When admissions tools are unreliable and inaccurate, we aren’t getting a true picture of the applicant. And, when these tools create unnecessary barriers, it can collapse the much-needed diversity in the profession. This fails applicants, academic programs, and our society as a whole.
These assessment issues drove co-founders, Harold Reiter, MD MEd (co-creator of the MMI Interview) and Kelly Dore, PhD, internationally renowned researchers in admissions and assessment, to formulate a series of fair and effective methods of selection. Their assessment methods are now used in a variety of prestigious professional training programs.
Fresh off the successful creation and implementation of the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) at McMaster University, a longstanding problem became all the more obvious. On the basis of applicant people skills, we could now use an evidence-based approach to select from the 500 individuals invited to interview, using a combination of academic attributes and their non-academic attributes through the MMI. But what about the thousands of applicants who were screened out prior to the interview?
The Depth of the Challenge
Whatever we did, it would have to respect the same testing principles that allowed the Multiple Mini Interview to work – multiple independent items scored, minimize applicants’ ability to game the test and, avoid creating a hurdle for members of under-represented groups. But if testing thousands across the country and potentially around the world, it would have to also be geographically and financially accessible.
The goal was not to replace the MMI but to develop something further upstream in the process that could be used in combination with academic metrics to bring the best candidates to the limited interview slots.
PhD & the MD
Kelly Dore, who was working on her PhD was actively involved in the admissions process at McMaster University’s Medical School, helping to manage the evidence-fraught personal statements used to measure personal attributes and people skills. Kelly had been actively involved in research trying to improve the value of the personal statements, however, attempts had demonstrated that the best principles applied to a bad tool couldn’t make it better.
Kelly and Harold, the Chair of Admissions at McMaster’s Medical School at the time, decided they would work together to achieve their common goal – developing an evidence-based screening tool, to measure people skills in all applicants to medical school.
The Lightbulb Moment
In the review of the literature, Kelly and Harold came across the conclusions of a literature review by Ginsburg and colleagues on the ethical decision-making of graduate medical trainees (residents). In contrast to the way all other situational judgment tests were being used, our new test would ask not only what the test-taker would do in a presented scenario, but more importantly why they would do it.
This depth of response required the use of constructed-response (open-ended) rather than a selected-response (e.g. multiple-choice questions or rank order optional responses) test. This would mean that the test would be scored by human raters, not by computers.
The idea captured the imagination of medical education grant-providing institutions in both Canada (Medical Council of Canada) and the United States (Stemmler Fund of the National Board of Medical Examiners) as well as the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University, all of whom very generously supported the early research and development of the constructed-response situational judgment test that came to be known as CASPer. At one critical junction, the Medical Council of Canada gave superb guidance by encouraging our inclination to ensure accessibility by providing the test fully online.
A Risky Decision
At the risk of great embarrassment if it did not work, the Faculty of Health Sciences gave the green light to proceed with CASPer. Despite the fact that the test was not as refined as it is today, the faculty believed there were important insights to be gained from this test about candidates applying. The test was successfully implemented through its inaugural year as the people skills screening test for the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster.
As the test gained wider attention, other programs outside McMaster expressed an interest in using CASPer. The test could only be more widely disseminated from an entity outside of McMaster, as other schools’ applicant data could not be allowed to flow through McMaster servers. Initial conversations were had with Innovation Factory in Hamilton and led by Bernerd Lim, an entrepreneur in residency who supported Kelly and Harold through these first steps.
Altus Assessments was Born
Altus Assessments was created as the company that would continue the research, development and delivery of the CASPer test to academic programs around the world.
Rich Emrich officially appointed CEO of Altus Assessments.
First Canadian medical school outside of McMaster University signs on to use CASPer; University of Ottawa. Many others followed shortly after.
Welcome Below the Border!
New York Medical College and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School come on as the first two US medical schools to have their applicants take the CASPer test for admission.
Altus Assessments delivered the CASPer test to 21,447 applicants in 2015/2016 for healthcare programs across Canada and the United States
The Land Down Under!
A group of teacher education programs in Victoria State, Australia introduce CASPer to their admissions process to help meet the AITSL requirements set out by the Australian government to help improve the quality of teachers across the country.
Altus Assessments delivers the CASPer test to another 33,750 applicants for programs across Canada, the United States, and Australia.
What an honour
Altus Assessments is accepted to the Lazaridas Scale-Up Program to help scaling companies grow more strategically with the help of experts across many disciplines.
Altus Assessments delivers 169 unique test slots to an additional 82,382 applicants for programs across Canada, the United States, and Australia/New Zealand.
Altus Assessments is set to deliver CASPer to over 100,000 applicants worldwide this year alone, with more test dates than ever before!
The Admissions Summit
Altus Assessments delivers an admissions-focused conference to give back to the admissions community that has welcomed us over all these years. The Admissions Summit was held in Toronto, ON on June 10-11, 2019.
We had attendees from near and as far away as Australia sharing their knowledge and building networks of healthcare admissions professionals.