A Comparison of Situational Judgement Tests and Personal Statements for Selection into Initial Teacher Education

With the recent mandate to emphasize the importance of non-academic attributes during selection into Initial Teacher Education, most programs in Victoria have selected CASPer to assess these attributes while others have opted to use 1000-word personal statements.

Personal statements have had a fairly long history in academic admissions, as many institutions across the world have used and still currently require personal statements for their admissions process. But the practice is largely unstructured and varies from institution to institution, and program to program. Some admissions departments set out to measure an applicant’s motivation and their goals for the future, while others seek to understand a student’s past experiences in an effort to measure skills useful in the future. Some even look for criteria to pair an applicant with an advisor. These inconsistent goals yield inconsistent information from applicants.

Scientific research on the reliability and validity of personal statements has also generated unpromising results. As there is a fairly large component of subjectivity when evaluating these personal statements, the reliability of these letters tends to be far too low to be used to make important decisions on admissions. Personal statements are often written with input from others, with many students getting input about the content of what to write, and some students have even used professional services to write their entire statement for them! It is not that surprising then that personal statements have demonstrated little to no utility in predicting any future performance outcomes, academic or non-academic.

In comparison, Situational judgement tests (SJTs), have delivered more promising results. They have been shown to produce reliable scores, which also predict meaningful performance outcomes both academically and on the job. SJTs minimize the element of subjectivity by incorporating multiple stakeholders in the evaluating process and also assess candidate performance in various different contexts. While the use of SJTs in teacher education is fairly new, with time more and more evidence will be added to the utility of CASPer for entry into initial teacher education.

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Applications can take a great deal of time to put together. On average applicants have reported that it takes them several hours to complete personal statements for each and every program that requires them as part of the application process. With CASPer, applicants need to sit the 1.5-hour long test only once. They can then request to distribute their score to each program they are applying to, making the application process less time consuming than individual statements for every program.

Additionally, the same can be said for schools and programs when reviewing applications. The time it takes to read every applicant’s personal statement can become burdensome. CASPer can replace this tedious task, by providing programs with a quantified metric which they can integrate into their existing admissions process to gain a more holistic view of their applicants.

Written by Diana Ibranovic

Marketing Manager