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How to prep & train for the CASPer test

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 (PERD. Now more than 50 different universities and competitive programs have made it a mandatory application component.

The test consists of 12 sections. Each section contains a video or word-based scenario, followed by three open-ended questions. Test takers are allotted five minutes per question to answer each of the three questions in the scenario. Each test section is scored by a different rater, allowing for maximal fairness and equality.

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.

Can you prep for the CASPer test?

On their websites, medical schools stress the fact that students cannot and should not prep for the CASPer test as their performance should reflect their true self. Although there is truth to this, it’s important for students to get in the right mindset when tackling CASPer scenarios. The way each scenario is interpreted and handled varies greatly from one student to another. There is no single ultimate approach to each scenario. There is however, specific hints and flags students need to pick up on which is where the prep comes in handy.

Here is an example of a word-based scenario (found on the CASPer website):

Think of a time when you’ve 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?

3. Did you learn anything from this situation that can be applied to your desired career? Explain your response.

Questions like the one above are more personal-based scenarios, requiring test takers to share personal stories. Keep in mind that not all CASPer scenarios are personal stories. The video-based scenarios, for example are tricker and require test takers to think critically and ethically.

The CASPer test can only be taken once per application, and for McGill’s Medical program, it’s worth a total of 20%.

So why take any chances? Start prepping!

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