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CASPer Test Prep Strategies

The CASPer test—an online situational personality test—is gaining significant momentum in the world of medical school admissions. Its purpose is to increase fairness in application evaluation by rating applicants on key personal and professional characteristics such as empathy, compassion, professionalism, and ethics.

The CASPer (Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) test was developed by Harold Reiter and Kelly Dore at McMaster University in 2010. It was originally designed for McMaster University’s Program for Educational Research and Development Now more than 50 different universities and competitive programs have made it a mandatory application component.

The NEW test consists of 15 sections; 9 of which are TYPED answers and 6 of which are VIDEO responses. The typed scenarios require test takers to type their answers (5 minutes for 3 questions) whereas the video scenarios require test takers to record their answers (60 seconds for each question). Each test section is scored by a different rater, allowing for maximal fairness and equality. Click here for a more detailed breakdown of the CASPer test by its’ administrator Altus Assessments.

Why is the CASPer test so important?

How you choose to answer CASPer questions gives medical schools an idea of how you would approach and reason your way through sensitive situations. Having competitive academic grades and a strong CV isn’t enough to secure an interview. Medical schools highly value the CASPer test given that as a medical health professional you will be forced to navigate your way through delicate situations. This blog post will review 3 scenarios taken directly from Altius’s website.

Prompt 1: You and Paul are colleagues, and he has just informed you that him and his wife are expecting their first child together. He is struggling with a personal decision: take paternity leave and be there for his wife as they take care of their newborn child or not take paternity leave as he has just been assigned a new project that if done correctly can significantly increase his chances of getting a promotion which will ultimately benefit his family. In addition, Paul mentions that his colleague Mitch took his paternity leave and ended up being fired shortly after.

Q1: As Paul’s colleague, what would you recommend he do?

As Paul’s colleague I would recommend he gather as much information before making any final decision. I would suggest he begin by having an honest and open conversation with his wife as this also concerns her. After that, I would recommend he speak to his superior to find out more about the project he’d be taking on. I would also suggest he speak to HR regarding paternity leave as there may be certain policies around the leave that he is unaware of. Lastly, I would encourage Paul to reach out to Mitch and find out more about why he got let go as it would have been due to another reason unrelated to him taking the leave. As Paul’s colleague, both his personal & professional well-being are important to me so I would encourage to speak to as many people as people and gather as much information as possible and support whatever he chooses.

Q2: What strategies can you suggest Paul that will help him come to a decision? As mentioned above, speaking to his wife, boss, HR and Mitch can help Paul come to a well-informed decision. It’s hard to make a decision when you’re not in possession of all the information. Therefore, reaching out to people involved and having open and truthful conversations with them can equip you with the right knowledge and facts to come to a sound decision. After that, I believe having Paul make a list of pros and cons. A visual representation of the different factors involved in a decision can help simplify options.

Q3: Maintaining a healthy professional and personal life balance can be challenging. What are some reasons you believe people find it hard to keep this balance?

Financial pressure, the obligation in todays’ society to always be connected and available, poor time-management and scheduling skills, a very demanding job and unrealistic personal or professional expectations are some of the reasons why a healthy work-life balance may not be achieved. Instead of continuing in a direction where this imbalance can cause negative personal and professional ramifications employees and employers should work in unison to find a middle ground that optimizes both personal and professional success and the two are highly correlated.

Prompt 2: You are a newly hired cashier at a children’s store. A client comes in and claims to have purchased a toy truck at the store. The client wishes to return the toy but does not have the receipt for his purchase. As a newly hired cashier, you were told very explicitly not to issue any refunds for customers without a proof of purchase. The client is very adamant on returning the toy as he needs the money to buy medicine for his sick child.

Q1: As a newly hired cashier, do you issue the refund or abide by store policy? Explain

Before jumping to any conclusions and making a decision, I would gather as much information as possible from the client. I would first try my best to find out whether or not the client did in fact purchase the item from the store. If he did, I would try to locate the receipt in our system as perhaps our system allows us to track items bought at the store. If I was unable to do that, as a newly hired employee, I would reach out to my superior to see if there is something they can do as they may have dealt with something similar in the past. Perhaps even offering him a store credit. If after these efforts, the receipt could not be located as uncomfortable as it would be I would have to abide by store policy and not issue the refund.

Q2: If you refuse to issue the refund, how would you do so in a way that makes the client feel heard and acknowledged?

I would start by taking the client aside privately as I gently explain the situation. I would use a gentle, patient and non-judgemental tone to explain how without a receipt or proof of purchase unfortunately my hands are tied. After finding out whether he truly needs the money for his daughter’s medication, I would then offer my help in helping locate resources that could assist him further such as a local health center or pharmacy.

Q3: What is the most essential quality to possess in any customer service position and why?

For any customer service position many qualities are important to have, however in my opinion strong communication skills are a core quality to possess because a strong communicator must be patient, attentive and actively listen to formulate an adequate response. A strong communicator must be empathetic, and compassionate to address any issue fairly and a strong communicator must be a good problem solver and logical thinking to come to a reasonable conclusion. In this way, strong communication skills go hand-in-hand with many others.

Prompt 3: You and your classmate Alex are part of a group that needs to complete a class project with a deadline fast approaching. You are both very stressed and overwhelmed by the amount of work that still needs to get done. You notice on your social media a post made by another group member called Tim. The post is a picture of Tim at a pool party. Alex starts getting upset that Tim is busy partying and having fun with friends while the rest of you are stuck working. You remind him that Tim suffers from a medical condition preventing him from doing his full part of the project, yet you remain upset.

Q1: What do you recommend Alex do?

As Alex’s friend and another group member I can see that he is stressed about this project. I can also see that he is upset regarding Tim’s lack of contribution. Firstly, I would recommend Alex have a private conversation with Tim and gather more information as jumping to conclusions based on one social post is not the way to go. If after speaking to Tim, Alex finds out that he is in fact sick and that the picture taken months earlier, I would encourage Alex to reach out to other group members, evaluate the situation and come up with another way Tim could contribute to the project that would help alleviate some of the stress of other group members. They could also reach out to their teacher and even ask for an extension. If however, Alex finds out that Tim has been lying about his medical condition in order to get out of doing the work, I would suggest Alex encourage Tim to come forward to the teacher about his behaviour as it wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the group.

Q2: Do you believe certain situations make it acceptable to report a concern based solely on suspicion?

I do not think it is acceptable to report any concern based on a suspicion as suspicions by nature lack proof and evidence and this may lead to serious and grave consequences. For example, when I was younger, our class had a test and I noticed another student looking at her notes. Once the test was over, I spoke to the teacher and let her know of the situation. She took me aside privately and explained that this student had a special accommodation approved by the school and her doctor. This experience taught me the importance of not being impulsive, speaking to the right people and gathering more information before acting.

Q3: What do you think is the problem in todays’ society about social media posts and their longevity?

We live in a society where social media platforms are gaining more and more importance at an alarming rate. Just as these platforms can have a positive impact on the world and help us reach new heights, they can also have lasting negative impacts. For example, say you are applying for a job at a law firm and as a recruitment strategy the law firm investigates each applicant’s social media profile. Every post and picture you’ve posted is accessible for them to see including the content you posted when you were 18 years old. It becomes obvious how your social media activity can negatively impact your chances of getting a job later on just because once things are posted online they can never be taken back.

Disclaimer: GritGoals Education isn’t affiliated with or endorsed by CASPer, Altus or McMaster University. GritGoals Education only provides preparation services for the CASPer test and other medical school application components. To take the actual test Altus must be contacted directly. The 3 prompts above are analyzed by members of the Grit team and based on their own interpretations of each situation. The original videos can be found on this link. Please note that some answers are longer than what is to be expected on the real CASPer exam. This is done on purpose to establish context and provide you with full-scope answers and strategies that you can try to incorporate on your exam. It is important to note that longer answers do not necessarily correlate with a higher score. In fact, it is recommended to be as concise as possible while conveying your point(s) using clear and appropriate language.

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