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 90-minutes, including an optional 15-minute break period. During this time participants are given 12-scenarios, 4 of which are text-based and 8 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. The following is an example of a CASPer question provided by Altus Suites, the administrators of the CASPer:
“Think of a time when you had to make a sacrifice in order to accomplish a goal. 1) Briefly describe the situation and the sacrifice you made. 2) Do you regret your decision to make the sacrifice? Why or why not? 3) Did you learn anything from this situation that can be applied to your desired career? Explain your response.”
Some of the scenarios are personal-type questions, as illustrated by the example above.
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.
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.
For tips and tricks to prepare for the CASPer test click here. For those looking for practice questions that mimic the real CASPer test, subscribe to our blog where we will notify you when new material comes out.