What Is Casper and How to Score in the 4th Quartile for Medical School
Pre-med students have plenty of requirements to fulfill when applying to medical school, from filling out the AMCAS application to taking the MCAT. Recently, many medical schools have started requiring pre-med students to complete an additional assessment called the Casper examination. But what is Casper, and how is it relevant to medical school students?
What is Casper/Altus Suite?
Casper (Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) is a situational judgment exam that evaluates your performance in various scenarios and how you approach them. The test presents you with a scenario in which you are involved and asks you how you would behave in these difficult situations. It then evaluates your response and scores you on a percentile rank of your ethical judgment and reasoning skills.
In addition, the Casper exam is part of Altus Suite, which offers two additional assessments complementary to Casper. These two assessments are called Snapshot and Duet, both of which will be discussed later.
Casper Format and Medical School Applications
The Casper exam is administered entirely online and is composed of 12 sections. 8 out of 12 of these sections consist of a video scenario where you are participating in a conversation with 1-2 other people. This video presents an ethical dilemma or some other difficult situation. The other 4 sections are similar, but word-based, where you are presented with a quote or written scenario. All Casper scenarios are followed by 1 minute of reflection and 3 questions, with 5 minutes allotted to you to type in your answer.
Casper registration opens in April, and test dates are available all throughout the medical school application cycle. As with AMCAS, you will select the medical schools to which you would like Altus to distribute your Casper score. Generally, without Casper, medical schools will not consider your application complete and will not review it until you submit your Casper scores. Scores are given in about 2-3 weeks and then automatically sent to medical schools. As of 2021, Altus has started sending students their quartile score 4 weeks after their exam. Make sure to check the schools on your application list to see if they require you to take Casper, and by which dates they require the score report. Just like in AMCAS, you can always add more schools to the distribution list later in the cycle. The exam costs $12 dollars to take, and an additional $12 to send to each school on your list.
How To Prepare
Casper offers one free practice test on their website for you to become familiar with the video scenario format and the questions that follow. There is no set way to prepare, as Casper is there to test your inherent ethical and practical problem-solving skills. However, what you can do is train yourself to answer these questions in a structured and understandable format, as well as follow certain baseline ethical rules. In addition to this, work on your typing. There are free online typing tests available to you as a resource, or you can practice typing in general. This is important as you will be limited to 5 minutes to answer all 3 questions per scenario – doing so as efficiently as possible will be important. One thing to note, however, is that Casper will not grade you on spelling mistakes or typos, or even correct use of punctuation. It is often suggested not to go back and fix typos, grammar, or punctuation, as these will not contribute negatively to your score—rather, focus on articulating your thought process and answering the questions.
How To Think About Casper for Medical School Applications
As stated in the previous section, although Casper is meant to grade your inherent ethical and practical problem-solving skills, it is important to address the situation you are in properly and professionally. This includes skills such as understanding authority figures and how to work with them – whether by confronting them directly or diverting to them. When approaching a Casper scenario and answering a question, it is important to address your thought process and acknowledge your understanding of the situation. Look at the problem in front of you and the people in the scenario, look at each of their perspectives, and their responsibilities. In each answer, try to show that you understand how multi-factorial and faceted the problem is, and state how your perspective and responsibility guide how you would act in response to the facts that are given to you.
Although Casper scenarios present you with facts, there could also be information important to the scenario that is not given. It is always important to address the information that is lacking. Do not base your answer and decision on what you know – there could be very important information that is out there that you need to just ask for. A sample answer could involve a statement about gathering more information, such as: “I would first ask X about Y and talk about their options with them. If they were willing to take option A, I would do…” etc. This way, you acknowledge that there is more to the scenario than just the surface-level facts. Make sure to avoid assumptions and judgments and be compassionate and understanding in your actions and their justifications. Illustrating this in your response is crucial to demonstrating your thinking process and your appraisal of the situation.
Just as Casper does not grade grammatical issues, it also does not grade blank answers. What this means is that if a question is left blank, the grader will not give you a 0 for that answer – it will simply not be graded. This means that if you are in the middle of answering a question and see that time is running out, try to finish your answer and make sure it is complete instead of moving on and barely answering the next question. Fleshing out an answer to your best ability instead of answering as many questions as possible will net you a higher Casper score, and help boost your medical school application.
Let’s put these ideas to the test.
Casper Sample Scenario 1
Let’s take a look at the practice scenarios Casper offers on their website located here. Scroll down to Video-Based Scenario 1 and watch it. After having done so, try to answer the 3 questions, giving yourself 5 minutes to do so.
Sample Answer #1
Question 1. Would you recommend he take paternity leave?
This is a difficult situation. I would first talk with my co-worker about the situation if he were open to doing so. After this, I would talk through his options and their pros and cons. If possible, I would recommend talking to management, and seeing if there is anything that can be done about his situation and paternity leave. If this is not possible, I would encourage him to discuss the situation with his partner and suggest coming up with a financial plan and see which option is better for the long term. I would make sure that my co-worker felt that I understood the difficulty of having to decide between providing for his family and being there in the formative years of his child’s life.
Question 2. What strategies could you offer to help him make a decision that he feels comfortable with?
I would try to talk to my co-worker about what information he does and does not have about his situation. It is important in this situation to have as much information as possible to base his decision around. I would offer a strategy of searching and talking to companies to see their paternity leave policies, and determine if there are better offers out there. In addition, I would recommend talking over these benefits with his partner and would recommend that they discuss the cons of each decision together. In addition, the company we currently work for may offer resources through their HR department that may help my co-worker find the most comfortable option.
Question 3. Maintaining work life balance can be challenging. Why do you think people struggle to find balance?
Much of work has started to become life in a way. Many employers frequently demand more of employees than can be accomplished during working hours, and as a result employees often bring their work home. Many people find it difficult to separate their work from their life and find that their career ends up taking up much of their free time, leaving little room for family or hobbies. Balancing between working and enjoying life will lead to them being more productive at work.
Let’s discuss what happened in these answers. When thinking back to the information we received in the prompt video, there are many things lacking. We know that our co-worker is being pressured to take paternity leave, but we also know that he is hesitating to do so because it might put him in a worse financial situation. As a result, he isn’t sure of what to do. The wrong thing to do in response to this would be to guide him towards a certain answer. What we need to do is acknowledge the difficulty of the situation. This lets the grader know that you are assessing the situation and doing more than just simply reaching a conclusion on your own. In addition, make sure to note that you would try to approach this situation carefully. Try not to use imperatives like “I will,” these are generally negative. In a situation like this you want to empathize with your co-worker and demonstrate to them that you understand their situation. This is done in the first answer by approaching your co-worker with care and seeing if they are open to discussing the situation with you and the options they have.
After you do this, you should try to find the information that the video didn’t give. Just because they didn’t tell you about it, doesn’t mean there isn’t a specific paternity leave policy at another company that might be better suited to your co-worker’s situation. Along with this, there might be something management can do to help your co-worker with his situation; after all, the video never said that he spoke to anyone else about his predicament. Make sure that you help your co-worker navigate a few possible solutions, and don’t insert yourself into the situation – your job is to cordially guide your co-worker to alternatives and help him reach a decision. Let’s look at the next sample scenario.
Casper Sample Scenario 2
Question 1. As the store manager, would you give this customer a refund? Why or why not?
First, I would talk to the customer to make sure they understand the policy and that I understand the situation they are in correctly. I would tell the customer I would talk to my boss and see if there is a special policy or way around the current policy, to try to get the customer the refund. If there is no such possibility within the policy, I would talk to them about certain funds or healthcare support services that would be able to assist them in their situation. I would try to do this with as little pressure and confrontation as possible and ensure the customer understood that I was empathetic to their situation and trying to help them as much as possible. I would also try to communicate with higher management to see if it were possible to alter the policy or set up a fund for emergency refunds to ensure that such a scenario is easier to navigate in a future encounter.
Question 2. If you decide to abide by store policy, how could you refuse the refund in a way that shows empathy for the customer?
I would try to have the conversation in a private space with the customer, if possible. I would ask about their situation to see if I could gather more information on it to ensure that the customer feels they are being heard. I would make sure that the customer does not feel like I am dismissing their difficult situation outright by referring to policy. In addition, I would try to clarify the situation with another coworker or manager to make sure that my application of the policy is correct, and that the customer understood I tried many different options and avenues around the situation. I would recommend and offer other options that the customer could take to help his situation and apologize that I was not able to get him the refund he wished, and explain that there was nothing else I could do.
Question 3. In your opinion, what is the most essential quality to posses in a customer service position? Explain your response.
Respect and empathy when addressing customers is an essential quality of customer service. A customer needs to have their requests heard and validated and feel like you have actively listened to their situation and what they have to say. In a customer service position, it is also imperative to ensure respectful communication and ensure the customer knows that you pursued all possible avenues of helping them with their situation.
Let’s break down what happened in these answers. Again, validation is an important part of answering questions on Casper. It is important to make sure that you – multiple times – communicate in your responses that you are validating the customer’s or patient’s concerns and are empathetic to their situation. Looking at it from the other side, you, as a customer or patient, would want to feel like you are being listened to and your situation is being properly investigated to. Also, try to gather that “always lacking” information. We are told about the store’s policy and the situation that the customer finds themselves in. But what more are we given?
You are not told that there is no way to change the policy, or a loophole around it, or a special fund for such situations. You are not told that the situation the customer shared doesn’t have certain caveats. Make sure that you enumerate in your responses that you will try to pursue as many possible avenues of solving the situation as possible – try not to ever approach Casper responses with a one-track mind, or a single answer. These situations are convoluted, but so are the answers. There are multiple ways to approach a Casper question, but be sure to demonstrate your flexibility and capacity to come up with solutions you aren’t expressly told about. Be creative!
What is Snapshot?
Recently, Altus Suite has included two more assessments along with their Casper examination. One of these assessments is called Snapshot. It is a recorded, video interview where you are asked 3 interview-style questions and have two minutes to respond to each of them. There is no one on the other side of the camera there to ask you the question, you simply record a video in response. Snapshot takes about 10 minutes to complete and can be done within 14 days of your Casper exam.
Not all medical schools that require Casper require the completion of Snapshot, although some students opt to complete Snapshot anyway. In addition, Altus is not involved in scoring Snapshot, as it is with Casper. Your Snapshot videos will be sent to your medical school list for independent review, along with your Casper score.
What is Duet?
The other additional Altus assessment is called Duet. It is a “value” assessment that asks you to rank your value of the different things various medical school programs offer. Your personal preferences towards these values will be matched with the personal profiles of the school and will be sent to them. Think of Duet as a questionnaire algorithm that will “match” you to the medical schools best fit for you based on what you find important (i.e., research opportunities, student wellness, diversity initiatives). This can also be completed within 14 days of taking Casper to assist you in choosing a medical school, and will also not be scored by Altus.
Remember that different medical schools place different weights on Casper exam results: some might have a certain score cut off and some might just require it as a formality. The Casper score you receive should not dictate which medical school you apply to; it is simply another piece of information that medical schools use to determine admissions.
Good luck with your Casper exam and medical school applications!