The Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics, better known as CASPer is an online situational judgment test (SJT) designed to assess how test takers approach real-life scenarios and problems. Modelled by the research and implementation of SJTs at the McMaster University Medical School, this test is now highly weighted in the application for many professional programs including medical and dental schools. Understanding the intent, format, and scoring of this test are all imperative to succeeding on the CASPer. Let’s take a look at them now.
What is the CASPer Test?
The CASPer is a psychological test that presents applicants with potential real-life scenarios in the form of either text or video prompts. These scenarios are often unrelated to the actual profession that they are applying to. In the span of 5-minutes applicants are then asked three different questions pertaining to the scenario they learned about. The purpose of these questions is to ascertain how an individual will think in specific situations and how they will choose to act. Specifically, test markers are looking for these qualities in applicants:
- The ability to work in team environments to work through problems and resolve conflicts
- The incentives behind certain behaviours
- The ability to make moral/ethical decisions when faced with complex situations
- The ability to quickly make mature decisions when placed in a stressful situation
- The ability to view problems from the perspective of all parties involved
- The ability to effectively explain thoughts, ideas, and emotions with one’s peers and superiors
- The ability to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and feelings and remain steadfast in the face of challenges
These soft skills are essential to building meaningful and trusting relationships, an attribute that all professional schools look for in the applicants. A compassionate and ethical professional is more trustworthy and patients are more likely to follow through on recommended treatment which results in better health outcomes.
What is the Format of the CASPer?
The CASPer test is taken over a period of 100-minutes, including an optional 5-minute and 10-minute break in between. It is divided into two sections, a video-based section and a written section.
CASPer Word-Based Section
In the word-based section, participants are given 9-scenarios, 3 of which are text-based and 6 of which are video-based. Applicants are given 30-seconds of time to read text-based scenarios. In video-based questions, applicants are allowed to watch each scenario, approximately 1-minute in length, only once. After this time, they will be given 3 questions pertaining to the scenario. Applicants will be given 5 minutes to give a typed answer to these three questions before moving on to the next prompt.
Generally, CASPer word-based questions will follow this outline:
Question 1: Directly related to the situation, for example:
- How would you handle the situation given your role?
- What is your primary responsibility here?
- What do you see as the main issue here?
Question 2/3: Typically ask tangentially-related follow-up questions such as:
- How would your decision change if “X” was different in the scenario?
- How is this [insert core theme] relevant to the situation?
- Suppose “Person 1” told you [insert new information], how does the issue change?
- Tell me a time where you showed [insert core theme related to the scenario]
CASPer Video-Based Section
In the video-based section, participants are given 6-scenarios, 2 of which are text-based and 4 of which are video-based. After reading or watching the respective scenarios applicants will be given 1 minute to give a video-recorded answer to the three open-ended questions before moving on to the next prompt.
CASPer tests are only valid for one year, so they must be completed each year you apply to a professional school.
How is the CASPer Scored?
CASPer tests are scored by “CASPer raters” who can be a student, a professional, a professor, or a member of the public. They complete an online training program for grading the CASPer scenarios. Each rater will only grade the responses to one of your scenarios, meaning that 12 separate reviewers will grade your entire application.
Each scenario will be graded on a scale from 1-9, with 1 being an unsatisfactory response and 9 being a superior response. This score will be representative of your overall performance on the whole scenario as opposed to a score on each of the 3 questions. This means that it is possible to score high on a scenario even if you have not answered all the questions.
When marking a scenario, raters are not provided with an exact formula for how to mark. This is because there are many ways to formulate an answer to a specific scenario. Instead, they are given a general idea of what topics and discussion points should be brought up in the response. This does not mean that there are no right or wrong answers. Some answers can be completely inappropriate for certain scenarios. The more you are able to demonstrate to raters that you have the criteria CASPer is looking for, the better your score.
Raters do not need to give a reason for the mark they award unless they red flag a response, which means that the response shows a complete deficiency in an applicant’s ability to appreciate ethical issues raised. As a result, when receiving your score applicants are only told what quartile they achieved compared to other test takers.
CASPer Example Questions and Answers
The following is a list of CASPer example questions and answers completed under normal test-taking conditions by the Canadian Med Guide Team. The Canadian Med Guide Team is a team of 70+ Canadian medical school students from all 17 medical schools in Canada.
Disclaimer: There are many ways of going about answering CASPER questions. These mock answers are only certain ways some students have decided to tackle these questions. They are by no means perfect; some of these answers are incomplete and they may also contain grammatical or syntax errors. The purpose of these examples is to provide you with examples of ways to think while answering CASPER questions.
|You are the owner of a popular restaurant. There is a 1.5 h wait time at the moment. A patient comes in and says that he has just been diagnosed with cancer and wants to make every living moment of his life worthwhile. He wants to jump the line.|
|Q1: Discuss the consequences of both letting and not letting the patient jump the line.|
Pros to letting the person skip the line are the fact that they will not waste their last moments on earth waiting in restaurant lines, they and their family members will be very grateful, and they might give you give restaurant reviews which will attract more people to your restaurant, and you as an owner will feel as if you had done a good deed. Cons are that it might look bad to other people at the restaurant that will then complain and give you bad reviews, it isn’t fair for the other people waiting, and the other people waiting may have other health conditions that they just haven’t told you about.
|Q2: Based on your answer to Q1, would you let the patient jump the line? Explain your position.|
After weighing both sides, I would let the person skip the line after explaining the situation to those in line in front of him and then giving me permission to do so.
|Q3: Wait times are a highly debated issue in Canadian health care. What factors do you think are important to consider in determining which patients should be seen sooner by health care providers?|
The severity of the patient’s condition is something that is important to look at. A person who is farther along in his disease or who is in worse shape should be cared for first. We should also care first for those who are suffering more, whether it be by setting them up on antibiotics or other means to reduce their pain level because if they are in too much pain, they will not be able to be contributing members of society by going to school and working.
|Hobbies are important to de-stress and keep a balance in life.|
|Q1: Tell me about one of your hobbies.|
One of my favourite pastimes is writing poetry. I love writing poetries to perform at events, and competing in poetry competitions. This allows me to express myself by putting my thoughts about urgent social issues into words through verses and metaphors. This also allows me to relieve stress and meet different people with a similar interest in poetry as me.
|Q2: What is one thing you learned from your hobby that will help you be a better doctor?|
Writing poetry allows me to be creative and I think creativity is essential to being a good doctor. Whether you have to be creative with patient treatment plans after having exhausted all other options, if you have to be creating in the OR during a surgical complication, or creating in explaining to a child that they have a chronic disease, I think this hobby will help with any medical specialty.
|Q3: As a medical student, resident and eventually physician, you will be very busy. Will you give up your hobbies in your pursuit of a career in medicine? Why or why not|
I think having a work-life balance is crucial as a physician to prevent burnout and jeopardizing the care of patients. So I don’t think I will give up all of my hobbies. While I understand the implications of a career in medicine, I might reduce certain hobbies but I will definitely have to stay active and do things that distress me and maintain my mental health. These hobbies of mine are what make me who I am and will help me be a better physician.
|Your friend’s girlfriend seems to be taking advantage of your friend by making him buy her shiny, expensive things.|
|Q1: What considerations would you need to take before deciding to intervene?|
I would have to know all of the facts of the story. I could not assume that she is taking advantage of him if I don’t know either of their financial situations. Or maybe he is very well off and generous and likes to spoil his girlfriend. Also, while I may think that him buying her expensive things is a problem, it may not be a problem for him. In certain cultures, men often court and spoil their significant others by buying them expensive things.
|Q2: You confront the girlfriend and she admits she is taking advantage of your friend. What would you say to your friend?|
Since I am not a part of their relationship, I would not yet feel comfortable overstepping. However, I care about my friend and don’t want anyone to be taking advantage of him. I would proceed by explaining to the girlfriend why I don’t think her behaviour is appropriate, and I would respectfully ask her to stop. If this were to continue, I would tell her that I will have no choice but to tell my friend that his girlfriend is taking advantage of him and has even admitted it to me.
|Q3: Imagine the situation was reversed. You find out that your best friend is taking advantage of his girlfriend. What would you say to your friend this time?|
I would again respectfully approach my best friend to tell him that I don’t think his behaviour is appropriate. I would also ask him why he is behaving this way. If he keeps taking advantage of her and it becomes problematic, I would then tell him that I don’t want to risk our friendship but I will have to tell the girl
|You work as a cashier. One day, you notice that money has gone missing. Your boss accuses you of stealing and he is pissed off.|
|Q1: How do you manage the sudden change in your working relationship with your boss?|
First of all, I would see if the store has any cameras that we could check to see who actually stole the money. That way I could clear my name. If there is no proof that I did not do it, I would be placed in a very uncomfortable position and this would be detrimental to my work relationships. Having this pressure on me and feeling like I am always being watched might increase the number of mistakes I make and frustrate the boss even further. If I am too uncomfortable at work and the boss is irresponsive to my attempts at explaining myself, I will consider finding another job
|Q2: Your boss decides to decrease your pay to compensate for what he thinks you stole. How would you manage the situation?|
I don’t think this decrease in pay is fair since he has no proof that I had committed such a crime. I will respectfully approach my boss in private to try to plead my case and outline every reason to explain that it is not possible that I wold has stolen the money (eg I wasn’t working on that shift, I wasn’t around at those hours. Etc). I would also offer to work at another position in the store that wasn’t cashed that way, I wouldn’t have access to the money. If I am put on probation for some time, then I will ask him to increase my pay
|Q3: Suppose you know it was a friend and co-worker of yours that stole the money. This friend is in a difficult financial situation, and while you don’t condone what he did, you understand why he did it. How does this information change what you would do?|
While I understand my friend’s tough situation, I don’t think it’s right for me to suffer for his actions. I would try to give him resources like food boxes to reduce his financial stress but I would tell him th
|You’re in an interview for a job. It seems to be going well. At the end of the interview, the employer tells you that he wants your Facebook password. He reassures you that any info he finds will remain confidential.|
|Q1: You will not be able to get the job without providing the password. Would you give it to your interviewer?|
I would strongly hesitate before giving the boss my password because I see this as a breach of privacy. I would respectfully ask him why he needed my password to view my Facebook profile since he can access my profile by simply looking me up in the search bar. I also don’t think he has the right to ask me for any of my personal passwords that aren’t related to work. If it’s concerned about me posting inappropriate things that would make the company look bad, I have no issue going through my profile with him and agreeing to keep my Facebook page censored from inappropriate content.
|Q2: Many people think that work life and personal life should be kept separate. What concerns would you have with your employer learning about your personal life?|
I would be worried that he would use aspects of my personal work to judge the quality of work I produce at work. I don’t think your personal life is a reflection of how you work.
|Q3: You get the job. A few days later, you notice inappropriate activities and photos on one of your co-worker’s Facebook pages. You are concerned he might lose his job if your employer finds out. Would you do anything in this situation?|
I would tell my coworker of the incident with my boss asking for my Facebook password, to let him know of the importance the office puts on how we appear on social media. This way, it’ll give him the opportunity to take these pictures down if he wishes in case our boss checks his Facebook.
|You’re a medical admissions officer. You recognize that one of the applicants is actually your patient and that she has somelongname leukemia with 10 years to live.|
|Q1: Should her medical condition affect her chances of being accepted?|
While I see why one would think her medical condition should not allow her to be admitted because she may be ill and unfit to practice, or might waste the school’s resources by only practicing for a few years before passing away, I don’t think her medical condition should affect her chances of being accepted. If she has been able to get the same marks as other applicants and take part in many extracurricular activities while battling leukemia, I think her medical condition will not stop her from being a great health advocate and an inspiration to some of her patients fighting the disease.
|Q2: Should applicants be required to disclose their medical conditions?|
I don’t think applicants should necessarily disclose their medical conditions unless they affect their chances of performing in medical school by making them unfit to practice medicine. Having them disclose all medical conditions is a breach of their privacy and could deter students which would make excellent medical professionals afraid of applying because they don’t want to be stigmatized by the admissions.
|Q3: In general, are there any personal factors you think should affect an applicant’s chances of being accepted?|
Only instances of situations that would make a person unfit to practice medicine, for example, a criminal past that has put others in danger should affect this decision.
Looking for CASPer Test Preparation Tips?
Despite what many people claim, you can prepare for the CASPer test. The characteristics that raters look for are learned skills that can be improved with practice. There is a difference between a professional and well-written response versus one that is unprofessional and incoherent; this difference is reflected by the score on the test.