By: Ryan Kelly
You’ve just survived the MCAT, submitted your personal statement, and dutifully written your secondary essays, and now you realize you’ve got to take one more stupid, f’ing test.
We know that you’re cool under pressure and never feel stressed ;) but something unfamiliar like the CASPer can make anyone nervous. We’re here to help make sure you’re prepared.
Why Do I Have to Jump through Another Admissions Hoop?
Medical school admissions committees gathered at a conference last year and broadly concluded that:
- The application process was not time-consuming enough
- There should really be more ways to charge students money for applying to medical school
- Trying to evaluate a student’s writing and interviewing was too hard, and couldn’t there just be a test to simplify each applicant’s social skills into a single number?
We’re kidding, of course. I think the reason medical schools have started to require the CASPer is because it requires very little time and energy on their part and it gives them one more piece of data to help make an application decision.
What is the CASPer?
CASPer (Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) is an admissions test developed by researchers at McMaster University. Several medical schools require it as admissions criteria alongside interviews, letters of recommendation, and essays.
According to the official CASPer site, it’s designed “to evaluate key personal characteristics” and serve as a “reliable measure of traits like professionalism, ethics, communication, and empathy.”
Which Medical Schools Require It?
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 Miami Miller
- 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.
What Do Medical Schools Do with the Results?
Error: Ask again later.
No one knows exactly how much weight is given to the CASPer by the medical schools that use it. Medical schools tend to be creatures of habit, putting the most weight on admissions factors that have proven to matter over the years. For example, many med schools still do not put much weight in the PSYCH section of the MCAT, since they have yet to see its predictive validity with their own students.
What is the Format of the CASPer?
- 90-minute test
- 12 sections of video and word-based scenarios
- Each scenario has 3 follow up questions (must be answered in under five minutes)
- Optional 15-minute break halfway through
You take it online here: www.takecasper.com
When Do You Take It?
- End of June to Beginning of January
NOTE: Some of the later dates only apply for certain programs.
**The website recommends that you register for a test at least three days before your preferred date and time to allow for account verification and payment processing.
You are allowed to reschedule your test date if necessary.
How Much Does the CASPer Cost?
It’s free for medical schools. :-)
The CASPER costs $10 to take and another $10 each time you send it to the schools on your list. Your testing fees go to support a non-profit company trying to save starving children in Africa. Kidding! They’re a for-profit company who doesn’t even have to pay test centers to administer the exam.
How is the Test Graded and Valued?
- Each section is graded separately
- Scores are sent to schools on your distribution list; you can add schools after taking the test
- Scores are valid only for the current application cycle
Raters are supposedly trained to ignore errors in spelling and grammar. Your responses are anonymous, so a rater does not know who you are, or how well you’ve done on any other section.
What’s a Good Score on the CASPer?
Nobody knows! Your test scores are not released to you, but they are released to medical schools.
The CASPer writers claim, “You will NOT receive your CASPer score, in the same way you would not expect to get “results” from an interview, reference letter, or personal statement.”
Except the CASPer is a TEST, not an interview. You would expect to get your MCAT score, wouldn’t you? You would expect a scoring system would be fair and easy to read if it’s such a good measure. Why are they hiding their scoring system?
How Should I Prepare for the CASPer?
You can’t! At least, so says the company that makes it. “The general literature suggests that situational judgment tests (SJTs) are relatively immune to test preparation, i.e. that coaching is unlikely to provide benefit.” Of course, the writers of the SAT and MCAT used to say that too, back when they were first created. It’s as if the CASPer writers are claiming, “We’ve created the world’s first standardized test where coaching will do no good.” Really?
We’ve written an entire article on how to prepare: How Should You Prepare for the CASPer Test?
What are the Do’s and Don’ts of Taking the Test?
Don’ts - Plagiarism
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. Don’t cheat. The official site makes it pretty clear.
Don’ts - Technology Mistakes
On a technical note, don’t “refresh” a page through the address bar – if you do this, you will need to re-enter your test from your account test page. This will pick up where you left off.
Don’t “refresh” during a written section unless the timer has finished counting down. Responses are automatically saved once the timer expires.
Don’t use the “back” browser navigation button or reload a page using the address bar. If you do that, you will need to re-enter your test page.
Don’t try to take the test without an excellent internet connection.
Do’s - Prepare by Taking Multiple Sample CASPer Tests
Besides taking the practice test provided by the official site, here are some additional choices:
Do’s - Read Our Other CASPer Blog Articles
Do’s - Practice Your Typing Speed
Seriously. You only have five minutes to answer all three questions about the scenarios, so you want your typing to be in tip-top shape. Here's a free typing speed test.
If you take these steps to prepare, you should be able to conquer your CASPer test and give medical schools confidence in your professionalism and preparedness.
Best of luck!
Updates: Additional Questions on the CASPer
Many of you have written to us with additional questions about the CASPer (feel free to type your questions in the comments of this article, and we will continue to add to them), so we thought we'd update the article with some additional information based on those.
Does the AAMC Fee Assistance Program Qualify Students for a CASPer Fee Waiver?
Yes. The normal fee of $10 per school is waived if you qualify for the AMCAS Fee Assistance Program. Nice to know!