If you want to know how to answer ANY CASPer test question, you must understand that there are a number of different kinds of CASPer test question categories and CASPer test question types – hypothetical situation questions, questions related to policies or current events, personal questions about your own experiences or values, all related to dilemmas around ethics, boundaries, and conflicts, to name a few. In our blog, you will learn CASPer question types you must know before your exam. We will break down every question type, tell you how to tackle them, and give you sample questions and expert responses!

Disclaimer: CASPer is a claimed trademark of McMaster & Altus. BeMo does not recommend, endorse nor affiliate with CASPer, Altus or McMaster and vice versa.

In this blog, you’ll learn about some of the most common CASPer test question categories and CASPer test question types, along with strategies for handling these effectively through sample questions and analysis. We’ll break down three of the most common CASPer test question categories (ethical dilemmas, professional boundaries, and conflicts of interest), and we’ll also cover three key CASPer test question types (situational questions, policy questions, and personal questions). Together, these provide a solid overview of some of the fundamental kinds of CASPer test questions you might encounter, with insights to support your CASPer test prep.

If you'd like to learn more about CASPer test question types and the 21 categories of CASPer test questions we've identified, including challenging questions with expert analysis and sample questions for you to practice, follow this link to grab a copy of our book, BeMo’s Ultimate Guide CASPer Test Prep: How To Increase Your CASPer SIM Score By 23% Using The Proven Strategies They May Not Want You To Know (Buy it here on Amazon.com, or buy it here on Amazon.ca).

CASPer Test Question Categories

First, let’s break down three of the most common CASPer test question categories. Then, we’ll review three key CASPer test question types and look at some tips and strategies for effectively responding to each. There are numerous categories under which CASPer test questions and scenarios fall, probing your knowledge of – or intuition for – best practices in resolving ethical dilemmas, maintaining professional boundaries, navigating conflicts, and so on.

CASPer Test Question Category #1: Ethical Dilemma

In an ethical dilemma, you are often faced with a choice that will directly impact others, usually in the form of potentially harming them, allowing harm to come to them, or violating their moral and ethical standards. Or, you may find yourself having to navigate ethically tricky territory, or you may face a scenario in which you must deal with competing ethical priorities. These are incredibly common in medical scenarios, but they can arise in any context. For example, if you are given the role of a physician in an emergency room with an unconscious 16-year-old patient who needs a blood transfusion or they will die, and you find a recently-signed Jehovah’s Witness card in their wallet, that would be an ethical dilemma. Jehovah’s Witnesses reject blood transfusions on religious grounds, so moving ahead with a transfusion to save the patient’s life would violate that patient’s moral and ethical convictions; as a physician in the scenario, however, you may want to prioritize the saving of a life, particularly since the patient is a minor. This places you in a difficult ethical position with competing priorities, which directly impact the patient’s physical and spiritual well-being.

Here’s another classic ethical dilemma in a medical context: 2 patients require organ transplants, but only one organ is available:

Note that this the above video discusses this as an MMI question, but similar ethical dilemmas are common in CASPer test questions, as well. The strategy remains the same.

Other common ethical dilemmas may put you in a position where you must stand up to a colleague or authority figure behaving inappropriately, or where you must report ethically-questionable behavior of a peer or superior. Any question that draws on your sense of values is a potential ethical dilemma, and sometimes ethical dilemmas are part of other question categories. For example, maintaining professional boundaries or resolving conflicts of interest may sometimes require you to think through your own ethical priorities, as will be discussed below.

It is important that you are familiar with the ethical standards of your chosen profession, so that you have a good idea of the expectations and priorities of those in the field. It’s not necessary to memorize entire books of ethics, and you’re not expected to be able to respond perfectly – they know you’re still learning, growing, and going through the process of professionalization. However, you should be able to demonstrate that you can reason through an ethically sound or compelling decision, even in scenarios in which it seems like there are no “good” options.

CASPer Test Question Category #2: Professional Boundaries

Questions in this category revolve around maintaining the invisible barriers that exist between professionals, their clients/students/patients, and the wider public. Professional boundaries exist to protect parties on both sides of that barrier, ensuring power dynamics are not exploited and everyone is treated respectfully and appropriately. A scenario in which a superior is having relations with their subordinate (or a doctor with a patient, or professor with a student) would fall into the category of professional boundaries.

As noted above, scenarios that present questions of professional boundaries may also contain an ethical dilemma, and what is “right” may not always be obvious. For example, if you are given the role of a professor who learns that one of their students is homeless, it might occur to you to offer that student a spare bedroom in your own home, until proper housing can be secured. However, this would be a violation of professional boundaries; because of the power dynamic at play, such an act isn’t as ethical as it may seem on the surface. Working with the student to find long-term solutions and to determine a more appropriate short-term patch would be preferable to violating the boundary that exists to protect both professors and their students.

CASPer Test Question Category #3: Conflict of Interest

A conflict of interest occurs when someone acts in their own interest and benefit, over and above their duties and responsibilities to others. Such conflicts often arise (or have the potential to arise) in business relations – for example, if a physician receives gifts from a pharmaceutical representative, that is a conflict of interest. In such a case, these gifts could influence the physician in terms of which medications they prescribe, showing favoritism toward that pharmaceutical manufacturer’s drugs over and above others, which isn’t necessarily in the best interest of patients (nor is it in line with the ethical or legal boundaries established around the practice of medicine and prescribing drugs). If someone is trying to personally profit or otherwise benefit from a particular professional arrangement, or using such an arrangement to benefit others in a way that isn’t ethical, this could be a conflict of interest.

Here, again, a sense of what is and is not ethical, and a feel for the boundaries that exist in one’s own desired profession is necessary for navigating this successfully. You must demonstrate that you are able to avoid acting out of your own self-interest, and that you are willing and able to intervene when others work to benefit themselves when they should be serving others. Stepping in when classmates are cheating or plagiarizing, being willing to take action when a superior is making questionable choices, and ensuring others aren’t profiting from the work of others – these are all key moves to make when a conflict of interest in at play. Take some time in your preparation to honestly reflect on how you would approach these kinds of situations, and note that you shouldn’t approach this by simply thinking about what you think the test evaluators “want to hear”. Disingenuousness is easier to spot than it may seem, and it’s often clear when someone is robotically parroting a generic response. Reflect on the tips here and in the other linked resources in this blog to deeply reflect on how you would approach such dilemmas.

CASPer Test Question Types

Now, let’s look at three key CASPer test question types: Situational, Policy-based, and Personal. Each CASPer test question type is intended to give you the opportunity to express a variety of qualities, priorities, and values that you hold, while also determining your suitability for the profession. Generally, CASPer test question prompts will be text-based or video-based scenarios, where you review a person or people acting in a particular way, and you will then be given three questions related to what you’ve just seen or read in that scenario. Often, these questions will ask you to discuss how you would navigate the scenario, and may then ask other questions related to the kinds of issues or dilemmas present in the scenario, sometimes asking you to reflect on your own experiences, your knowledge of professional ethics, your familiarity with policy or current events, and so on.

CASPer Test Question Type #1: Situational

As noted above, CASPer stations will generally have you view or read a scenario, and will then ask you at least one question regarding how you would respond in such a situation (note, each prompt will be followed by three questions, though not all three questions will necessarily be directly related to the scenario – more on this shortly). These scenarios are often real-life, everyday situations that contain a challenge or dilemma, or that require you to balance competing priorities. While there is no way to anticipate exactly what scenarios you might get, there are some key steps that you can take in virtually any situational CASPer test question, which will lead to a well-reasoned, considerate, and reflective answer. The steps are:

Let’s unpack each of these steps.

Step 1: Identify the Most Pressing Issue

First and foremost, in responding to a situational CASPer test question, you must identify the most pressing issue in the scenario. Most scenarios will carry a lot of information, and professionals must be able to weed through large amounts of information to isolate the element(s) that should be prioritized. In almost all cases, the most pressing issue is going to be the well-being of those in your care, or of the most vulnerable party in the scenario. Your initial focus should be on whomever is at the greatest risk of harm or needs the most urgent attention. Then, let that guide how you approach the rest of the situation. Another way to think of this is to ask yourself, “What would be the consequences of doing nothing?” Who would be most significantly harmed or impacted by your inaction? Thinking through this will help you determine who or what your priority should be in articulating your answer.

Step 2: Reserve Judgment and Gather Information

It might be tempting to write down your first reaction and intuitive response to the scenario you’ve reviewed, jumping into action right away. However, professionals always take time to consider the information they’ve been given and reserve judgment until they know they’ve got the facts necessary to act effectively and in the best interest of all involved. So, ask yourself: Do you have all the facts and details? Is there missing information? Might some of the information you have be incorrect or misleading? These are all absolutely possibilities! In fact, many CASPer scenarios will have missing or incomplete information, or even assumptions built into the information you are given, so you need to learn to identify this.

Jumping to a conclusion or into action as soon as you’ve reviewed the scenario will come off as judgmental, superficial, and immature – and we definitely don’t want that! In fact, such a hasty response based on initial reactions is one of the most common reasons for low marks on a CASPer test question. Instead, think through how you might go about gathering more information about the situation at hand, and describe that process in your answer. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Can you meet privately with any individuals in the scenario, to discuss the issue with them and better understand their perspective?
  • Have you received any information from a third party in the scenario (e.g., “Your friend calls you and tells you that someone in your class has been cheating…”)? If so, is it possible that this information is inaccurate or biased?
  • Would it be possible to further research the issue presented in the scenario before acting? Could gather experts together to contribute to your considerations, or review relevant literature?
  • If you’ve heard or witnessed something in the scenario, is it possible that you have misinterpreted something, or that you only have partial information?

Here’s an example scenario and situational CASPer test question:

As you walk into the lunchroom at work, you see a group of men sitting together at a table, engaged in a heated discussion. You hear one of the men, Charlie, use offensive, inappropriate language to refer to the physical appearance of one of your female colleagues, Rhonda.

Question 1: How would you handle such a situation?

In such a scenario, your first instinct would likely be to either charge in and tell this individual how inappropriate his words are, or to report him to HR. This is understandable, and that may be what is ultimately required, but first, you need to explore the issue further.

The prompt tells you that you’re walking into the middle of a conversation, meaning you’re lacking context. It’s possible that this person is repeating something he heard a different co-worker say earlier that day, in a larger discussion of ways to improve a toxic work environment. While that may be unlikely, it is indeed possible, and thus worthy of exploring before taking action. Asking this individual to have a brief, private conversation with you, so that you can ask him why he was saying those things, and then possibly meeting with others in that same group to get their perspectives, will ensure that any actions you do take are going to solve the actual problem. You may also end up wanting to speak with Rhonda, with your HR representative, and others in the workplace, depending on how this initial investigation pans out (more on this in a moment).

Thinking through things like this and articulating how you would pursue these different types of exploratory investigation will demonstrate that you aren’t prone to hastily jumping into action without first ensuring that you have all the necessary information. It shows that you are a mature, reflective professional, who acts with care and ensures that all actions are backed up by the most accurate evidence or information possible.

Step 3: Determine Who is Directly and Indirectly Impacted

As you gather this information, you also want to consider who else is involved or impacted by the scenario. Those who are directly impacted are usually those named in the scenario. However, our actions can often reach those who are not specifically or immediately involved, and so thinking about our actions means thinking about the reach of those actions, as well.

In the above example, the directly involved individuals would be the man who was using the inappropriate language (Charlie), the others in conversation with him, the female co-worker being spoken about (Rhonda), and you, as someone who has overheard this and who can now choose whether or not to directly intervene (note: you are often a directly or indirectly impacted party in these scenarios!). Your other co-workers who are not present are indirectly involved, since such language and attitudes contribute to the overall workplace environment. As well, the family of the speaker could be impacted, as well, if this led to disciplinary action or termination. Being able to understand the wider ramifications of your actions (or inactions), and the context in which you take such actions, is a key aspect of critical thinking. Obviously, any action you do or do not take will immediately impact those in the room with you. But, whether you go to HR, chew the guy out for being crude, create a wider conversation about respectful workplaces, or pretend didn’t hear anything and silently walk away, all of these choices will have an effect on your workplace, either allowing such behavior to continue, increasing hostility by acting aggressively, or helping to transform the workplace into one where such behavior isn’t tolerated (whether it was coming directly from Charlie, or from someone else whose words he was merely repeating).

Similarly, if you are a physician in a scenario, disclosing devastating medical information can impact the patient, but also their family and friends (if the medical condition is terminal, they will lose a loved one), and your tact in divulging such information can impact you and your practice (e.g., if you are harsh, callous, or lacking in compassion, word of this could spread, damaging your reputation; or, such an approach could lead to the patient losing confidence in you, or even the medical system itself, which again impacts more than just those directly involved in the scenario). If you choose to let a drunk friend drive, your inactions would impact them (and possibly yourself), but also others on the road, and possibly the friends and family of the driver and of those others sharing the road, if an accident leads to serious injury or loss of life. Any set of actions will have an effect on others who aren’t present in the moment, so demonstrate your ability to think through the repercussions of your actions by considering how your decisions impact others.

Step 4: Use “If/Then” Statements to Offer Sound Solutions

All of the above mean that there isn’t always one single, clear, definitive answer to a question about what you would do in a given situation. Again, drawing on the earlier example in the workplace lunchroom, your actions would likely be quite different if Charlie was simply repeating something he heard someone else say, than they would be if he himself were making such inappropriate comments about Rhonda. You can differentiate your approaches by using if/then statements to demonstrate how you would proceed. “If I spoke to Charlie and the others in the group, and it turned out that this was just a big misunderstanding, then I would… If it turned out that Charlie was discussing something he heard another co-worker say the other day, then I would… On the other hand, if Charlie was making such remarks about Rhonda himself, then I would…” Note that it’s also a good idea to start with the best-case scenario, and work toward the worst-case scenario. In this case, if this is all just legitimately a big misunderstanding, that would be the least dire outcome. If Charlie isn’t making such statements himself, but is repeating the words of someone else, that would still need to be investigated further, but in terms of those immediately present, it wouldn’t yet be the worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is that Charlie is making these statements himself, possibly even supported or encouraged by the others taking part in the conversation. That would require a more extensive investigation and intervention, likely by those in the HR department.

These four steps will help ensure that your response to a situational CASPer test question is well thought out, mature, and reflective. However, that’s a lot to consider in a rather short time! This is why effective, realistic CASPer test preparation is incredibly important, prior to taking the actual test. Review our blog "how long does it take to prepare for CASPer?", so you know how much time you should be setting aside.This kind of reflective process is part of the wider practice of critical thinking, and that is absolutely a skill that can be learned and refined over time. The more you do this, the easier it will become; eventually, it will just be the way you naturally approach such situations, which will help you in the CASPer test, but also in your future work as a professional. But, again, this takes time, which is why you must begin preparation early, and ensure that you’re not just practicing, but practicing perfectly.

CASPer Test Question Type #2: Policy-based

Policy-based CASPer test questions are questions that ask you about current or potential policies in your field or in the world more generally. These aim to test your awareness of ethics, of best practices, or even of current events. Let’s go back to our previous example:

As you walk into the lunchroom at work, you see a group of men sitting together at a table, engaged in a heated discussion. You hear one of the men, Charlie, use offensive, inappropriate language to refer to the physical appearance of one of your female colleagues, Rhonda.

Question 1 asked how you would handle yourself in such a situation. Let’s consider this as the possible second question:

Question 2: What is your opinion on mandatory first-offense sensitivity and diversity training for employees caught using such problematic language in the workplace? That is, do you think such a policy is favorable over and above other possible policies, ranging from immediate dismissal to a simple written reprimand?

Policy questions like this are often oriented around contentious, divisive, or highly charged “hot topics”. You may already have strong feelings about such issues; on the other hand, you may have no idea how you feel about such issues. In either case, there is work to be done.

First, the second option – that you are unaware of, or don’t know enough to have an opinion about, such a policy issue. This is a significant challenge, and - quite frankly - the best way to deal with it is to avoid it, if at all possible. You can do this by familiarizing yourself with hot topics in your field and staying well-read and up-to-date on current events. If you don’t already, find a few reliable news sources on social media and follow them, so that you can keep up with the headlines. Learn about the issues that people are talking about and debating, and look into multiple perspectives on these issues – don’t just read one “side”; rather, expose yourself to a variety of responses (including those with which you may disagree), so that you know where you stand, but also know what others think and why they think the way they do. It may not be possible to be well-read on every single topic of discussion or every policy in your future profession, but widening your perspective in some areas will help nuance your thought in other areas, too.

If you do have strong opinions about an issue, you want to temper these a bit and ensure you demonstrate sound reasoning for your position. When it comes to responding to the question, as with the situational CASPer test question above, you don’t want to come right out with your opinion. Again, this can feel hasty, and doesn’t give you the opportunity to demonstrate the depth and breadth of your thought. Rather, consider the following steps:

Again, let’s break these steps down and demonstrate what they might look like in practice.

Step 1: Demonstrate your knowledge and awareness of the issue

The first thing you want to do is show that you are familiar with the issue, or at least familiar with similar issues that give you some context for your response. This doesn’t need to be long or extremely detailed, since you don’t have time to write a full report. Rather, a few sentences acknowledging and contextualizing the central issue under consideration will suffice.

For example, in thinking through the policy question posed above regarding mandatory sensitivity training for first-time offenders in the workplace, you might begin with something like this:

“As modern workplaces diversify, we increasingly have the opportunity to encounter and collaborate with people from various backgrounds and with differing perspectives and expectations from our own. This is a benefit in terms of bringing together a multiplicity of perspectives, more accurately representing our diverse population, and offering new and creative ways of collaboratively approaching problem-solving. That said, this also poses a number of challenges that need to be considered, as this can give rise to misunderstandings, clashes of norms and values, or opportunities for negative disagreements. It is imperative that workplaces are inclusive and respectful spaces in which all employees can thrive, yet also one in which open communication is prioritized, so that disagreements and misunderstandings can be effectively navigated and resolved.”

In just a few sentences, this effectively demonstrates that this person understands the general terrain of this debate and what is at stake for various parties. You don’t need deep knowledge of HR practices, extensive experience in the workplace, or even direct experience with this kind of situation or policy to have a general comprehension of these issues. You just have to have some common sense and enough general knowledge to be able to reflect briefly yet thoughtfully on the issue.

Step 2: Offer pros and cons/arguments for and against the policy in question

Even if you feel strongly about the issue under consideration, you want to start out from a “neutral” position and demonstrate the valid arguments on both “sides” of the conversation. Being able to accurately and fairly represent opinions with which you yourself disagree, indicating why such opinions are considered valid by those that hold them, is a hallmark of critical thinking. You don’t want to offer a caricature or otherwise demeaning representation of those with whom you disagree; different people have different values and priorities, and these will inform their perspectives. Being able to maturely reflect on this while still (eventually) providing your own approach will highlight your best qualities as someone who is thoughtful, reflective, fair, and willing to hear others out.

So, without initially disclosing your own position, explain some of the reasons why someone might agree or disagree with the policy in question. Ensure that your representation of these positions is accurate, neutral, and even-tempered. Using the above example, consider the following:

“Some possible pros of this policy might be the perceived benefits that come from diversity and sensitivity training, the need to hold employers and employees accountable through continued training measures, and the opportunity for offenders to reflect on their mistakes and make positive changes, rather than facing more severe penalties like immediate termination. As well, a mandated activity like this may bear more weight than something like a written warning or a letter in one’s HR file. Some of the potential cons could be the amount of time and resources that go into such training (both in providing the training and in possibly taking such employees away from their other duties while completing it), the sense that such minimally punitive measures may not seem adequate depending on the severity of the case, and the potentially questionable effectiveness of such training (i.e., does it actually increase respect for others, or does it just give the appearance of change?).”

Note that each “side” here has valid concerns, and the overall safety and well-being of those in the workplace is the priority for both. Though you or I may lean heavily toward one position or the other, it is likely that we can all agree that these are reasonable points that warrant consideration. This is the tone you want to represent in your response.

Step 3: Give your own evaluation of the policy

Now that you’ve demonstrated your awareness of the issue and your understanding of multiple perspectives, it’s time to give your own response. It is fine to have a principled argument for or against an issue, as long as it is articulated in a way that doesn’t come off as extremist, and as long as it prioritizes the well-being of those involved. There is often an ethical component to such questions, so responding with that in mind – and making such reasoning clear – is the best way to show evaluators your motivations and priorities. As well, this is the place to bring in any knowledge you may have about such policies in practice, or any factors that may sway your opinion. Here is an example:

“Demeaning, disparaging, and disrespectful language cannot be tolerated in the workplace. How this is enforced, however, is clearly a topic of much debate. Personally, I’m not necessarily in favor of this policy as a mandatory component of the disciplinary process. Before making any firm judgments, I’d want to see if there is research that demonstrates that such diversity and sensitivity training is actually effective and leads to measurable changes in both workplace culture and individual behavior. If the research does support this, then I would give that serious consideration and possibly change my perspective. As it stands, though, having this as a mandatory policy could potentially protect serious offenders, depending on how the policy itself is written – where do we draw the line between “problematic” statements and blatant ableism, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.? When such training isn’t effective in enacting change, it often functions to protect businesses and companies as much – if not more so – than the workers, giving the appearance of an inclusive workplace, while tensions bubble beneath the surface. As well, policies like this are often top-down decisions, created and implemented by those who may not be directly connected to the everyday workplace culture and the employees themselves. So, while I would certainly support such training as one possible disciplinary action for those who create a disrespectful workplace environment through such problematic statements, making it mandatory for first-time offenses could protect legitimately hostile or overtly adversarial individuals.”

Note that an equally persuasive case could be made for the “other” side. The point is to make an honest, reasoned case from a principled standpoint. Here, even though there is a sense of disagreement with the policy, concern for the most vulnerable parties remains the clear priority.

Step 4: Consider whether there are any suggestions or modifications you could make to the policy that could strengthen it or resolve any cons

This is the place where you can offer your own reflective input on how you might strengthen the policy by modifying it or offering other suggestions for resolving the problem at its core. If there are cons leftover from your earlier analysis, you can offer some ways of minimizing them or working around them. Or, if you have ideas for addressing any concerns you or others have expressed, you can provide them. With regard to our example, we could offer some more concrete criteria by which “problematic” language would be evaluated. We could suggest a “bottom-up”, democratic approach to such problems (workers coming together to suggest ways of dealing with such issues, and bringing these proposals to HR for deliberation and implementation). Or, you could include any other ways of looking at the problem that may be useful. Be creative! Imagine you actually have a say in all this, and the means to implement changes – if you were in charge, what would you do or change?

CASPer Test Question Type #3: Personal

Personal questions ask you to reflect on your own life experiences, as related to the issue or scenario at hand. Prior to completing the CASPer test, it’s important that you take time to review common personal questions and think through the ways you might respond, drawing on your own self-narrative. Personal questions often ask about times you came into conflict with others, disagreements you’ve had with bosses or other authorities, times you’ve struggled or failed, times you’ve succeeded or accomplished something, or other landmark moments in your biography. Referring back to our example, a personal question could be:

Question 3: Can you describe a time when you intervened on behalf of someone else in a public space?

If you’ve not taken the opportunity to think through your life experiences prior to the CASPer test, such a question could catch you off-guard. It might take some time to deeply examine your own timeline and isolate such experiences – and time is something you simply do not have while taking the CASPer test! That’s why thinking through such common personal questions in advance is advisable. Preparation is key for CASPer test questions, as you need to be able to recall and articulate such ideas readily.

Ready to see some of this advice in action? Here are 5 Official CASPer test questions and our expert responses!

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.

Image credit: Telmo32, via the Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode 

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