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.