Many of you are already familiar with the CASPer test and CASPer questions, but did you know that it’s part of a larger assessment called the Altus Suite? This multi-level evaluation is a component of the applicant selection process in some professional programs. The use of CASPer among some medical schools has even spawned replica tests, such as the AAMC SJT! In addition to the CASPer test, the Altus Suite includes two more stages, the Snapshot and the Duet. Sounds intimidating? Do not fret! I am here to give you all the information you need to ace all three stages of the Altus Suite. This ultimate guide will cover what the Altus Suite entails, how to prepare for each section of the Altus Suite, and give you tips for how to smoothly complete all three parts of the test in time for your application deadlines! 

Disclaimer: BeMo does not recommend, endorse nor affiliate with Altus Suite, Altus or McMaster and vice versa. The following provides our opinion about Altus Suite and its components. To take the tests provided by Altus, contact Altus directly.


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What is the Altus Suite? 

Over the last few years, the Altus Suite has morphed into a multi-level assessment that can be used by some schools to evaluate the suitability of applicants for professional programs. CASPer, being the most well-known part of this multi-level assessment, was the first component to be introduced to the public.  A few years later, professional school applicants learned that along with the test, they are expected to complete an additional short video interview, the Snapshot, that is claimed to help schools get a better understanding of the applicants’ personality and communication skills. And now, the Altus Suite assessment has also added the Duet – a value-alignment evaluation that claims to compare applicants’ and programs’ values. 

While you have to complete the CASPer test on a specific date you book, you do not have to complete the Snapshot and the Duet at any specific time. Once you book your CASPer test date, you can complete the other two stages of the Altus Suite at your convenience within the indicated time restriction after completing CASPer, i.e., no later than 10 days after you take CASPer. Don’t forget to keep in mind application deadlines and try to complete all three components of the Altus Suite in a timely manner, i.e. the sooner the better. Your payment and registration for the test cover all parts of the assessment.  

Prefer a quick recap?

Components of the Altus Suite

Now let’s go over each part of the assessment in more detail.

The CASPer Test

This is the most familiar part of the Altus Suite, yet it is the most intimidating. This situational judgment test is famous for its difficulty with many students asking how to prepare for CASPer. It doesn’t help that some suggest that it’s not possible to prepare for CASPer. Let’s quickly recap what the CASPer test is. 

The CASPer test is an online situational judgment test that claims to assess the professional suitability of professional school applicants. The entire test is written on a computer and the students typically never find out know how well they scored. The test is comprised of 12 scenarios dealing with real-life situations. You are asked 3 follow-up questions based on the scenario observed. Essentially, the questions will prod you to answer how you would deal with the situation you witnessed. You are given 5 minutes to type your answers for those three questions. Your answer for each scenario is given a score between 1 (lowest) and 9 (highest).  

There are specific strategies on how to maximize your score, but it starts with understanding how CASPer is scored.  

CASPer claims to assess 10 attributes: 

You will be evaluated on your ability to remain objective, non-judgmental, non-assumptive, diplomatic, and professional in your answers.  

Snapshot

The Snapshot is a one-way video response tool claimed to allow you to connect with professional programs to give them a more well-rounded view of you as an applicant. As we already discussed, the CASPer test is meant to evaluate your professional suitability, but the Snapshot evaluates your communication skills, personal traits, and disposition. Like many other video interview tools, the Snapshot is technically designed for schools to get to know their applicants better. Snapshot questions are not unlike common medical school interview questions. You are likely to be faced with questions like “tell me about yourself”, "what's the biggest obstacle you have overcome?", "Why did you choose your profession?", "what’s your greatest weakness?”, and so on.  

You will record the interview using the same account you created for the CASPer test. The Snapshot consists of three questions in total and you will have 30 seconds to brainstorm your answer without being recorded and two minutes to respond to each question while you are being recorded. The entire interview should not take you more than 10 minutes. Snapshot pauses recording while you are reflecting on the question for 30 seconds.  

Check out the types of questions you can expect from the Snapshot:

The Duet

This is the most recent addition to the Altus Suite assessment, and therefore the least known. Essentially, the Duet is designed to assess your suitability for your chosen programs. At the same time, the Duet also claims to assess which programs are the best fit for your academic and professional goals. According to Altus Assessments, representatives, or stakeholders, of professional programs complete an evaluation that generates a Program Profile. The applicants complete the same assessment in which they choose the elements from several categories they most value in programs. The schools’ profiles are then compared to the applicants’ rankings of values, goals, and priorities, resulting in “fit” scores for each applicant. The programs then receive the “fit” score of applicants for each category as well as the overall applicant rankings. Currently, the Duet is only available to US graduate medical programs and is piloted for US undergraduate medical programs.  

While the Duet sounds like an objective and standardized way to assess the fit between applicants and schools, it’s early to say whether this evaluation is truly non-biased. Considering that the Duet is designed to help schools find applicants whose values and goals align with their own, there may be an inherent partiality towards the schools. 

What Programs and Schools Require the Altus Suite? 

You might be wondering why there is a need for so many assessment tools – and rightfully so! In addition to the stress of applications, standardized tests, and other personal or academic commitments, you are now required to complete not just one, but three more steps of the Altus Suite. Firstly, you should know that not all programs and schools require the completion of the Altus Suite. As you know, there are medical schools that require CASPer, but there are many medical schools in Canada and the US that do not – this means that if you are applying to medical schools or other programs that do not require CASPer, you will not need to complete any parts of the Altus Suite. 

In addition to medical schools, some other professional schools, including dental, nursing, and pharmacy schools require the completion of the CASPer test. For example, CASPer is one of the PA school requirements. But whether you need to complete just one, two, or all three parts of the assessment will depend on the program you choose to apply to. 

Applicants to medical schools in the United States and Canada may be required to complete all three parts of the evaluation: the CASPer test, the Snapshot, and the Duet. However, the best way to be sure is to directly contact the program you are applying to or to check these requirements on the website of the test administrator.  

How to Prepare for the Altus Suite components

CASPer

Notorious for its unpredictability, the CASPer test is difficult to prepare for, but not impossible. The key to a successful CASPer answer is having answer strategies for CASPer question types. You must design a CASPer prep approach to tackle any question category you may face, of which there are three. Here’s how to deal with each of the question types: 

Situational or scenario questions

After witnessing a scenario, you will be presented with questions that ask for your personal reaction and assessment of the situation. Questions of this category may include “What would you do in this scenario?”, “What is going on in your mind right now?”, “How would you handle X situation?”, and so on. When you’re faced with a CASPer scenario follow-up question, it is important to understand your role and what kind of issue you’re being presented with, i.e. ethical dilemma, professional boundaries, conflict resolution, etc. Most importantly, you must identify the most vulnerable party in the situation, i.e. the main issue of the scenario. Once you identify the issue, you must outline practical solutions to resolve the situation. First and foremost, you must consider solutions from the viewpoint of the vulnerable party before considering anyone else in the scenario. However, you must remain objective and non-judgmental to all parties involved in the situation. It is a tough balancing act, but you must try to maneuver between all the parties involved in the situation. Think of several practical solutions, then choose the most rational, ethical, legal, and scientifically sound decision that causes the least amount of harm to everyone involved or indirectly involved. A good way to structure your answer to scenario follow-up questions is to use if/then sentence composition. This way you demonstrate that you have considered multiple points of view and have included all the parties in your consideration. 

Policy questions  

Policy questions are designed to evaluate your professional awareness and decision-making abilities. The questions are typically phrased in the following way: "What are your opinions on X in the medical field?", "How would you address the X issue in your professional field?", and so on. With policy questions, the schools also assess your ability to remain objective and non-critical of all sides of an issue. Again, consider the themes that the policy question is asking about, i.e. scope and current social events awareness, rural vs. city practice, ethical/moral dilemma, etc. Follow this general structure to answer CASPer policy questions: 

To prepare for questions in the policy category, research current events, social and political issues, and challenges facing the profession you are trying to join. You can start by visiting websites of your provincial/state and federal/national medical associations to read about the latest policies and news. You can learn about local and global health issues by reading the newspaper, watching the news, and visiting websites of institutions like the World Health Organization. To practice answering policy questions, you can write down a list of the most important and interesting policies you encounter, write down their pros and cons, and try to formulate your own informed opinion. Practice this strategy and know how to implement it in answering different policy questions you might face in the real test.  

Check out our tips for acing any CASPer question:

Personal questions 

Many follow-up CASPer questions will ask you questions about times when you had to deal with similar issues or situations that are presented in the scenario you are faced with, such as “Have you ever experienced X? What was your reaction?” or “Have you ever been faced with X issue? How did you deal with it?”. Personal questions are meant to assess how you react in certain situations. The question may deal with professional boundaries, ethical/moral dilemmas, conflict resolutions, and other issues. Your answer should demonstrate to the evaluator that you know how to handle yourself in a situation. 

When you answer personal questions remember these steps: 

  1. Provide a very short context about the situation/quote/question you are writing/talking about. 
  2. Write one or two sentences demonstrating specific actions, behaviors, or tasks you performed to deal with the situation. What did you do to fix the problem? How did you overcome a challenge? Use concrete examples. 
  3. Write one sentence about what you learned from dealing with this situation. 

Keep in mind that the best way to ace the CASPer test is to take realistic simulations and receive professional feedback from a medical school advisor. Your answers to these question types can improve only if you know what you must work on.   

Snapshot

Like with any interview, you will need to practice with sample questions to prepare for the Snapshot. Whether you are running through medical school interview questions, PA school interview questions, or nursing school interview questions, you must have a strategy for answering the most common interview question types. The Snapshot mostly consists of personal questions, though you should also prepare for the situational and policy questions just to be safe. You can use the structures and strategies we outlined above for the CASPer test to formulate your Snapshot answers. 

However, practicing with hundreds of questions before the interview might not enough for some students. No amount of interview practice is sufficient without constructive feedback. The help of a professional advisor can help you articulate your answers, but it can do more than that. Interviews are stressful and unpredictable. Most students struggle with the spontaneity that comes with interviews. A professional can help you develop confidence and present your best self to the admissions committees. Quality feedback can really improve your answers and make the difference between getting invited to in-person interviews or not. 

Whether you choose to get the help of a professional or not, remember that perfect practice makes perfect. Do not simply run through questions and try to come up with mediocre answers. Make sure to use the fail-proof strategies we outlined above in the CASPer section to ensure that you can tackle any question that comes your way. Additionally, remember that your practice must include timing yourself, as you will only have a couple of minutes to formulate a stellar response to each question.  

To help you get ready for the format, you can even try recording yourself during practice! To recreate the atmosphere of the real interview, practice recording in a quiet place with a neutral background and dress as you would for a professional interview. Recording yourself will allow you to see how you come across on screen and notice whether you are displaying signs of anxiety or stress, such as too much movement, lack of eye contact, or nervous laughter. Recording yourself will also help you to gauge whether you are improving. The more questions you run through and answer using our strategies, the more comfortable you should become with answering questions for the Snapshot.  

The Duet

It is difficult to prepare for this part of the Altus Suite because it is not your abilities and experiences that are being assessed here. However, we are here to give you some tips for how you can ensure that you fill out the assessment to your advantage.

Before you sit down to fill out which qualities and characteristics you value most in the programs to which you are applying, visit the official websites of these schools. Read up on their mission statement, goals, and values. These are all important to assess what kind of applicants the programs are looking for. Based on your research, you will know which characteristics to put in your Duet assessment.

If you are applying to an MD program in the US, learn how to use MSAR to choose the right school for you. This online database provides you with more than just the schools’ mission statement to help you gauge whether you are the right fit for your programs. MSAR also outlines the history of premedical experiences of each school’s matriculants. This means that you can assess what kind of experiences and skills these schools value in their students and accentuate these in your Duet assessment! For example, over 90% of matriculants to Ivy League medical schools have extensive research experience, which indicates that you should emphasize your research skills and experiences in your AMCAS application if you are planning to apply to Columbia or Yale. In your Duet assessment, you can indicate that what you value in the programs you are applying to are research opportunities. 

Did you know that 90% of Ivy League matriculants have research experience?

On the other hand, if you are applying to the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, you might want to emphasize that the qualities you value in medical school programs include community involvement, diversity, providing healthcare for underserved communities, and so on. Why? Because based on the premedical experiences of their matriculants, those are the qualities the University of Mississippi is looking for in its students.   

Remember, it is important to do this research before you start preparing your application components! This way you will be able to emphasize the qualities and characteristics especially valued by the schools of your choice. This will help increase your Duet "fit" score since your application will include the qualities and experiences cherished by the schools of your choice. When the time comes, you will be able to fill out the Duet assessment with the knowledge of what kind of characteristics you should include based on what the schools value in their students. 

Would you rather watch a video?

How to Complete All Three Altus Suite Components to Maximize Your Success

Completing all three parts of the assessment is not necessarily time-consuming. Altogether, they will take no more than 2.5-3 hours. Compared to your medical school personal statement, which takes weeks to write, the Altus Suite may seem like less of a commitment. However, preparing for all three parts of the assessment will take you months. The CASPer test alone takes at least 6 to 8 weeks to prepare for. Preparing for the Snapshot interview takes no less than 6 weeks, but it would be better to dedicate at least 2 months to build your confidence and practice your answer strategy for each question type. Additionally, research of schools and browsing of the MSAR database can take weeks before you note down all the skills and experiences you want to emphasize in your application and include them in your Duet assessment.  

Ultimately, you have to be able to juggle the application process with Altus Suite prep. This means careful planning on your part. Research CASPer questions and take a couple of realistic simulations with professional feedback before you even book your test date. Professional feedback can also help you assess how much prep is necessary. Once you have some idea of how long it will take you to get ready, find out which CASPer test dates are available and book the optimal date for you. Aim to book a CASPer date no less than 8 weeks from the date you schedule it. Once this is done, start serious preparations for CASPer using the strategies I outlined earlier in this blog. Keep in mind that CASPer test prep is very individualistic. Some people may be ready to take the test within 4 weeks of starting practice, while others may take longer. Continue taking realistic CASPer simulations and receiving feedback on your progress. As you are drawing near the test date, assess whether you are ready to take the test. If not, you can always reschedule it. 

Preparing for the test and the Snapshot is concurrent since you will be using the same answer strategies for both. Remember to take time to record your practice answers for the Snapshot and note if your disposition on camera and your answers are improving. Do not record the real video interview unless you feel ready. Remember, you do not have to record the Snapshot right after you complete the CASPer test. You can record the interview at any time that is convenient for you. In fact, I would advise against piling all three Altus Suite components together. After completing the test, take a few days off before recording your interview if you can afford it, i.e., you are within the application deadlines for your programs. After you complete the Snapshot, take 3 to 4 days to organize which program characteristics you will want to include in the Duet assessment. Once the Duet is completed, you are free to continue focusing on other parts of the application process. 

Final Thoughts 

There is no denying that preparing for the Altus Suite is a massive undertaking. Getting ready to ace each component of this assessment will take months. To accommodate appropriate preparations, you must carefully plan your application components, standardized tests, extracurriculars, and other commitments. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed in this situation. Instead of making the application process easier on students, the Altus Suite assessment adds more stress and anxiety. If you ever feel that you need assistance, you should reach out to professionals to help you prepare for this obstacle. Appropriate and objective help can truly alleviate the fear of the new and unknown features of the Altus Suite assessment.  

FAQs 

1. What is the Altus Suite?

The Altus Suite is a multi-level assessment tool claimed to be used to evaluate the suitability of applicants for professional programs, such as medical, dental, nursing, pharmacy, and physician assistant schools. It consists of three components: the CASPer test, the CASPer Snapshot interview, and the Duet. 

2. What is the CASPer test and how is it related to the Altus Suite?

The CASPer test is one of the Altus Suite components, the other two being the Snapshot and the Duet. The CASPer test is a situational judgment test designed to assess your suitability for your chosen profession. The test is composed of 12 scenarios that present you with real-life situations, followed by three questions that are based on the scenario you witnessed. Essentially, the questions ask you to assess the situation and answer how you would react to the situation. You will have 5 minutes to answer the three follow-up questions. 

3. I only get 5 minutes to answer 3 questions for the CASPer test! It’s not enough!

You do not need to answer all three questions to get a high score. The key is to provide a quality answer for any of the three follow-up questions. It may be that you cover all three questions in your first answer. Remember to follow answer strategies and construct a thorough answer. If it’s a scenario question, identify the pressing issue, the vulnerable party, and provide a sound solution. If it’s a policy question, demonstrate your knowledge of the policy, give a couple of pros and cons, and finish with your own take on the issue. Lastly, if it’s a personal question, give a short background to explain your situation, demonstrate what your actions were, and close off by explaining what you learned. Most importantly, remain non-judgemental in all of your answers.  

4. How long is the CASPer test?

On average, the test takes about 90 minutes to complete, although you book 2 hours for the test. You will have about 65 minutes of questions, as well as an optional 10-minute break at the halfway point, i.e., after 6 sections. It is recommended that you take the break to relax and get your mind off the test. Do not think about the questions you already completed – this will only make you anxious! 

5. What is the Snapshot and how is it related to the Altus Suite?

The Snapshot interview is one of the Altus Suite components. It is a one-way video interview tool claimed to assess your communication skills and suitability. The Snapshot consists of 3 personal questions and you are given 30 seconds to reflect on each question and 2 minutes to answer each question. You are not recorded while you reflect on the question. The entire interview should take no more than 10 minutes to record.

6. What kind of questions does the Snapshot ask?

The Snapshot mostly consists of personal questions. However, it might be a good idea to prepare to answer scenario and policy questions just in case you face them. If you prepare for all three question types, you will not be caught off guard.  

7. What is the Duet and how is it related to the Altus Suite?

The Duet is one of the components of the Altus Suite. It's meant to assess whether you are a good fit for the programs you apply to. The programs' stakeholders fill out an evaluation that generates a Program Profile. You will also complete the same assessment and choose the elements you most appreciate in the programs to which you apply. The schools’ profiles are then compared to the applicants’ rankings of values, goals, and priorities, resulting in “fit” scores for each applicant. Based on this “fit” score, the schools will be able to see which applicants would be the best fit. 

8. How can I prepare for the Duet?

The best way to prepare for filling out your Duet assessment is by reading up on the programs you are applying to. Research their mission statement, objectives, and past matriculants’ experiences to figure out what kind of qualities they value in their applicants. Jot down these qualities and make sure to include them in your Duet assessment. 

9. Will I know how I did on my Altus Suite components?

No, you will not receive your CASPer test score and you will not be able to view your recorded Snapshot responses. When it comes to the Duet, only the schools will receive the "fit" scores. You will not know how well you match the schools of your choice. Overall, you are not provided with any form of feedback on any of the Altus Suite components. 

10. How do I know if I am doing a good job on my CASPer answers while I practice?

Firstly, you must practice with realistic CASPer simulations. When you answer CASPer questions, make sure to use the answer strategies I outline in this blog. But even this is often not enough. Your strategy might be correct, but unless you get feedback from a professional you cannot feel truly prepared. It is important to know what you must work on and how to improve your answers, otherwise, your answers will not get better. Professional feedback is key because professionals can identify your problem areas, give you concrete actionable advice, and provide you with the necessary training. If you need help preparing for your CASPer test, make sure to contact us

11. Where can I complete the Altus Suite components?

You can complete all three components on a computer at a location of your choice. Since the test, the interview, and the Duet require your absolute attention, make sure that you’re in a quiet place with no distractions. Make sure that your computer has a webcam and a reliable internet connection that passes the CASPer System Requirements Check.

12. How do programs use Altus Suite?

It is up to the individual programs to determine how they will incorporate the CASPer test score and your Snapshot interview into their application decisions. Some programs may use them for interview considerations, while others consider CASPer when deciding on offers of admission. The Duet is used by schools to determine how well the applicant will fit in the program. Visit the program of your choice to find out how Altus Suite components are used. 

13. Do all professional programs require the completion of all three Altus Suite components?

No, not all programs require the completion of all three Altus Suite components. All three parts are only required by graduate medical programs and undergraduate medical programs in the US. Other professional programs may require only one or two of the components. Remember, many professional programs will not require any of the Altus Suite for application. If you are applying to medical school, don't forget to check out which medical schools require CASPer

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting 

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