Everything You Need to Know About the CASPer
- Aug 20, 2019
- MCAT Blog, Med School Admissions
Written by Kathy Dai, Next Step MCAT Instructor
As an aspiring physician, you’ve been preparing countless difference pieces of the medical school application for years. You’ve worked hard on your college GPA, done extensive MCAT prep (probably using AAMC and Next Step MCAT prep materials), and engaged in many extracurricular experiences that will shine through in your application essays. Then, after all this hard work, you learn about a requirement that is rarely mentioned until the summer you sit down to apply—the CASPer. No, this isn’t the friendly ghost; in fact, many students get nervous upon learning they need to complete this before their application is considered. Fortunately, it’s really not that scary.
Intro to the CASPer
CASPer stands for Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics. The name does a fairly good job of describing what the CASPer is meant to do. In short, the CASPer aims to capture various aspects of your personality that will be relevant to the roles of a physician. The personality traits or “competencies” that are specifically tested include: communication, collaboration, empathy, ethics, equity, motivation, problem-solving, professionalism, resilience, and self-awareness.
Here is the format of the test itself, as described by the CASPer website:
“The test is composed of 12 sections (8 video-based scenarios and 4 word-based scenarios) that are presented in a randomized order. Each scenario is followed by an answer section (set of 3 questions). You have 5 minutes to type your responses for each answer section before you are automatically directed to the next scenario.”
This format creates a total testing time of approximately 90 minutes, including the introduction and an optional 15-minute break after 6 sections. As the CASPer is an online test with webcam monitoring to validate your identity throughout the testing period, you will need to take the CASPer on a laptop with stable internet connection and a functioning webcam.
Finally, the CASPer costs $10 to take and an additional $10 per school that you choose to distribute your scores to. You must select at least one school for your distribution list in order to register for the CASPer, but you can easily add more schools to your distribution list after test day.
Why and When to Take the CASPer
Now that we’ve covered what the CASPer is, the next pressing question is whether or not you need to take it. You will have to take the CASPer if it is required by any of the medical programs that you are applying to. You can find the full list of programs in the United States which require the CASPer as part of their admissions requirements here.
One important note for re-applicants: CASPer results are only valid for one application cycle. Unfortunately, this means that even if you took the CASPer as part of your previous application cycle, you will have to take the CASPer again.
If you do see a school that you’re applying to on the list above, you need to reserve a testing date to take the CASPer online. There are only a handful of dates on which the CASPer test is offered, and each date has a limited number of testing spots. Thus, it’s crucial to choose a date as soon as you confirm that at least one school you’re applying to requires the CASPer. In addition to ensuring you have a spot, picking a test date earlier will also allow you to budget for CASPer processing time. CASPer scores are directly reported to the program(s) you selected in your distribution list. The processing time for your test to be scored and sent takes approximately three weeks.
To take your CASPer during a less stressful period of time but avoid processing delays, we recommend picking a CASPer date that falls AFTER you’ve taken your MCAT and submitted your primary application but BEFORE secondaries start arriving in July. For example, if you plan to take your MCAT in May and submit your primary within the first few days of the application opening (usually around June 1st), you would be in great shape picking any CASPer test date in June.
Without proper planning, the CASPer can cause an unexpected delay in your application being marked complete. Remember, the sooner your application is complete, the sooner it’s read by admissions committees, the sooner you get an interview! Getting to the interview stage earlier is especially important for schools with rolling admissions, and even non-rolling schools may run out of interview spots later into the cycle. Thus, getting all parts of your application in sooner is always better – don’t get stuck waiting for your CASPer to finish processing.
Here is a summary of the takeaways for deciding if and when you should take the CASPer:
- All applicants, including reapplicants, have to take the CASPer if any of your schools require it. The list of schools requiring CASPer can be found here
- There are only a few CASPer test dates with limited spots each, so you must sign up for one ahead of time.
- The processing time for CASPer scores to reach your schools is roughly 3 weeks after each test date. Therefore, the earlier you take the CASPer, the better!
Preparing for the CASPer
Many students wonder how to prepare for a test that is simply meant to sample your personality. The reality is that your personality is quite static within the span of a few months and cannot be trained to perform much differently on situational tests like CASPer or multiple mini-interviews (MMIs). This is good news – you have one less thing to study for.
While you don’t have to study for the CASPer, you DO have to prepare by familiarizing yourself with the test format. We discussed the types of scenarios and free-response questions above. You can also increase your comfort with this format by doing a sample test available on the CASPer website. Just as you would do sample tests in MCAT prep, you should take this sample test seriously and in the same conditions that you plan to take the real CASPer. The CASPer website also has a very thorough Frequently Asked Questions section. Reviewing this section will further aid in familiarizing yourself with the test.
Finally, as you add the CASPer to your list of to-dos this application cycle, don’t forget that CASPer scores are only one piece of the holistic admissions process. The scores will supplement your longitudinal academic and extracurricular record, letters of recommendation, personal essays, and MCAT scores. Medical schools understand you’re more than just your MCAT score, and the CASPer is another attempt at assessing you as a well-rounded applicant.
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