CASPer Information Webinar – June 1, 2018

Questions collected during the webinar can be found here.

This webinar highlights several frequently asked questions and tips to maximize your success on the CASPer test.

It covers:

  • An introduction to CASPer and brief history of the test
  • Why programs have chosen to use CASPer and which ones have made it a requirement
  • Logistics of the CASPer test and what to expect
  • How CASPer is scored
  • How the CASPer test benefits you in the admissions process and beyond
  • How you can prepare yourself for test day – 8 tips

Applicant feedback:

“I initially did not want to take this test and was worried about it, but after watching the webinar and doing some sample questions, I’m glad a school I’m applying to requires this. I think it’s good insight into personal characteristics and I hope it helps me, especially since my GPA is not perfect.”

“I am glad I attended this webinar!! It was extremely helpful and answers the majority of my questions!!!”

“Thank you for hosting this.”

How to Maximize Your Chances of Success on CASPer

Start your test without unnecessary worries.

Testing your system prior to the test is a great way to ensure that you start CASPer without unnecessary stress. Restart your computer on the day of the test to ensure needless background programs are closed. Perform the system requirements check (make sure you are logged in to access this link) to ensure that your webcam and computer are working properly. See our previous post here and our official article on the Student Doctor Network for more tips on how to prepare for the CASPer test.

 

Take the full five minutes to respond.

If you finish your response before the five minutes is up, it is a good idea to go back over your answers and see if there is more you can add or better clarify. Is there more you can add to tell us why you chose the stance you did? Raters are looking for your motivations for taking a position, rather than only the position itself, so it helps to explain your reasoning as completely as possible within the time given. We have found that individuals who used all five minutes in responding tended to score higher on CASPer than students who moved on to the next section before their time was up. So if you run out of time while responding, don’t worry, you are on the right track.

 

Read fully, then plan your response.

After the video or written scenario is presented, you will be asked to respond to three open-ended questions within a five minute window. You will feel pressed for time, but make sure to read all three questions and take a moment to reflect and plan your responses. This will allow you to avoid repeating yourself as you move from question to question, or missing addressing a question completely. Consider all aspects of the dilemma presented to make sure you are covering the issue from as broad a perspective as possible.

 

Don’t panic if you don’t finish your thought.

With a restricted amount of time to answer all three questions, it is common for the time to run out while you are finishing your thought. You will be automatically moved onto the next section, but don’t panic! This happens to almost everyone and raters are used to seeing unfinished responses. Raters are also explicitly trained to ignore spelling and grammar issues, so focus on the content and explaining yourself vs. fixing grammar or typos.  

If you are disappointed by your response, don’t worry. Take a deep breath and try your best on the next section. Each section is graded by a *different* rater who has no idea who you are, or how you performed on a past section. Do not be concerned if you feel like your answers were particularly weak for one of the sections, because you will still have 11 other sections to reveal your true self! Use the few seconds in between each section, and the 15-minute break in the middle to collect your thoughts, calm your nerves, and reset your mind for the next section.

 

Find a quiet place to take the test.

One of the benefits of an online test like CASPer is that the test can be taken almost anywhere. Plan ahead of time to ensure you are in a place free of distractions. If you live in a house with many noisy roommates or family members, let them know you will need quiet for the duration of the test, or arrange to take the test in a quieter location like your school or community library. When changing locations, keep in mind to re-run the system requirements check (make sure you are logged in to access this link) as to ensure the network quality is high. We would also recommend headphones to help you focus.

 

Don’t bother cheating.

It makes sense that in a high stakes test, some people will be interested in gaining an unfair advantage. As we want to ensure the test is fair and gives a reliable measure of the people skills of ALL applicants, we invest heavily in sophisticated detectable and invisible security measures. Keep in mind that all forms of cheating violate the Terms and Conditions of the CASPer test, and cases of cheating will result in scores being withheld and your case being forwarded to all programs. Since research shows cheating (like having someone help you formulate responses) is unlikely to improve your score, and the consequences are so high, why would you bother?

The CASPer test is unlike “ability tests” with right or wrong answers, so just relax and give it your best shot!

If you know of instances of attempted cheating (e.g., cheating methods, disclosing confidential CASPer content, etc.), please report all potential violations anonymously through the CASPer Security Tip Line Form.

 

Be familiar with the format.

From our own internal data, we have not been able to find any evidence of practice effects, as student scores generally do not seem to improve when they retake the test in a subsequent application cycles. The nature of the test is to assess your personal attributes, something that is unique to you, and that is hard to change in a short period of time. You can (and should!), however, familiarize yourself with the test format by completing the system requirements check (make sure you are logged in to access this link), which runs you through 3 sample scenarios. This can help reduce test anxiety as the format of the sample scenarios is identical to the test!

 

Coaching or paying for test prep—does it help?

As CASPer is used more widely, the number of test preparation companies has also risen. Some companies make the claim that CASPer scores can dramatically improve after taking their course or their practice tests. Keep in mind that these companies don’t know how well anyone scored either before or after their test preparations. Any results reported around acceptance rates are likely confounded as applicants taking test prep courses are generally more affluent. We have heard students directly recommending to other students that they don’t think it helped them. Ultimately it’s your choice, we just don’t want you to waste your money!

We know taking any sort of test can be stressful and our goal is to get you through CASPer smoothly. The programs you are applying to are not just trying to make you jump through another “hoop” by mandating CASPer, but trying to understand their applicants beyond just academic grades. This is a benefit to both you and the programs by ensuring that the future of our healthcare and education is in good hands.

If you have any questions or comments you’d like to provide us with, feel free to contact us at support@takecasper.com or follow us on Twitter @take_CASPer.

How is your CASPer test scored?

So you’ve taken your CASPer test – what’s next?

CASPer tests are scored by a group of individuals called “raters.” CASPer raters are recruited from various backgrounds and professions, but share an intrinsic interest in helping to identify well-rounded students that would make great professionals.

Once invited to rate, raters are assigned to a particular scenario from a CASPer test and provided with relevant instructions and background knowledge about the topic at hand. Once prepared, raters are served responses to rate. It’s important to note that no rater will ever score an applicant more than once. As such, an applicant’s final score is always comprised of 12 unique rater impressions. This allows us to dilute any bias that one rater’s subjectivity may bring to the table.

There is a 3-week turnaround time for test results to be delivered to schools. Applicants indicate what schools they’d like their results sent to and we take care of the rest!

What You Need to Know About the CASPer Test

CASPer is an assessment tool that is rapidly gaining popularity across the world. By the end of 2017, over 100,000 people have taken the test, and about 50% of all U.S. medical school applicants and 80% of all Canadian medical school applicants will have had to complete CASPer at some point during their application process. CASPer was first created in 2005 at McMaster University and in 2010, the test was incorporated into the official admissions process at the Michael DeGroote School of Medicine. CASPer, which stands for the Computer Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics, is predominantly a situational judgement test (SJT) that presents test-takers with a series of realistic, hypothetical scenarios and asks them to type out what they would do if they were to be in that particular situation.

This year, CASPer will begin its implementation across a number of physician assistant programs along with many more medical schools and other health care programs (see here for the most updated list of programs who are using CASPer). With its rising popularity, there has also been a rise in the number of articles that have been written about CASPer—which unfortunately have not always been completely accurate. In this article, we want to give you an overview of CASPer straight from the source directly responsible for the construction and delivery of the test.

What is CASPer measuring?

A large portion of a student’s acceptance decision to a medical program is based on their academic achievements, primarily undergraduate GPA and MCAT scores. This ensures that students have a strong foundation of knowledge and demonstrate superior cognitive abilities. However, this is not the only aspect that matters in becoming a successful physician. In fact, one seminal study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 94% of identifiable causes leading to disciplinary decisions against doctors were due to lapses in professionalism, not due to lack of cognitive medical competence. This has resulted in a dire need for medical programs to not only assess the cognitive abilities of their applicants, but also ensure that their students possess the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills necessary to become an effective physician. This is where CASPer comes in, as it is an assessment of non-cognitive skills, such as professionalism, communication, ethics, empathy, and motivation, and serves to complement the cognitive assessments that are already required by the programs.

What is the format of CASPer?

CASPer is composed of 12 stations with three probing questions in each station. Eight stations are video-based scenarios and four stations are word-based scenarios. The video-based scenarios are all SJTs whereas the four word-based scenarios are a blend of SJTs and behavioural descriptor questions, which ask respondents to talk about a specific past experience. The scenarios are set in a more general context: in one scenario you may be placed in a workplace setting with your boss, in another scenario you may be placed in a party with friends, in another scenario you may be placed in your own living room with your parents. The scenarios are typically not specific to the clinical setting, as we want to make sure that we are not giving an advantage to those students who have had clinical experience. You can take a look at a number of sample scenarios here at the takeCASPer website. Make sure to always check that the sample scenario and question set is from the official source, as many of the sample CASPer sections from unofficial sources are not representative of the actual test.

How is CASPer evaluated?

Each station of the CASPer test is graded by a different person. This means that every student is assessed by 12 independent human raters who come from a variety of backgrounds (e.g., physicians, nurses, educators, policy makers) and demographics (e.g., race, gender, income) to reflect the diversity of the patient population. Raters are trained to omit spelling and grammatical errors when evaluating responses and to focus solely on the content of the response. The 12 independent ratings are averaged, and scores are then standardized to represent the relative rankings of each student compared to their peers. The scores are automatically distributed to the selected programs within three weeks of completing the test. Students do not receive their results because it is difficult to interpret a single CASPer score without knowledge of how everyone else performed on the test.

How do programs use CASPer in the admissions process?

There is no single answer to this question as each school incorporates CASPer in different ways to guide their admissions process. Most programs use CASPer alongside other metrics like GPA and MCAT scores as a prescreening tool to decide who to invite to the interview process. Some programs use CASPer in a more impressionistic approach, to help facilitate decisions on candidates who are on the cusp of whether they are admitted to the program. Some programs implement a conservative cut-off score for CASPer to screen out applicants, while other programs take a closer look at candidates who have exceptionally high CASPer scores. For instance, Dalhousie Medical School will only consider applicants who score above -1.5 standard deviations from the mean for interview.

What can you do to prepare for CASPer?

Unlike the traditional SJTs with right-or-wrong answers, the primary goal of CASPer is not to examine what you would do in a given scenario, but why you would take that particular course of action. This makes it difficult to study for CASPer, as there is no obvious approach in answering the questions the “right” way. The general SJT literature and our own internal research has also shown that more complicated and challenging SJTs like CASPer are resistant to the effects of practice and coaching. While it may be difficult to improve your CASPer scores in the short-term, we have listed a number of ways students can prepare in advance to ensure a smooth test-taking experience—familiarize yourself with the format of the test, double check to make sure that you meet all the technical requirements (have a functioning webcam!), and plan your schedule well in advance to ensure that you are able to complete CASPer in a comfortable and quiet location.

Conclusion

The admissions process to medical school can be a long and daunting process for many students, and the addition of another assessment tool can be seen as another burden on what is already a fairly strenuous process. However, programs want to gather the most accurate and holistic view of their applicants to ensure that they are making the right decisions, as their students will be shaping the future quality of our healthcare. As technology has given patients easy access to a wealth of information right at their fingertips, they are no longer satisfied with just a medically competent doctor. Patients now seek doctors who are also good listeners, demonstrate empathy and compassion, and provide more personalized care. Historically, the admissions process has done an excellent job in admitting the brightest students, but they are now trying to do a better job in making sure that the students also possess the personal attributes that patients want to see from their physicians.

If you would like to get the most up-to-date information on everything related to CASPer, make sure to follow our blog at takecasper.com and our Twitter account @take_casper. Feel free to directly tweet or email us (support@takecasper.com) with any questions or comments you have about the test.

Published on The Student Doctor Network – April 30, 2018

Why does your program require CASPer?

The application process can be a long and arduous process, and programs are constantly updating their admissions process to make sure they are getting a more holistic view of their applicants. Many programs have begun incorporating new and innovative tools like the multiple-mini interview (MMI), the Defining Issues Test (DIT), and CASPer®, to make sure that students are not only intelligent but also possess the suitable characteristics of someone who will likely succeed on the job.

Although it costs more time and money for applicants and programs, it is helpful to incorporate a variety of different tools in the admissions process to gather a more holistic view of the applicants. We know academic metrics like GPA and MCAT scores assess the cognitive competencies, which do a good job in predicting performance in medical school, particularly in the earlier years when the focus is on the completion of coursework. However, the personal competencies are just as important. In fact, one seminal study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 74% of disciplinary action taken against physicians are actually due to issues in professionalism, and only 1% of cases were due to inappropriate treatment or diagnosis of patients or malpractice. This highlights the dire need for programs to screen applicants on not only their cognitive but also their personal domains.

However, many of the tools that are meant to assess the important non-cognitive aspects of applicants are not very useful. Reference letters are known to have poor reliability and no utility in predicting any outcome in medical school. Personal statements eat up a lot of time from applicants, yet research has shown time and time again that they do not predict anything useful. MMIs have been shown to be reliable and predict future performance, but they are extremely costly to administer, and so the majority of applicants have to be filtered out without ever having had the chance to showcase their personal qualities. CASPer®, on the other hand, is a cost-effective tool that can be administered to all applicants, providing everyone a chance to display their people skills. Research has demonstrated that CASPer® is reliable and also predicts future success in medical school, so the scores derived from the test seem to tell us something meaningful about the applicants.     

Not only do medical schools care about selecting applicants with the highest potential for success, they also want to ensure that they are selecting a diverse group of students to reflect the increasing diversity of the patient population. Health disparities continue to persist among racial and ethnic groups, and individuals with lower socioeconomic status are also at a higher risk of facing health problems. There is increasing evidence that promoting student diversity in medical school could help address some of the disparities. Underrepresented minority (URM) students are more likely to help in underserved areas and patients generally prefer to be seen by doctors of their own race/ethnicity. Studying alongside a diverse group of peers also help better prepare all students in the program to serve patients from different backgrounds.

While we all want to see a more diverse pool of medical students, there is still much more work to be done. For instance, African Americans make up 13% of the population, yet they only make up 4% of physicians. Part of this is attributed to the admissions process, which focuses primarily on cognitive assessments like GPA and MCAT scores that are known to show substantial differences across SES and racial/ethnic groups. This is much less of a problem for non-cognitive assessments, like the MMI and SJTs, as they tend to show smaller subgroup differences. A study from New York Medical College has shown that CASPer® has much less of an adverse impact on URM applicants compared to the traditional measures like GPA and MCAT, which can help promote the diversity of students. Additionally, the costs associated with CASPer® are much lower in comparison with other tools, to ensure that the test is accessible to all applicants and will not be overly burdensome to what is already a costly application process – the average cost of a medical school application is estimated to be $7,520!

So programs adopt CASPer® for primarily two reasons: to obtain a more reliable and meaningful assessment of applicants’ personal competencies and to promote the diversity of entering medical students. The path to medicine can be tough, and there are already many things required from you to complete your application. But programs adopt CASPer® to help streamline the admissions process, to make sure that they are doing a better job in gathering a more holistic view of their applicants. We have always recognized that being smart is not the only important attribute of a good doctor, and the admissions processes around the world are now beginning to reflect that.

Tips to Help You Better Prepare for the CASPer Test

Taking a test can cause a lot of anxiety for many students, especially when a test is high-stakes, such as a final exam or for medical school admissions. If you are one of those students, you are not alone. It is estimated that about 16-20% of students experience high test anxiety and many more experience moderate to high levels of anxiety, which can make students “blank” on tests – which can be particularly troubling if you are limited by time. There are many resources available online (like here and here) to help you calm some of the anxiety, and in this post, we provide a number of additional tips to help you specifically for the CASPer® test.

While there isn’t very much you can really do to study for the CASPer® test, feeling more prepared can help you reduce some of the anxiety. Here are some tips for you to help you experience a smoother test-taking experience.

Preparing for the test:

  • Take the sample test on takecasper.com. This will help you familiarize yourself with the format of the test, and give you a better sense of what 5 minutes feels like in a high-pressure situation. 5 minutes often “feels” much faster when you are pressed for time, so it is helpful to keep track of how much you are able to write within that time.
  • Make sure you meet all the necessary technical requirements to take the CASPer® test. You are required to have a functional front-facing webcam (you can test your webcam here), a reliable internet connection of at least 1.5 MB/s (you can check your internet speed here), the latest version of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox (update your browser here), and working speakers or headphones to hear the audio. It is a good idea to have both Chrome and Firefox installed in case you need to use a backup. We do not recommend the use of another browser and we also do not recommend you to take the test on a mobile phone or tablet. Ensure you complete the Systems Requirements Check once you sign up for your CASPer® test account.
  • Do not leave the sign up process until the very last minute! On the day of the test, make sure to sign up 30 minutes prior to your start time to ensure that you pass all the system requirement checks. Test times are staggered so that you will be able to start the test anywhere between the start time to a few minutes after your start time. You will not be allowed to take the test if you are late to the test (15 minutes after the start time), so make sure to plan your day accordingly. If you require any accommodations, contact customer support at least 3 weeks in advance with the required documentation.     

 

During the test:

  • Take the test in a quiet and comfortable environment. One of the advantages of an online test is that you are free to take the test anywhere of your choosing, so if you feel most comfortable taking the test on the couch in your living room while sipping on some warm coffee, feel free to do so! But just make sure to take the test alone, as you are not allowed to have any assistance with you when taking the test.
  • The test is composed of 8 video-based sections where you will be presented with a short video clip and 4 word-based sections where you will be presented with a short text prompt. You will NOT be able to rewind or pause the video, so make sure to pay close attention. The video clips are very short, so you will not need to keep track of too much information.  
  • For each of the 12 sections you will be asked to respond to three questions. Make sure to read over all three questions so you can plan your time accordingly to effectively answer all the questions. The test will skip right to the next section when your 5-minute time is up. Don’t worry if you weren’t able to finish your last sentence, this is a very common occurrence and raters are well-aware that students are usually pressed for time when completing the test.
  • There is an optional 15-minute break in between the test for you to stretch out, take a bathroom break, or grab something to drink. You are allowed to do anything you’d like during this 15-minute period aside from talking to another test-taker or discussing the contents of the test with anyone else.

 

After the test:

  • Your scores will be automatically distributed to your selected programs in about 3 weeks after you have completed the CASPer® test. After selecting your distribution(s), there is nothing else you need to do on your end so you will not need to receive the results of the test.
  • Please do not discuss or share the content of the test with anyone else. If someone you know is interested in finding out what kind of a test you wrote, feel free to send them to the takecasper.com to take a look at a sample test. If you have any concerns or notice any potential violations of the terms and conditions of CASPer®, contact security@takecasper.com.
  • Celebrate! Completing an application can be a long and arduous process, but make sure to reward yourself along every step of the way.

 

We hope these tips will help you better prepare for test day. Students generally find the CASPer® test to be much less intense than other standardized tests like the MCAT and results from our exit survey show that students are generally happy with the content and the delivery of the test. We are continuously using your feedback to improve the test experience, so feel free to send us any questions or comments you have to the @take_CASPer twitter account! We will also be sharing additional tips and resources to help you better prepare for the CASPer® test.

Standing Out From the Pack: How CASPer Helps Applicants and Admissions Teams

 

So, you’re applying to an academic program and it all seems to be pretty standard, until you’re asked to complete “CASPer,” a “situational judgment test” intended to evaluate your personal and professional characteristics. Is it just another time-consuming hoop to jump through, or, could CASPer truly boost your chances of acceptance?

To answer that, put yourself in the position of the admissions team that pours over each and every application. Tasked with selecting the very best people from an often large pool of qualified candidates, the team is always looking for tools that will help them round out the definition of “best” and accurately predict future performance. How can these teams make sure that great candidates aren’t being missed?

The traditional way: academic-based evaluations

There’s long been a suite of tools available to predict how an applicant will do with knowledge-based tasks. Grade point average (GPA), and standardized tests like SAT, GMAT, LSAT and MCAT are all designed to evaluate whether a program applicant will succeed in understanding, retaining and applying academic materials. Nearly all academic admissions teams use and trust these tools, because they’re reliable (scores are relatively stable over multiple tests of the same candidate), and they have predictive validity (the scores correlate with some future performance of that candidate).

But what about personality?

Many admissions teams are interested in other facets of a candidate, beyond academic knowledge. They know that superior applicants do not always rank at the top for cognitive measures, and that research shows that issues of professionalism and personality — not knowledge — are typically to blame for problems in academic and professional settings. Strong emphasis is increasingly being placed on personal and professional characteristics, with academic institutions and employers interested in not just how much knowledge trainees are likely to retain, but how well trainees are likely to behave.

Two men shaking hands and looking at each other with smile while their coworkers sitting at the business meeting

Personal statements, reference letters, autobiographical sketches and panel interviews are often used by academic programs to assess personal and professional characteristics. The problem is intuitive. Personal statements are one-sided and not written by the applicant alone, reference letters are almost always effusively positive, and interviews can go well or terribly for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the interviewee. Academic research clearly shows that these methods fail to predict for future behaviors, and additionally, they require a significant time commitment from both the applicant and the admissions team.

A better way to identify great candidates

Enter CASPer. Through 12 sections and open-ended questions, the test is designed to allow applicants with the highly important, but difficult-to-teach soft skills to stand out from those who perform well on strictly academic measures. It reliably evaluates personal and professional characteristics like communication, ethics and empathy, in a way that predicts for future performance. CASPer’s development began in 2005, and the system is refined each year with ongoing academic research and feedback from academic institutions.

Having to complete a CASPer test may seem like an added step in an already exhaustive application process, but it’s key to helping you stand out and ensuring that programs see you for who you are, not just what you know. If you are a strong applicant in more than just one way, then CASPer prevents you from getting lost in the mix, boosting your chances of being selected.