What is the CASPer test? It is a Computer Based Sampling of Personal Characteristics. As one of Acuity Insight's assessment, along with the , CASper is sometimes used by professional programs to evaluate applicants' non-cognitive abilities. If you are familiar with , it is easier to imagine the CASPer test as an online MMI.
consist of text-based or video-based prompts or scenarios, followed by questions that typically ask about your response to the scenario thoughts on the case, your thoughts on a related policy or similar experiences you've had. Of course, all of this has to be typed in a limited number of characters and in a limited amount of time.
In this blog, I’ll share my tips as a former CASPer evaluator, helping you understand how to take on this formidable challenge and ACE the CASPer test!
Disclaimer: CASPer is a claimed trademark of McMaster & Acuity Insights. BeMo does not recommend, endorse nor affiliate with CASPer, Acuity Insights or McMaster and vice versa.
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How To Prepare For CASPer: Learn the Fundamentals of the Test
At its core (and like the MMI), the CASPer test is an online (SJT) claimed to evaluate an applicant’s qualitative or “soft” skills, such as professionalism, maturity, and communication. Often, CASPer is used as an intermediary or additional step between application and later in-person interviews, allowing the admissions committee to determine a candidate’s suitability for the course of study and profession, prior to extending an invitation to meet in-person.
Many first-time applicants, however, have no idea what the CASPer test is or what it’s about. Allison, a matriculant to the and one of our BeMo success stories, says she knew nothing about CASPer before her application to med school.
“I had no idea what [CASPer] was, I didn't even know I had to take it … a couple searches later figured out what it was [and] what it was for. On the CASPer website they have a practice test that you can take and that's pretty much the only preparation I did for it, but in retrospect if I could go back [I would do more prep] … I kind of used a combination of MMI resources and CASPer resources to figure out again those different types of questions—the ethical, the policy, the ‘what would you do’ questions.” – Allison, BeMo student, current student at Dell Medical School
As many schools and programs now engage in “holistic review” – that is, review of a candidate’s personal, professional, and scholastic competencies – evaluations like the CASPer test are intended to allow students to provide crucial insights into their own priorities, values, and interpersonal skills, so that these can be considered alongside their academic achievements. In fact, CASPer has been shown to count for up to 1/3 of an applicant's pre-interview score, meaning that effective CASPer test prep is absolutely crucial for performing well and getting an interview!
“I think there's actually a very strong connection looking back between the types of questions that you're asked to respond to on CASPer and some of those MMI type questions in the med school interviews. So, [prep] is kind of like an investment you're making up front but it'll come back and pay dividends later.” – Rishi, BeMo student, current student at Carver College of Medicine
CASPer Test Format
In taking the CASPer test, you will be presented with 14 prompts, one at a time, and you will have to respond to a set of two or three questions, depending on the section. The prompts are presented in either video or text format, and are often based on thought-provoking, real-life situations, professional ethics, and hot topics in your field, and the associated questions offer you the opportunity to demonstrate key qualities sought in professionals in your discipline. Note that, while the CASPer test is intended to gauge certain characteristics in evaluating applicants in specific disciplines, the prompts themselves are not necessarily based exclusively on information in those disciplines. Rather, the prompts and questions could be related to any real-life activity, such as incidents witnessed or experienced in everyday life (e.g., a friend about to drive while intoxicated, rude customers in a store, current events/issues in the headlines, etc.). Even if you do get a question related to your field, it is understood that you yourself are not yet a practicing professional, so specialized or advanced knowledge of the field are not required. They simply want to see your priorities, initial reactions, and tendencies in responding to challenging scenarios.
Let's dive into the details of the CASPer test format:
- The CASPer test is made up of 2 sections with a total of 14 scenarios.
- In the first part of the test, you will need to video record your answers. You will face 6 scenarios in total, 2 text-based and 4 video-based, and articulate your answers while being recorded. You will have 1 minute to record your answer to each of 2 follow-up questions.
- In the second section of CASPer, you will be presented with 3 text-based scenarios and 5 video-based scenarios. You will be given 3 follow-up questions and have 5 minutes total to type up your answers.
- It will take you about 90-110 minutes to complete the entire test. Keep in mind that once your allotted time to answer questions runs out, the next scenario will appear automatically. You will have the optional 10-minute break after the first section, and an optional 5-minute break halfway through the second section.
It’s important to know that neither your written nor video responses will be shared with your chosen schools. Only your CASPer score will be sent out to the programs.
Here is a sample video-based scenario, including sample follow-up questions!
How To Prepare For CASPer: Read Up on Headlines, Debates, and Hot Topics
As an initial step you can begin your CASPer prep by reading news articles, so you are up-to-date with current events, or by paying particular attention to patient cases, court rulings, or other headlines that are related to your future profession (e.g. medico-legal cases). You can also, as part of your early preparation, begin reviewing ethics.
How To Prepare For CASPer: Understand the Timing
One key area where the CASPer test differs from the MMI is in the timing. It is like an MMI without being given time to prepare your response and with less time to state your answer. You will have 5 minutes to type your answers to 3 questions in the second section and 1 minute to video record answers to 2 questions in the first section. Keep in mind that it takes more time to respond in writing, rather than verbally on a video recording. For this reason, most applicants find the written response section of the CASPer extremely stressful. And the time pressure is immense. But there are strategies to help you overcome this. Prepare yourself as best you can with realistic simulations and mock CASPer tests. Manage your anxieties on test day and keep your wits about you. Focus on the quality – not quantity – of your response.
Our student Rishi explains why realistic practice when preparing for CASPer can be so helpful.
“Practice writing it out under timed conditions … I think a lot of students can relate to it from thinking about their MCAT, you know when you take the MCAT sometimes you can do maybe an individual passage and you're like ‘oh I'm doing well on this’ but there is something to taking the full length [test] and getting it … just think about it like you're an athlete [so] you have to prepare under realistic conditions if you want to get the best performance and at the end of the day.” – Rishi, BeMo student, current student at Carver College of Medicine
- TIP: make sure that your webcam and microphone work by running through a practice CASPer test available via your Acuity Insights account.
- Bonus Tip: Feeling unsure about your ability to type quickly and accurately? Search online for free programs to help improve your typing speed!
There's a lot of misinformation out there! Here are the top 2 myths about CASPer test prep:
How To Prepare For CASPer: Learn How the CASPer Test is REALLY Evaluated
You might hear that there are no right or wrong answers on a CASPer test. Is it really that ambiguous? Not really. CASPer raters do not have an answer key, so there is technically no single “right” answer and there are an infinite number of possible responses. However, there are responses that are inappropriate or reflect poor personal or professional qualities. If you would not share your answer in a face-to-face interview, you are on the wrong track with your response; if you cannot imagine a professional saying it, don’t say it. Answers that are poorly composed or demonstrate limited understanding and reasoning will score poorly. Answers that are unprofessional can be flagged by the reviewer and jeopardize your entire test.
The CASPer test is scored on a numerical scale that reflects how well your response either meets, does not meet, or exceeds the assessors’ expectations. The first section has 2 follow-up questions and is rated on a scale of 1 to 9. The second section has 3 follow-up questions, also rated on a scale of 1 to 9. Average scores for all your responses are not enough to succeed. To exceed expectations, you will have to demonstrate good decision making and excellent communication. It’s not impossible to score well, and this can be done with preparation and practice. Follow this link to find out exactly .
Content Evaluation: What you say, and how you say it
Let’s explore some of the things the CASPer test raters are looking for in reviewing your answers, so you know how to prepare for CASPer effectively. In each response to the prompt, evaluators are trained to score based on the following:
- How many of the key ideas in the prompt you have identified
- Whether you have isolated the pressing issue(s) and addressed them maturely and professionally
- Whether you are objective, non-judgmental, professional, mindful, compassionate, and diplomatic, and whether you’ve questioned potential false assumptions and applied critical thinking skills in exploring the scenario
- Your ability to avoid a biased, one-sided response and to consider multiple perspectives
- Whether you consistently uphold moral and ethical values even under pressure
- Your ability to provide clear, concise answers, demonstrating effective communication skills
- Whether your response feels scripted and insincere or whether it is authentic and genuine
- Whether you pursue positive resolution to conflict, or whether you back away from conflict or act as a bystander (rather than an “upstander” – one who defends the rights of others and acts in the interest of vulnerable parties)
“Wait… I have to do all of that in only minutes?!”
Now, in my experience, it is at this point that many students become nervous. You’ve seen how the CASPer test is scored, you’ve seen a significant list of things to consider as you assemble your response, and you now know that you have to do all of these things for each question. You have a mere 5 minutes to type or 1 minute to video record your answers at each station! How on earth are you supposed to put together such robust answers to three open-ended questions with that level of nuance in just a few minutes?
If you’ve been a student for a while and have taken many tests, it would seem logical that, with each station having 2 or 3 questions and a total of 9 possible points for the station, each of those questions would be worth 3 points. However, it must be emphasized, that this is NOT how the CASPer test is scored! Rather, each station is evaluated as a whole, out of 9, regardless of how many questions are answered. You should certainly aim to answer all three questions if you can, but you should not compromise the quality of your answers to simply answer all the follow-up questions. You will not necessarily receive a lower score if you’ve not been able to answer all the questions. It is entirely possible to score well if one or two of your answers are thorough and address the themes covered in the scenario and its follow up questions.
BeMo student Rishi says preparing some go-to experiences beforehand can help you avoid drawing a blank on a question during the real test.
“[CASPer will] ask you to bring in some personal detail like think about a time you demonstrated this or had this ethical conundrum right so they're asking you to bring in your personal experience and … There's just not enough time to think really hard and deeply about it on test day but if you prepare it's not too bad and as you go through different practice questions you can also note down the types of scenarios that are brought up and create your own bank of types of experiences that you might have to relate to.” – Rishi, BeMo student, current student at Carver College of Medicine
Try to do your best to answer all the questions in each station, but do not panic if you run out of time and the test automatically advances to the next question before you’ve completed the sentence you are typing or verbalizing. The CASPer test evaluators know that you are pressed for time and are trained not to penalize you for such things.
Wondering if there are no wrong answers for CASPer? Check out our video:
How To Prepare For CASPer: Review Practice Questions and Expert Responses
No one knows exactly what questions they will receive on the actual CASPer test, but reviewing practice questions and expert responses will help you internalize the workings of strong, effective responses. While it’s highly unlikely you will actually get the questions you review on the test itself, you will be fortified by structures, tendencies, qualities, and approaches for strong answers, and you can begin to make those structures, tendencies, qualities, and approaches your own.
Remember, the point is not to memorize content in reviewing such questions and answers; the point is to develop a particular set of tools for answering questions in a way that is meaningful for, and reflective of, you and your own unique experiences and observations.
Here's a sample text-based scenario, including questions with expert responses:
How To Prepare For CASPer: Practice with Realistic Simulations
It’s one thing to review practice questions and expert responses; it’s quite another to actually practice in test-like conditions. So, while you’ll want to spend some time familiarizing yourself with question and answer types, you’ll need to move from that to realistic simulations that are timed, and that have both video- and text-based stations and written and video responses, so that you can begin to develop familiarity with the actual test-taking conditions.
Allison, who went through our BeMo CASPer test prep program and matriculated to Dell Medical School, says she would record herself answering questions to get used to the feeling of being timed
"I would set up my phone or my laptop and record myself. I’d pick [a question] out of the jar and open it and record myself answering it and have my little timer off to the side and stuff too. And I would put the timer on the screen because in real life that's also how it was and it was kind of nerve-wracking, seeing that timer click down but by kind of desensitizing myself to it, by doing it, simulating it on my computer I felt a little bit more comfortable.” – Allison, BeMo student, current student at Dell Medical School
At BeMo, our provide exactly that: realistic simulations that mimic actual test conditions as much as possible, so you know exactly how to prepare for CASPer. This realistic CASPer test prep is about more than just getting the methodology and techniques down (though this is of paramount importance, of course!); it’s also about knowing what to expect. Feeling comfortable in the test environment will help mitigate nervousness, stress, and anxiety that comes with taking tests, especially those of particular importance, like the CASPer test.
How To Prepare For CASPer: Get Expert, One-on-One Feedback
Mentorship, coaching, and invested, formative feedback are crucial in developing expertise. I could watch hundreds of hours of Olympic athletes performing at their best and attempt to mimic their work in my own practice, but this alone will not allow me to maximize my potential. Watching others is indeed useful, but without an expert watching my practice, identifying things I may not even realize I’m doing, commenting on and correcting my form, and providing commentary specifically intended to help me best display my assets and improve on areas where I’m limited, I will only go so far.
BeMo student Sarah said feedback not only improved her test prep but boosted her confidence, too.
“Being able to get advice from someone with knowledge on the CASPer test really gave me the confidence that I needed to do well on test day. I found that [my prep sessions] were really able to tell me what I was doing well and what I needed to work on.” – Sarah, BeMo student
Alina, another successful BeMo premed, says professional test prep helped demystify the CASPer test and gain effective strategies to ace it.
“If you're someone like me, this [was] my first year ever writing CASPer and I wasn't 100% sure how to approach the exam so I was looking for a prep that would help me not only learn a little bit more about what CASPer is but specifically what it tests on [and] how to best bring my strength into the exam.” – Alina, BeMo student
This is applicable in nearly any context where mastery is pursued. If we’re not consulting with professionals, who can give us an objective evaluation of our work, we’re likely to practice imperfectly, and only perfect practice makes perfect. This is why our are so highly sought, , and ! Our experts are dedicated to your success – it’s literally our job! We are all passionate, practicing professionals in relevant fields, and we want you to do well. Our CASPer test prep feedback sessions show you how to prepare for CASPer, by allowing our experts to review your answers, highlight exactly what you’re doing well and what still needs work, and help you identify errors or weaknesses you may not see yourself, simply because you are not trained to see them.
The Top 4 Reasons Most Applicants Fail Their CASPer Test & How to Avoid Them:
As you have seen, one of the most common myths about CASPer is that there is no way to prepare for the test in advance. While it is true that no one can predict exactly which scenarios and questions they will receive on the test, we have identified a number of different CASPer question types, each of which absolutely CAN be considered in advance. Let’s take a look at some of the most common CASPer question types: Scenario, Policy, Personal, and Quirky
Check out our video, "3 CASPer Question Types You Need to Know: Situational, Policy, Personal"
Scenario-type questions are by far the most common on the CASPer test, and also the most varied. Scenario questions will usually provide a hypothetical situation based on real-world experiences, define a role for you to fill, and ask questions about the steps you would take or considerations you would bear in mind in responding to the situation.
“There are not only ethical scenarios, but also instructional exercises, patient simulations, and creative discussions. Just having a better sense of the questions was really helpful in preparing so that I could match different topics with multiple types of questions … I focused on finding a format of how I would answer questions and then [practicing with them]. Using sample questions like those from BeMo can be really helpful to create your template and then be able to apply it to the scenario.” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD, University of Maryland School of Medicine
Note that the hypothetical situations are not necessarily related to the discipline or program you’re entering; likewise, even in situations that may represent conditions in which you could find yourself as a practicing professional, the evaluators know that you are not yet a practicing professional, and thus do not expect you to have specialized knowledge in order to answer the question effectively. For example, if you are applying to medical school and receive a CASPer test scenario in which you’re an ER physician working with a frantic patient having chest pains, you are not expected to know how to actually treat the condition reflected by the symptoms exhibited by the patient. What you will want to show, however, is how you will speak with the patient, how you will de-escalate the situation, how you will think through resources available to you, etc.
For scenario-type questions, we advise a series of steps that demonstrate professionalism, maturity, critical thinking skills, and communication skills. These can work in nearly any hypothetical situation, though the ways in which the steps are taken can differ considerably, depending on the details of the scenario itself. The steps are as follows:
- Identify the type of scenario you’re dealing with, as well as your role in the scenario. That is to say, what kind of issue are you confronting in the scenario – is it an ethical or legal dilemma? An issue of scope of practice or professional boundaries? A situation that requires conflict resolution? An issue of consent or patient autonomy? Note that these are not necessarily mutually exclusive; sometimes, for example, an ethical dilemma may also require some conflict resolution. Knowing the type of scenario will help you figure out how best to navigate the situation, and will help you begin thinking toward the practical options available to you. Understanding your role will also help with this; a senior director of a law firm, for example, will likely many more options (and many more types of options) than an administrator at the same law firm.
- Gather all of the facts and maintain a non-judgmental perspective. Most scenarios will leave out key information necessary to determining a plan of action. As well, many scenarios will contain information or assumptions that distract from the key issue at hand. Because of this, you must ask questions and even show some skepticism toward the prompt. To gather information, detail the kinds of questions you might ask, the sources of information you might consult, the colleagues with whom you may want to collaborate or converse to ensure you’re upholding best practices, etc. (Don’t worry – examples of such things will be offered in the sample questions and responses in the next section!) To show skepticism toward the prompt, identify potential assumptions and demonstrate how you would go about confirming these. If, for example, you’re given a scenario in which you are a hospital Director who must consider accepting advertising funds from a tobacco manufacturer as your only potential source of funding for your financially-struggling hospital, put some pressure on that assumption! It is very, very unlikely that something like this would be the only source of funding available – instead, discuss your plan to establish a Grants and Fundraising Committee to research any new grants that may have been introduced, to put together some fundraising events or campaigns, and to see if there are cost-cutting measures that haven’t yet been implemented in the hospital.
- Identify the most pressing issue. As noted above, scenario-type questions will often have a prompt that includes a lot of information, and not all of that information is immediately relevant. Such additional information acts as a distractor, to see if you can review a complicated situation and isolate the key issue, setting aside those issues or elements that are less pressing. Generally, the most pressing issue in a scenario will be the well-being of the most vulnerable party or parties, and/or those who are in your care. There may be several pressing issue, but which is the one that requires your immediate attention?
- Identify directly and indirectly involved parties. Most scenarios will have a number of stakeholders, some more obvious, some less obvious. Being able to imagine the wider circle of responsibility speaks to your maturity and forethought. Using the example of the financially-struggling hospital above, the directly involved parties are pretty clear: you, as the hospital Director, and the tobacco representative who has approached you to offer the deal. However, there are a wealth of indirectly involved parties that must be taken into consideration: the hospital’s patients (in whose best interest it may not be to make such an ethically-dubious deal), hospital staff (who rely on you as the Director to make financially and ethically-sound decisions), the hospital itself (in terms of the reputation of the institution), the other members of the hospital’s Board of Directors (who should be consulted prior to making a decision as big as this one), and the practice of medicine as a whole (since taking such a deal may harm public trust).
- Consider several practical options using a series of “if/then” statements. After you’ve identified the scenario type, gathered information, questioned assumptions, isolated the most pressing issue, and considered the ramifications of your actions for a variety of directly and indirectly involved parties, you’ll likely see that there are many possible options for you to consider. While you’re not expected to be able to think of every single possible option, demonstrating a spread of options will highlight your ability to perceive a situation from multiple perspectives, as well as your ability to understand the effects of different actions you may take. Again, drawing on the same example above, some possible options are: refuse the offer outright; take the offer to the Board of Directors, to consider the opinions of your colleagues and use the offer as a way to stimulate new and creative thinking about financial options for the struggling hospital; or, to accept the offer. For each of these, you should be able to identify ways these attend to the most pressing issue, and the ways they would impact the involved parties you’ve identified.
- Form a decision that is scientifically and/or ethically sound, and which minimizes harm to those directly and indirectly involved. Now that you’ve established all of the above and thought through some possible options for action, it’s finally time to make a decision, and tell the evaluator what you will actually do in the scenario. You must clearly demonstrate why you think this is the best option, as well as the impact of this decision on the parties you identified previously. It’s also a good idea to think toward the future – if this is a problem or dilemma of some kind, can you think of some steps you could take to try to avoid it in coming up again the future?
At the end of this post, you’ll see some sample questions and expert answers, so you can see how all of this comes together in one detailed, robust, and nuanced response. First, though, let’s discuss some of the other question types.
Need practice? Check out our video for more CASPer questions:
Policy-type questions will usually ask you to give your opinion on something concrete in the real world – it could point to common practices in your field, recent curricular or practical innovations, or even contentious issues in the public sphere. For example, recreational cannabis has recently been legalized in Canada and several U.S. states, and there is a wealth of opinions both for and against this policy. What is your “take” on this new development? When asked such a question, we normally assume that our own perspective and rationale is the most important thing to express, and – in general – that is accurate. However, they way in which you provide this is just as important as what you actually say. The steps for answering a policy-type question are as follows:
- Demonstrate some knowledge and awareness of the issue. As an aspiring professional, it is important that you’re aware of developments and tensions in your field and in the world. While no one can be aware of everything, everywhere, you want to show that you are mature, connected, and able to think about complex – even contentious – issues in ways that reflect such qualities. So, for example, if you were asked about your opinion on legal recreational cannabis, being able to point to the headlines, to show that you understand how this conversation is unfolding in the public sphere, will demonstrate that knowledge and awareness.
- Provide a few arguments for (pros) and against (cons) the policy. Here is where the complexity of policy-type questions begins to emerge. While you may be temped to begin answering the question directly (“My opinion on legal recreational cannabis is…”), you actually want to reserve your own evaluation of the issue for now. First, you want to offer some of the pros and cons around the policy itself, and to do so from a non-judgmental perspective that prioritizes potentially vulnerable parties (so, being patient-centered, student-centered, or centered on vulnerable populations). By withholding your own judgment and presenting these arguments, you show the evaluator that you are willing to consider multiple perspectives before arriving at a decision, and that you are able to fairly represent arguments with which you may disagree. The ability to highlight the validity of multiple, competing perspectives, to acknowledge these as valid, and to let concerns from both sides direct your own reasoning, are all hallmarks of complex, non-judgmental, critical thinking.
- Offer your evaluation of the issue or policy in question. Now, after you’ve addressed some pros and cons, you can offer your own take. Your discussion of your opinion should demonstrate strong, careful reasoning, illustrating the ways in which your consideration maximizes the pros and minimizes the cons that you’ve just provided. Again, this doesn’t mean that you write off positions with which you disagree as wrong or irrelevant; rather, you should demonstrate their validity while still demonstrating why your approach best maximizes the benefits you’ve identified previously.
- Offer possible modifications. As a final step, you should return to those cons leftover from the second step and show how you would address these and/or how your own approach resolves or mitigates any cons that may remain. Are there approaches that those on the “other side” of the argument may not have considered? Is there a “third way” that could be implemented to get around or resolve any limitations? Be creative – as a mature and aware individual, you’ve likely thought through your position on such things before, maybe you’ve even debated the issue with others. Draw on that to show how and why your argument is the strongest and most sustainable, while still addressing the validity of those who disagree with you.
Here's more CASPer questions to practice with:
Personal questions can be really tricky. Maybe you’re not sure what, exactly, is being evaluated in such questions, or maybe they ask a question about one of your experiences and you simply can’t think of an example. This uncertainty can cause a dreaded “blank mind”, which can cause a lot of stress and anxiety (while also wasting precious seconds in your time limit!). Since CASPer is a test of your personal characteristics, spend some time reflecting on your own past experiences and how they have helped you develop certain non-cognitive skills such as having the capacity to problem-solve, resolve conflicts, or collaborate with others. CASPer will not use prompts that exactly mirror your past personal experiences, but by going through the reflecting process of contemplating your past experiences, you will be able to identify similarities between what you have learned and the prompts you are given, and thus you will be able to formulate a response quickly and appropriately.
To help you think through this, we can break most personal questions down into different types: questions about negative circumstances, “Discuss a time when…” questions, and questions about successes or positive influences on your life.
- “Negative” questions. These are questions that ask about times when we failed, about our weaknesses or limitations, or about times when we simply were not at our best. No one likes answering these kinds of questions. A question like, "" leaves us feeling exposed or inadequate, asking us to disclose things we may not want evaluators knowing about us, especially when we’re already in a tense or vulnerable situation (like taking a test that may determine whether or not we get an interview!). That is the exact reason why such questions are asked in tests like CASPer! They want to see how you will respond to such questions under pressure. More than that, though, they want to see how (or if) you were able to pull through a difficult time in your life, acknowledge your own imperfections, and identify take-aways that allowed you to learn, grow, and better yourself.
“What I would do in these situations is talk about the red flag [or mistake] in an open and honest way without sounding closed off or confrontational about it. The best thing to do when asked these questions is to acknowledge the [situation] as it is, but rather than just talking about the situation itself and how sorry you are, really talk about what you learned from these situations/punishments/experiences and WHY it made you a better person/candidate.” – Dr. Jaime Cazes, MD, University of Toronto Temerty Faculty of Medicine
So, in answering such questions, it is best to be honest about the situation/failure/shortcoming, explain what happened without dwelling on the negative aspects, and spend most of your time focusing precisely on those “take-aways” – what you learned, how you grew, and how you used (or are using) that negative situation to make you a better, more mature, professional. If you can connect those take-aways to the profession you’re pursuing, that’s even better!
- “Describe a time when…” These questions can be positive or negative (“Describe a time when you came into conflict with a superior,” or “Describe a time when you had to be a leader”), but – as with all CASPer test questions – the key is to focus on the qualities you want the evaluator to know about you, the qualities seen as ideal for those in your desired program or profession. Remember, those key qualities are generally professionalism, maturity, communication skills, compassion or empathy, adherence to ethics, etc.
For instance, Dr. Monica Taneja, MD, who graduated from the University of Maryland Medical School, says when answering questions about a lack of professionalism or a time when you made a mistake, it’s important to spin a negative into a positive.
“Focus on an experience where you can provide significant redirection and growth without focusing on the negative. You want to make sure to spin by acknowledging ethical gray areas without red flags.” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD, University of Maryland School of Medicine
- Questions about successes or positive influences. Questions of this type may include things like, “Who is your role model?” or “What is your biggest accomplishment?” Again, the technique and approach doesn’t really differ from the above. Clearly and honestly state your answer, discuss the key points that give the evaluator a solid overview of the situation, and focus on what you learned and the qualities you want to highlight. Don’t be overly prideful or boastful, and don’t make yourself look good by putting others down. Rather, explore the ways such an experience demonstrates how and why you are a “good fit” for your chosen profession.
A quick final note on personal questions: It’s crucial to realize that we all have ideals, successes, and failures. You are not expected to be a perfect person, as long as you’re able to critically reflect on your experiences in meaningful ways, and connect such reflections to the key qualities of professionals in your field. Don’t be afraid to admit failures, weaknesses, or limitations, and don’t brag about your successes. Neither of these are qualities of mature, reflective, professionals or members of society. You are going into a particular field, but – beneath all of our expertise, disciplinary specializations, and education – we are all human. We have all lived up to and fallen short of our own ideals. What’s important is to be reflective, to be introspective, and to be able to analyze ourselves at our best and worst. To prepare for personal questions, simply begin such reflection early, so that you don’t “draw a blank” if you come across such a question. As you were preparing your application, you should already have been thinking about your work, school, and life experiences, so use this as a way to isolate these kinds of moments in your own auto-biography, and start assembling narratives that respond to the types of personal questions identified here. This work of deeply, honestly probing who you are, who you have been, and who you want to be, is one of the best things you can do to prepare for this type of question.
Though less common on CASPer than in MMIs or face-to-face interviews, quirky questions are often unexpected, amusing, or interpretive questions, which aim to test your “on-the-spot” thinking.
Dr. Monica Taneja, MD, says that quirky questions can be off-putting, but infusing some humor or personal connection into your response can make an impact on your interviewer.
“Always remember that humor sticks out with interviewers. It is okay to take what seems like a serious question and give a fun answer that the interviewer can connect with.” – Dr. Monica Taneja, MD, University of Maryland School of Medicine
For example, a common quirky-type question will provide you a quotation and ask you to express what that quotation means to you, how you might apply such meaning to your desired profession, and a time in your life when such meaning became particularly evident to you. Another example might be to ask about your favorite X (book, film, show, etc.), and to ask for some reflection on why that is your favorite, what it means to you, etc. As with personal-type questions, it’s important to focus on qualities you want to emphasize and how these align with the ideal qualities of professionals in your field.
Here's a summary of our recommended strategies for approaching each station in the CASPer test:
Below, you will find 4 sample stations, one for each station type identified earlier: scenario, policy, personal, quirky. Each of the answers is specifically designed to demonstrate strategies you can use for effective CASPer test prep. What is important about the answers here is less what is said, but how it is said and structured. See if you can identify the techniques and structures provided earlier in the answers offered here. Once you’ve done this, you can use this as a practice set to compose your own responses.
How To Prepare For CASPer: Sample Scenario CASPer Question and Expert Response
Prompt: You are at the airport with your family, preparing to board a plane to your favorite vacation destination. The flight attendants prepare to begin calling passengers for boarding. Prior to calling for passengers in first class, the attendant asks for any passengers with disabilities to come forward for priority boarding. A couple, a young man and woman in their mid-to-late twenties, begins moving toward desk; the man is carrying all of their carry-on baggage, and they are smiling and laughing, with no visible complications with movement in either of them, and neither has any kind of visible mobility device (e.g., a cane, crutches, wheelchair, etc.). As they move past you, the woman in line behind you sighs loudly. You turn to look at her, and she is glancing around at your fellow passengers, visibly annoyed. She loudly proclaims, “This is unbelievable! Look at them!” She notices you looking at her, catches your eye, and looks at you expectantly. “You know what I mean, right?” she says to you, gesturing toward the couple, who have overheard this and look visibly upset.
1. What would you do in this situation?
2. To use accessible parking spaces, people with disabilities must display a special placard, or have special license plates on their car. Do you think similar documentation should be required for accommodations like the one posited in the scenario (priority boarding on a flight)? Why or why not?
3. Can you describe a time when you intervened on behalf of someone else in a public space?
How To Prepare For CASPer: Sample Policy CASPer Question and Expert Response
Prompt: On the heels of the recent legalization of recreational cannabis (marijuana) in Canada and several U.S. states, debates around full decriminalization or legalization of illicit substances have been renewed in some medical, legal, and political circles.
1. What is your opinion on legal recreational cannabis?
2. What is your opinion on legalizing or decriminalizing other illicit substances, such as cocaine, heroin, or MDMA?
3. What do you think is the key driver of illegal drug consumption, and what can be done to address this?
How To Prepare For CASPer: Sample Personal CASPer Question and Expert Response
Prompt: From time to time, we all make decisions we regret. Whether bound by less-than-ideal circumstances, lack of resources to make the best decision, or a lack of foresight or maturity, everyone has made a bad or unfortunate decision in their lives.
1. Can you reflect on a decision you’ve made that you later regretted?
2. How can one move past, or learn from, such regret?
3. Did you ever make what seemed like a bad decision, only to later learn that it was still the best decision at the time? Reflect on this.
How To Prepare For CASPer: Sample Quirky CASPer Question and Expert Response
Prompt: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
1. What does this quotation mean to you?
2. Can you reflect on a time when this quotation was relevant in your own life?
3. How does this question relate to your desired field?
Want to see a mock CASPer test session? Here you go!
How To Prepare For CASPer: Conclusion
There is still plenty of time in advance of CASPer to work through these suggestions as you practice on your own (N.B: We recommend that you do not begin practicing on your own without having someone holding your hand at first, as it is challenging to navigate through the various question types and more importantly, without having expert feedback at first you will not know whether your responses are appropriate, mature, and professional). The more familiar you become with the CASPer test format and how to structure your responses the more relaxed you will be. Drawing from personal experience and other resources to learn more about current events and healthcare related issues will make your responses more efficient and effective. Practice and preparation will take you a long way in this test!
At BeMo, we help students unpack each question type, and we offer specific strategies and structures for responding to each type of question. While we certainly can’t give you memorizable scripts (nor would we want to, as that is not effective preparation!), we can absolutely help you develop the skills necessary to tackle each question type effectively. Remember, “practice” actually doesn’t make “perfect”; rather, PERFECT practice makes perfect! It’s no use practicing if you don’t have effective advice for practice and expert feedback on that practice. Without these, you could unintentionally be practicing – and thus, reinforcing – bad habits, which will not help you get the score you need to get that interview invitation. Let BeMo help you practice perfectly!
Check out some of the latest reviews from some of our successful students!
“I had my first coaching session with [a BeMo consultant] and his feedback was highly constructive. He gave helpful tips to help me familiarize myself with the multiple CASPer formats! He was very joyful and his motivation inspires me to continue to do my very best!” –
“I had my first feedback session with [my BeMo expert] and it was extremely helpful! Not only did he provide logical structure and tips to answer any type of CASPer question but he was also very patient, encouraging and ready to answer any question I had.” –
“I had a great prep session with [my consultant]. She was very helpful and went 30 minutes over to ensure we covered all the scenarios that I had trouble with or had questions about. She answered my questions thoroughly and was very uplifting - always commenting on my progress from my first CASPer simulation. Thanks to [her], I entered my test with so much confidence and felt like it went great.” –
1. How do I know if I am doing a good job when I practice?
It is important to practice with quality CASPer questions and test simulations, as well as to know answer strategies for different questions. But unfortunately, even this is not enough. You might have the right approach, but unless you have someone assessing the quality of your answers, you cannot feel truly ready.
Unless someone tells you what you should work on and how to improve your answers, likely, your answers will not improve. Professional feedback is key, because a can identify your problem areas, give you concrete actionable advice, and provide you with necessary training. If you need help preparing for your CASPer test, make sure to contact us.
2. Will I know how I did on my CASPer test?
You may receive your percentile scores.
3. How much does it cost to take CASPer?
It costs $10 to write the test. Additionally, you will pay $10 for each school to which you’re sending your score.
4. How long is the CASPer test?
The test takes about 90-110 minutes to complete. You will have 2 optional breaks during the test. I strongly recommend you take the breaks. Make sure you relax and get your mind off the test. Do not go over the questions you already completed in your head – this will only make you anxious!
5. How is CASPer structured?
The test is comprised of 14 scenarios dealing with real-life situations divided into 2 sections. You are asked 2 or 3 follow up questions based on the scenario observed. You are given 5 minutes to type your answers for those three questions in the written response section of the test and 1 minute to record your answer to each of the 3 follow-up questions in the video response section of the test.
6. Where can I take the test?
You can take the test on a computer at a location of your choice. Since the test requires your attention, make sure that you’re in a quiet place with no distractions. You may use headphones to help you concentrate and eliminate background noise. Make sure that your computer has a webcam and a reliable internet connection that passes the CASPer System Requirements Check.
7. Does my grammar affect my score?
No, your grammar does not affect your score. However, you make a better impression with an answer that has as few errors as possible. A well-written, clear answer will make a positive impression on the evaluator!
8. Who rates my CASPer test?
Each section of your test is scored by one evaluator, making your final CASPer score a combination of 15 independent impressions of you. The evaluators do not have access to any of your personal information, such as your name, gender, race, age, etc. This is done to eliminate the biases associated with traditional evaluations of personal characteristics. CASPer evaluators are recruited from various backgrounds and professions.
9. Can anyone become a CASPer evaluator?
Theoretically, yes. To become a CASPer evaluator you must apply online via email. Upon successful review, you will be invited to begin an onboarding and training program, which includes a short version of the CASPer test, an online video training module, a competency test, a set of practice responses, and a training on Implicit Bias. You cannot become an evaluator if you are planning to take CASPer. Members of your family and close friends are also disqualified to become CASPer evaluators if you’re taking the test.
10. How do programs use CASPer scores?
It is up to the individual programs to determine how they will incorporate the CASPer score into their application decisions. Some programs may use CASPer for interview considerations, others include CASPer in assessing offers of admission. The same CASPer score may be competitive for one program but less competitive for another. The influence of the score also depends on the competitiveness of the applicant pool for each individual program. Visit the program of your choice to find out how CASPer scores are used.
11. Do all MD programs require CASPer?
12. Is 5 minutes enough to type answers to 3 questions?
You do not need to answer all three questions to get a high score, though we recommend it. The key is to provide a quality answer that addresses the themes and issues of the scenario, even if you do it in only 1 answer. You may be able to cover all three questions in your first answer. Remember to follow answer strategies and construct a thorough answer.
To your success,
Your friends at BeMo
BeMo Academic Consulting
Disclaimer: CASPer stands for computer-based assessment for sampling personal characteristics and is claimed to be a trademark of McMaster & Altus. BeMo does not recommend, endorse nor affiliate with CASPer, Altus or McMaster and vice versa. BeMo only provides preparation services and practice tests. To take CASPer, contact Altus directly.
About BeMo Academic Consulting:
BeMo is the most sought-after academic consulting firms in the world famous for helping applicants with admissions to highly competitive programs and its staunch advocacy for fair admissions. BeMo is the leader in CASPer test prep, Multiple Mini Interview prep, traditional interview prep, panel interview prep, and application review for highly competitive graduate and professional programs.