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 pores 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.