Preparing Applicants for Medical School: What Pre-Health Advisors Need to Know About CASPer®
Pre-health advisors are tasked with knowing all the ins and outs of the admissions process across hundreds of programs ranging from allopathic and osteopathic medicine, dentistry, to physician assistant programs. For years, advisors have provided information and guidance on various admissions requirements such as personal statements, reference letters and standardized tests like the MCAT. Now there’s a new requirement that’s quickly gaining popularity in academic admissions: the Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal characteristics (CASPer®) test.
By the end of 2017, over 125,000 applicants had taken the CASPer® test across the globe. In the U.S. alone, CASPer® has been adopted by 20+ allopathic and osteopathic medical schools and 20 physician assistant programs to help assess applicants based on interpersonal skills such as communication, teamwork, professionalism, ethics and empathy. CASPer® is meant to complement other evaluative tools and provides programs with a more holistic assessment of their candidates.
To help advisors best prepare students for applications to programs that use CASPer®, we’ve prepared the following guide.
What is the format of CASPer®?
- Online (internet-based) situational judgment test – test-takers are presented with a series of realistic, hypothetical scenarios and are asked what they would do if they were in each situation.
- Takes 60-90 minutes to complete with an optional 15-minute break halfway through.
- Composed of 12 sections, each of which contains a scenario and set of questions based on the scenario.
- Each section has either a 60- or 90-second video-based scenario or a text-based scenario.
- Each scenario is followed by three open-ended questions where applicants are asked to type in their responses.
- Applicants have five minutes to respond to all three questions before they progress to the next scenario.
- Applicants do not see their scores once they complete the test (similar to other holistic selection methods, such as interviews or personal statements). The scores are directly distributed to their selected programs within 3 weeks.
- A sample test with 3 sections is available for pre-health advisors here: https://takecasper.com/sample-casper-test/ (Note: students would complete the system requirements check which contains a sample CASPer® test for them there)
What can an applicant do to prepare?
- Applicants cannot study for the test; CASPer® is not a pass/fail test, nor are there right or wrong answers to the questions.
- The test is designed to assess how students would respond to an ethical dilemma on the spot. The qualities assessed by CASPer® include communication, collaboration, ethics, empathy, equity, motivation, problem solving and professionalism.
- Applicants should familiarize themselves with the format of the test by completing the system requirements check on the takecasper.com website well ahead of their test date and time.
- Applicants should find a comfortable and quiet space to take the test on test day, as this will help them stay focused for the duration of the test.
- Advisors can also encourage applicants to follow the CASPer® test on Twitter (@take_CASPer) and on Facebook (fb.me/TheCASPerTest) to find more information and to stay up-to-date on upcoming tests.
How does an applicant register for the CASPer® test?
- Applicants can register at takecasper.com, where they will sign up with an email address and create a password.
- Applicants must pay the fee to schedule a test date and time. Note: different dates and times are offered for different institutions, and applicants should check well in advance to see when test dates are offered for the programs they wish to apply to.
- The fee to take CASPer® varies by program type and country. For US graduate programs, such as medicine, physician assistant, etc., the fee is $10 to take the test and $10 to distribute results to each program that the applicant is applying to that requires CASPer®. For US undergraduate programs, such as nursing, the fee is $40 to take the test and $10 to distribute results. Test dates and fees can be found here: takecasper.com/test-dates/
- Applicants are responsible for indicating which programs their CASPer® results are sent to.
- Applicants will be instructed to complete a system requirements check to ensure their computer and browser are up-to-date and can run the test without technical issues. Note: it is important that the applicant completes this check well ahead of their scheduled test date to ensure they can find a backup computer should they need one, and to familiarize themselves with the test format.
- As part of extensive test security measures, applicants must have a working webcam and a valid government photo ID to take the test.
- Once they complete the test, applicants can be assured their results will be sent to the programs they indicated for distribution.
Information to share with Pre-Health Advisors on diversity and fairness:
Potential Impact on Demands upon Pre-Health Advisors
As described in an invited presentation at the Texas Association of Advisors for the Health Professions in February 2018, the early years of data suggest that CASPer® implementation may impact the demands placed upon pre-health advisors.
New York Medical College School of Medicine first used CASPer® in the 2016 admissions cycle, when over 9,000 of their applicants completed the test. They have presented their findings (Juster, AAMC Annual Meeting November 2016) of CASPer® compared to other screening tests (GPA, MCAT), finding greater promotion of diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, and low socioeconomic status with CASPer®.
Rutgers – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School found a marked increase (38%) of total applicant numbers with the use of CASPer® in their 2017 admissions cycle, with the greatest year over year increase (44 – 58%) being in racial and ethnic groups traditionally underrepresented in medicine. Similarly, smaller increases in underrepresented in medicine groups were also noted at New York Medical College School of Medicine.
Internal data from exit surveys of American CASPer® test-takers measured perceptions of fairness of use of three screening tests—GPA, MCAT, and CASPer®—broken down by self-reported race and ethnicity. Self-reported Caucasian applicants perceived GPA, MCAT and CASPer® to be equally fair. All other racial and ethnic subgroups perceived GPA and MCAT less fair than did the Caucasian applicant subgroup. All other racial and ethnic subgroups perceived CASPer® to be equally fair, relative to the Caucasian applicant subgroup.
Based upon these preliminary findings, it is possible that more positive perceptions of CASPer® among members of traditionally underrepresented in medicine groups may have implications regarding increased applicant numbers from those groups. We would encourage NAAHP members to be aware of this potential shift in demands upon their time and resources.
Q: Why is the score not released to the student when other measures, like MCAT score, are provided?
A: Just like with interviews, reference letters, and personal statements, scores are not released directly to the applicants. Unlike other standardized tests like the MCAT, there are no right or wrong answers on CASPer® – students are evaluated relative to their peers. Therefore, CASPer® scores are difficult to interpret without knowing the performance of other test-takers. Additionally, by restricting access to the scores, it makes it much harder for students and potential test preparation companies to cheat the system.
Q: What fee assistance options are available for students from low-income backgrounds?
A: Students that qualify for Financial Assistance Programs (FAP) which are verified by third-party sources (e.g., American Medical College Application Service [AMCAS], CASPA) will have their CASPer test fee waived completely.
Q: How is CASPer® being used by schools? Is it used as a pre-screening tool to decide whom to interview?
A: CASPer® is used by a variety of programs to pre-screen applicants earlier in the admissions process to help determine who to invite to interview. CASPer® can be used to screen-in high performing applicants, screen-out low performing applicants, or can be used impressionistically, making up a component of the program’s holistic file review process.
Q: Of the total number of MD and DO applicants, how many apply to at least one school that requires CASPer®?
A: This admissions cycle, it is predicted that 80% of all MD applicants and 50% of all DO applicants will be taking the CASPer® test based on the reported applicant numbers for the programs using CASPer®.
Published April 5, 2018
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