The traditional ways to evaluate the competitiveness of a medical school applicant prior to the interview were GPA, standardized tests, and essays. Although these methods are tried and true, they are all flawed in their own ways and do not help admissions committees learn more about an applicant’s personality and emotional intelligence. For that reason, an increasing number of medical schools are using the Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics (CASPer).
What is CASPer?
CASPer is a 12-section online test used to evaluate your personal and professional characteristics. It was developed by researchers from McMaster University in Canada and has been adopted by admissions committees in U.S medical schools as well. This roughly 90-minute test is not a traditional test that you can prepare for like the MCAT. It’s actually designed so that you don’t study for it. Instead of multiple-choice questions, all of the CASPer’s questions are open-ended. You also don’t travel to a testing facility to take the test; you take the test at home on your computer.
The CASPer allows applicants to show their non-academic strengths such as effective communication, ethics, empathy, professionalism, and compassion, all things that are necessary to become an excellent physician. By taking the CASPer, applicants can show that they are not just book smart but also “street smart”.
Why is it important?
As previously stated, more U.S. medical schools are using the CASPer to evaluate their students. As applying to medical school is becoming more competitive, it is becoming more difficult to differentiate applicants based on academics alone. Medical schools are also recognizing that academic success does not necessarily mean success in medical school. Through the CASPer, applicants have an opportunity to express themselves and stand out. Although it’s another test you have to pay for and another admissions factor that you have to account for, it is not supposed to be a high stress exam.
How do you take it and what is the structure?
You take it online using your computer. You need a keyboard, audio output and a webcam. The test has 12 sections and each section contains a scenario (video-based or word-based). After the scenario is set, there are 3 questions that you must answer within a total of 5 minutes. Sample CASPer scenarios and questions can be seen here. https://takecasper.com/sample-casper-content/
Will it help my chances?
Each school’s admissions committee will prioritize the CASPer differently. However, if you’re a mature, thoughtful individual but your GPA and MCAT are on the lower side, the CASPer is an opportunity to boost your chances at getting accepted. The best applicants are not always the ones with the highest scores. The CASPer is finally one tool to help truly demonstrate that.