By: Ryan Kelly
The word ‘Casper’ might evoke an image of the personable cartoon ghost from tv and comic books.
But is the CASPer as student-friendly as our beloved ghost?
A timed online test to determine your medical school admission seems frightening, but I’m going to show you why it’s not as bad as it seems.
What is CASPer?
The Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics is an online test developed by McMaster’s Medical School, the same group that created the multiple mini interview (MMI).
Think of the CASPer as an MMI-style test that you can take from the (dis)comfort of your own home.
What schools use the CASPer?
The test is now being used by 12 US allopathic medical schools, including:
- Central Michigan University College of Medicine
- Florida Atlantic University College of Medicine
- Medical College of Wisconsin
- New York Medical College
- Quillen College of Medicine (East Tennessee State)
- Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science
- Ross University School of Medicine
- Rutgers RWJ School of Medicine
- Texas A&M College of Medicine
- Tulane University School of Medicine
- University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine
- University of Vermont College of Medicine
- West Virginia University School of Medicine
2018 Update: More schools now using CASPER, including:
- Albany Medical College
- Des Moines University
- Drexel University
- Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University
- Mercer University
- Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
- Temple University
- Touro College (which campus not yet specified on Casper website)
- University of Colorado Denver
- University of Michigan
- University of Washington
- Virginia Commonwealth University
The test is also being used by five Canadian med schools and Ross University in the Caribbean.
Why is the CASPER becoming more popular?
Pretend you're a med school admissions office. You know that the traditional med school interview (2 interviews, one with faculty and the other a med student) isn't as good as the MMI. You can either hire loads of people and train them to perform an MMI, or you can require that applicants take a test that purports to be just as good as the MMI (though research on that is lacking, to put it charitably). Requiring that applicants take the test is the clear option.
What does it assess?
Like the MMI, it judges your soft skills: communication, persuasiveness, suitability for a career in medicine, ability to think on your feet, and even your typing skills.
How does it work?
It is a combination of 12 “everyday” scenarios and personal questions. The scenarios are not necessarily medical in nature. You will have a maximum of five minutes to type answers to the entire set of questions for each scenario. Some scenarios are presented as videos while others are just text-based. There is a character limit of 1024 for each answer you provide.
How does the video scenario work?
A prompt indicating your role in the video scenario will be displayed on screen for eight seconds. You watch the video, but you will not be able to pause, fast-forward, or rewind. There are three follow-up questions. You will have five minutes to answer all three questions.
How long is it?
CASPer is a 60-minute test consisting of 12 stations (five minutes each). There is a 15-minute optional break and an exit interview, so the whole thing takes about an hour and a half.
How is it scored?
Each section is graded by a different person. Raters are told to ignore errors in spelling, grammar, and syntax and instead to focus on the substance of the answer.
What do I need?
If your computer is able to successfully run the Sample CASPer Test, it will also be able to run the real CASPer test.
You’ll also need a reliable and quick internet connection, and you’ll need to be able to type at least 40 words per minute or so to be able to complete your answers well (but of course, the faster you type, the better).
How do I measure my typing speed?
Glad you asked! Here's a free typing speed test.
Is it harder than the MMI? Does it require more work than normal secondaries?
As long as you’re prepared for the CASPer, it’ll be easier than an MMI and far less stressful than secondaries.
You take the CASPer in an hour and a half, and then it’s over. If given the option, I’d choose the CASPer every time over the stress of the MMI and the mountain of looming secondaries. But I’m a writer and editor for a living, so of course a written test sounds great to me. If writing isn’t your strong suit, you’ll need to put in extra time and effort when preparing.
What’s the best way to prepare?
Take an official Sample CASPer.
Understand common medical ethical issues: Santa Clara's discussion of ethical scenarios and University of Washington's Ethics in Medicine are both fantastic resources with real case studies.
Stay current on healthcare news through sites like The New York Times.
Boo! Are you still scared?
Probably. But that’s okay. A test like the CASPer is bound to induce some anxiety. However, I hope that my tips will help you prepare and get in the right mindset, so that you can comfortably field any questions that come your way.
It’s a lot like Casper the Ghost. Once you get to the know the test (just like the MMI), you’ll realize that it’s much more student-friendly than it seems.