Overview of what you are going to learn:
1. CASPer test prep tip #1: Learn the rationale behind the CASPer test
2. CASPer test prep tip #2: Explore the CASPer test components
3. CASPer test prep tip #3: Understand the CASPer test format
4. CASPer test prep tip #4: Investigate how the CASPer test is evaluated
5. CASPer test prep tip #5: Learn strategies for how to prepare for CASPer in advance and get expert feedback
6. CASPer test prep tip #6: Review sample CASPer test questions & expert responses
Want to jump into your CASPer test prep right away? Click here for five official CASPer sample questions with answers from our admissions experts, with additional questions for you to practice!
1. CASPer test prep tip #1: Learn the rationale behind the CASPer test
At its core, the CASPer test is an online situational judgment test (SJT) claimed to evaluate an applicant’s qualitative or “soft” skills, such as professionalism, maturity, and communication. While quantitative data, such as standardized test scores and GPA, provides institutions with information about a student’s academic strengths, these are not always strong indicators of behavioral trends, priorities, and professional competencies. Through a variety of thought-provoking prompts, hypothetical scenarios, and open-ended, probing questions, the CASPer test is intended to evaluate qualities like communication, collaboration, empathy, problem solving, professionalism, and adherence to ethical principles. 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 likely suitability for the course of study and profession, prior to extending an invitation to meet in-person. 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 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!
Here's a brief video explaining the present and future of situational judgment tests (SJTs)!
Did you know that the CASPer test was developed at McMaster University? Click here for McMaster Medical School admission statistics, along with some proven strategies for how to prepare for CASPer!
2. CASPer test prep tip #2: Understand the CASPer test components
Basic components of the CASPer test
In taking the CASPer test, you will be presented with 12 prompts, one at a time, and you will have to respond to a set of three questions related to each prompt. 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. For example, if you're applying to medical school, you will not necessarily have prompts and questions relevant exclusively to the field of medicine; 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.). That said, it is also known that you yourself are not yet a practicing professional in your field, so specialized or advanced knowledge of the field are not required. Again, in the context of medicine, while you may be asked whose treatment you’d prioritize between a screaming 75-year-old man and an unresponsive child who have both just entered the ER after a house fire, you would not need to know how to actually treat either of these patients medically.
Here is a sample video-based scenario, including sample follow-up questions!
The CASPer test can be completed on a personal computer or laptop, and can be taken from home, at school, in a library, or anywhere with a reliable internet connection, though it is strongly recommended that you complete the test in a quiet location, somewhere you can have some privacy and where you will feel relaxed and confident. That is to say, even though you can technically take the CASPer test in any number of locations, that certainly doesn’t mean that all locations are equal. Ensure you remove any distractions, close all background programs, turn off your phone, and let others who share your space know that you need some quiet, undisturbed time to complete the test to the best of your ability.
There are certain CASPer test dates throughout the year. Because it is taken online, it is crucial that you ensure the computer you will use to take the test is capable of running the test without error. You’ll need to ensure that the internet connection is stable (so, using a wired internet connection is strongly preferable to using Wi-Fi), and you should perform the recommended System Requirements Check and test your internet connection speed at least three days in advance of your test. Additionally, knowing the CASPer test dates means that you can plan effective CASPer test prep well in advance.
There are also different test types for different programs, and a separate CASPer test is required for different program types (e.g., American Health Sciences, Canadian Health Sciences, etc.). If you plan to apply to multiple programs, you must ensure that you complete a CASPer test for each program type, if CASPer is required. Note that there is a fee to take the CASPer test and to distribute your score to your chosen schools.
The basics of the CASPer test:
3. CASPer test prep tip #3: Understand the CASPer test format
To understand how to prepare for CASPer, it's important to note that the CASPer test is divided into 12 stations, and each station provides a prompt followed by three open-ended questions related to, or building off, the prompt. Students have 5 minutes to type written answers for the three questions in each station, and there is an optional 15-minute break at the halfway point of the evaluation (after 6 stations). When the time for one question set is up, the test automatically advances to the next station, and this continues until all 12 stations are complete. In total, the CASPer test takes between 60-90 minutes to complete, and the score is automatically sent to your pre-selected programs and institutions upon completion.
At BeMo, we understand the various pressures applicants face. We want to support all students, and to remove barriers to performance, such as time and monetary constraints. Because of this, we make many of our resources FREE to students, and we make these accessible around the clock, so you can review and complete them on your own time. Would you like to try a risk-free practice test to see what kinds of questions to expect? Click here for our FREE, zero-commitment, four-section CASPer practice test and start your CASPer test prep today!
4. CASPer test prep tip #4: Investigate how the CASPer test is evaluated
What is the role of CASPer evaluators?
In beginning your CASPer test prep, it’s worth understanding the role of the test evaluators, or “raters”, in CASPer’s language. As there are 12 stations in the CASPer test, so are there 12 evaluators. Each station set will be marked by an evaluator – that is to say, one rater will evaluate all answers for Station 1, another rater will evaluate all answers for Station 2, and so on. This is important because, as you will see, there are several techniques and structures we recommend for constructing an expert answer to CASPer test questions. If you’re using such techniques or structures repeatedly, at each station, you may be concerned that your responses come off feeling redundant, repetitive, or lacking in variety. First, it must be said, just because you’re using particular techniques, that in no way means that each of your answers will be interchangeable – there is a lot of freedom and creativity to be expressed within such structures! We suggest particular formats and steps to ensure your ideas shine through most effectively, not a script or easy checklist for each question type. Regardless, you may find yourself using similar transitions, introductory or leading statements in many stations, and that’s okay! Since a different rater will be evaluating each of your stations, your responses won’t come off as redundant, rehearsed, or stale, since no one evaluator will see all of your responses at each station.
It’s also worth noting that there are certain things that are not evaluated in scoring your response. For example, as long as your response is generally comprehensible, grammar and spelling are not taken strongly into consideration in scoring your CASPer test. While you should certainly aim to write clear, concise prose with as few errors as possible, typos will not hurt your score. Keep in mind, though, that the effectiveness of your communication skills is under scrutiny, and a plethora of errors will harm the comprehensibility of your response. As well, since each student is evaluated relationally to all others, if you express ideas similar to another candidate and you both have equally strong responses, but theirs is flawless and yours is riddled with errors, they may be scored higher.
Additionally, the length of the response doesn’t necessarily reflect its quality. With the pressure of a 5-minute time limit, it may be tempting to put as much text on the page as possible. While you certainly want to ensure your response is as robust and nuanced as it needs to be to fully reflect your answer, “more” is not necessarily “better”. Make your point clearly, tease out the nuances, explore the avenues necessary to fully answer the question, but don’t keep writing just for the sake of writing. It would be better to take the final 30-45 seconds to review your work than it would be to spend that time repeating things you’ve already said. Redundancy and repetition, after all, are not indicators of strong communication skills.
Want some tips on how to prepare for CASPer? Click here for some CASPer test prep tips from a former CASPer test evaluator, including information on how CASPer is evaluated and a handy list of “Dos and Don’ts” for approaching each station!
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 can ensure you know how to prepare for CASPer effectively. In each response to the prompt, evaluators are trained to mark based on the following:
- How many of the key ideas in the prompt you have identified
- Whether you have isolated the key pressing issue(s) and addressed this maturely and professionally
- Whether you are objective, non-judgmental, professional, mindful, compassionate, and diplomatic, and whether you’ve carried over any assumptions from the prompt (or, better, whether you have questioned such 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 demonstrate consistent moral and ethical values, and whether your adherence to such values is maintained under pressure
- Your ability to provide clear, concise answers, demonstrating effective communication skills
- Whether your response feels scripted, insincere, or “canned”, 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)
A response that manages to do all of these things will likely receive strong marks in the evaluation.
“Wait… I have to do all of that in only 5 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, and you have a mere 5 minutes to do it all 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 5 tiny, precious minutes?
If you’ve been a student for a while and have taken many tests, it would seem logical that, with each station having 3 questions and a total of 9 possible points for the station, each of those 3 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. That is to say, even if you leave a question completely blank, you will not necessarily lose points – it is absolutely possible to receive an excellent score, even if only two questions are answered, for example. To repeat: you will NOT necessarily receive a lower score if you’ve not been able to answer all three questions. It is entirely possible to score high even if you only have time to answer one of the three questions for each station. Even if you run out of time and the test automatically advances to the next question before you’ve completed the sentence you are typing, there is no need to panic. The CASPer test evaluators know that you are pressed for time and are trained not to penalize you for such things.
5. CASPer test prep tip #5: Learn strategies for how to prepare for CASPer in advance and get expert feedback
Here's a summary of our recommended strategies for approaching each station in the CASPer test:
If you’ve already been looking into the CASPer test, you may have seen one of the most common myths about CASPer: 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 question types, each of which absolutely CAN be considered in advance. 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’s take a look at some of the tools and skills we use to help students prepare.
There's a lot of misinformation out there! Here are the top 2 myths about CASPer test prep:
Here’s how to answer ANY type of CASPer test question:
For the CASPer test, there are a few main question types, each of which have different strategies for making your response as effective as possible. In this way, the CASPer test (and preparation for it) is quite similar to the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) evaluation – in fact, the biggest difference between these is that the former is done on a computer, via your written responses, and the latter is done live, in-person, via your spoken responses. There are other differences, but the approach to several question types is similar (though, it should be noted, there are several other possible question types for the MMI, such as drawing, collaboration, acting, etc.).
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. 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.
- 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.
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 are 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.
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 5-minute time limit!). 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 – they leave us feeling exposed or inadequate and ask 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. 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.
- 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. 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.
Review practice questions and expert responses
As noted previously, 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:
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, so that you can begin to develop familiarity with the actual test-taking conditions. At BeMo, our CASPer test prep programs 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.
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. The same is true for any profession, aspiration, or goal.
By way of a real-life analogy (because, let’s face it, I’m not – and never will be – an Olympic athlete!), throughout primary and secondary school, I played the flute. In grades 5-8, I was pretty good – I was 4th chair, I could run my scales and exercises with reasonable precision, and I felt great playing music. However, at that point, my improvement plateaued. At the beginning of the summer between grades 8-9, I got a private instructor. As it turned out, there were all sorts of things about my breathing and even my physical posture that were holding me back from improving – I even vividly remember her coming over to me, grabbing my shoulders to re-position them, (gently) pushing her fist into my lower back to realign my posture, moving my head, turning my mouthpiece, and doing all these other modifications to my physical stance. As it turns out, I was doing a lot of things wrong – things I didn’t even realize! These were the things that held be back from being great and, as a professional, she was able to see them immediately and to give me formative feedback that helped me improve, and to do so rather quickly. After 3 months of working with her, I returned to school in grade 9 for Wind Ensemble tryouts, and was immediately made 1st chair, where I remained until graduation. I even took a master class with a world-renowned flutist, who gushed with praise at my abilities (one of the best moments of my life!). Without her direct intervention, though, I’d have remained where I was in terms of my skill level, completely unaware of all the little – but clearly substantial – things I could do to excel. I was practicing all the time, but my practice itself wasn’t “perfect”.
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 one-on-one CASPer test prep consultations are so highly sought, highly effective, and highly rated! 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 often help you identify errors or weaknesses you may not see yourself, simply because you are not trained to see them.
Read up on professional ethics in your field and stay on top of “hot topics”
Whatever field you’re pursuing – medicine, law, veterinary medicine, or others – you need to start immersing yourself in the field as soon as possible. Each discipline has its own set of ethics and expectations for practicing professionals, standards that all are expected to uphold. As such, you should be learning about these as part of your application process, or even the process of deciding which field you want to pursue. It’s hard to get a clear picture of the day-to-day roles and responsibilities of professionals in your chosen discipline without understanding the reasoning behind those responsibilities. So, reading up on professional ethics is useful to understand exactly what you’re in for; it’s also useful for demonstrating your commitment to the field in question. You need to ensure you are (or can become) a “good fit” for the profession, but you also need to show that you’re willing to put in the hard work needed to truly embody that profession and its values. While you’re not expected to have expert-level knowledge of such values yet (because you’re not an expert in the field yet!), showing evaluators that you are already taking such a crucial step will always leave them impressed.
Similarly, and as briefly noted in discussing policy-type questions above, professionals in these fields must be able to look at the world around them and understand some of its complexity, and this isn’t exclusive to the field itself. Remember, people in positions like doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, dentists, etc., are looked to as authorities in our society. They make important decisions every day – decisions that have real impact on people in the world. They should be able to use the ethics and values of their profession and demonstrate the ways in which these apply to events and perspectives outside their specific sphere of labor. It matters what doctors have to say, for example, about care for refugees. It matters what dentists have to say about opioid use and abuse. It matters what veterinarians have to say about factory farming and climate change. It matters what lawyers have to say about border control. Even if such things are not directly in their purview, the kinds of reasoning they employ in their everyday practice are relevant in such global issues. So, keep up with the headlines, follow some reliable sources on social media, and (if you don’t already) start thinking about what today’s issues mean in the context of the professional ethics and values of your desired field. Doing this will help you get strong scores on situational judgment tests like CASPer, and it will also benefit you once you conclude your education and move into the professional world.
Remember what raters are looking for in your responses
Above all, and as mentioned previously, always bear in mind what is being sought in your responses: professionalism, maturity, good communication skills, adherence to ethics, and all those other qualities that mark a successful professional. If you’re going into medicine, one way to think through how to prepare for CASPer is to look into the AAMC Core Competencies (U.S.), the CanMEDS framework (Canada), or the relevant list of qualities in your country. Similar documents exist for all professional programs (and there’s often a good deal of overlap, since most such professions favor similar qualities), so look into these, talk to professionals in the field, ask your professors about the ideal qualities in their area of expertise, and begin working these into your own worldview. The qualities you will see prioritized are precisely the kinds of qualities raters are looking for you in your responses.
Again, these will absolutely help increase your score on evaluations like the CASPer test; however, they also have the additional benefit of helping you think through who you are and who you want to be. The process of becoming a professional is about so much more than just what work you will do in your adult life. The process of becoming a professional is itself also a process of becoming. Most students at this stage of education are also at a very special stage of life, one where you’re really figuring yourself out, determining your priorities in life, figuring out what you hold dear, establishing your life goals and actively working toward them. The answers to all that searching absolutely inform what you will do and how you will do it; they will also inform what kind of person you will be as you do such things. This introspection is intrinsically meaningful, but demonstrating that self-work will also make you more refined, polished, and mature, displaying the kinds of qualities sought by schools and programs around the world.
6. CASPer test prep tip #6: Review sample CASPer test questions & expert responses
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.
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?
This scenario presents a potential ethical dilemma, which may require some de-escalation and conflict resolution. The first thing I’d want to do is gather some information, if possible, and try to remain non-judgmental. I’d need to ensure I was interpreting the situation correctly, but I also want to respect the privacy of the two passengers who are about to board – it would not be appropriate to ask them to disclose any disability status. So, I’d try to speak with the upset woman, to clarify what, exactly, she was finding so frustrating. I would speak with her in a non-confrontational manner, and – if at all possible – I’d try to call her to the side where we could speak privately, rather than causing a bigger disturbance among the other passengers. She may not understand that what she has said could be hurtful, and I want to prioritize the well-being of the disabled couple/person, try to use this as an educational experience, and do so in a way that doesn’t inconvenience my fellow passengers or the flight crew by delaying boarding. In a soft tone, I would ask the woman, “Can you please explain to me why you are so upset? I’m not sure I understand, so I’d like to hear your perspective.” What I do from there would depend on her response. It could be that she was referring to something completely different, and I’ve simply misread the situation. If that’s the case, then I will apologize for misinterpreting what she said. If, however, she tells me that she was assuming that the couple (either one or both of them) were actually able-bodied and taking advantage of a policy to board before others, I would try to acknowledge her feelings by actively listening and repeating her statements back to her as questions, to ensure I fully understood her complaint. After that, I would gently say the following, “I appreciate the frustration you’ve expressed, as well as your understanding of the situation. However, I wonder if you are familiar with the term ‘invisible disability’. This is a term that covers many conditions, including chronic illness, chronic pain, and other ‘hidden’ conditions like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. While such patients may not outwardly ‘look’ disabled, and may not (always) use mobility devices, they actually benefit considerably from minor accommodations like priority boarding or accessible parking passes. This can be confusing for those unfamiliar with such conditions, because such people ‘don’t look sick’ or ‘don’t look disabled’, but their illness is very real.” Hopefully, she will interpret what I’ve said in a positive light, and I’ll be very careful not to appear judgmental or confrontational. If she understands, perhaps I can persuade her to apologize to the couple. However, it is possible that she will not accept my explanation. If that is the case, then at least I know I’ve done what I can to help advocate for such patients.
2. To use accessible parking spaces, disabled patients 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?
Disability parking passes are a useful way of ensuring public spaces are accessible to people with conditions that limit their mobility, and to ensure that limited resources (parking spaces) are allocated in a way that prioritizes such access in the interest of equity. In large, frequently-used, and often heavily populated areas, like parking lots or on-street parking, such regulation is necessary, since the goal is access for people with disabilities. It ensures spaces for such individuals will be available and holds others accountable if they use such spaces without the required documentation. That said, some would note that unauthorized use does occur, and there have been people who fraudulently use parking passes – for example, driving a friend or relative’s car with a disability license plate and using accessible spaces, despite not having a mobility issue themselves. However, while many people use automobiles and parking facilities every day, most people only fly a few times a year, if at all. As such, requiring documentation for such an infrequently-used mode of transportation may place an undue burden on those with disabilities. Such parking placards or license plates can only be obtained with documentation from a physician (often a specialist), who must have had the patient in their care for a significant amount of time, and who must indicate the scope of the disabling condition (e.g., whether it is temporary or permanent). While many flights are booked well in advance, sometimes, people must fly on short notice, such as in an emergency or in the case of a death in the family. Since obtaining a parking pass requires an appointment with a physician as well as time processing the documentation before the pass is issued, it may be difficult for someone to complete all of the necessary steps in time for their flight, especially as they are disabled. Allowing priority boarding takes a very small amount of time, and – while it may be inconvenient for others – it is a very small inconvenience. In this scenario, everything could have been resolved very quickly, if the couple were simply allowed to board without disruption. Considering that this is a delicate ethical issue (which includes private and confidential information), it is likely best to simply give people the benefit of the doubt, as fraudulent use of something like this is quite rare.
3. Can you describe a time when you intervened on behalf of someone else in a public space?
One day, on my way to school (taking public transit), I noticed a young woman walking quickly with a young man following behind her. The man was yelling at the woman, “Hey! I’m just trying to say hello to you. Why won’t you talk to me?” She looked visibly upset, and he began walking faster and calling her names, using profanities, etc. I’d been walking toward them (we were going in opposite directions after exiting the subway train), so I slowed down and walked off to the side, out of the path of others, to observe the situation. As they got closer, I could see tears in the woman’s eyes – she seemed very shaken up and scared. I wanted to help her, so I put on a warm smile and walked over to her. “Oh, there you are,” I said, “I’ve been wandering around trying to find you!” She looked confused, but began walking toward me. As she got close, I whispered, “It’s okay. Tell me where you’re going and I’ll walk with you.” Her face softened immediately as she put her arm in mine and began walking in the direction she’d been heading. We made small talk as we walked up the stairs and exited the subway station, with the young man still following, but quiet now. As we got outside, she told me which building she was heading toward, but said she was scared to go there. Instead, we ducked into the nearest building. We found a bench and sat down for a moment. She began crying and explained that he had been following her for the last 20 minutes, even as she switched subway lines (from east-west to north-south, to get to campus). She’d tried to ignore him, but he kept getting louder, faster, more aggressive. We sat there and watched as he walked by in one direction, looking at us through the window as he passed. About 5 minutes later, he walked by again, in the opposite direction, heading back toward the subway. We saw him enter the station and waited a few minutes to ensure he didn’t come back. Once all seemed clear, I walked her to her building, and then went back about my day. Though I myself am a woman, and have experienced similar, this was the first time I was able to help someone else through a situation like this. It made me realize how vulnerable many people are to such things, and led me to wonder if the young man even realized how terrorized she’d felt. It also impressed on me the importance of being aware of one’s surroundings – it just so happened that on this particular day, I’d forgotten my earbuds at home, so I wasn’t listening to music, as I would normally have done. If I were, I probably wouldn’t have noticed what was happening, and may not have been able to step in and be of assistance.
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?
As noted, recreational cannabis usage was recently legalized in Canada and several U.S. states, and medical/prescription cannabis is legal in many U.S. states where legal use is still criminalized. There are many valid arguments on each side of this issue. Those opposed to legal cannabis raise a number of concerns – for one, we do not have reliable field sobriety tests for THC like we do for alcohol, making driving under the influence difficult to determine. As well, while research is still limited, some recent studies have suggested that cannabis use in late childhood and early adulthood can exacerbate pre-existing mental illness. On the other hand, advocates have emphasized that greater availability of legal cannabis may make it easier for medical marijuana patients to access their medication, as there have been gaps in access for those prescribed this substance. As well, there is a lot of tax revenue to be generated from taxation on legal cannabis, and far fewer law enforcement resources would be expended on cannabis if it were equal, opening up funds for other law enforcement issues. Personally, having considered such things, I am in favor of legal recreational cannabis for those old enough to consume alcohol. Legalization will, ideally, bring in funding from tax dollars which in turn can be used for research into both the benefits and dangers of cannabis usage, as well as public education campaigns as such research becomes available. As well, funding made available by reduced police expenditures could go into developing field sobriety testing for THC – this is important on two counts: first, we can ensure our roadways are safe with reliable sobriety testing, and second, we can ensure that those not directly under the influence are not wrongfully charged. Currently, if a person is suspected of being under the influence of THC, a mandatory urinalysis may return a positive result if the person has consumed THC any time in the last 30 days, potentially resulting in wrongful charging and conviction. As well, getting medical marijuana patients their medication more easily and effectively should be a high priority. Lastly, the charges and convictions resulting from arrests for cannabis have been historically discriminatory, with minority communities often facing harsher sentencing for even minor offenses. As such, legalization – so long as it brings widespread pardons for past offenses – can help rectify a long-standing social injustice.
2. What is your opinion on legalizing or decriminalizing other illicit substances, such as cocaine, heroin, or MDMA?
First, addressing the question requires clarification, since legalizing and decriminalizing are not the same thing. Legalizing means full and open access, usually to people above a certain age, with no illicit status for anyone, whether manufacturer, dealer, or consumer. Decriminalization often refers more specifically to users of such substances, while manufacturing and selling remain illegal. This is the model that has been used in Portugal for over a decade. Under their model, no one who is caught using such substances will be subject to arrest, but are rather encouraged to undergo treatment and rehabilitation, with support to do so from the state. For the purposes of this answer, I will focus on a model such as this one. Those opposed to drug decriminalization are concerned that it would lead to an increase in drug consumption, which can have detrimental effects not only on those who use such substances, but on society at large. After all, a significant community of drug users would likely not be a very healthy or productive society. As well, decriminalization of use may lead to increased manufacture of such drugs, which could exacerbate crime elsewhere, or lead to increased violence among those who develop and export these substances. On the other hand, those who support decriminalization tend to focus on drug use as a social and mental health issue, rather than one of individual failings or shortcomings. A system based around care and rehabilitation, rather than incarceration, of users would eliminate the fear of arrest many undergo if they seek treatment. As well, if this were part of a national, public health care system, the cost of treatment would not be prohibitive, as cost is another barrier to care experienced by many. While I personally do not have enough information to confidently support either side, I do think that Portugal itself provides an interesting and compelling example for what could be possible with decriminalization. An approach that fosters care and support has helped a great many people suffering from drug dependency (addiction), and drug use rates have not increased in the 10+ years since this policy was implemented. That said, what works in one nation is not necessarily universalizable. So, if I had the position and resources to explore this issue further, I’d want to meet with doctors, police, politicians, recovering users, and other such parties in Portugal, to learn more about their system and how and why it seems to be working. I’d also put together a multi-disciplinary research team to explore other efforts and drug liberalization laws to see what has and hasn’t been tried. If it did turn out that Portugal’s tactics could work elsewhere, then I could consider supporting decriminalization efforts.
3. What do you think is the key driver of illegal drug consumption, and what can be done to address this?
While there are surely some who use such substances to derive pleasure at a recreational level, many who abuse illicit substances do so from a place of pain, emptiness, or loss (similar to those who abuse alcohol). As we’ve seen in the United States, gaps in health care have contributed to the current opioid crisis, wherein those without insurance for specialists or complex treatments have filled that gap with narcotic painkillers, and this gap is most evident in low-income areas. Similarly, research has shown that excessive drug abuse often correlates with things like trauma, childhood abuse, poverty, mental illness, and other social and medical issues. While drug consumption as a whole cannot be reduced to such causes, such correlations cannot simply be ignored – we have to follow what the evidence shows. As such, I think that the key drivers of illegal drug consumption are social and medical in nature. Simply treating such drug abuse as a moral issue, or an issue of individual failing or weakness, and criminalizing based on that, misses the root causes of such behavior. As noted above, treating drug use as an issue of mental health, such as in Portugal, and having accessible treatment and rehabilitation for all could lead to both a greater understanding of such behavior, as well as more options for treatment and a decrease in overall drug addiction. Studies from multiple disciplines, including physical health, mental health, and even sociology, have turned up similar insights, suggesting that a multidisciplinary approach that re-frames the narrative around drug use may be the best way to advocate for those who self-medicate because they are suffering physically, mentally, and/or socially. However, additional research is necessary to form a firm opinion.
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?
When I first entered university as an undergraduate, I was certain that I wanted to go into Psychology. Though I’d had little experience in the field, studying the mind, understanding people’s motivations, and learning about mental illness were all fascinating prospects (when I was very young, I wanted to be a neurosurgeon, but later developed hand tremors, making such work out of the question. Psychology seemed the next-best thing). When I got to university, however, I was struck by the sheer variety of subjects and disciplines, many of which I didn’t even know existed previously. As well, as I went through 2 years of my Psychology major, I found that the field was quite different than I’d assumed. It didn’t hold my attention or interest as much as some of the electives I’d taken, and I ended up spending my third year just floating around, taking a wide array of classes to see what sparked my passion, while still registered as a Psychology major. Eventually, I found a different discipline that asked the same kinds of questions that interested me, but from different perspectives – the Academic Study of Religion, which I ended up pursuing as my major after that. Because I switched majors at the end of my third year, I had to take an additional year to complete my B.A. I regretted the time I felt I’d wasted in pursuing something else, and wished I’d looked more carefully at the variety of disciplines available, rather than going to university as a direct-admission into the Psychology major. If I’d spent my first year floating around, rather than my third, I probably could have completed my degree in the initially-intended time. Once I declared my new major, I had to take on a very heavy course load for years 4 and 5 of my undergrad – I took 5 courses each term, even during the summer, while also working full-time. However, because I genuinely loved what I was doing, I made Dean’s List with highest honors each of those terms and brought my GPA up nearly a whole point (I admittedly hadn’t been doing well in Psychology). Those were two very difficult years, but I learned a lot about myself, the university, and the world during that time. Most importantly, I learned that when I’m truly passionate and invested in something, I will do whatever it takes to realize and reach my goals, and I had tangible evidence to back that up. I’d never worked as hard as I worked those two years, but instead of feeling run-down or exhausted, I felt exhilarated, and found a path that I would end up following for the rest of my academic life.
(A quick note, reader! While the above story may not reflect your experience, particularly if you’re still completing your undergrad, I decided to offer a story from my own life. I did this because I want you to focus not on what is said, but how the story is structured – this can be easier to do if you’re working with a somewhat unfamiliar story, something you may not identify with specifically. Recall the discussion of personal questions earlier, note the trajectory of the story here and how it works with those earlier ideas. Now, see if you can do the same with your own personal experience and narrative!)
2. How can one move past, or learn from, such regret?
I think the most important thing to realize is that regret is often a paralyzing emotion. While we certainly all wish we’d done things differently sometimes, dwelling on that wish, rather than focusing on how to build effectively on it to make lasting change in the future, can end up in self-sabotage. Focusing on regret is inherently to focus on something that simply cannot be changed, and if we don’t see any actionable options available to us, we may simply do nothing. This is only going to make things worse, transforming a potential learning moment into an insurmountable hurdle.
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.
In retrospect and with the benefit of hindsight, the decision noted above, to throw myself into a major I didn’t truly understand, not taking the time to really research what that field entailed and determine whether it matched my own interests and ambitions, was not as disastrous a decision as it seemed at the time. While I didn’t end up sticking with Psychology, I still learned a lot in the two years I pursued it actively (and the half-year or so that I floated, still taking one or two courses). I realized how interested I am in how people think – their ideologies, their influences, the role of social context for ideas and resulting behaviors, etc. In a way, it was this realization that led me to my eventual major; to study religions is to study precisely those issues of ideology, influence, and social context, via motivation, myth-making, tradition, textual lenses, authority, belief, etc. As well, at the graduate level, I took several courses that looked at the intersection of Psychology and Religion, where my early coursework helped inform my analysis in ways not accessible to peers who had studied other things. I eventually found myself precisely where I’d wanted to go, even though I didn’t actually know where that was when the journey began. At the time, it felt like a disaster. Now, however, I see it as more of a scenic detour with value of its own.
“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?
The great civil rights leader, the reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was trying to draw attention to not only the prevalence of injustice, but the ways in which such injustice is structural, systematic, as damaging to those oppressed as to those oppressing. The civil rights era in the United States was one of demonstrating the ways in which social injustices, like racism, were not merely individual issues of hatred or bigotry, but were profoundly social issues, maintained and sustained through both evident and hidden social, political, and personal norms. One may ask how oppression harms not just the oppressed, but the oppressor, as well. Here, King identifies the intense mutuality of the human condition – those who experience hatred of others are the most evidently harmed, but those who live in a state of hatred harm themselves, as well. They cut themselves out of that “single garment of destiny” – a phrase laden with meaning for King, as both an activist and a religious leader. That “garment of destiny” for him was the arc of history bending toward justice, as both an ethical principle and a manifestation of the love of the divine. To cut ourselves off from each other, for King, is also to cut ourselves off from an aspect of that divine love. When we hate, when we are prejudiced, when we harm others, we become toxic vessels, carrying and spreading poison that leeches into the very waters of life itself. To understand our mutuality, to understand that harming others is to harm ourselves and to harm those we accept and love, is to make a profound and radical realization. When we refuse to question and critique the racism, prejudice, and hatred woven into our social structures, we all suffer. When hatred is our inspiration to action, those actions themselves will continue to manifest as hatred, and humans cannot thrive and develop in such conditions, just as flowers cannot bloom in a toxic waste dump.
2. Can you reflect on a time when this quotation was relevant in your own life?
During my pre-med education, I was fortunate to take several courses on social determinants of health, which explored intersections of health and sex, gender, wealth inequality, and even the theoretical foundations of medicalization and criminalization (via Michel Foucault and others). Prior to these courses, health seemed like a rather simple concept – I thought that, even if it wasn’t merely a binary (health-illness, wellness-unwellness), it was likely what we might call a shallow spectrum, with a few plot points between each end. I quickly learned how wrong I was, and how complex things really are. Not only in each individual person a rich tapestry, with a multitude of threads – biological and social conditions – factoring into their overall presentation, every individual is themselves a thread woven into an even larger tapestry – or garment – of the broader society. If threads in the individual garment become loose or frayed, health may be compromised. Likewise, if threads in that larger social garment become frayed, the social body (both collective and individual) suffers, as well. The social worlds we create in our “single garment of destiny” impact all those in that society, and the threads that have been put under more extreme pressure (e.g., through inequality, lack of access to resources, criminalization, etc.) may be at greater risk of becoming compromised, and if even one thread breaks, the whole of the garment becomes destabilized. To ensure the health of the individual, we must progress socially; to progress socially, we must ensure the health of the individual. Each is bound to, and intrinsically part of, the other. I feel fortunate to have had educational experiences that allowed me to realize at least one of the layers of truth to Dr. King’s statement.
3. How does this question relate to your desired field?
Building on the previous answer, as a medical doctor, it is important to note the social factors of health and wellness, along with physiological, genetic, or other biological factors. These, however, are much more difficult to determine, without an acknowledgment of their existence and importance, and without a strong patient-physician relationship. In order to treat patients effectively, physicians must gather insights into their acute symptoms, but also their living conditions, the resources available (or unavailable) to them, whether or not they have access to nutritious foods, whether they have time for proper rest and self-care, or whether they consistently work multiple jobs, 60-80 hours a week. Standard routines of care are useless if a patient cannot afford the ideal course of treatment. A prescription for physiotherapy is pointless if the patient has no time for appointments because they work two jobs. All of these things are interconnected, but such insights are inaccessible if a patient is viewed only as a list of symptoms, conditions, hereditary tendencies. Doctors have a responsibility to build a trusting relationship to fully understand their patients’ circumstances, and to advocate on their behalf, understanding that each individual’s wellness or illness may in some way be tied to that wider collection of social conditions.
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Image credit: Marco Verch, via the Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode