What is CASPer – The Ins and Outs of a Not-So-Scary Exam
Let me be transparent (ghostly, if you will) regarding the CASPer exam, and what it actually is. There is a new test in town and no, it is not another Step exam or another version of MCAT. The med school tests in your current repertoire focus on the details of medicine and the science behind it. But that is only a part of what will make you a remarkable doctor. A big part of what it takes to be a stand-out physician is your character, principles, and social skills. And now, there is a test to evaluate just how proficient you are in these skills.
CASPer – not the friendly ghost, but rather, the Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics – is a situational judgment test graded on a quartile basis, with a goal of measuring ethics, communication, empathy, and professionalism in any number of settings – not just medical ones! The number of programs requiring students to take CASPer prior to medical school is growing in order to weed out applicants. It is in your best interest to know what CASPer is and how to study for it and so we wanted to provide you with the basic ins and outs.
What is CASPer? And How Will I Know My CASPer Quartile Score?
- 90-minute test; 12 sections – 8 of which are video-based and 4 of which are word-based scenarios.
- Each scenario is followed by three open-ended questions that you have 5 minutes to respond to.
- CASPer scores are based on a 1-9 scale, and provided to medical schools on a quartile basis, but how scores are produced is unknown.
- Your CASPer quartile score will be sent to your list of selected med schools, but these scores are not shared with applicants.
- Answers are scored based on content rather than spelling, grammar, and syntax errors.
- It is still relatively new and research on its weight and role in the application process is still being collected.
When is CASPer Offered?
- At least once a month
- It can be taken on any computer with an internet connection
- Specific test dates can be found on the Altus Suite website
- Registration is required at least 3 days prior to the test date
How Much? How Long? How Do I Sign-Up?
- The non-refundable CASPer test fee for American students is $12, with an additional $12 fee for every med school you distribute your results to.
- It takes 2–3 weeks for your CASPer exam to be scored and for quartile scores to be distributed to the med schools on your list – you can add programs to your list even after taking the test if scores are still being accepted. Learn how to add schools here.
- CASPer quartile scores are valid for a single application cycle, and only for the program type (e.g., allopathic medical schools) for which you took the test.
- Sign-up for the Casper test through the Altus Suite website.
So now that we understand what CASPer is a little bit better logistically, how do we study in order to “improve” our character, and life values? After all, it is not like improving our understanding of the Krebs cycle, which simply requires the retention of facts and details. You do not need to take months to study for this exam but rather review scenarios that test your ability to make appropriate decisions in a variety of situations.
Principles within medical ethics can be used to help you approach situations effectively. Examples include autonomy – the ability to allow an individual to make a decision without coercion or undue influence; beneficence – working in the best interest of the patient; non-maleficence – do not cause the patient harm; justice – equal or fair treatment of each individual.
The goal of CASPer is to answer the prompts while keeping these principles in mind, even though most of the questions will not be related to medicine. In just a moment I will present a couple of examples of how you can implement these principles, to help you better understand what CASPer really is. Before I do, I would encourage you to take a few seconds after you review the prompt to analyze what the prompt is asking you to focus on and how to make the most informed decision based on the aforementioned ethical principles.
Written Example and How to Think About CASPer Questions to Acheive the Best Quartile Score
You are at the grocery store buying ingredients to cook dinner for your family. You find yourself in the snack aisle and see a teenager carefully slide a chocolate bar into his back pocket. He looks from side to side thinking that he has not been caught, but you did see him from the other end of the aisle.
Question #1: What would you do in this situation?
Question #2: Imagine that you knew that the teenager was the son of the owner of the grocery store. How would that change your answer?
Question #3: If you were the owner of the grocery store, and the father of this teenager, and you learned that he was shoplifting, what would your actions be?
Take the next 5 minutes to answer the questions using the principles we spoke about that could lead to the most positive outcome. Once you have finished, you can compare your answer with ours seen below. Remember, not all answers have to be the same. Those scoring the CAPer exam are looking for how you assess the situation and evoke empathy, compassion, professionalism, and other noteworthy character traits, which is what CASPer is all about.
Possible Answer #1: What would you do in this situation?
“Before the teenagers leaves the store, I would pull him off to the side and privately indicate that I saw him taking the chocolate bar and put it into his back pocket. Although I thought about reporting him to the store manager, I thought it only fair to give him the opportunity to put the chocolate bar back or pay for it, before I report him. I would indicate that I do not want to embarrass him as I understand that this is an uncomfortable situation, but as he is breaking the law, I have a moral obligation to uphold it if I witness an immoral act. Assuming he decides to put the chocolate bar back, I would remind him of the importance of honesty and integrity, and of the repercussions of committing a crime. Finally, I would give him reassurance by stating I am glad that he chose to do the right thing.”
Possible Answer #2: Imagine that you knew that the teenager was the son of the owner of the grocery store. How would that change your answer?
“I would let the teenager know that even though his father owns the store, it does not entitle him to steal, and I would encourage him to approach his father and ask him what the rules are for family members who would like to purchase items. Perhaps there is a family discount, or maybe his father would even charge it to his own account and gift it to his son. As the son of the store owner, I would also indicate that he represents the integrity of the store and if others found out about the dishonesty, it could deter customers from coming to the store. As such, I would encourage him not to steal the chocolate bar and/or to come forward to his father to let him know of the situation.”
Possible Answer #3: If you were the owner of the grocery store, and the father of this teenager, and you learned that he was shoplifting, what would your actions be?
“I would ask my son to give an explanation as to why he felt the need to steal. It would be important for me to understand why my son was being dishonest with me. Perhaps he is angry, and we need to work on our relationship, or perhaps he is being coerced by friends. Thus, instead of immediately punishing him, I would want to understand his headspace in order to show empathy, thereby preventing a similar situation from happening again. I would, however, reiterate that I have a no-tolerance policy for shoplifting in my store, even if it is my son, and that this should be considered a warning. Perhaps we can come to an agreement in the future about purchasing snacks that he may want.”
This is just one of many examples that CASPer may present on the exam. In the near future, we will be running a webinar on how you can study for CASPer. For more information on CASPer or our upcoming webinars, please email [email protected].