors out any advantages that applicants who have that experience could possess. The only difference between the written and video scenarios is that the written scenarios also present you with behavioral descriptor questions.

Importance of Preparing for the CASPer Test

The CASPer test is unique in the way that it is not a measure of your academic prowess or your ability to recognize biological terms. There is no test book to go through or terms to memorize. There are no right or wrong answers when you take the CASPer Test, but there are strong and weak answers. This is what separates it from other SJTs. 

Instead of assessing what you did in a specific scenario, the test analyzes why you responded the way you did in that particular scenario. Demonstrating a full understanding of the given scenario and being able to give a unique response are the elements of a successful response to a question. This can be difficult given the time constraints for each section, but keeping this in mind will help you as you prepare for the test. 

It's important to be aware of the types of issues that doctors can face within a professional setting. This doesn't mean that clinical experience is required, but by being aware, you are preparing yourself for the types of scenarios you can be presented with. 

The CASPer Test changes and evolves with each time it’s given. You won’t know before-hand what questions or scenarios you’ll confront, but by preparing and devising a strategy to answer any question they may ask will put you in the best position possible to succeed. There are only five minutes to respond within each section, these five minutes will feel like two if you’re under pressure, but by preparing, you will feel at ease and comfortable knowing you’re ready for whatever they throw at you.


How to Prepare for the CASPer Test

Research 

Because of how different the CASPer Test is from other SJTs, it's important to do your research and be fully aware of the type of test you'll be taking. CASPer is not a test you buy a test book for or one where you can rely on memorization. The research portion of the preparation revolves around reading as much as you can about the healthcare field and familiarizing yourself with the etiquette and practices that are required for patient and client interactions. 

The scenarios you will be presented with are visions of what you may one day experience in the future whether your role is as a friend, family member, colleague, or doctor. It is in your best interest to demonstrate that you are capable and fully aware of the conduct required to succeed. Read and familiarize yourself with cultural sensitivity, ethical issues, the dynamics of the workplace, and how to properly communicate within a professional setting. Researching these subjects will give you the insight you need to properly respond and articulate your message while taking the test. 

Understand the Test Format 

As stated earlier, the CASPer test is fully virtual and taken from the place of your choosing as long as there is a stable internet connection capable of running the test uninterrupted. The CASPer website states that a minimum of 1.5MB/s internet speed is required to take the test smoothly. In addition, you need a functioning, front-facing webcam, Google Chrome or Firefox, and a working pair of headphones or speakers. Once you have set up your CASPer account, you can run the system requirements check to ensure your system and chosen location is suitable for taking the test. These are the first and most important steps in understanding the test format; if you're not able to meet the system requirements, then you will not be able to take the test properly. 

Another important part of the test is the location, you can take the test wherever you want, but you must take it alone without any outside help. You can take it while sitting on your couch in the living room, or while sipping coffee at the kitchen table, wherever it is, make sure it is quiet and comfortable for you. 

The test itself comprises 12 different sections and presents you with unique hypothetical scenarios in both written and video format. Each section lasts only five minutes; a big part of preparing for the test is getting comfortable with this time limit. Once you have created your CASPer account, take the practice test that they give you. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the time limit and what it really feels when you're under pressure. Time always feels like it's flying by when you're under stress. 

Each video prompt only plays once, so pay close attention to the scenario that is described and the questions you'll have to answer. The videos are not very long, so don't be mistaken into thinking that you'll have to memorize tons of information within a short span of time. If needed, you are allowed to have a blank piece of paper, pen, pencil, and a dictionary while you take the test. You'll be allowed to take any notes you want as you take the test, such as names or specific details, but pre written notes of any kind are not allowed. 

You will be asked three questions, which must be answered within the 5-minute time limit. Read each question carefully and plan your answers accordingly, giving each question enough time to be answered thoroughly and completely. If you run out of time while answering a question don't be alarmed, evaluators are aware of the time constraints you may have while attempting to answer each question thoroughly. 

Understand How You'll be Scored 

Each section of the CASPer test is evaluated by a different person. This means that each test taker has 12 unique individuals from different professional and socioeconomic backgrounds evaluating their test. This is done in order to minimize any bias that may appear during the evaluation phase of the testing process. Evaluators are also not made aware of any personal information; they will not know your name, age, ethnicity, or any other revealing information. This eliminates the possibility of any prejudices interfering with a just evaluation. 

Evaluators are instructed to ignore any spelling and grammatical errors as they make their judgments; these types of minor mistakes are common during a timed test and do not count against you. As evaluators read your responses, they will flag any responses that did not fall in line with the ethical or professional practices that they deem fit. In doing so, they will have to justify the reason for flagging your response. Too many flagged responses and your test may be deemed unacceptable. Additionally, giving a well-articulated and accurate response to a single question is better than giving three subpar responses within a single section.  

CASPer evaluators rate your responses on a 1 to 9 scale, with 1 being a poor response and 9 representing a satisfactory response. Each evaluator is responsible for judging all of the responses they receive from multiple students at a given station. Test-takers are scored in relation to how all other test-takers performed. Scores are not linear or explicitly defined, they are conjured in relation to all who write the exam. Each section will receive a score from 1 to 9 and once all evaluations are done, they will be averaged between all section scores. The highest score you can receive on the test is a 9. 

Practice With Sample Questions 

One of the best ways to prepare for the CASPer test is to practice and attempt some sample questions. The CASPer website has some fantastic video and text-based scenarios that can help you familiarize yourself with the types of scenarios and questions that will be asked. 

These scenarios will be general and will not pertain to a specific field or practice. Read the prompts, questions, and watch the videos. Be aware of what the CASPer test will look and feel like when test day comes around. 

Get Expert Feedback on Your Responses 

How will you know if your answers are strong and what you can do to stand out  when you take the real CASPer test? It’s a good idea to get expert, unbiased feedback on your responses. This way, you can improve weaker answers and develop a strategy for answering any type of question. 

Eliminate Tech Problems in Advance 

The best way to ensure you have the system requirements needed to take the CASPer test is to run the system requirements check found within the reservations page of your CASPer account. Don't go through the checklist the day of the test. Instead, run through it a few days before and give yourself enough time to make any necessary changes to your computer, test location, or equipment. 

CASPer Challenges and Tips for Overcoming Them 

The most difficult part of the CASPer test is the uncertainty of it. It's anxiety-inducing. To avoid these feelings of despair, do everything possible to prepare. Read up on healthcare practices, learn how to effectively communicate, and study workplace dynamics. There is no one thing you should prepare for, but by reading up on professionalism and ethical practices, you'll be prepared to take the CASPer test without any hiccups. 

If you're the type to get test anxiety and crack under pressure, go through the practice test provided by CASPer several times until you get comfortable with the process. Feeling comfortable can help you calm down and not feel stressed as you go through the real thing on test day. 

Finding a quiet place at home can be challenging sometimes. If you're struggling to find a good location to take your CASPer Test, you may be able to rent out a room at your local library, free of charge, and take it there. You can always ask a friend if you can take it at their house, or find a secluded setting on campus where you can take the test. Taking the test in a familiar place will help in reducing test day stress. 

If you’re a slow typer, the CASPer Test may prove to be an ultimate challenge for you. Even experienced typists have difficulties in answering every question within the time limit. If you know that typing fast isn’t one of your specialties, then you may want to spend some time practicing. There are several online resources that you can turn to for this; you can compete in games, or take it easy and complete tutorials that will train you to type better and faster.

FAQs

1. What should I do on test day? 

On test day, you should run through the systems requirements check once more to ensure everything is up to standard. Restart your computer and close all applications, except the browser you'll be using to take the test. Finally, log in to your CASPer account and locate the countdown timer for your test. The countdown on the CASPer website will be the most accurate tool for knowing at exactly what time to start the test. 

2. What if I run into a technical issue while I'm taking the test?

If you run into a technical issue while taking the test, do not panic. CASPer is aware of potential technical issues and has sanctions in place to handle these situations. If something does go wrong, refresh your page. If that doesn't work, move on to your backup web browser and attempt to take the test from there. 

If that doesn't solve the issue, then you should immediately contact the live support and technical team through the online chat function found in the orange bubble at the bottom of the test screen. Don't be afraid of losing your answers or responses; CASPer saves them every second, as long as your internet connection is stable. 

3. Can I see my scores?

Scores are not explicitly released to you or anyone else besides the schools you chose to send them to. This happens at least 2-3 weeks after the original test date. Each school uses the CASPer test results differently and what may be competitive at one school may not be for another. There is no baseline for comparison, so your exact score doesn't get revealed to you. 

With that said, the creators of the CASPer test are running a pilot program where select test takers may receive quartile data. These types of results only reveal your quartile position among other test takers. This means you could place in the first, second, third, or fourth quartile among applicants. This type of feedback maintains the test security and reveals how you scored against other students. Quartiles do not measure what percentage of questions you get right or wrong, they measure the percentage of applicants you scored higher than. 

4. Can I reschedule my test? 

Test takers can reschedule their test as long as there are still available test dates within the current admissions cycle. If you miss your test, you are able to reschedule without penalties. 

5. Does my school require the CASPer Test?

This varies from school to school. You'll have to check and verify if your desired school uses the CASPer at any point of their admissions process. The use of the CASPer Test has been increasing over the past several years, so there's a chance your school may require it. 

6. How long are my scores valid for? 

Your CASPer Test scores are only valid for a single admission's cycle.. If you wish to reapply or apply in future admissions cycles, you must take the CASPer again. The CASPer test changes each year, therefore scores are not transferable between admissions cycles.

Conclusion

The CASPer Test is not an academic assessment to measure your memorization or cognitive skills. It is a measure of your ability to empathize, communicate, and integrate yourself into a professional setting. Knowing how to prepare for the CASPer test is an important part of being ready for it. The number of schools that use the CASPer test is increasing and familiarizing yourself with the test format early can help you when your test day comes around.

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